A Seconds Retrospective (Superdirect E1 5b, Dinas Mot)

Oh my god I’m glad to be on the belay. Not that this is the belay, but that next bit looks a bit blank: eight metres with no runners, still don’t fancy that on second, considering it’s a traverse! Then again, at least I wouldn’t be above my only anchor, even if it is a bomber sling. Just wedge that left leg in a bit more, there we go.

Well, he’s setting off now anyway, out on green, in on orange; he’s not even put any runners in, why don’t they pay out evenly? Maybe they’re twisted, that could be a problem later. I hate half ropes, singles are so much easier. Pay out, take in, and repeat.

He’s on the slab now, just out of sight. Has he put a runner in? No, he can’t have, I haven’t given tonnes of slack in two seconds. Oh god, get a runner in mate, please get something in. If he falls, he’ll slide, a long way, then come onto the belay. The krabs below my feet he’ll pull me off! Or will he deck first? Do I need to jump? But my legs wedged behind this flake, do I need to pull it out? Pay out, take in. Come on, get some gear, any gear.

I’m cold, feels like I’ve been here for hours. Pull your hood up, you idiot, zip your jacket up you fool. Take in slack, but what happened to pay out? Take in more, and more… what’s going on? Is he falling? No, he can’t be. If he is, it’s the slowest fall in the history of the world. Take in more. What the fucks going on? Oh no, the swearing’s started, that’s never a good sign. Take in more.

Can I see him? Twist your neck, crane to see him. No joy. Fuck it, ain’t gonna help. I’m still cold. And my toes hurt; I should’ve undone my shoes. After all, that’s why they’re Velcro. Can’t do it now, one foot is wedged and I have to hold the ropes. What is going on up there?

Lean more this time, give a little slack and lean off the flake with your free hand. There he is, but he’s too far right, he’s off route! Shit. Shit, shit, shit! Hang on, he’s coming down! Climbing not falling and I can see a runner he’s placed. Leave him to it. Back to normal; wriggle, sigh and pay out on green, take in on orange.

There are people on the roadside, just below the Cromlech. Why aren’t I there? I don’t even like the roadside but I wish I was there. Wait… pay out, pay out, quick snap; he must have a runner in! Relief, just sheer relief. Either that or I’ve finally succumb to the fear and peed myself… No, it’s relief.

I hear muffled shouts but my hoods up. Quickly, take the hood off, bit of slack, lean out, look up. What was that? He went off route?! Thought it was a bit hard for E1?! We’ll check it later, at least he’s on route now, he can hurry up. God I’m cold.

Why do I do this? Look down, there’s the top of the Barrel. I could’ve got on that, worked the Minimum again. Sure it’s much harder, but I wouldn’t be here! Slack, slack, slack, another runner. Good.

Time passes, my mind goes blank. What time is it? Dunno, my watch is in my bag. Look around, you’ve always been good at this. Can’t tell, but it’s getting dark. At least I have a headtorch… in my bag. Bollocks! I always moan at people for that. Practice what you preach dumbass.

Oh god, hurry up. It’s getting dark and I’m getting cold. Like really cold. Hang on, slack, slack, slack… and more slack. Is this another super-slow fall? More slack, more slack. What the hell? It must be the belay, surely. But wait: take in. Lots. Now what’s going on?

No more rope movement. For ages. Feels like years. Another look at the Cromlech boulders, even the boulderers have gone home! And I’m on the first belay of a three pitch route! There’s even a car with its lights on, is it a Volvo? Buggered if I know.

There’s no movement for a while, let’s take him off belay. We’ll do a waist belay, just in case. I heard a shout before, short, sharp. Yeah let’s do it. Oh good timing, he’s taking in… and quickly! Strip the belay, strip the belay! Wait, no, argh, the ropes tight. Shout up; pointless. The ropes even tighter, sod it, right, and okay, let’s climb.

August 2009

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