Success on Top Loader plus a bonus.

20th Oct 2007

After having a bit of a break this week from climbing, partly because the weather looked bad and also my Mum needed help to move house; I came back to a glorious autumnal scene in the Peak.

It’s such a lovely time to be in the UK and I am enjoying every moment being outside.

I planned to climb on Friday and was very psyched to get back on Top Loader E7 6C at Millstone. I wasn’t sure if it would be dry though, as there had been some rain and it doesn’t get any sun but I had been reliably informed that it was indeed dry.

So I headed off to North Bay with some Swiss friends of mine who are staying and set up the top rope. I knew the climbing was fine, all I needed to do was sort the gear out. Most of it is in situ pegs so there wasn’t much to look at. I put in five extra pieces, a mixture of nuts and cams. I decided not to clip one of the pegs on the route as I couldn’t reach it to put a quick draw in. I know some people have led the route with a sling extension on this peg but this kind of seems to miss the point a bit for me. So I found a pretty good RP1 below the peg, which I could place on lead.

Anyway, my first go wasn’t so good, I felt a bit out of climbing mode and the route didn’t feel such a forgone conclusion as it had done on the first day.

The problem was I think that the last move in the crux sequence (right at the top) felt very insecure and a bit of a way above the gear. You wouldn’t hurt yourself but it just be a bit of a winger. I wanted to make this move feel more secure, so I took a bit of time to fiddle around with different ways to climb this move and eventually found a great way to do it. This made me feel a lot happier about going for the lead.

I always find routes come down to one or two moves and this one just happened to be a tricky foot movement a long way above gear.

So with this sorted, I had a bit of a rest then practice led it on top rope putting all the gear in. This seemed fine.

Obviously it felt pumpier, as you’ve got the extra weight of the gear and the hanging around to put the gear in but there are enough rests on the route that you can recover if you get pumped. And the best bit is that the biggest rest is just before you start the crux, just what the doctor ordered.

Anyway, I was feeling a bit nervous as I knew I wasn’t as on form as I’d felt the week before but it seemed there was no good reason not to try for the lead.

It’s funny how you can underestimate something in your mind, almost assume it’s already done because you can do it pretty easily on top rope but of course, it’s never done until you ACTUALLY do it!

This was quite an interesting realization. And showed me the amount of commitment it takes to do really hard headpoints.

So, after a good rest I racked my gear in order on my harness and set off. It actually felt nice and free not to have the top rope there. Because it’s a long route, you’ve got time to get into the climbing and really enjoy it and the climbing really is good on this route.

There is a tricky step across move about half way up that went really badly, I had to faff a bit to get back on track but I managed to keep it together and scrabbled to the rest before the crux.

There is a pretty butch move into an undercut which I had never fallen off but it takes commitment to launch into it and I was hoping the demons wouldn’t stop me from committing to this move.

After a rest which I didn’t need particularly but it was more for the head I set off into the crux. A heel-toe cam is crucial and I had to wear a different shoe to help make this secure, it worked a treat and felt great and put me in good stead for pushing on.

The undercut move wasn’t a problem and then my new foot sequence felt great and then I was clipping the top peg and slapping for the top- yahoo!

It had all felt fine, really enjoyable- why had I been nervous. It’s always the way when you get to the top successfully, what was all the fuss about.

One of my Swiss friends is a photographer and he took some pictures of the ascent and I’ll put them in the gallery as soon as I get hold of them.

But for me the big bonus of the day, was I climbed ‘London Wall’. I had tried to onsight it years ago, maybe ’96, and fallen off and never gone back on it.

Rainer (Swiss photographer friend) was really desperate for a picture on ‘London Wall’, he had known about it for a long time and the evening light was great, so I thought ‘why not?’

It was fantastic.

I surprised myself that I was able to go for it at the top. I thought with all this top roping that I’d been doing I might have lost my leading head a bit. But I managed to battle away and hang in there, get pumped, make some horrific faces to pull over the top in a heap.

I don’t know where the crux is meant to be but the top felt hard to me…really great though. It’s nice to have finally done it.

Today I managed to do ‘end of the affair’ first go (top rope of course) after a break of 8 years. And at that time I couldn’t do the top move AT ALL. Shock horror, today I did it first go. Bit weird really. Not psyched at all to lead it, I would like it to feel about VS before I contemplated leading it and I don’t suppose that will ever happen. One of the Swiss guys will possibly lead it tomorrow (I don’t want to watch, scary stuff for the belayer), so I will have another play on it.

We’ll see how it goes…