With adrenaline running through my body and a feeling of defeat I looked at Phil and Ben and said get me down. But just as I did to Ben on day one, he returned the favour and said “this is what you came here to do. You can do this bro”.
*Seconds after the whipper – Karl taking his aid to the next level.
Ben pulled on the rope to get me back up to the roof. I started again, going slow and placing way more gear than necessary, I worked my way through the roof and onto more vertical rock.
Once I was above the roof I started to enjoy the climb again and quickly got into a good rhythm, stepping high in my ett’s and placing great gear. I soon reached the Gledhill Bivvy bolts and rigged up an anchor so Ben could jumar and clean the line. Finishing this pitch will always be my favourite memory of this trip. Largely due to the mental effort to get back up to the roof and continue climbing after my fall.
By now our original plan was out the window as it was close to 11 and we still had 3 pitches to climb, then haul, then get our gear back to the car. We were hours away from being finished. Not to mention the 4 hour drive home.
Ben cleaned my line and met me at Gledhill Bivvy. I transferred my gear to his harness and prepped myself for another long hanging belay, which was now quite uncomfortable due to the harness burn and bruising on my hips (Note: never wear pants that require a belt when aid climbing).
It was early afternoon and more sightseers were arriving at the lookout on the other side of the gorge. I can only imagine what they were thinking while looking at the 3 of us. In my mind I was hoping they were thinking we were super human blokes pushing the boundaries of impossible. Hahahaha!
He finished the lead in smashing time, and fine form, and I jugged the pitch cleaning. I trailed the 120m static line that we’d eventually use to haul that evening. We had reached the Gledhill Bivvy, the weather was perfect, and all the hard pitches were behind us, but I was shagged. Yep, all I’d done all day was eat, poop, and jug a pitch but I was knackered. Karl and I sat there at the Gledhill sharing some food, and re-racking gear ready for the next pitch. I slowly felt energy returning and my enthusiasm peaking. It was time to get on with the day, and see whether we could tick this thing.
I aided the bolts to the lip out right and popped my head round to look up under the Fang’s skirt. Awesome! From the lip to the bottom of the pontooth was a super cool and way-less-than-vertical A1 ramp. It ate up gear and allowed me to top step each placement. I don’t think I used my fifi at all until the top of the ramp. Once at the pontooth the terrain gets interesting and really 3 dimensional. It was all cams and fixed gear. A piton and some angles let me know I was following in the footsteps of many before me.
We’d brought camalots #4, #4.5 (old), 3x #5, and a #6. I went crazy and fired metal in all over the place. Getting out from under the pontooth and up onto the headwall was difficult for me though. I was grinding my arms and shoulders against the rough granite, and my legs kept wanting to sweep back under the bottom of the fang. It took me as long to gain 2 meters here as it had taken me to aid the whole pitch to this point! I still look back on this section as being the crux of the climb for me. The gear was A1 but the physical move stretched me to my limit. Once moving again I was all smiles and humming to myself as each placement was fired off quickly and sequentially. I reached the belay on medium cams and settled in to enjoy the exposure.
As Karl jugged up I took stock of my location. I was just 2 pitches above our bivvy but the view had changed a lot. I realised the exposure hadn’t been getting to me at all on this trip which was a pleasant relief. I’d been interested to discover how I’d manage at these new heights.