Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Big One

Where to start. Its been another crazy few weeks since my last update. The summer weather we've all been wanting has continued, crags are drying out again and sending conditions have been in abundance.

The Cornice in Chee Dale sounds as if it is approaching something of the state we all enjoyed over that famous summer a couple of years ago... However I've been biding my time a little before venturing back down here, mainly down to the fact I've had other projects on the go.

Yesterday marked a big step forward in my climbing and a major dream realised that I've had for as long as I can remember. Mecca at Raven Tor is probably one of the most famous routes in the country and lusted after by many. My Dad can remember it as an old aid route back in the day and the majority of UK climbers will know of its history.
I've had a fair few friends over the years take down this short, power endurance test piece and I even gave it a try myself a year or two ago but the madding crowd waiting in the blocks behind me, rearing for there turn, always put me off and I decided to leave it.

My psyche returned for it though a few weeks ago after knocking out an ascent of the long 8b Waddage, amongst a few other endurance fests. While its hard to compare the two routes, as one is pure endurance with no totally desperate hard move and the other a short bouldery rig, it suddenly dawned on me that I might actually have the fitness required to have a good go at Mecca. So about a week ago I decided to jump on and see how it felt. The moves came back to me fairly quickly and after various beta from folk I had done the main big 'pocket link'. I was buzzing as all that was required now was to add around 4/5 extra moves and it could be game on... So I went away stoked on the rapid progress and spent the next few days barely being able to contain my excitement for the next session.

One thing about this route is that it can destroy your skin, particular the left hand so I took a few days rest and waited for the temps to cool down. Saturday came around and I ventured back, hoping the extra couple days rest had done me some good. Conditions felt prime when we arrived at around 8.30am and there was a good breeze. I was fairly confident of being in with a chance of pushing on through to the top, using my new found fitness and ability to recover, if I could just get established in the base of the groove. I tied in, pulled through the start fine, set myself up for the crux and before I knew what was happening, found myself at the top of the groove. However the fatigue quickly set in as I attempted to free myself from the tangle of knee bars and egyptians and I peeled off into space.
But I was on the home straight. This was it, the feeling we all know when we suddenly realise something is within our grasp. Four redpoints later and I had gradually increased my highpoint inch by inch, with my last try proving to be the closest yet. A simple foot pop prevented me from reaching the final hold you use to rock over into the finishing flake. Gutted but psyched out of my head at the same time I decided to call it a day and I'd take a couple days off to fully recover and grow some much needed skin!

Driving over early yesterday morning I felt a mix of excitement and nerves clashing together but I was fully confident in myself and knew that in theory it should all be a formality... I met up with the crew and after a good warm up I fancied giving it a try. The bottom moves felt totally solid, skin felt good flicking between the crimps then all of a sudden POP and my right foot slid off. That certainly wasn't in the script to happen, at all. It did throw me for a split second and I felt a tiny sliver of doubt suddenly creep its way into the back of my mind. But back on the ground I tried to focus in, put it down to a false start and keep my eye firmly on the task in hand. After a brief rest I was back up there in the same position but my foot popped again! Only this time I crimped up hard, readjusted and fired up to the horn. Clip, clip, shake, undercut, crimp, drop knee, crimp and I was back at my highpoint, the last hold staring in my face. This time I made sure my foot was solid, tensed my core, boned down on the crimp like no tomorrow and it was there. I stabbed my feet over, reached into the flake and clipped the belay.

A lifetime dream, a route I've looked up at and wondered about since I first visted the Tor as a kid, was complete and it felt dam good! But now I'm hungrier than ever for more and we'll be back out in the next few days and onto the next project. That's how the wagon rolls, and how we progress!

Thanks a lot for reading and checking in folks. Have fun out there!

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