Yet again, I’ll start with an apology. My camera refused to pack itself into my rucksack this morning so, as usual, no pics from me. To redeam myself, I thought I’d Google todays adventure, and what should I find as the first image… spooky, Mr S on Prana in 2007.
So, same location, Black Crag, Borrowdale, very similar weather, warm and sunny. Perfect for pushing the boat out and seeing what happens. After an enjoyable but otherwise uneventful ‘warm-up’ on Prana (sorry Pete, couldn’t resist it!), I steadied myself for the main event…
Grand Alliance is one of those classic routes that just has to be done. Since moving up to the Lakes a while ago, it’s been sitting there in Borrowdale taunting me. “Are you ready yet?”, “Think you’re good enough yet?”. It’s watched me do Troutdale Pinnacle, Obituary Grooves, Raindrop and many other routes at Black Crag, and had a ringside seat to observe my efforts on Prana in 2004 as my first Lakes E3.
Today, I was ready. Full of nervous energy, having provaricated over the gear and the belay and chalk and boots and anything else I could think of, I set off on the crux third pitch.
Stepping out between the overhangs on the start of the “delicate traverse”, I was pleased to find the first gear placements small but perfectly formed. Despite some jelly-leg initially, a bit of focus and some sidepulls-with-no-feet problem solving saw me across the traverse, strangely nattering away to myself about Depeche Mode and Brian and Stewie from ‘Family Guy’.
My nervous energy seemed to be conflicting with the pure enjoyment of the route. The climbing on this section was superb, as the holds were good if you pieced them together with the right body position – really rewarding, with the slab under the overhang sliding down into the valley below.
After some more good gear and a bit of shenanigans to reduce rope drag after the traverse, I moved up to take a look at the crux section. Spotting the small undercuts mentioned in the guidebook description, I felt confident and just kept moving.
My sensible head decided that the gear was good and the fallout zone was safe, so filed all the nervous energy in the recycle bin. My feet knew where the footholds were, and how to edge on them for best purchase. My hips did what my feet demanded, and shifted my weight as needed. My right hand found an open pinch, which it said was okay, but then my sensible head kicked in again.
If I stayed put too long, I’d pump out and be off. If I down climbed, the hold would still be the same when I went back. My head said carry on, move now.
My left foot decided the smear above it would be fine, having agreed with my right hand that it wouldn’t let go just yet. My eyes alerted my left hand to a good crimp and my shoulders annouced they could udge out the extra reach. A few more sub-conscious coordinated moves and the head was back, battling with itself that it was in the bag, but not to get complacent, and emploring concentration.
Pulling over onto the belay above, a voice spoke to itself. “Well done lad.”
Grand Alliance, E4 4c,5b,6a. My first E4.