PN is a special climb. When I first started climbing, my second day out on a two day course was a “taste of multipitch” climbing. With a lot of effort I made it to Nightmare Ledge. What a name. I spent the next twenty minutes/ half an hour trying to get off NL but I’d blown a gasket and the instructor abbed down to me and lowered me off on an Italian hitch. I went home in a right strop. Moving forward a few years, I decided at the start of this Summer that PN was going to be my short term goal. I was going to lead it before the weather changed. Having had a good run of things over the past few weeks in the quarry I decided last Saturday was going to be the day.
Myself and Niall arrived at the foot of the crag on a perfect Saturday morning. Unusually quiet, I geared up at the bottom of climb. I’ve been up it once or twice since as a second (do you pay attention when seconding?), but this morning after traversing the ramp I realised how poorly protected the first 5/6 metres are. I stalled at the step-up but got it together quickly and moved through to get my first bit of gear in. It felt good. I relaxed.
In a short time I was up and across to the in-situ peg where the real fun started. I clipped the peg, backed it up and worked my way out onto the ledge and stalled. I had made up my mind that the next move involved a side pull or pocket to my left. I began to search. I found nothing. I persisted. Still nothing. I could hear Niall below shouting up “encouragement”. My mouth had gone dry. I had decided I was going to come off but I should at least try some upward movement before I did. I’d been holding on for that long my hands were going. I eventually heard Niall. He mentioned a pocket above. I could just about reach it. I managed to pull through the difficulty and was able to shake out on the ledge above. I was trashed. I got my head together and with Niall reminding me from below that he had work on Monday, I made it up to the belay and got set up. Niall followed up quickly and climbed thru the second pitch.
While belaying the doubts crept in. The first pitch is a grade easier in guide book than the final pitch. I knew I could get Niall to finish out. An easy option, but I knew I may not get back there again this year. Conditions were perfect. I need not have worried. Niall had set up the belay in such a way as I had no choice. “Up you go” he said and started handing me the gear immediately. As a technique lay-backing defeats me. I never seem to be able to move my limbs correctly. I hate seconding Scavenger or Blood-cracks in the quarry. Anyway with a solid belay and a solid first piece of gear I was up and over before I knew it. The short step across the slab is fantastic and with a solid nut in the quartz crack I was able to relax. The position is fantastic. I milked the crack for ever hold. It’s amazing. No stress. Holds and gear on demand. Too soon I was on top. A dynamite pitch. I set up a belay and brought Niall up. Elated. As Niall came into view a head popped over the edge. He rambled up past Niall and stepped over the top. He’d just soloed up. It put everything in perspective for me.
We abbed back down Expectancy and Niall led Cracks in the Garden of Eden where my short-lived lay-backing skill deserted me in double quick time. Another super route. It was a great day out in perfect weather in a perfect location. Long may this Indian Summer continue.
PS. I wrote this to try and stop Ambrose monopolising the forum.