The last three days contained of all the necessary components for a good climbing trip:
· Dry weather
· Good friends
· Real ale
Day 1: Avon Gorge
I rolled out of my van feeling bored and lethargic after the tedium of the M5 but it just took a few metres of typical Avon weirdness on Yellow Edge to restore my spirits. It was one of those days when you really feel that you can climb, you feel fit and strong, your head’s in the right place and the gear goes in first time. At the belay I brought up John and Justin and we sat on the ledge and faffed with ropes and gear until one of us thought we had better continue and set off up the next pitch.
I haven’t climbed multi-pitch routes in a group of three for a while and it was a nice change to sit on the belay and talk nonsense instead of just sitting on the belay, thinking nonsense. We covered the topics of religion, literature and whether a fight to the death on the belay ledge would be a good idea. More climbing, faffing and chatting followed and we finished up the final wild pitch of Captain Swing.
Back in the van and on to the campsite in Tintern where we convinced John that pitching a tent is more fun in the dark and after a couple of pints. He took our sage advice and we wandered down the road to the pub for food, ale and the making of ill-advised plans for the next two days.
Day 2: Wintour’s Leap
After a hearty fried breakfast (the diet of athletes!) and the arrival of a fourth climber to the group we set of to Wintour’s for adventures on GO Wall. Hyena Cage was the route I had decided to do in the pub the night before and all plans made in pubs should be followed through to their logical conclusions (in this case fear and exhaustion). Alexis lead up the start and I followed trying to psyche myself up for the 50m second pitch. It started well with balancy moves up the headwall leading to the start of the roofs then a steep few moves on good holds to a rest on Kangaroo Wall. I managed to resist the temptation to carry on up Kangaroo Wall and set off again traversing right over awesome exposure to a technical groove that took all of my willpower and the last of my quick-draws – the trouble was I still had 20m of the pitch left. After a brief foray to see if the last section was an easy romp to the top (it wasn’t), I scuttled off and belayed in Kangaroo Wall.
The sight of the Wye meandering through the Wye Valley from halfway up GO Wall is one of my favourite views in the world (possibly because I only see it after fighting my way up the crag and when normally when I’m attached to the safety of a belay). With the commentary from the horse racing at Chepstow for company I sat and belayed and watched the sun creep round towards me. Alexis arrived and we sorted the gear, he set off up the second half of the pitch and I stretched my toes out into the sunlight like a basking lizard.
The call to climb came and I started up the pitch immediately glad I hadn’t been foolish enough to continue on lead. The rock was not above suspicion and swallowed most of a full rack of gear in the fear that you and/or the holds could fall off at any time. The final pitch above the terrace proved too much of a challenge and I escaped, via some rosebushes to the top. A few hours later and we were all back in the pub for more food, ale and recounting of epic tales.
Day 3: Cheddar Gorge
You know those days when you really feel that you can climb... this wasn’t one of those. Justin and I set out for Ahimsa on Acid Rock, the walk-in proved problematic, the climbing more so. I seconded the first pitch feeling weak and uncoordinated and started leading the second feeling much the same. Halfway up I ran out of psyche and decided to run away... at the only speed you can on a crag where you wouldn’t trust the fixed gear to hang your coat on... very slowly.
It was great to spend three full days attempting awesome routes at three very different crags, each has its own character amd all of them have an abundance of quality routes in wild and exposed locations. But now the rain has set in and I need a rest day...