I had mentioned this place in the past to Chris, and so I decided to take him there to introduce him to some technical, run-out, limestone slab climbing. Needless to say, I don't think he'll be returning...
We arrived early at the shaded, cold quarry. A clear blue sky hung over the old quarry, but the sun was yet to make an appearance on the grey, damp walls. We headed over to 'Robs Slab' area, where just before we got to the foot of the slab, I had a flip flop blow out! Now some may be confused for two reasons: Firstly, what is a flip flop blow out? And secondly, why are you wearing flip flops in December? Two simple answers: Number 1, the band between your toes separates from the base of the flip flop causing unimaginable pain as your bare foot grates across the sharp stone floor of the quarry. And number 2....It's just what I do.
I stuck a plaster on my foot, and started to gear up. Chris was already geared up and eyeing up a route, 'Robs Crack' (VS 4c). It's a classic of the quarry and so a good route to warm up on. Chris started off in good style, however, nearing the crux, the cold of the rock started to creep through his fingers. The frozen fingers, the new style of climbing, it all started to take it's toll and Chris's head just wasn't quite in the game. He backed off the lead and warmed his hands while I prepared to take over. Whilst on lead, it became clear what Chris was feeling. I couldn't feel a thing. The limestone had sapped every last bit of heat from my tips. I continued to climb, stop, warm hands, climb, stop, warm hands. Suddenly, I emerged from the dark, shadowy depths of the quarry into a blaze of sunshine, and warmth. I rigged up the belay, took off my shoes and sat, like a reptile, warming in the sun.
We abseiled back down the slab, but I took a different line to Chris as i had wanted to check out my E5 project. I wasn't going to, I was contemplating the onsight, but curiosity got the better of me. In short, I abbed the route, surveying the top section, roofs, pro locations and the moves. A more detailed write up will follow this post shortly. But needless to say, I'm pretty glad I've blown the onsight.
We headed off to the other side of the quarry now, to the 'Glacis'. My favourite route of the quarry 'Glacial point (E4 5c) was, in my mind, a good route to get Chris to second, or even top rope to get him used to trusting his feet. I geared up, literally only taking a few micros, and a half set of nuts for the top crack, plus about 4 quickdraws and a sling. (this rack is huge compared to an E2 I did later!). I started off, struggling to get off the ground at first, but made it to the micro placements and the first crux, where I preceded to place DMM Offsets size 0 + 2 and a DMM IMP size 2.
I managed to flow through the crux moves to reach the small overlap at 8m, the second crux. I made a very silly mistake, in which the outcome was a ground fall. The micros had held but it was the slack in the rope that made me hit the deck, but softly may I add. I got back on and sailed up to my original position at the overlap. But again, I took flight. This time however, was a different story.
As I slid down the smooth, grey limestone, I inverted. Now facing away from the crag. Taking the fall like a children's park slide. I was soon to find out, when the rope came tight, that it had wrapped behind my leg. The shock was sudden and the pain soon followed. I was wearing my life line like an Ann Summers thong. Needless to say, the micros held.
After this ordeal, we headed away from the Glacis and ventured back into the quarry for one last climb. I decided on an E2 5b called 'Grow your Own Weekend'. the guide book described it as 'A bold eliminate' and that the first piece of gear was at 7m, on a 12m climb. So I roped up, and soloed the climb. Right up to the crack at 7m where I decided that a fall from here will end up in a painful ground. So with all my gear, still on my rucksack, I asked Chris to send up a cam. The cam placed well, I didn't fall, and the climb was onsighted.
As we walked back through the quarry to the Exit, I gazed back across the cliff faces and scanned the faces for new routes. I'm determined to do the second ascent of the E5 'Seven Mile Throb', and even believing that there are projects here in Fairy Cave that may even warrant an E7. Here's for future exploration of the quarry...