The Big 5’s

My cheating rack for Central Sadness.
My cheating rack for Central Sadness.

Any reader of this blog will have realised that I have an obsession with slate, and in particular the big and classic routes. Over the years I have climbed many of them all over the quarries and recently my partner in crime llion, has been robbing the limelight by getting ascents of Poetry Pink and Flashdance.

Unfortunately for me these evening hits have meant that I have had to hand the lead over to him. Knowing that he wanted to climb Waves of Inspiration, another of the Big 5’s on slate slabs, I choose to pull a card out of my sleave that he simply couldn’t turn down. That of Central Sadness, a mega two pitch E5, one pitch was famously described as a pitch for hero’s and another for the married man. Whilst I don’t claim to be a hero, a married man I am certainly not.

So on thursday night we headed up to California with this in mind. I had climbed it many years ago now. Probably over 10 years, with a Lakeland hero Chris Hope. Chris lead the route, and I belayed him. In the intervening years the route had changed in my mind, the run-out section on the first pitch had shrunk, and the top pitch had gotten easiest and shorter.

Heading back into this hidden hole we came face to face with the intimidating wall. A wall where we had shared many moments with many different people. None more so than the late and great Will Perrin. I was out today, and Pete remember climbing Central Sadness with will who refused to let Pete rest to remove one of his wires, Afraid to weight the rope Pete reverse to the belay, found a suitable rock to use as a nut key and carried on to the top.

I remember Dave Rudkin being taken by will, up the most atrocious terrain to climb the amazing chimney Fruit of the Gloom, and finally I remember soloing California Arete with will. Today he remember in many ways in this hole by his friends. A tree to celebrate his life is growing strong, a route named after his favourite musician Mr Tambourine Man, a technical F8a groove by Pete and of course in our memories.

The last time I got together with a team of Will’s nearest and dearest friends we set light to half the ledges by launching rockets at California Wall, trying to get one into the tunnel that makes up Pete’s ‘Snakes and Ladders’. He would have been proud of our minor anarchy, and we hope we woke his spirit with the noise.

Back to the route, and I had racked up, with what I had thought was an adequate amount of gear. So much so I struggled to get off the deck, but to be honest this was the crux of the route. Making my way up the steep crack. I had deposited most of the rack bya good niche at about 50ft before the broken wall above. Hauling up another few quickdraws, I paused to place more runner, including the first of my hand placed pegs.

Now I had thought that hand placed pegs might be good on this wall. Mainly because on Waves and other Slate routes there are many micro breaks too small for cams, but perfect for small blade pegs.

Moving up the broken hollow of the wall, I edge ever upwards knowing that a lonely spike would be my last runner. I would say of consequence but it isn’t that good, even weighted down with all my large wires, one wrong moves feels like you could put yourself in a terrifying situation.

What in my mind had been two moves above the spike to a lonely ledge and two bolt belay was somewhat optomistic. Above lay another 30ft of runout slab. Moving up my fitness pays dividends as the I leisurely make my way ever closer tothe sanctuary above, I see another micros break, and slot in a peg, a poor cam and get a skyhook over a good edge. All psychological gear, but if anything can help you cope with your inner demons than this was it.

Commiting to the final moves the feeling of success and triumph come flooding over me. This I why I climb, this is why I push myself and this is why I was there way above a decent runner, commited to the core.

Llion follows and takes over the rack, of which he had collected most of it, and heads up towards the crack that makes the meat and two veg of this route. He made it look easy, as he floated upwards throwing runner at the crack from teh comfort of the holds  either side of it. He then gets to the best section of finger crack I have climbed in a long time and to quote Paul Williams, the crack is steep, the friction is poor but the gear amazing. As he power upwards it dawned on me this was the first time we had climbed a route that sustained over two pitches.

That for me is the great thing with this route, two pitches both E5 6a and both absolutely amazing. First climbed by Chris Dale and John Silverster, this amazing line tackled the tallest section of California Wall, and the only two bolts are very welcomely on the belay. I am not sure there is another route like this anywhere on Slate, and deserves to be more popular than it is.

My advice, get on Big 5’s, grow a pair and get on this bad boy. The only other route I can think of with two great E5 pitches would be Poetry Pink into the top traverse pitch of Released from Treatment.

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