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Trip Trip Report: Climbing Terrapin E3 5b

Date: September 5, 1998
Climbers: Mathias & Martin Beale
Climbing: Sustained, technical and bold E3 5b
Area: Baggy Point, North Devon, U.K.

By both choice and necessity, rock climber Martin Beale takes an experimental approach to his life on rock. For him, the Rock's confining limitations are inspirations, leading him to uncover the medium's hidden flexibility. "I figure if it's beyond my control," says the English-born climber, "I'd rather have fun with it - and enjoy the fact that it's beyond my control, and not try to force it into doing something. Actually - I just love climbing rock. It's my life."
Written by Martin Beale, Bristol

So there we were at the bottom of Promontory Slab uncoiling the ropes at thebottom of Soft Touch. I'm trying to get the beta on the route - will theoverlap take a friend? But my eyes can't help but move left to Terrapin. It'sthin curving flakes are the natural line up this part of the slab. It is thetraditional classic hereabouts - Pat Littlejohn: his mark.

We move over to Terrapin. I can rationalise the start. There seems to be a sitter of a Friend 2.5 in the initial corner. I'll be on the ledge before things start getting ugly. The wave washed start seemed hard (maybe it wasthe 6 pints of lager the night before). I got a friend in, but it didn'tseem to matter too much - there would be that sitter a little higher. But whenI got to the corner there was no placement - just a shadow. Instead of the stonking friend 2.5, I had a rock 2 half way into a little crack. I crimped outleft of the corner - the holds were small. Switch off - reach high and edge. Myhand sank over the jug of dreams. I was established on the ledge.

WhenI got to the corner there was no placement - just a shadow.
A little higher I got a couple of great friends in and I could see the halfwayledge and peg. I could have gone left, but the thin vibrating flakes to theright were the classic line - the true line. The vibrating flakes were fine;the situation could be tamed with an RP1 (it looked good anyway). A couple ofcrimps later and I was at the half way ledge and the peg (backed up with a couple of excellent low friends).

The route was at my throat yet again once I left the peg (can every move reallybe 5b?). A high reach to the thin flake, the peg 10ft below now, and I wasin control again. Moving up the thin flakes was the easier part of the route(the great natural line), but it was the bit I nearly slipped off of out ofcarelessness. I contrived some opposed wires (OK, they were actually RPs) anda sling over the top of that shipwreck of a flake. It made the peg seem notquite so far below. The Culm Guide said I should go left to a pocket at this height, but the natural line is up the flakes and then a couple of stern pullsto the santuary of the break above. The pulls were a little nerve wracking - I was 100ft up and the gear seemed a bit of a way below. The rope was dragginglike a hellhound on my tail. I knew that I was one crimp from victory. Crimp, edge, reach high. Boy it is an absolute stonker! I slammed two friends intothat break. I was sure it would go now.

The rope was dragging like a hellhound on my tail. I knew that I was one crimp from victory.
I moved along the break, trying to not stand on the plant (experience in thevalley of dreams has taught me that plant juices are low friction juices). Ithought the final crack would have been 5a, but it was still 5b (will this route ever relent?). The gear slots in immaculately now and all of that fingerlocking practice has served me well. I am soon in the final break, 10 feetfrom victory.

The rope drag is now pretty bad. To compound this, there is a poor smear (wellthey do get the worse for wear when it is starting to drizzle) and the fingerlock in the crack isn't all that it might be. Do I lock high or lock low? Thehigher lock is slightly worse but drier. I lock high, smear left and then lurch for the top. It is the jug of salvation. I am up. My first E3 in the bag.Elated? You bet. Terrapin was a superb sustained and exciting route - a routeto think on and not to thug on.

It was drizzling now. I wanted Mathias to get on the route. It is importantto me that the whole ascent is clean - that leader and second both do it ingood style. Mathias was divesting himself of the rack - tying his bountifulcollection of camalots (friends are lighter) to the rap rope. Once on theroute, there were no worries. Mathias was clearly well fired up and loving theroute. It is a route of such character. You just want to get up it and thatdesire got us both up. There we were standing at the top of the Promontory, therain clouds doing their stuff out to sea, Baggy basking in the sun and wehad one of the great South West classics ticked.

Just did it.


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