Saturday, February 20, 2010

Little Lion-Man Project

"Weep for yourself my man,
you'll never be what is in your heart.
weep little lion man,
you're not as brave as you were at the start."

Blood oozes from my hand as a catch a glimpse of the offending rock whirring downwards, inches from my lead line. Somehow I maintain contact with the rock. Looking down some 30 metres to the weak belay below, I look at the pathetic pieces sticking out of the cliff that nearly had to try and halt a fall. An inverted knife blade and a pecker off the belay. A good cam, good in the sense that all four lobes had contact with the wet rock. A ledge with a good piece in the back of it. A few body lengths above that is a number two RP, straining with the effort of just holding the quick draw. Still higher there’s me, fighting with the most primal instinct to stay on the overhanging wall.

Success in October on the East Face of Mt Anne had given me the confidence to try another route, this time with free-climbing in mind. The route, “This Boys in Love” was an aid route that didn’t quite take the tallest part of the cliff. With the weather somewhat warmer, and free-climbing possible, I intended to blast a new route straight up the guts. Ground-up, on-sight and solo.

The familiar walk was now much easier without the burden of frozen talus hopping. Making my way down the approach gully I felt more confident than the last time I had come by this way. Hesitantly I pulled the rope from the abseil and gingerly traversed the wet approach to the base.

With my large pack I soloed the first roped pitch of the Original Route and set up a belay. The next pitch headed of to the left. Slowly I traversed across to set up at the base of the line. On face holds, I set up off, trying to find something to protect the belay. Arriving at a stance I checked out the possiblities. My best bet ended up being my smallest knife-blade. I committed to some tricky moves into a corner system. A thin seam offered up a good pecker. Bomber for aid, but a whippers another story. My nut-tool scratched the flaring pods clean enough to be of use. I balance up, finally getting two mediocre C3’s. With a quick sigh I pull into some hard moves. The tips crack above me fused and I was stuck trying to find a solution. Out left on the arete I spot a large flat jug. Pouncing for it I snagged it, hung on and mantled onto it.

Some easy ground teased me up past a possible belay into an overhanging corner. Above it I could make out the shape of a large ledge above. I could see a rock scar and climbed up into it, figuring it would have solid rock. Wrong! With heaps of rubble about, I was treading on eggshells. With my hand on a flat ledge and my feet apart bridging, I looked up and froze. The rock above my left hand was rolling towards me. Know what was coming I let out a scream, somehow managing to stay on. I fought to reach up and place a cam to rest on. Once in my aiders, with a bloodied hand I plugged and chugged upwards to the belay.

With a short, easy looking corner between and the ledge I rushed to pull up. Nudging the side of the corner I realise the whole side is one big, rocking loose flake. Threatening to crush me, and my helmet less head after forgetting my stack-hat.

Once safely on the ledge I faced the tough call to bail. Without a helmet, my confidence wasn’t soaring, why didnt i remember that one piece of kit. So trying not to get blood on the rope I rapped of on my single 60m rope. I rapped of some tat slung on good horns. Yeah yeah, I know, leaving tat behind is bad juju, but apparently maybe there’s a dedicated, tat-cutting abseiler kicking about the state at the moment.

But I digress….

Now standing at the bottom of the face, not wanting to climb the cliff, I was equally dubious of the 50m steep wet bank I now had to climb. Committing to bushes a didn’t trust, I made my way up, then made the mistake of looking down. Nearly slipping once I finally topped out onto flatter ground, and safety.

With my tail tucked I ran away home, a scared little boy…

I think this was one of the most impacting mis-adventures ive had in a long time. It messed with my head for the rest of the year. Being so close to having a serious accident in the middle of no-where hit home how easy it is to die on your own out there. Lately ive been immensely enjoying the beauty of partnership on the rock. Im not saying Im never gonna go out solo again, but I think a break from all that mental stress will be for the best.

I have nicknamed that line the “Little Lion Man Project”. I’ll definitely be back, this time 'with a little help from my friends…'.