Saturday, 4 January 2014

Managing Expectations

Every year it's the same.  Along comes the festive season and we pack the car and head south to our families.  The long A9 blurs into the longer M6, with obligatory stops at House of Bruar (the World's Poshest Toilets) and Tebay (the World's Poshest Services), and perhaps somewhere depressing like Charnock Richard (where?) depending on the caffeine levels.  Bleary eyed and bladders bursting we finally arrive, and festivities begin.  Luckily for me, Sarah's parents live about an hour from the Roaches, and mine live a similar distance from Dartmoor, so for a couple of days each holiday I take the pads and sneak away from the families and feasting and fine ale and get some time to myself.

Weeks in advance, around the time Sarah starts making lists and buying presents, I start to think about my Christmas days out, where I'll go and what I'll do.  In my daydreams it's always dry, always perfect conditions, always cool and calm and sunny.  It's never too cold or too windy to keep the pads down and there are never massive puddles under the problems.  And of course, in my daydreams I'm always going well and feeling bold.  I've got the pick of the Roaches and Dartmoor to go at.

Hen Cloud from The Roaches
Naturally, the reality of rock climbing in winter in the British isles rarely matches my daydreams, and the hitlists that I excitedly put together in my head end up being radically re-drawn.  This year's Roaches list included such optimistic ideas as trying the 7B slab Boba Fett.  I did the 7A C3PO next door on Christmas Eve a few years ago, so surely this would be worth a try.  In reality I couldn't get off the ground and got my pads drenched and covered in bog.  Fail.  Then I thought I'd try the Undercut Dyno but it was damp, and when it eventually dried I couldn't do it.  Fail.  I also wanted to solo Chalkstorm, but 1; it was baltic and I could hardly feel my hands, and more importantly 2; I was on my own and scared, so I scuttled off into Prow Corner. Fail.

Down on Dartmoor the big 2 problems I wanted to try were Dancing Queen at Saddle Tor and The Wave at Bonehill, but on arrival I could hardly stand in the howling gale.  Both problems were catching the full force of the wind so keeping the pads down while trying to keep warm and trying to keep all my kit dry and trying to pull on shitty sharp granite proved too much.  And then it started to hail.  Fail.

Luckily, the story has a happy ending.  Both days ended well, with clear skies and golden sunsets and drives home passing in the warm glow of success.  At the Roaches I managed Too Drunk, a feisty little 7A at the far right of the upper tier, ignoring a 9a wad's toe-hook tech for straight up burl.  Tick.  On the Moor I deployed the emergency tent pegs for long enough to keep the pads down and do the highball Bjorn Again Extended Start at Saddle Tor.  Although it's not hard, onsighting the high top-out on my own in a gale with freezing hands felt pretty fruity.  Tick.  After the hail passed I went over to Bonehill and did the sit starts to the arete and the prow on the Cube, both of which I'd failed on last Christmas.  Tick tick.

Bell Tor from Bonehill Rocks on Dartmoor.

So, not the glory I'd hoped for, but significantly better than nowt.  Happy New Year.

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