Sunday, August 24, 2008

The move

I didn't take any pictures yesterday, so here's is one 'from the archive' of me at the same cliff a couple of years ago.

Pepe, 6a+, 20 mtrs. Hyttyskallio, Salo, Finland. I've been meaning to do Pepe cleanly for ages. I fell from the top move, the crux, the first time I tried it. You have to pull through an overhang on great holds. Over the lip of the overhang, the cliff lies back into a slab. Once established on the slab, it's over - the anchor is there. It's done. The first time I tried it I onsighted up to that move. The holds on the lip are so good even I, with my pathetically weak arms, could hang on for a bit, trying to work out what to do next. I remember slapping around on the slab with one hand, desperately looking for the hold I presumed would be there. But there is no hold, just blank slab. Slowly my other arm uncurled and plopped off, falling spinning into space below the overhang. I realised what I had to do, and did the move the next try. A brilliant move, but a deeply annoying failure not to onsight the climb.

I've been back to Hyttyskallio a few times since then, but each time there has been some reason not to get back on Pepe. So yesterday after a total faff and failure on the first route, then a top-rope of another line, I decided to try it again. Looking in the guide book I saw from my scrawled note that it was ten years since I last tried it. Ten years! The world has changed so much in that time, as has my life, but I still could remember exactly what to do. The bottom wall was technical, but went OK. There was tricky move at two thirds height that I remembered nothing of at all, but with a bit of thought I did it. The space between the penultimate and last bolts was just as huge as I remembered, so the burly pull up to clip the final bolt was as terrifying as last time, but I get the quickdraw clipped and rope in. Back down below the overhang for a rest. Breath. Rest. Shake out. Breath. Rest. Shake out. And then up, gurn, and pull.

How can you remember something so unimportant, so clearly, after spending just a couple of minutes on the move over a decade ago? But you can. Right hand on the low great hold, left up to the good higher one. Grunt. Pull. Right to the rail on lip. Perfect. Left next to it. That's it - body up, eyeing the slab, still no holds on it. Swing left leg out on to hold just under the overhang's lip. Cut free with the right leg, it's swinging in space below you now uselessly. And mantle for all you're worth! Arms straighten, palms are down by your waist. It's just like getting out of the swimming pool just no water to help. Pull the right leg up and put the toe next to your hand. Don't overbalance. Balance. Balance. Breath.... and stand. It's done. Your feet are on the good holds at the lip. A couple of steps up the easy slab and you clip the anchor. It's done. Just one move.

Ten years have passed. But some things stay the same.


ed said...

you should write a book. Climbing and the art of Terror.. or somesuch. I'm not joking.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

The story is true to the events, but the style is rather derivative. Reading far too many climbing magazines in my twenties probably didn't help! I would say 'blame Jim Perrin' but as there are no words in this piece that you don't need to look up in a dictionary that might not be fair. :-)

Jonas said...

Hey! Now you blew MY onsight ;)

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

Remember - truth can be stranger than fiction... I might have made a mistake in the telling of the story because it's "literature" not a guidebook! :-)

If you have your mate read the description to you whilst on the crux - you might find I've got left and right mixed up as I often do!