....the wise words of Britain's top sport climber and seemingly all-round nice bloke Steve McClure. I was lying in half of a fold-down guest bed in Brad's house in Aberdeen - the other half being determinedly occupied by Atlas, one of their fine tabbies and although considerably smaller than me in size, somewhat larger in charisma and bed-hogging ability - and reading through lots of back copies of Climb. Plentiful inspiring articles about legends like the Sharma, the Ondra, the McClure, even an interview with Neil Gresham that was actually interesting. Always great to read about top climbers when they have ideas and inspirations that are as interesting as the big numbers themselves.
Steve's article and comment struck a chord with me as I am very prone to saving many routes for the optimum time, often having many crag visits and delayed attempts before properly trying them. Of course "never save any route" is a fine motto when you're a F9a+ climber, at least F8b+ onsighter, fresh from onsighting Britain's least on-sightable safe E7 Strawberries, weight about 9 stone, are fit as fuck, on a flying visit to Scotland, up the Cobbler in great summer weather and you're trotting up an easy classic like Dalriada which is probably not too far out of the comfort zone. When you're 1. Crap and 2. Actually trying things physically and mentally hard for you, saving routes can seem like a sensible option and indeed the only tactic that gets me up some routes. If I hadn't saved half of my hardest leads last year from at least one previous aborted visit until actually trying them, I doubt I could have done them.
This weekend's saved route was Running Wild. Utterly inspiring and potentially utterly desperate for me - on paper, beyond my current limits, although maybe possible with enough focus. I've now had 4 crag visits without getting on it: first was far too greasy, second was amazing conditions but no-one to climb with, third was good conditions but a brief shower made the access inaccessible and waiting wasn't ideal, fourth started with decent conditions and then got a bit too smeggy to be comfortable. So I walked away again. Sure if I was Ste Mc and I was beneath a greasy E7 6c on a flying visit to Aberdeen, I'd never save any route, get on it, and piss up it. But I'm not so I didn't.
On the other hand, sometimes everything seems right. You don't save the route, you get on it, and then...
Let's rewind a bit. I've recovered from the punter-flu and the shock of BRD. I've started getting motivated and moving again: Day -4: Long bouldering session at Ratho, especially steep stuff on sharp holds. Day -3: Good varied gym session, partly to rest fingers and skin. Day -2: Short trad session with steady pumpy warm-up and then a good steep trad classic (Velvet Glove at Limekilns, which I did dick around on for too long before realising the crux is easy and the whole route is really rather great). Day -1: General Aberdeen mileage - nothing too hard so not getting at all tired, but good exercise throughout, also recced the next day's challenge: Pugilist Direct.
The day itself: Good start with strong coffee and just as strong satanic death metal in the car. Belay Brad for a while, good conditions and nice climbing temps. Warm up well on the brutal Italian Stallion, pull through the steepness confidently and climb extra-slowly to finish to maximise the pump. Rest, then start steeply up PD to the jug and gear, spend a while here getting a mini-pump, checking the sequence, chalking the holds. Reverse down to rest and recovery with my hoody on. Never save any route....and get on with it. Piss up the great moves to the rusty peg. Fiddle in a back-up wire, enough to do more great moves to the slot before the top ledge. I've been warned that placing gear and moving past it is hard....but now I DO have a bit confidence to move past gear, so surely that's okay. Except of course, the cam is fucking annoying to place. Theoretically bomber, but out of view, no footholds to pull up and seat it reliably, hands in the way in the slot. I'd love to slam it in easily and move past but it's the typical "gear is good enough if you're strong enough to hand around and place it" horror. If you don't get it right and fluff the moves, you could easily rip the peg and back-up or even just hit the ground on the rope out. 10m above serrated rock ledges, if you're lucky you'd die quickly, rather than being a crippled vegetable until the doctors pulled the plug. So I DO get it right enough and fire in a super quick back up, just in time for my hands to start clawing up and slap ineffectually for a non-hold. Pulling back on, I scarcely need 10 seconds swearing on the rope to have a good mini-shake, and the move to the ledge is as piss as the rest of the route - the crux of both grades has been placing the damn cam. Fucking specialist coastal bollox.
Even though everything seemed right....maybe I should have just saved that route anyway...