We were there to try ‘the hardest trad project in the UK’, a free version of Giant. I led up and linked the first 2 pitches to a poor belay beneath the huge main roof. Calum came up and we stared out across the heinous, evil looking and loose roof. Calum eventually set off, placing 5 pieces of poor pro in the roof he set off on a horrendous traverse across the overhang,right foot heel hooking, slapping between monos, terrible slopers and micro crimps. Fifteen metres out from the batch of poor gear just before there appeared to be an easing he cut loose on some kind of pinch flake, with only 1 hand in contact with the rock he began to lock it in when suddenly, boom the flake exploded! We both screamed as he began his descent, down he flew in a huge falling arc like a ginger Icarus. After 40 metres of falling the rope went tight and my anchors ripped out swinging me out into space, we were both hanging off the poor pro, 2 bit ripped and as we both swung back into the rock we grabbed hold. We both scampered back to the belay and started replacing the remnants of the belay as best we could.
Calum recharged with a can of red bull and after a short rest went for it again. Blasting across the roof to his high point he did a dyno straight into a figure 4 off a small edge, he was struggling and a fall from here would be certain death for both of us
“you fucking bastard caff you’ve let me down, you’ve fucking let me down”
“Just think of Gabby Calum and go for it”
After a few more curses he managed to reel in the fig4 lock allowing him to gain a small shelf and thankfully a good belay above the main ‘huge’ overhang. On seconding the pitch I thought it at least 8c on loose rock and certain death for both member of the party if the leader fluffs the end dyno figure 4 sequence. Thankfully my pitch leading to the top was a good few grades easier of E9 or so. We named the climb ‘The Giantest’ and thought even ethical Lleyn pundits such as long and bransby would have no cause for concern with the style of ascent which meant I wouldn’t have to throttle their friend Pete Robins to tell him how dead they are as another keen activist had been forced to do.
I was climbing with my good friend, Si o’ Con Gatkins. Arriving at Oliana I warmed up flashing Fish Eye, I always knew it wouldn’t be too hard as my mate Hazel had gotten up it and she normally just lazes about doing very little. After that myself and Si checked out the moves on Dura Dura, some of them did seem tricky. However the following day I managed to do it 1st redpoint. Chris and Adam obviously hadn’t done enough hard limestone routes, I missed out the 2 crux moves via a quantum, counter rotational ‘chalk and blow halfway through’ deadpoint, the rest was piss. Punters. Si just spent the day doubting that thing Nalle did was as hard as his own blocs and slagging off the guy who appeared in Blocheads alot as being weak as piss. He also put chalk on some real nano holds at the base which I presumed would form a near impossible traverse.
The main event came after a rest day. After climbing through the crux on the Dura Dura I broke right via a sustained sequence to join Papichulo at its crux, after doing this I broke right again into the crux of Pachamama before tracking way back left to take in many more cruxes on the wall. I’d gotten the name ready, the Dura Pachamodafuka face and possibly hard 9c. I was reasonably chuffed and as I was lowering off I expected a shout of congratulations from Gatkins but he just said routes were shit and didn’t have any hard moves on them. Cheeky bastard I thought.
I retorted as I was being lowered telling him it had been clinically proven that people who climb routes are cleverer than boulderers, besides which it looked to be almost inversely proportional to ability, giving Doyle as proof.
Whilst Gatkins lay moaning I updated my Instagram with some selfies I’d managed to take mid cruxes. When he came round we made friends again and after an hour I rechecked my Instagram and couldn’t bloody believe it, it had only got 500 likes, Hazel got 4 times that with some truly naff lifestyle pics. I put it on twitter as well, hoping nobody found it as vacuous as what two friends had been putting on it in the last year which was akin to a story about a real life Barbie and Ken.
Having gotten bored of Oliana we moved south to Santa Linya. Neanderthol, a 9b in the middle of it was the obvious choice and after a quick work it went first go, possibly the 3rd ascent as I think it got repeated by some chap called hacov sherbert but I’m pretty certain he used an inferior sequence, probably only 9a+. The other routes in the cave looked to easy to bother with so we left.
