Friday, 28 February 2014

Out to Lunch

The line of Tom Leppert's HVS!!!:' Out to Lunch'
A ‘ping’ from my inbox announces Tom Leppert’s email. Glyder Fach New Routes it says. Our paths had crossed a week earlier, one sunny evening below the Milestone Buttress, when he and Pete Anderson hove into view. This chance encounter with the author of the 1982 Ogwen guidebook was too good an opportunity to miss. I knew he’d done some new climbs on the East Buttress of Glyder Fach’s Main Cliff and was keen to pick his brain. As it turned out, he and Pete had done another that very afternoon.

“Quite a nice line,” said Tom, “about HVS.” Was it my imagination or did Pete’s eyebrow arch imperceptibly? “I’ll send you the details,” Tom said as they shouldered their sacks and made for the path down to the road. I scrolled down the page: Quixote, Senile Saunter, Out to Lunch, The Deviant, Deviation. Evidently he’d been busy.

The Luncheon Stone feels cold through the seat of my trousers as we sort out the rack. It’s too early for the sun to be on the crag, and a grey overcast holds down the air temperature. I hand John the crib sheet of Tom’s route descriptions. “How about this Out to Lunch?” he says.

Out to lunch, out to lunch, I could do with being out to lunch. Breakfast was four hours ago and my stomach is rumbling noisily. I keep my fleece on as he leads off up the corner of pitch one, placing a cam and cleaning out the crack with his nut key. When my turn comes I’m cold and stiff. Clumsily I step up to reach the cam, but can’t. As so often in the past, John’s superior reach has taken him past a difficult move, where I struggle to gain height on inferior holds. By the time I join him on the ledge the circulation is returning to my fingers. Warmer now, we lead through on the middle pitches, and belay on the ledge below the Hand Traverse of Direct Route.

Above us rises a long slab with a slender flake on its left edge. Tom’s nuances taunt me from the crib sheet: a ‘step’ on the final steep nose has to be gained ‘with conviction,’ then ‘a hard final pull’ remains before topping out.“Sounds ominous,” I say to John, and it’s my lead. The slab lures me in, seductively. Above the flake, small edges entice me on, drawing me like an amorous spider irresistibly to his mate, yet sensing peril lies ahead. Now the angle steepens; the slab goes concave, sweeping up into the final faceted nose. In front of me, Tom’s ‘step’ is no more than a scooped foothold, and below, the tape on the flake seems a long way off.

 Clearly some ‘conviction’ is required. A shallow nick beside the ‘step’ takes a sideways wire, but I’m not convinced it will stay in. Just do it first time, I tell myself, it won’t be that bad – it’s only supposed to be Hard VS. Leaning leftwards, I get a foot on the ‘step’ and stand up carefully, holding myself in balance with side holds. As expected, the move isn’t bad once I commit, but I wouldn’t care to reverse it, and know at once the trap is sprung. Now the ‘hard final pull.’ Easier angled rock lies tantalizingly close. I glance down at John. The tape on the flake looks even more distant now, and my right-hand rope is pulling disconcertingly on the poor wire.

“Could do with a decent runner,” I shout, pointlessly stating the obvious. The rock defies me: compact, impassive, and devoid of cracks. It’s down to ‘conviction’ again. The way lies up and rightwards, across the bridge of the nose, but this time I need a good look at it, or three or four good looks at it, before I commit. Up and down, up and down, balancing up from the ‘step’ to the small holds on the nose, then scuttling back, like a fledgling psyching up to take to its wings. Next time. Balance up again. I can see the holds I’m going for. Now commit. Push off with the left foot, right foot on a smear, pull hard and ease my body weight across. A tinkle is heard as the wire lifts out, but I’ve got the good holds and it doesn’t matter.

“Bold little number,” John says as he comes over the top.
“You’re not kidding. Sand-bagged again. Wait till I see Mr Leppert.”

Out to Lunch-E3-5c: Glyder Fach. P 169 CC Ogwen Guide

Mike Bailey: 2014