Yesterday was a pretty big day for my climbing. I finally got to climb Auto Giro at the slightly esoteric Cambusbarron Closed Quarry by Stirling. Its the hardest thing i’ve managed to lead on trad (or anything else for that matter) though i have pretty mixed emotions about having now done it, but i’ll get to that later.
The route takes the obvious, dead vertical arete immediately left of the sqaure-cut corner of ‘Contortionism’. You start up the bold as brass E3 of ‘Adulterer’s Repentance’ to the large spike (good sling, dodgy spike) and, where that route escapes off rightwards, ‘Auto Giro’ quests on upwards to tackle the arete head-on by an absorbing sequence of flat edges and wild clamping before finishing with a slight jump for the large ledge on top of the known world. It’s definitely on-sightable (though you should probably have stopped reading a while back and not looked at the pictures if you wanted the TRUE on-sight…don’t blame me the clue is in the title after all!) and the gear for the crux (though tricky to place) is bomber. I led it after top-rope practice and reckon it’s solid 6b (with the beta we found) not 6c as first thought.
But now to the real point of the matter. Style. I got on the route around this time last year with my friend Paddy. It felt impossible until in October last year my mate Jake, a very naturally talented dude, unlocked the sequence with consumate ease! So it was that not long after i managed to link the bottom to the top and started to think about leading it. For various reasons like the ‘British Monsoon Season’ lasting for 3 months, commitments at uni (don’t mention the D-word!) and going home for nearly 2 months over Christmas i didnt manage to even think about leading it until a few weeks ago.
The subsequent processes of balancing good weather with willing belayers etc led us to yesterday and that was that. What’s my point? Well in between that time in October and now i spent quite a while shunting and top-roping the route, not necessarily because i couldn’t do it or i wanted to have it totally ‘wired’ before leading it but just because i was bored and it was generally the only dry route and its awesome. Aesthetically it’s perhaps not up to much but the sequence is brilliant and really absorbing. But therein lies the problem as i now feel that i’ve sold the route short but top-roping it so many times. The lead, when it came, definitely did not feel like a foregone conclusion, as it was and is still my maximum upper comfortable limit BUT i had the sequence totally ingrained and so i feel like i’ve lost something from the experience.
Sorry if this next section is a bit contradictary but from a personal point of view headpointing/redpointing or whatever you want to call it is not necessarily for me. I don’t think it’s all it’s cracked up to be and i’m annoyed that it’s taken me this long to realise! There’s definite and obvious merit in it and i’m quite sure i will indulge in it in the future as it is an important part of progressing – each to their own and all that – but for now the one and only thing is on-sighting as that is surely what a full climbing experience is all about? It doesn’t matter about grades and it doesn’t matter whether you fall off constantly on the first move (if you do i know exactly what you’re going through) but doing something ground-up on-sight for me (and like i keep saying everyone is different) feels so much more rewarding than what i have done in the past religiously practising sequences prior to an all but ‘in the bag’ lead. Auto Giro has definitely been a formative route for me on many different levels and i look forward to building up to on-sighting routes at that level one day! (I feel like i’ve just confessed at a H.A. [Headpointers Anonymous] meeting!)
Anyway sorry to make you read that but i hope it makes sense as its quite a hard thing to convey without sounding like a total numpty! Get on Auto Giro on a top-rope if you want – it’s awesome but if you fancy it in a better style i’d be happy to tell you the beta that worked for me (or simply shut-up if you wanted the on-sight).
I might just take my own advice and shut-up now.