|Gnarly mountain man Steve and I|
The guys had a lead each on a pair of cracking culm slab routes as the sun shone and the tide turned and slowly began to head towards the beach, there was however enough time and sunlight left for one more route. The route in question was Harpoon and, while Vicarage Cliff may not have any routes harder than E2 and only one of those, Harpoon packs a bold and committing punch. My tendency to steer clear of any routes that get a fluttery symbol in the guide or that are described as bold, scary or exciting has lead me to identify a weakness in my climbing which can, in part, be corrected by getting on E2s and E3s of this nature. And there’s no time like the present.
The climbing on Harpoon never stretches much past F6a in difficulty but the gear, or absence of it, in the first few metres easily makes up for this. A steady head, careful tapping of the footholds and remembering to forget about the back-breaking boulder below all helped to reach the first good gear. From there the climb bimbled on with enough gear placements and holds to keep me happy before depositing me at the crux with good gear but no holds (not unless you count the array of hollow-sounding footholds that flexed when hit). After much time spent attempting to move and even more time spent convincing myself that I didn’t need handholds to stand up on a slab I stood up.
Soon I had reached some holds, fiddled in some poor gear and carried on when a stern internal voice told me to climb back down to my gear and make it better. Sheepishly I did just that and set off again reminding myself that gear isn’t just there for decoration but is actually supposed to stop me in the event of a fall – a simple but significant mistake.
I arrived at the top and the 360 degree views of wild culm coast that it afforded as the sun slowly sank towards the horizon casting a soft glow over everything. Our optimism about finding dry rock had paid off leaving us three happy climbers to pack our bags and head off to the nearest fish and chip shop.
|Photos by Mark Bullock|