Arriving at Margalef First Round First Minute really suited my style so I did it much faster than the other 9bs, probably 40 minutes or so. I had to admit I was pretty tired after this few days of climbing so needed an easy day the day after so just did Era Vella. That guy J Christ was right about it, it really was piss, probs only 8b, Barrows must have over cooked it on his anal cap regime to say it was tough.
Updating my twitter feed afterwards I noticed expedition grants being given out for ‘snow plodders’. I’d always harboured ill feeling towards these grants being given to useless toffs with cheat sticks who go away for a big hurrah and bring back tales of daring do but generally don’t actually need the money. I thought about writing into the organisation awarding the grants to say they’d be better off giving it to my mate Calum rather than the toffs but figured you’d have to be proper dick to write such an email, although I had heard of this behaviour from some individuals of low moral fibre.
At Margalef it was great to see a youth sport climbing team being overseen by one of the new super sport coaches employed by Sports England as part of the IFSCs matrix. Using his coaching eye app and punching data into another computer he shouted out positive and shrewd advice to the team members. John Redhead was really taking to his role in a big way and I couldn’t wait to see the fruits of his efforts. As we left I heard him shouting, faster, higher, stronger...
After a fairly busy week we moved on to Siurana, the final part of the trip. The roads between the 2 cliffs were bendy so I was glad I wasn’t being driven by a toasted Jehovahs witness.
Arriving at Siurana I had a good 1st day climbing Golpe de Estado and La Rambla. Although La Rambla is a trade route nowadays I was pretty happy to make the first Self belayed ascent, having to do many of the cruxes with only 1 hand. On lowering off the latter and arriving on the ground I saw something which completely blew me away, an astounding sight. I literally couldn’t believe my eyes on what was surely Tom Randalls greatest coaching achievement.
The figure I was seeing was unmistakeable, leaving a bat hang rest in Kalea Borroka he set off waltzing through the crux on Estado Critico. I had thought he would have gone to join the fight against IS but hadn’t thought he would have lasted long in his normally ‘out of shape’ form where surely most 5 year old jihads could have caught up and captured him. This was a new man, an ubermensch. On reaching the chains having achieved a clean lead Andy Kirkpatrick shouted down to his belayer Bear Grylls in delight. Both popularists in their own right they’d teamed up, Andy having swapped his social media campaign for a lattice-bored regime. I gave them both a thumbs up although which digit I offered was a close call.
I contemplated booking a flight to the States to do Dawn Wall but thought better of it in the end as the Yanks always overhype the difficulty and that skinny Cheq kid seemed to make it out to be pretty piss, I doubted it was as big a deal as Pinch Direct on Etive Slab and certainly not as bold. I was also pretty nervous about the extreme vetting, what exactly does that entail and what do they expect to find up there?
Instead I went back to wales. I headed straight to the Promontory Slab with Johnny, which offers technically the hardest trad pitch in Britain although not as big a lead as the Giantest. It has roughly a v13 starting 8 metres into an 8c slab, Johnny did a fine lead after minimum preparation, full of flamboyance and himself. I also managed to follow cleanly which I was chuffed with as I’d spent a bit of time floundering on a grigri on it in prior years. It gave a 9a trad slab. Johnny wondered why people had to train to climb 9a as he'd only done feet only problems for years which seemed to do the trick.
After 2016 the Mars One programme wasn’t looking as bad an option as I once thought. The thought of Trump and his team of fantasists being given the power to destroy the world in 30 minutes, the talk of world war 3 becoming more prominent combined with the ever looming extreme weather events from global warming and people believing their postcode makes them better ‘hardworking & decent’ than other people. It was starting to look ugly for sure.
It would have been nice to hang out on Earth a while longer, finishing off the 2 remaining LPT routes so I could email Jez that it’s an easy and outdated crag, polish off extreme rock, solo 100 extremes in North Wales that kind of thing, but staying just sounds too dangerous. I’ll leave my phone here set to send out a few final hate tweets at farage, trump and their band of merry shites.
I’d like to thanks my sponsors for their continued support as I get ready to blast off towards the red planet and I’d like to assure them I’ll make 1st ascents which won’t get a repeat for sometime even from alex legos. There are 2 places left in my escape pod, feel free to apply.