First VS lead climb

On the lead...

Despite the very cold weather which dumped snow on the UK overnight, I headed out with friends to Box Bay (near Bridgend, South Wales) for some lead climbs to add to my SPA logbook.

It was a real pleasure to be on the sharp, but clean and positive rock, with the backdrop of the Bristol Channel and a little wintery sun added in. Having set up an abseil rope we proceeded left to right ticking of the Severes.

To be honest, these routes were mostly confidence-building and practice for placing gear and lead set-ups. As such, for a challenge I lead Sweet Pea Souper to end the day, which started with an interesting move out of a letterbox feature in the rock. After that it was great, absorbing stuff, and cathartic given the problems I had seconding the Very Severes at Boiler Slab recently.

With this under my belt, I hope to get out regularly in January to keep the momentum up.

Boiler Slab, Gower

On Saturday, I was at Boiler Slab on the lovely Gower Peninsula with a group, gaining relevant experience for the Single Pitch Award. Unfortunately, there was the opportunity to climb only one route, which was on a top rope, Column, Severe, 4a *. Nevertheless, practising setups, helping with the abseil and belaying the young people were very rewarding. I spent several hours shouting up encouragement to the young climbers over the wind and crash of waves below, and have never heard so much screaming at a crag!

Boiler Slab

Happily, I was able to get out again today, and Matt was keen to head back to Boiler Slab, so I was intent on leading my first Severe and gaining as much experience and input as I could. The forecast promised fairly good weather for the first half of the day, but then for conditions to deteriorate with the onset of rain. We certainly got the best of it, completing five climbs with the crag to ourselves. It just started spitting as we got back to the car.

Packing up at the end of the day

Matt started us off with Nemo, Very Severe, 4c. I must have been very rusty, for even on second I struggled up the route, acutely aware of my poor footwork, which probably contributed to the strenuous feel of the climb. I then lead Classic, Hard Difficult *, which was a good confidence booster and managed a solid belay at the top. To keep the momentum, I immediately lead Column, Severe, 4a *, which I had top roped two days before (and belayed many youngsters up). However, my challenge was to onsight a Severe, so after belaying Matt up Direct, Very Severe, 4c *, which again made me think, push and heave hard, I lead Dulfer, Severe 4a *, to end the day.

Matt and I (r-l)

There is nothing like climbing on the sharp end of the rope: fear of falling, exposure, muscles pumping out, psychological games. It has it all. Half way up Dulfer, I felt fearful of committing to a high foothold, but after Matt’s advice to place a nut, I made the move comfortably. I had no reason to doubt my ability at that grade, but the subtle hint of fear made the stakes feel much higher. Ultimately, it is all about experience, confidence and trust, so I am hoping that despite a busy schedule I can get out and build on today’s climbing.

%d bloggers like this: