Friday, 2 September 2016

Lay backing my Way into trouble

The Chief 

Lay Backing
“Climbing up by pushing the feet away from the body and pulling the hands towards the body”
(The BMC)

The resistance of the tag line was the last thing I wanted.  Resistance as a percentage was 100%.  It was slammed on like an emergency stop in a car.  Eye balling my last camalot, then Danny, then the camalot, then Danny… of course there were a few loud naughty words spouting out my mouth.  Pulling hard with my arms, pushing hard with my feet, I was in extremis.  Danny freed the tag line from the twig it had wrapped itself around.  Silence followed by a calm apology then a chuckle. 

As I hate to admit it, this pantomime took place on the famous Split Pillar pitch on the Grand Wall.  The pitch comes in at a very modest 5.10b.  However, I made it feel like 5.12b.  I made the rooky error of just full on lay backing the entire 50m pitch.  I even had the bright Idea of ditching a second no. 3 camalot because the crack ‘didn’t look that wide’.  What a punter.  Anyway, I got up it fine.  

Grand Wall, Danny following the second slab pitch.

Danny following the Split Pillar

Somehow ‘The Sword’ pitch above rated 5.11a felt easy.  I guess the sword is much more conventional and suited to the British climber.  I was informed on our return to the campsite you can bridge and jam most of your way up the Split Pillar.  Rest anywhere… clearly I missed the technique.

Lobbing through the air sideways was not on my plan.  Especially onto my little cluster of micro wires.  Lobbing a second time through the air sideways onto my micro wires was still not on my agenda.  I had fallen into the trap of trying to lay back the tiny crux groove.  I was grappling the little slopey arête, smearing my feet on shiny smooth granite.  It felt impossible. I found myself in gut wrenching contortions in the hope I could slap into the out of reach finger lock.

Danny enjoying the silver jugs at the top of 'The Sword' pitch.

Danny on the fine top pitch of Grand Wall

I decided to climb back up a short section and belay on the ledge off to my right.  The guide book suggests splitting the pitch in two but I ignored that bit.  Bringing Danny up, some minor rope faff/swap, I was back on the sharp end.  Back in the same position, I was off again.  At least the fall was nicer.  Back to the belay ledge to re think.  I must be missing something?  Then back up, I was just about to have another shot at lay backing the impossible groove, I noticed a tiny quartz seam off to my left.  I managed to bridge my left foot out. Stepping my right foot up, I was basically hands off.  Statically reaching the finger lock followed by some positive climbing, the belay was reached.  Another major technical error on miss.  This second pantomime was on the 5.11c pitch of Freeway.

Danny starting up the stunning upper dihedral pitch on Freeway

Danny following the roof pitch on Freeway

So, I am not long back from a 3 week trip to Squamish with my good pal Danny Laing.  Neither of us were really that sure what to expect.  We are both use to face climbing, so dropped our ‘supposed grade’ expectations.  We both had similar aims which was just to go climbing and do lots of it.  I think it’s the only way to learn the style.  We were blessed with fantastic weather for the full 3 weeks.  There was just one day it was just a bit rainy and we only managed a few single pitches in the morning.  Clearly a 3 week trip doesn’t even scratch the surface in what Squamish has to offer.  We did manage to spread our visits out to as many crags.  Towards the end of the trip, the rising temperatures were the limiting factors.  Early starts was the only way for us two pastey white Scot’s to deal with the heat.  The afternoon was generally spent hiding and chilling in the shade with some form of minor grumbling from me.  We spent 2 weeks hanging out with Danny’s pal, John Yahr.  John is from Baltimore, the east coast of America.  What I found worrying was the fact, he never found it that hot! 

Me on 'The White Feather' pitch. (Photo: Danny Laing)

However, I seemed to be function much better yesterday whilst faffing about in the Central Slabs in the Cairngorms.  It was cold, overcast and windy.  The friction was perfect.  But, these mint conditions ended fairly quickly when the forecasted rain arrived early.  Rapping off rotting anchors in the rain, walking about on wet grass and mud in my rock shoes, I find this somewhat satisfying.  Dry rock, clean ledges and bolt belays; that is all too easy.  Money in the bank was how I viewed yesterday….  Today’s effort, well that was just a waste of time.

Squamish, is a superb place.  I would highly recommend it.  I suspect it is fairly tame in comparison to Yosemite.  However, it was busy, but very mellow.  There is a clear shift in focus from the main routes, to bouldering.  Never once did we share a route with people which was cool.  Both My own Flickr and Danny's Flickr tell a much better story than I can write.  Of course the highlight of the trip was meeting a black bear on our final day in the forest.  I never knew I was that quick at walking backwards!  Anyway, what makes these trips so good is superb company.  Thanks to both Danny and John for the shit banter ;-)

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