I wake up in the morning, reluctant to go out. Another 2 hour drive down to the County, cruising along the M8 and A720, then watching the invariable spectacle of terrible overtaking on the A1. Blind bends, junctions, and waiting on long straights until there's oncoming traffic are all de-rigeur. The best being someone overtaking a truck and a few cars right before a dual carriageway section, and being so reluctant to move back in to avoid the oncoming cars flashing and tooting them that I thought they were actually going to continue on the wrong side of the dual carriageway. Very soon I pass them on the dual as somehow they are doing below 70 despite all that excitement, and I have to toot salute in honour of such appalling driving. Well done.
Anyway today I'm not so sure about braving all that, because at the end of it I have to brave the top of Northern Soul. Not the sort of "obligatory" "essential" crowd-pleasing trade problem I'm usually aiming for, but I got suckered in on a previous session, and then on another previous session worked out how to do the crux, but was too tired to do it reliably to continue. Now syke outweighs social networking and the opportunity is to head down on my own rather than with the obligatory crowd. My two soggy anti-pads and Tris's proper pad aren't enough, my cunning plan is a thin Thermarest and a thick camping air-mattress. At best I'd be shuffling back hauling all that lot on my back, demoralised after wasting my time realising it wasn't enough. At worst I'd be crawling back dragging that lot behind me, crippled after breaking my ankle realising it wasn't enough.
But then again...
Fiend Hepburn 2015
So it went a little bit like this:
A Northern Soul: Windy, very windy. I got quite annoyed with the doormat blowing away every time I stepped off it, but somehow the pads and mattress stayed in one place. 3 goes to get stood up in the break, and a practise jump to test that one place is THE place. The mattress seems to work but it might be a one shot weapon if I fall off the top and burst it. So I don't. I've watched a few videos showing the default methods for doing the top, I do something different and it works fine - gritstone engrams and immaculate friction haul me over the top. What was I worrying about again?
Titanic Arete: I've tried this twice previously too, but actually of my own volition and with the intention of doing it, until I found it was hard, brutal, and not nearly as nice as the beautiful feature it climbs. Having got the day's inspiration done in a quick hour, I might as well have a play on this too. 50m right and it's a lot less windy so I spend more time waiting for my skin to cool down than actually climbing. A few goes, a realisation to subtly switch hand positions on the starting jug from pulling to laybacking, and I'm up the next go. What now?
Iceberg: Certainly not this. It's a new problem, it looks lichenous, it gets V8 on UKC, the landing is an angled rock and a sapling, and I can't get off the ground. Until I do get off the ground, try to smear up the next move, slip off the only proper foothold on the problem and bash my thumb on the way down. Whilst waiting for the sulk to subside, I use the remaining 9 digits to look up UKC, apparently it could be V6 not V8, taking everything with a pinch of salt it's probably neither but it's possibly doable for me. I start putting the effort in and am rewarded by one of the best moves I've done this year: Rocking over onto a smear via a tiny sloping undercut gaston and falling into a half first joint mono gaston pocket. The tension twangs from that fingertip through my arms and shoulders like a divining rod, and it's brilliant, the slabby angle and friction making the improbable feasible and then the feasible successful. How did that happen?
The Prow: Finally a digestif, a line I spied on a few previous occasions and never got round to. Shorter in stature and easier in challenge, it hides it's quality away around left of the main Hepburn starting arena, but once on the problem it's undeniable. A natural sit start jug leads into a slap for a ledge and fun combination of hooks, underclings and slopers to hug the prow up to the top. Nothing particularly radical, just genuinely good prow bouldering. It's too dark for a video so I just do the problem and sit and listen to an owl hooting instead.
So that was the day. Very high quality climbing, high quality challenge, high quality solitary vibes. I'll take it.