I was up at Black Rocks a week or two ago after a last minute call from my mate Gilliam (of SteepMedia fame – did i mention he has a DVD out???) on the Saturday night saying that he was heading down that way with Robbo and Von Liechtenstien to try ‘some hard things’.
Conditions on Monday morning were grippy (i.e. MOTHER*UCKING COLD) and my attempt at warming up on Ash/Birch Tree Variations was, to be mild, bollocks. For the first time i actually felt physically ill from how cold my hands were! Balls to winter climbing! So with such a good start to the day it felt right to stick a rope on something headpointable. We chose Devil Is In The Details which, at E7 7a, is not perhaps the more obvious of choices but if you want to get better you have to challenge yourself eh? The route follows an existing E5 called Pseudonym before making a rather large dyno (the 7a bit!) to a very hard to catch pocket. It’s an awesome move! You set up off a good left-hand undercut and decent, chipped pocket – 2 fingers if you’re normal, or a mono if you have spades for hands like Ullrich. Within a couple of goes we were hitting the hold but actually getting it in the right place (back, right by the way) is very tricky! Anyway for some reason people thought we were actually getting close to the move and stopped to watch though thankfully they soon got bored – as did we!
The real reason for us being at Black Rocks was for George to onsight/flash Gaia. Gilliam was on hand to film it for his next project and me and Robbo were there to belay – though no-one told us beforehand! All of a sudden the fun day out turned a bit serious and there was a noticeable tension about the place. We hung around till the evening for the best conditions and for the crowd of abseilers to leave before George climbed up to place the crucial cams at the base of the hanging groove. We all took it in turns to hang on them and swing about, which was fun. Talking of swinging about – if you go to Selfridges in Birmingham you can get tea leaves hand-picked by monkeys for just £24, how cool is that?!? Just take a moment to let that momentous information sink in – monkey-hand-picked tea-leaves!! Technology eh? Anyway i digress. Dave set himself up with the camera on top of the route whilst me, Robbo and George brainstormed the best placement for the boulder mat – pretty crucial if you want to turn a break into a bruise! I managed to get out of holding the main rope as i don’t know how to use a gri-gri and so Robbo – gawd bless’im – started to clear himself a runway – just in case! My repreive meant i was happily relegated to photographer/2nd rope. It’s worth explaining that we had the main lead rope clipped into the gear as well as a 2nd rope clipped to a boulder at an opposing angle to the gear to create a ‘baby-bouncer’ effect – at least in theory (see Alex Messengers awesome pic below for an idea of the ‘baby-bouncer’ rope).
After a few more minutes of psyching and very nearly abbing the line to chalk the holds – again it’s worth saying this was, inspite of George not closing his eyes during the Gaia segment on Hard Grit, pretty much as close to an onsight as you can get i.e. zero chalk on the route, no ab inspection etc – which he managed to talk himself out of, the Von Leichtenstien was in motion.
After reaching the gear and clipping in (a sensible decision of course!) the techinical crux of the route is reached – a powerful layback to reach the main weakness in the groove. It took George only a few minutes of going up and down to figure out the best way for this move to go and he was soon established above it at the start of the insecure moves leading up the groove. It was here that the reality of where he was kicked in, manifested by a ‘Oh gosh-darn it, i’m on Gaia!’ comment – or words to that effect! It was also here that Dave finally realised he was climbing and set to work with the filming side of it – ever the professional.
The balancey, tenuous moves followed quickly and our super-hero was soon at the psychological barrier known as a ‘rest’ high up in the groove before the awkward moves out right – the scene of many failures. It was again here that reality came flooding back in, the 2nd rope (my rope) was wrapped under his leg – whoops! My bad! It meant that it was now basically redundant, if i took in on it in the event of a fall then he would definitely flip upside down, however if i didn’t take in he was also very likely to slam into the prow below the gear or the ground, whichever came first. Your classic ‘catch 22’. George composed himself and reached out to the sloping rail, tapping his fingers over it to try and gain purchase. He came back having been at the limit of his reach. He needed his left foot higher to help push himself across in more control. It was here that he fell.
‘I’m off! I’m off! I’m off!’. I managed to catch him in the viewfinder of the camera and got a snap away. I even managed to focus on him as he fell such was the way he seemed to hang in the air. Next i heard a loud smack as he inverted and hit the prow. Robbo managed to get a fair bit of slack in by running back and doubtless saved him from serious injury. Props. As it happened the pad placement was perfect, a white splatter from his chalk bag marked the only part of him or his gear that hit the prow, the pad taking the brunt of the fall. But shit the bed was it a close one! The force of the fall and the fact that the main lead rope was also wrapped behind his leg meant that George flipped regardless of the 2nd rope, and in doing so this probably also helped him escape with just a heavily swollen ass. By his own admission he’s one lucky bastard! In the post-match analysis down the curry house in Matlock he said that he’d wanted to onsight the route for over 5 years and the pressure of wanting to do it so much just got to him.
We headed into Cromford, the recently crippled George limping along behind, to get some dinner at the local pub. The Greyhound is run by what can only be described as the local Worzel Gummidge tribute act – except without the inherent loveability that accompany’s the real Worzel (see pic above). In other words the man looks like, and it turns out is, an asshole. We rocked up at just gone ten to 6, wholly ignorant of the pub’s opening times, however our Worzel opened the doors and said he’d open early for us. This is an important part of the story by the way – he OFFERED to open up less than TEN MINUTES early for us. We stroll in and ask about food. Dave decides he can’t piss in the trees where we were but 5 minutes previously so goes to the toilets in the pub. We again ask for the menu to be met with a staggering repost, (Worzel) ‘What do you want?’, (Us) ‘Sorry??’, (Worzel) ‘You MADE me open up early so your mate could use the toilet?!’, (Us) ‘Sorry??’, (Worzel) ‘You just wanted to use the toilet so you MADE me open early??’, (Us – by now very bemused and perplexed by Worzel’s train of thought) ‘No we’re having a look’, (an increasingly irate Worzel) ‘What are you looking at?!’, (Us) ‘Well the menu remember??’, (Worzel) ‘Restaurants out the back’, (Us) ‘Riiiiight, cheers’, we had the briefest of brief looks – having decided by now that this was NOT the place to be eating – and got the fuck out of there before he came back with his pitchfork and inbred mates. Even writing this out again i still can’t get my head around what his problem with us was, he’d only just opened so couldn’t have been pissed off at a bad customer earlier on, we certinaly weren’t looking to be cause problems and weren’t behaving like dicks for a change. C’est la vie i guess.
So Tuesday was a wash out, we got woken up by the police Monday night asking for our details but not wanting to move us on, which was curious. We decided to cut our losses and headed our separate ways. Funny Fact #1 – how much could you get with £200? Quite a bit eh? How about a car parking space at Derby train station? We parked in a ‘first class’ space by accident (must’ve missed the gold plated lines) and were told to move by a ‘Car Park Ranger’ – similar to a Power Ranger but better – as we would need to pay £200 a day to park there. Just proves rich people really are morons! Funny Fact #2 – Derbyshire, the most northern of Midland counties is also home to the grumpiest people in England, our smile-o-meter registered zero for everyone we met – cheer up!! Funny Fact #3 – the ‘2nd rope’ theory was doomed to failure due to my failing to finish reading the comments on the Alex Messenger Gaia picture shown earlier i.e. “he used a double rope. the light rope in the foreground was clipped to something the other side of the crag to stop him hitting himself on the rock, didn’t work though” (taken from UKC website).