Wednesday, 24 December 2008

The Whitestone Traverse On the Solstice


A few more pictures from the Whitestone Traverse. Luke came up with the idea of moving together on the first few pitches, which made for a few sketchy moments, but we managed to do the first 9 pitches in a couple of hours, which was pretty cool.


Luke led us through the '5a section', which scared the hell out of me, dodgy gear and trusting holds you'd prefer not to have to trust. The climbing probably wasn't much more than 5a/b, but seriously scary as my first pitch of climbing in about 2 months.
The last few pitches had seriously scared me- my lead being a sketchy hand traverse across a band of 'doggers' (solid sections of rock made from fragments of pre-existing rocks- the only things you can trust at Whitestone) and Ivy-covered rock for feet. I clipped a peg which then instantly crumbled under the weight of my quickdraw. This was not reassuring. I managed to make moves to a groove, filled with thorn bushes and then down-climb to safety. But that was two pitches ago now. Luke wanted this route even more than I did, but realised the aid section wasn't going to go free. This called for a some alpine tactics...
We were now at that spectacular belay on the very arête of the 'Black Mamba cave'. I took a while to stop shaking and Luke tried to find a way through the Aid section.
"How does it look Luke?"
"Desperate. -Complete choss and about 15 degrees overhanging."
This did not inspire me with hope.

Luke down climbed from the belay to a level of easier climbing and then traversed leftwards on an 'interesting' block. He reached the Black Mamba cave and set up a belay. Now it was my turn. I elected for an ab as I was more or less mentally finished- swinging round the corner Luke pulled the ends of the rope to assist. I made sure Luke had his hands on the rope and then let go to traverse into the cave- quite scary as I was abseiling further left than down.
We were finally in the famous 'Black Mamba cave'. Only 4 pitches left now and only one difficult section. Luke led off again and climbed the pitch well and in good style. In the time it took him to climb it, it got dark. Luke shouted from round the corner that it was about 5a/b. I could see from what he'd done that this beta was a complete lie. (later he admitted it was more like 5c/6a) The pitch is quite hard to describe, but basically once you set out on it, you have to finish it. There is a small fragile ledge on the arête, with a big roof over your head and from here no gear to the next corner.
"what happens if I fall from the arête?" I asked Luke.
"you'll just swing into the corner" He assured me.
"mint!" - I was really happy about this. It was now dark, 6a climbing to a ledge on the arête and then a possible 3 metre swing into a wall, whilst hauling Luke's bag. The first time I completely refused to climb anything since Ian wanted to set out on some UIAA VI on the L'M at 6 in the evening. We finished only a couple of pitches from the end. - The traverse 'done', but perhaps not really in the best style or in a manor which satisfies our consciences.
Abbing down at the end.

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