Thursday 6 November 2014

End of the Affair E8 6c


Since I am back writing, I suppose I should cover the most recent, and perhaps most 'significant' ascent of my climbing career so far.

On Monday 3rd Nov 2014, I succeeded in climbing The End of the Affair.

If you were to read UKC you might find the article on Team America's visit in 2008 where they took down many of the hardest lines on the grit. In it, you would find the route described:

Considered one of the easier E8's in the UK, End of the Affair was first climbed in 1986 by grit visionary Johnny Dawes. It has had many headpoint repeats and is reportedly around the F7b mark when top-roped. Leading this fearsome-smear-fest of an arete is very different to your average F7b bolt route though; tenuous smears, reachy, balancy moves and a bone breaking fall all add up to make a classic gritstone frightener.

 Which all sounds quite thrilling.

In November of 2012, I took a training class with Neil Gresham at the Westway Centre in London, where I told him my aim of climbing the Triple 8's (8a, 8A and E8) at some point in my life. At the time, I was climbing the odd 7C boulder, and feeling a bit beaten whenever I tied into a rope.
Cedar Spine 7C, Rocklands
I knew his background in trad climbing in the peak, so I asked him at the end, which E8 I should consider doing, and he replied - "If you reckon your headgame is alright then you should hop on End of the could do all the moves right now". With that in mind, I left the centre and didn't climb any trad until last week.

I've always thought my headgame has been pretty good. I can almost always force myself to go for a move above a boulder fall. In 2012 I did this numerous times in Rocklands, where I found a bit of a taste for highball boulder aretes. Cedar Spine, Zanzibar, and less arete-y and more highball-y Creaking Heights and Pinotage.

Anyway, back to the story at hand.

A couple of weeks ago I got back in contact with one of my old partners at Craggy, who moved up to Sheffield last year to start working Rope Access. Kyle and msyelf have had a very productive rivalry, with each of us pushing the other to perform one more, and one better for several years on routes, boulders and in competition. I can say without a doubt that he has been a large pushing force in my climbing for a while now.

When I got in touch, Kyle suggested that given the slightly improving conditions, that he wanted to throw a rope down End of the Affair at Curbar, but that owing to the difficult nature of the climbing, and the seriousness of the belay, he wasn't having much luck finding anyone to join him.
Calling back memories of Neil Gresham at Westway - I accepted. After all, the worst I could do would be to find out how the moves felt.

When we got out to the crag we soon found out that conditions were far from perfect, with windspeeds almost enough to push us off the biggest handholds and stances on the route...For a balancey technical route, this was not the best thing possible. However, we overcame our initial concerns and after a couple of hours of shivering, shouting into the wind, and beta wrangling, we had both completed all the moves on the climb, and put together some half decent links. Obviously, given the conditions, we were quite happy about this, but also aware that the moves could feel *very* different without the wind.

After a few days off, we went back to the climb on the 29th of October in slightly calmer conditions.
When we got to the climb we found a send team of Andre Hedger and Sam Hamer just setting up for a toprope attempt. The rain the previous night had washed the holds clean, but some were still a little damp, and Andre didn't know the sequence, so I talked it through with him until he had it straight and got to the top.
When he came down, both myself and Kyle had another burn on the route, working out the sequence again, linking in from the bottom a couple of times, and trying to figure out the beta for the precarious top move. I was using some smeary static beta, which felt very droppable. Kyle however, was favouring some airy dyno beta to skip out on some sketchy foot movements, and in fairness, once I tried it, it did save a lot of time.

When we had both finished, Kyle was starting to consider the lead, I was certain that I was going to wait for another day and better conditions. Andre had first dibs however, and despite only trying it for the first time that day, he tied on for the lead.

What happened next made for some pretty engaging viewing.

After watching this first hand, Kyle decided that he wasn't too keen on the idea of going for the lead, and we started to pack up our gear.

From then on, the route weighed pretty heavily in my thoughts.
I knew it was possible, and I had seen the fall from the top.
I just didn't know which way I was going to do the final move.

The weather looked good for the following Monday, so we made plans and headed back out to meet just before midday. I think we looked a bit silly walking in with all our pads, bags, ropes, coats and camera gear, but when needs must...

When we got to the base of the route, we decided that it would be best if we took it in turns to warm up and go for the lead, rather than both try, and risk cooling down on belay before the lead. Since I had gone first on all the previous sessions, I got to tie in first again.
As I set off on toprope, I tried to warm my hands up against the wind. End of the Affair is a short route, and most of the holds are pretty good, but not being able to feel them is a sure fire way to feel insecure. I did the route clean from the ground with Kyle's dyno beta, but felt pretty sketchy doing it, so before I came back down to the ground, I decided that it would be worthwhile trying out the other static beta again, which had felt so tough on the previous session.

When I came back to the ground, I had more questions than I left it with. The static beta had felt so good that I wasn't sure which to use now.
Dyno or Static?
Dyno or Static?
I had seen Andre fluff the static before, and I had never fallen off using the dyno...but it was a dyno...on a smeary dangerous a sloping hand hold.

I sat and contemplated for a while before pulling the rope and tying on for the lead. I knew that I needed to have my plan sorted before I found myself up there and the best place for that was the ground.

I tied in, put my helmet on, clipped the gear, still talking it over in my head exactly what I should do before turning to Kyle. He smiled up from his belay stance with a wicked grin and asked what I was planning. With a thin lipped shrug, I guessed that static would be best...

I took a deep breath, cleared my thoughts and stepped off the starting ledge. A few seconds later I was at the crux, I had climbed the bottom so fast and efficiently that it seemed to have barely happened. My mind made a quick check of how well I was keeping the fear out, and my right leg gave a slight wobble. At this point, I was standing on a half decent smear, but I knew that if the same happened on the next foothold, I would probably be facing a rapid descent to the ground. I kicked this thought quickly, and told my leg to stop wobbling. Grabbing the poor left hand sloper, and even poorer right hand crimp line, I pulled up, frogging the arete to get my foot on the flat gritstone smear. I was in the zone, and knew I was going to succeed. Locking hard, I reached out and placed my hand on the penultimate hold.
Breathing a sigh of relief, I moved my feet onto the slab and reached up for the final jug, teetering on the smears.

I topped out in beautiful sunshine, feeling calm and elated.

My first hard trad route done,
the first of the triple 8's in the bag,
and some solid evidence of a return to climbing form.

After I was done climbing, Kyle came up and congratulated me at the top with a handshake. He knew what he had to do now. We threw the rope back over the top, and repeated the exercise.

All I'll say is that my heart was beating far faster on his ascent than it was on mine...

Kyle's blog is HERE, so if you would like to read his side of the story, then please click through.

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