words and pic by Garrreth Bird
Three smooth columns of orange and silver rock burst out of the rough mountainside. The textures and shapes toyed with the mind, as did the climbing possibilities; phantasmagorical was not too strong a word! Phlip (Olivier) and I did some heavy breathing as we stared up at the cliff. ‘Have those things really not been climbed? You could definitely get to that rail . . . and that rrrail is HOLY MOLEY!!’
Hilarious! What a route that would be! And there was another amazing one on the pillar next door, also involving a wild rail out into space. Man, I thought to myself, I haven’t really made first ascents the main focus of my climbing life, but to be associated with anything at all up there on those amazing faces would be a bonanza of unexpected proportions!
A month later, that crazy rail now stretches out from me into the middle of space. The ropes tug at my harness as they droop out, away from anything vaguely rational. I’m not crazy-high off the ground, but there’s something undeniably intimidating about this wacky setup.
I have just watched Jimbobob (Smith) lead across the long rail without coming off. Whoo hooo! However, Jimbobob is a bloody strong climber, and man, even he was getting worked! And here I am, on this little ledge, still warbling on in three versions of Scroteish from New Years’ Eventhusiasm Er ma gerd. In climbing, getting what you wish for can often include a little tightening of the poep-string.
In my defence, I had always thought that the CLIMBING TRIP! and NEW YEAR’S EVE! combo sounded a little painful. Aren’t those diametrically opposed objectives? But come the day, and it felt like a masterstroke: having our mountain cake and eating it party!
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