Someone: Wow Rach, you made that look pretty easy…
Me: Hmm, yeah sorry, I think I was just too scared to fall off…
For me, the hardest part of a trad route is usually summoning up the nerve to get on it in the first place. No matter how much I tell myself the crux will probably be really safe and what’s the worst that could happen anyway, the reality is that I’m just scared of getting scared. Ending up in a position where I’m a distance above gear, too scared/unwilling to commit to go up and unable to climb down is possibly my worst nightmare. I’ve found myself in a few sticky situations in the past but usually i’ve been able to supress the fear, go for it and haven’t fallen off. Only once did I end up in a position where I felt completely trapped, panicked and pumped. I found myself close to tears and screaming for a rope to be dropped down. No rope presented itself thus I summoned “death-grip” strength and sketchily slapped my way to the top. The fear of ending up in situations like this really holds me back from trying harder climbs although I’ve recently learnt that this type of scenario can be avoided without avoiding difficult routes. I’ve discovered that making a conscious effort to calm down and relax, yet stay focused, really useful when the going gets hard.
Since Pembroke I’ve had a flurry of North Wales trips which have reminded me how trad is rad and how lovely the British summer can be when the sun shines. On my first trip to Wales I did my first two *proper E4s – The Mau Mau in the Slate Quarries and Resurrection on the Cromlech. I was pretty nervous about Resurrection, the risk of getting scared almost seemed to outweigh the reward associated with climbing it. Despite finding Resurrection pretty tricky, there really was nothing to be scared of and it gave me confidence to try some more E4s. Before trying a route I might struggle on I can still feel the excuses bubbling up inside me, however, recently I’ve been making more of an effort to gulp them down and say “Yeah sure, I’ll give it a go and just see what happens”.
The reward of this slight change in attitude has meant that I’ve recently climbed loads of classic routes that I’ve had my eyes on for ages but always thought they were way beyond me. Climbing Great Wall (E4) and The Axe (E4) on Cloggy gave me a lot of confidence as I’d always believed they were years away. To do them both within a couple days and find them very steady felt pretty sweet.
I also managed to do my second E5, Killerkranky, when Anna and I visited Scimitar Ridge. Nice to do an E5 which actually relies on placing gear and not just clipping threads!
Other Welsh classics I’ve really enjoyed recently are The Moon (E3), The Strand (E2), Hanging out at Glastonbury (E4), The Big Groove (E3) and Blue Peter (E4) at Gogarth; The Skull (E4) on Cyrn Las; Plumbline (E3), New Dimensions (E4) and Axle Attack (7a+) on the Orme; and Weasels Rip My Flesh (E4) at Cwm Glas Bach. It’s been really nice to mix up the rock types a lot and climb with a bunch of different people. Thanks Tim, James M, James O, Tom, Jake and Anna.
* Technically my first E4 was Suspense in Stennis Ford, Pembroke, but I only lead pitch 1 and it felt more like E3.