I climbed one route off the list, Tower Face, the other day, and yesterday I found myself back at Stanage with the youth standing at the bottom of another - Wall End Slab Direct. I'm not sure what drew me to this route in particular, but it was in the 'Things I could probably do now' section of the list as I couldn't think of any good excuse why not. I warmed up on the original route of the slab, and then the left arete, which is amusingly not independent in the slightest, and not nearly HVS. In between James fell off the Severe crack that Death And Night And Blood starts up (although he had no problem with the E1 bit once he got there), and spent a hilariously long time and an awful lot of effort trying to get off the ground on Fern Crack (he got there eventually).
|Flummoxed by a VS. Oh how I laughed.|
I'd had a glance over towards my chosen foe and the gear break didn't look as good as I might have hoped. James also pitched in with a helpful anecdote about belaying Jon Stewart on this for an age in the freezing cold before he backed off it. And then my belay plate randomly snapped and fell off the back of my harness for no good reason. So all was auguring well, but it looked as though it wouldn't be too hard to run away from before the crux, so I set off to 'have a look'.
I managed to finoogle (definitely a real word) in a variety of cams of varying degrees of uselessness, which between them might perhaps have held a fall, and moved up to the interesting bit. The move seemed obvious - a high left foot and a committing rockover into a decent, but slightly awkwardly shaped pocket, but it felt hard. After a few wafts at the pocket with my foot James suggested I try some footwork, which helped a bit, but it still looked hard and scary. I was about to give up when I tried something slightly different with my body positioning and it suddenly felt a lot more feasible. Reassured by the fact that I couldn't see how ropey the ropey cams were I went for it after a couple more false starts, and that was that. A bit of bold but easy padding up the top of the VS and I'd done it. My first E2 in Britain. Yay me. It's easy to see how people get caught up by grade-chasing on bold slabs. As long as you don't fall off they feel easy! It's perhaps for the best that there aren't too many other slabs on my list. Just Telli (which actually has some gear) and Motorcade (which is only 5a, how hard can it be...), and lots of steeper things. Ulp.
On the issue of my auto-destructing belay plate, I emailed DMM, who said that apparently this does happen in very rare cases (something to do with a process called dinking). To their credit they have already sent me a replacement and asked me to send the broken one back for testing, but it is a relief that it didn't happen halfway up a multi-pitch route on a sea cliff. Or mid-abseil. I think I'll be carrying a spare one on my harness next time I go to Gogarth...