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Monday, August 08, 2005

NMC crack strikes terror in the hearts of few

I finally got out to Derbyshire this weekend, this time with a view to climb some routes. You should know at this point that when I intend to climb routes it hardly ever turns out well.

On Sunday I thought we should head to Gardoms, near Birchens, in Derbyshire. I planned to climb NMC crack, a diff or v.diff climb (beginner to moderate level) that this time last year I would've walked up (I used to be strong). This time this year I did not walk up it.

I took a good deal of effort to just get my fat arse off the ground. The technique to use is called a layback, here you lean back (left) off the flake and place you feet out to you right. I could get on ok, but my spindly little wuss arms did not want to play along when I tried to move up the face.

After hanging around for about 15 minutes I though, one big effort and if I don't get any further than about 3 feet off the ground this time I'm giving up. The thought of giving up made me climb it.

About half way up I managed to become welded to a ledge. I couldn't move any further as the next step was so high I couldn't get my foot up onto it. Here I began to feel the burn, and my arms started to weaken and shake. When this happens I tend to overgrip, putting more strain on my already tired arms. It quickly became clear that if I was ever going to get over the ledge I would have to 'aid it'. I pulled on the rope from my belayer and heaved myself, far from steadily, over the ledge.

My reward for this achievement was a new, more solid platform on which I could stand quite securely. From this position I tried to remove a rather well set piece of gear. It was not planning to budge any time soon. After heaving, and pushing, and wiggling and cursing said piece of gear (something like the one in the picture above, but larger and further in the crack at an awkward angle) I resorted to using a big nut (piece of metal used for protection in the crag) to hammer it out. This was the right choice and it freed it up straight away.

I lumbered like some kind of shaking, weak, hopeless creature up the remained of the climb, elbow jamming (jamming my elbow in the crack) to get some security. I had a headache, and the exertion magnified it, seeming to thwack a new axe into my forehead with every move. After an ungracious struggle and some tears magnified my panic and pain I pulled over the top. Calm and graceful as ever, I flopped onto the rock I looked out through tear stained eyes.

It was a beautiful view.

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