Feeling pretty psyched from my previous three days in the mountains (earlier blog posts) I was yet again ready and eager to get out climbing again. So early on Tuesday morning I met up with Guy at the forestry commission car park as for The Brack.
We had a quick cup of coffee and discussed our intended options for the day. We knew it was going to be a hard one but we were both keen to have a go.
We were planning on trying to get the FWA of an E3 called Mammoth, which is a route that has a lot of history and is described in the guide book as dirty and green (ideal for a winter ascent).
We began the steep walk up to the buttress and after some wading through waist deep snow we arrived at the base of the route. We dug out a ledge and dumped our bags, as we geared up we both where a little quiet due to the uncertainty of the up and coming days difficulties!
Once we were both ready to go we trotted to the base of the route and I tied into the sharp end. The moves off the ground seemed to be absolutely nails and after a few good attempts on my behalf which resulted in bleeding hands and many down climbs back to the base, Guy offered to have a look. After a sterling fight through the first section he had soon dispatched the first pitch and we were one step closer to our goal. But we knew we couldn’t relax yet as there were still three hard pitches above us and the second pitch was the crux of the summer route.
Even though I had given a good fight on the first pitch I still felt fairly fresh (apart from the sore hands) and was psyched to give the second pitch a go. As I reached the base of the steep crack an anxious lump arrived in my throat, I had never climbed anything that looked this hard in winter before and I knew it was going to be a battle. But If you don’t try, you don’t get. So off I went and as I suspected the climbing was super strenuous and pumpy with a very hard/awkward cruxy move in the hanging pod half way up the pitch. My biceps were cramping up at this point from all the deep locks and as I pulled into the pod and tried to get a rest from a knee jam in the steep crack opening I realised I still had yet another steep roof section to go before I got to the belay. Another lump arrived in my throat, I had just fought as hard as I ever have on a winter route, and I still had to pull through that gnarly looking roof crack. My biceps were not pleased with this! But yet again I thought I might as well give it a try. I got some gear and set my sights on the snowy/turfy ledge that could be seen on the lip of the last steep section. Another series of deep powerful locks and I had reached the good turf. All I had to do now was conjure up some energy to get onto the ledge, which involved what I like to call a manly power shout but Guy said it sounded more like I was in pain! But either way I was on the ledge and could see the belay just above me at the base of another big crack.
|Guy starting up the third pitch|
|Me at the lip after the steep wall (hidden below me) of the third pitch|
As I was bringing Guy up the second pitch I had a good look up at the third pitch and as I did this I was very happy that I didn’t have to lead what looked like another very sustained crack that overhung a fair bit at the top. Soon enough Guy had gained the second belay and after the obligatory well done/good lead/that was hard conversation he was off up what we thought would be the slightly easier third pitch (oh how wrong we were). It turned out to be just as sustained as the previous pitch and as Guy was cranking his way up the last super steep section of the pitch, all the muscles in my arms and back decided to started cramping up (which is never ideal). After one last huge explosive yard for the lip Guy had reached the belay and It was my turn to second.
|Me pulling onto the belay at the top of the third pitch|
As the sun was starting to go down, I tried to climb the pitch as fast as my tired muscles would let me and as I got moving again my muscles loosened up and I was feeling ready for the steep section. I too made a huge hall ass move for the lip and after two more moves I slumped onto the belay ledge at Guys feet with him telling me that the next pitch looked easier than the last three (thank f*** for that I thought).
|Me leading the last pitch|
The last pitch was not as strenuous as the previous ones, but it was definitely not a walk in the park. It was hard to protect in the first half and there was more steep climbing after the tenuous traverse. By this point my whole body was tired and I was eager to get to the top, so I just pushed on and eventually found myself pulling onto the easy angled turfy ground that lead to the summit.
As I was bringing Guy up the last pitch my body started to cool off as the night air pulled closer. This cold breeze brought back the muscle cramps in my biceps, but this time I didn’t care as I had just climbed my hardest winter route to date and we had successfully achieved our intended objective. Better yet we had climbed the two very sustained crux pitches onsight and still managed to climb the rest of the route clean, what more could you ask for.