May 12 29
I was lucky enough to have last Wednesday off work so I decided to head out and make the most of the sunshine. Who do you call when you need a mid week partner – a lazy PHD student is usually a good bet! So I asked my friend Ian and he brought his friend Doug along who has only been climbing outside a few times.
We decided to head to the Etive Slabs to climb a multi pitch route called Hammer. I detest friction climbing so my friend Ian bravely agreed to take on the mantle of climbing the two 5a graded pitches. Reassured we set off. The first two easier pitches seemed surprisingly straightforward, it usually only takes the slightest hint of slabbyness in a route and I start trembling and shaking with fear, but I managed to lead my pitch with total composure to belay just below the crux.
The guidebook describes the next section as ‘best climbed with a rush of blood to the head’ but it looked fine, so I was wondering what all the fuss was about. It was an unprotected holdless and featureless granite slab of about 6-8 metres length but it didn’t look steep from below. Ian set off to lead it and about 2 metres above the belay where it steepened up, he seemed to become suddenly paralysed and after a while retreated to the belay and claimed that I would have to ‘give it a go’. Brimming with confidence, (well not that much confidence actually, but the most I have ever managed to muster for any holdless slab) I set off, I made steady progress for the first two metres, and was gradually progressing up the steepening when my foot slipped- oops! Ian and Doug were apparently watching heart in mouth expecting me to pendulum down below the belay, fortunately I just skidded a teeny bit and then stopped. I retreated gingerly back to the belay with much trembling and shaking to declare that Ian would have to ‘give it another go’! This time he just calmly and cooly climbed straight up – crux accomplished!
Unfortunately the next pitch turned out not to be much better, with an unprotected friction traverse, or tiptoe right, but we managed to cheat that bit with a tension traverse, I knew that skill would come in handy!
Doug did amazingly well for his first ever multi-pitch – very impressed.
I guess it was a kind of cool route to second with a very tight rope, but I won’t be rushing back for any more terror inducing unprotected friction slabs…
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