Indian Face is the one route which I have always said, ‘I will do that one day’. But I never imagined it to be so soon.
James McHaffie asked me if I would belay him on it on Tuesday, this seemed the perfect excuse to go and look at it. Caff had practiced the moves on top rope in the morning, He looked almost green when I turned up at 2. It wasn’t long before he strapped it on for the lead. Just before setting off he said something like, “if I’m not feeling it I’ll just step off.” I was like, “step where?” He was like , “I dunno” (maybe I shouldn’t have questioned him). And he started climbing. Probably the most gripping belay I have ever done despite the fact that he was so smooth and looked 100% solid the whole way up. An incredible effort!
I seconded it clean and unsurprisingly was disgusted at how shit the gear was. None of it would have held a fall. The whole time I was seconding I was thinking to myself I don’t want to lead it, I don’t want to lead it. But then having top roped it clean, a voice in my head was saying, yeah you can probably do that. I top roped it once more just to see how I felt on the climbing just in case I wanted to come back one day and lead it. By the time I was back on the floor I was telling myself I was going to come back on Thursday and lead it.
From the moment I had told myself this, I had a constant sick feeling. Just thinking about it made me nervous. It seemed that the only way to get rid of this feeling was to go and climb the route.
Sam Underhill, who I had asked for a belay, walked up to Cloggy with me on Thursday morning. It was a scorching day but thankfully there was a slight cooling breeze in the air. I sensed that both of us were as nervous as each other. It’s weird, I have never been this nervous before getting on a route, let alone 2 days before.
Callum Musket was already up there, he had planned to climb the route the day before, but because of the hot muggy weather he had decided that it was too sweaty to go for the lead. Today he was going to lead it with pre placed gear after some more top rope practice.To give him some time to rehearse the moves and so I could take my mind off it Sam and I went to do a nice pleasant HVS on the left of the IF wall. We then lowered down the route and had a top rope practice.
Callum was now ready to go for the lead. I couldn’t watch, Sam and I went for a wonder round the lake to fill up the water bottles. From the other side of the lake through the haze we could just about make out Callum moving up the wall and to safety at the top. An amazing effort!
Ok now it’s my turn. I top roped it again but this time stopping on the way up and working out what gear I was going to place on lead. While I was climbing, someone from above accidentally dislodged a huge lump of turf which plummeted straight towards Sam. He dived just in time taking swinging out the way on the top rope, phew that was a lucky one, good job I wasn’t leading at the time! I tried some different nuts in the slot where Callum and Caff had placed a very suspect sideways rock 7 on the bottom section of the wall. To my surprise I found an old DMM wire to slot in perfectly. I thought that although this wouldn’t make any difference on the high crux moves, at least it would give me some confidence on the bottom section.
I came down taking all the gear out with the intention of top roping once more to practice placing the gear. But I felt confident so made the most of it. No time like the present! I pulled the top rope down and started to climb.
I silently moved up the wall, not really thinking much, just focusing on climbing. Placing two skyhooks and the sideways walnut. An airy step left and up to where I needed to place a cluster of rp’s at around 2 thirds height. I placed two in a shallow crack and another number 1 rp in a hollow sounding flake. The next two which I needed to place were blind and awkward. I couldn’t get into a comfortable enough position to place them. A tiny bit of doubt came into my head but I shrugged it away. I stepped up higher so I could reach down and see what I was placing. All the rp’s were placed now and I didn’t have a single bit of confidence in them. I had to tell myself I was soling from now on. I continued moving up trying to blank my mind, big reach up and right and a big rock up onto a reasonable foot ledge. I placed the last two uninspiring skyhooks, the blue tack just holding them on. I started to think I wonder if someone could drop me a rope. No, don’t think about that, just climb it. My t-shirt was sticking to my back, I meant to take it off for the climb but completely forgot. More chalk, relax. What the f**k am I doing here? Breath, chalk up, I’ve got such a dry mouth. I swapped my feet and committed to the final crux moves. I breathed my way up and crawled my fingers onto the finishing jug. What a relief!
|George Ullrich climbing Indian Face (c) Emma Twyford 2013|