I think?? I don't know. I thought I did but maybe I don't.
I've been a good boy this summer. I've realised that my physical ability is waning whilst my trad climbing ability is holding steady, so I've kept training and tried to keep fit. I haven't had many days out but on most of them I've done a challenging route or two. When I've trained in the meantime I've felt I'm holding steady with all physical aspects, rather than regressing. So far, so groundwork.
I've still got many inspirations in Scotland, albeit fewer than before last year's great climbing. As the numbers dwindle, the numbers increase - most of the remaining routes are "hard for me". I haven't wanted to get on them in mid-summer but now the weather is cooling down a bit, the window of sensible attempts has opened....but of course it will shut again in a couple of months.
So maybe now is the right time to try a bit harder, get on some more desirable and incidentally more difficult routes.
Except after this evening's debacle I'm not so sure. I tried something "hard for me", Bladerunner Direct at Auchinstarry. I put a lot of thought and attention and emotional turmoil into this - visits spent just looking and playing around on the bottom wall, visualisations of sequences and logistics, buying a BD Offset Swedge for the one bit of possible gear as my old HB 00 offset looked too soft. I played around more and worked through worries about the lower wall (supposed crux) and the Bladerunner mantle (supposedly serious without the very high BR siderunner). The evening was dry with a cool breeze, my partner was actually the first ascentionist of BR, I'd reassured myself that falling off the lower wall would still give me the option of doing BR itself, so the omens were good enough to get on it.
The supposed lower crux was committing but easy, the mantle was committing but easy. I was thrilled to get those mental hurdles out of the way, although in retrospect they add nothing to the objective difficulty of the original route, but maybe a bit to the quality? Resting for ages and fiddling gear for ages in the "just out of view for the 5'8" climber" micro-slot, I recovered almost all my poise and focus. Now I just had the technical but protectable crux of BR....which turns out to be the overall crux of BRD and it's pretty hard but eventually I cranked through it to the pocket where Nijinski joins the route....I never had any worries about the final moves from there, I'd already done them blind and with distant gear. Except....except....I'm on the pocket, tiny cam in, doing the layback....except I'm not, I'm sliding, my left-hand is slipping one slap up one slap down my foot won't go on the ripple I'm compressing so much I'm surprised my wrists don't crack and I'm OFF.......
I can't believe it - and those are the only words I can say for several minutes. I'm not angry, I can't even describe my feelings, my mind and vocal chords incoherent with shock and disappointment. So much mental wrestling and determination invested into three anticipated cruxes and I somehow fell off the easy bit. Actually, I DO know how. When I did Nijinski it was December and crisp, today was August and although there was a cool breeze it was warm rock from the prow's usual sunbathing - fine for gaston rockovers and positive mantles and square-cut layaways to pockets, but obviously unsuitable for slopey arete layaways when all chalk has been ground off by the previous powerful crux. My friend Tris and I had discussed harder dolerite and concluded to treat it more like quarried grit....and like quarried grit the oft-positivity can fool you into getting involved when warm edges feel okay and suddenly surprise slopers don't. I abseiled down and the arete felt rubbish.
Anyway I tried a bit harder and found the easy bits can be as hard as the hard bits. Logistics and tactics are often about the planning and pacing and balance of easy and hard bits and god knows how I feel about that now.
Hmmmm. Mostly....tired, I think.