Reminiscing part 2
Looking up I followed the line of the corner slowly, head tilting, eyes squinting, a deep groove sped away from me above my off kilter helmet. I sighed, my bowels churned and I still had not found a belay, between me and certain death was a suspect half placed camming device and some wedges way too low to catch me, a fall would start outwards until the rope pulled me under the overhang and in a brief moment before the cam pulled out I would start to plummet towards the rock ledge then slide into the boiling sea, I just couldn’t think about that, but I just had..
Somehow I managed to fumble some poor metal into cracks and clip in, I didn’t trust the three pieces of metal enough to confidently lean out.
Martin had only climbed on routes up to severe standard before and only on the user friendly Gritstone edges in Derbyshire, this was 300ft of crumbling sea cliff graded E5 an extremely remote and demanding place to be. I knew he was going to fall off, his fall would put him in space, flying out from under the overhang like a spider sprung from its web. My mediocre belays would not stand up to this, risking us both taking a nosedive without a safety net.
I braced myself, cold sweating back to the rock and tried to remain calm, Martin set off; with the ropes sending messages with wobbles and twangs as they disappeared over the lip of the roof. Two feet, three feet, 10 feet, 20 feet, he must now be in the surreal under ceiling world, head jammed against the roof, feet slipping on damp rock.. Breathing in again I held the rope tight and took in more slack, knowing he was now flailing across the ceiling. Suddenly he fell...I saw him briefly as he swung away from the lip before he vanished again hidden by the monsters dripping chin. The belays didn’t take any strain, adrenaline and luck locked my legs and back as the rope device I held creaked and strained. The cam, that was under the roof then appeared as if in slow motion, arcing away to be lost forever beneath the waves. In his panic he had removed the cam from the rock and casually thrown it over his shoulder instead of clipping it back to his climbing harness. The £45 piece of equipment was gone...I laughed and laughed my tension ebbing away with every swing Martin made on the rope.
Martin somehow joined me on the ledge, the few moments of tight ropes and gentle assistance from me lost in a blur, almost dreamlike. I laughed, and laughed, and laughed, like a crazed maniac as I clipped him in to the meagre anchor I had made.
After all the fear and drama the rest of the climb was pure joy, hot rock, good holds, plenty of places to cram metal into rock. The sun prickled my arms and the breeze toyed with my clothes, sweat dried and we had plenty of man banter as I raced up the towering grooves above.
Pulling over the top was surreal, families picnicked, and kids played in the warm grass, lovers walked hand in hand. The remains of an ancient castle created a fairy tale like backdrop to the gently warming day and playful breeze. The beast had let us live.
We had a pint on the way back, Martin clutched the beer with white hands as I tried to stay casual....just another climb I said.....
‘Account of an ascent of Il Duce E5 6a/b Tintagel Cornwall.’