Ever since climbing The File 18 months ago Altar Crack at Rivelin has been playing on my mind. Not only is it the nearest 3 star VS to my house, but it's notable for being one of the few routes that Oli and I have gone to do and both flatly refused to lead because it looks to hard. Oh, and it's a layback crack. I've been to Rivelin so many times that I've climbed everything else there at VS and below (pretty much), so when Mr Oswald somehow persuaded me to go there on Friday, I knew the game was up and I'd have to get on it.
Luckily it's at the far end of the crag, so I ignored it in the hope it might go away or fall down, and climbed Kremlin Krack instead. The guidebook bills it as a "dark delight for the lover of fearsome wriggles", but really it's not too bad. There was barely any thrashing around or offwidthing (or even jamming), and a size 4.5 camalot acted as a convenient mobile toprope for the hard bit. Maybe only VS 5a with one of those?
Anyway, that was a good start. James led the rather hard (and slightly worryingly protected) Left Under, which was good, and then I strangely found myself half way up Fringe Benefit fiddling terrible gear in trying to kid myself unsuccessfully that it might keep me off the distant-looking ground if I muffed the next move. Then it started spitting. Luckily I was on a big ledge and it stopped after 5 minutes or so, so I made the moves and didn't test the gear. The rest (including the not very 5b crux) was easy enough once I'd sorted my footwork out. Another E-point to add to the collection. That's 9 this year I think. I wonder if I can find a 10th in the next month...
Gareth making The Brush Off Look pretty easy
James wasn't persuaded by my mutterings about Roof Route, but he gave the neighbouring Groove Route a go (apparently hard for both 5b and HVS, which makes you wonder why it isn't E1). After trying a lot of duff sequences he used some strategic palming and it all came together. With this beta it felt ok, still 5b but not hard for it, and it was a nice sequence of moves.
Unfortunately that meant I either had to man up sufficiently to do Roof Route (har har) or go and climb Altar Crack. I had a plan of attack for Altar Crack which involved some strategic climbing up, placing gear, then climbing back down. I put this into action and almost fell off on the way up, and again on the way down, getting quite pumped in between. This didn't bode well. I sat on the sacrificial altar for an age sorting my arms out and went for it. I jammed back up to my top bit of gear, stuffed a toe in the crack, stood up, entertained the idea of bridging on some pebbles, started getting quite pumped, stuffed my feet back in the crack, getting more pumped now, here's the horizontal break and here's a jug. Hooray. Only I still didn't have any footholds and I was really pumped. There was an in situ cam by my face but I didn't have the strength to clip it. I wanted to give up and slink off into the undergrowth, but that would only mean I'd have to come back again some other day to do it. So I dug into my hidden reserves of oomph, told myself that my last piece of gear was less far away than it looked, and pressed on upwards. The crack was too thin to even pretend to jam by this stage, so I was forced into a filthy layback. Snatching wildly at the crack with each successive move I managed to run my foot up into the break and with a truly desperate pull managed to get my weight over it and cram as much of my arms as would fit into the friendly break by my face. I placed considerably more gear than was necessary, stepped up and threw myself inelegantly over the top of the crag.
Altar Crack ate my hands...
Unlike The File, or any number of other routes I've climbed, which have felt like a desperate fight at the time, Altar Crack wasn't even type II fun. Whenever I think about it I'm just filled with an enormous sense of relief that I don't have to go anywhere near that sodding climb ever again. And a slight satisfaction, I guess, that I managed to press on and really go for it when it felt like failure was imminent.
I finished the day by tarnishing things slightly after refusing to second James up Ring Of Roses, an HVS traverse. In my defence though he did make it look like the hardest thing in the world (and this was borne out when I inspected the holds whilst abseiling for gear to discover that they were largely illusory). Bloody good lead that man.
For a change of scenery I spent a few hours on Sunday afternoon at Burbage South with Adam, Kate and the enthusiastic hound, bouldering in the sunshine. Somehow we ended up doing a lot of scrittly mantelshelf problems, including the hilariously desperate Cobra Mantel. But I did manage a pleasing number of 5c and 6a onsights. And I fell off a V0. Whoop.
Holds? You'll not find any of those round here...