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Climbing Arms Race E4

Written by Tim Wilkinson, Bristol. May 1999

Photos in here

Mathias and I could only manage one day of climbing at the weekend due to our respective family commitments (in his case eme rgent).

It was a day of discovery for Mathias venturing for the first time onto the best part of Avon and discovering for the first time what the grade E4 5c can mean.

The day started after a number of fuck-ups where people forgot ropes. Why does this keep happening to me? We started on Jasper for a for a warm up quite important if you go where we were going. I have never climbed this route mainly for environmental reasons and because I have a problem with the sun reflecting off the holds since my Portland eye incident. Mathias led and I toproped in true sea walls style (although I wasn't wearing a helmet and trainers or swinging around like a pantomime fairy in front of a crowd of cheer leaders). Then it was up the slab to do battle with the finest crack routes around.

I started on Mirage E3 6b. I led up with increasing difficulty until the crux at the top. You didn't get a rest like I'd hoped and after stuffing the crack full of gear literally I fell off before I even got into the crux sequence. I rested, tried the crux again and again and again falling off repeatedly. The crux is described as a sequence of well aimed snatches which is true but the essence of it is bad jams for one hand face holds for the other. Its like a thin hand/thumblock for the right, tiny crimp for the left, feet up under the bulge, finger tip jam for the right, slap for a knobble for the left feet up over the bulge slap for a layaway for the right. So to cut a long story short I tried for fuckin ages and even after rests on the rope I actually had to aid through the crux (sling on a friend 2, sling on a rock 1). I could hear Mathias was getting impatient and he had decided he didn't want to second because he needed his strength for the next project. So I lowered off and got the gear out. It is a fine route and I'll be back armed with valuable beta. It was of course good practice for El Cap.

The next project was Arms Race E4 5c. Mathias started off confident as ever but after about 2m this disappeared. A few meters higher and he was off. First he was blaming the wait and lack of warm up. Then he was on again and off again and on again and off again. By now he was just blaming himself. Then as he approached the second cheat the metal spike/ring thing (the first is a concrete block which he avoided for a microsecond) his body was behaving very strangely. His biceps would bend like they were ratcheting up but they wouldn't quite get there then with the ratchet released his arms would straiten his fingers uncurl and he was in the air again this time for a fuckin whipper. Anyway he finally made the spike/ring grabbed it then topped out. I followed deciding that I would use both cheats from the outset and made it to the top without incident (like one of my muscles exploding). Again another fine route and yet another crack. Thumblocks and finger jams essential to conserve energy. And again he'll be back but how the hell can he get any fitter. His trainer will have to look into this.

His arms would straighten his fingers uncurl and he was in the air again this time for a fuckin whipper

We finished off on New Horizons II E2 5c which is just beautiful. I let Mathias lead as my arms were blasted after doing battle with those two beasts and I've done it before. That really is a classic. In fact that wall approaches Almscliff for such a concentrated set of quality extremes and they are basically all hard cracks. Why the hell haven't we spent more time here. We finished off the afternoon with Two Pints Of Hoegarden down the Hope & Anchor, grade-variable (FA unknown).


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