It seems I start too many stories nowadays, with the immortal words, ‘Back in the day…..’. Its not like I don’t live an adventurous life now. But sometimes a day out climbing now is as much about remembering all the routes I could have, should have or did climb. Today was one of those nights, revisiting one of the routes I did climb, it stands like one of the gates to Llanberis Pass, in setting alone it has a command view that was destined to make it a classic
The rock is smooth, you can see the striations etched across it, for the rock it has only been a blink since the ice touched it as it carved its way towards the Irish sea. For me it has been over ten years since I last climbed this route, and it seems a life time away.
So away back in the day… I think I had a couple of hours off between indoor wall sessions, and a friend had recommended me this micro route, Mabanogion. ‘Don’t worry with a rope, its a great solo’. So with that route in mind I headed up the Pass, warming up by nipping up Rib and Slab, a lovely VDiff, big but relatively straight forward for the grade, a great way to put yourself in that mindset, that place where you are totally focus on what is happening now, nothing else matters, the world fades to grey, and all you care about is the next foot hold, the next hand hold, until you reach the top.
Traversing down across the top of the crag my mind is focused as I arrive at the base of the route, a slender crack up a short wall polished wall. I feel my breathe deepen as I sit at its base, lacing up my rock shoes tight. As I touch the first hold the world shrinks and I am back in the bubble. High stepping, and laybacking up to a pocket, the crux over and a long reach left to another sinker jug and up to a large ledge.
As I look up at a blank wall from the ledge, I am suddenly back in the room. The world has come scream sideways at at me, and I am no longer surround by calm certainty. I suddenly realise I am alone, half way up a cliff, and I can’t see a way to get either up or down. The way up the wall looked improbably at best, yet reversing down didn’t seem much much likely.
I don’t know how long I stood on that ledge, it wasn’t hours but it was most certainly not seconds. In that time, I manage to explore my small world and realised that there was an easier way, well off the the right, the calm returns briefly before reality hits again at the top, 30 minutes till the next indoor taster session.
Cue this evening when we only had an hour to fill, and climbing the route again seemed like a good idea. This time with a rack and a belayer. It was a lot harder, higher and steeper then I remember, and spending all that time hanging around placing wires meant it was also a lot pumpier. However more than before I took in the place, and the shape of the rock, and the climbing.
Yes it was an amazing route to solo back then, but not now. Too hard, although with a couple of pads, and a ladder for the top wall, maybe. What really amazed me today though was that at some point in the past I felt confident enough in my own climbing ability to just head up and solo an E2.