Drama in the Peaks!

Not posted for a while but now that the “silly season” has
passed, normal service should resume… We’ve still been climbing
regularly each week but nothing to report of any note.
Definite improvements in strength and technique but slow and steady
progress. For some time now, Si and I have discussed the
possibility of climbing a couple of the ridges along Winnats
Pass in the Derbyshire Peak District. The main reason was to
test my progress in overcoming my fear on high and exposed
terrain. With a day free to go and play, we headed out
with a plan to try Matterhorn Ridge which is graded as a VDiff
climb but many consider it to be a lot easier than the grade. Leaving the car
park at the bottom of the pass, it was immediately obvious that we
were going to struggle to make an attempt on the ridge due to
the very high wind that seemed determined to hinder our progress,
even just walking! Neither of us wanted to admit defeat so we
scrambled up to the leeward side of the ridge to see if there was
any possibility of climbing the sheltered flank. I initially had no
problem with the terrain but we stopped about half way up the slope
to asses our options. Si headed off to find a suitable belay
leaving me perched on the steep, wet, grassy hillside. Until
that point I had felt ok but looking down, the old demon began to
stir and my heart rate increased. I tried to look around me
to take my mind off the impending doom below. Thinking that I
had things under control I tried to adjust my position a little, in
the process my foot slipped from under me. Not enough to
present any risk of falling more than a few inches but in my head I
was suddenly on the brink of catastrophe. With nothing to
obviously slow my descent to the road some 200ft or so below, I was
convinced that I was going to go at any moment! Like some
stranded sheep I started bleating to the rocks above me for help
from Si who was out of sight. The bottom of the valley was
now swirling and I was really starting to panic, no matter how much
I tried it was impossible to rationalise my position. I
was soon joined by a very calm, patient and understanding mate who
did his best to encourage me to move on. He suggested that
we rope up to give me some reassurance and continue to the
top. Anger at myself, and frustration at how stupid this
situation was, somehow spurred me on and I started to move up
the slope under my own steam. The idea of using a rope
was shameful! Cursing myself, and repeatedly muttering
about the lack of solid footing, I pressed on, all the while
hearing the comforting voice behind me until eventually we made the
top and level ground! It took about 10 mins of
deconstructing what had just happened, alongside debating
what could be done in the future, before the biting wind started to
take effect and we started to move on. To try to at
least get something from the day, we decided to walk along to Mam
Tor. Taking the path up the left side of the huge
landslip which makes this little mountain so distinctive,
we reached the summit trig point just as the winds
peaked. Very fine, sand like hail was being swept in on
a relentless gale. It was, at times,
painful, difficult to keep upright, a struggle to
breathe, but brilliant fun! A very quick trot down the well
constructed staircase (yes, there are stone bloody stairs
from top to bottom) we reminded ourselves of how many previous
trips had turned into something spectacular. It seems that we
always have an eventful time whenever we head for the hills.
Neither of us could remember a walk that had not had some
notable event wrapped up in it’s story! Back at the
bottom of the Pass and looking up at the site of my earlier
drama, it seemed even more ridiculous. It didn’t look
anywhere near as steep or “life threatening” and it would have been
easy just to beat myself up for being a wuss and sulk for a
while. In reality though, I had inadvertently exposed
myself to an uncomfortable situation from which I could draw some
positives…I had shaken off the grip of fear just enough
to get myself to the top of the slope, gained more experience of
moving on steep terrain and, most importantly, taken another small
step towards beating this fear…I hope!

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This entry was posted in belay, Climbing, fear, hill, mountain, rockclimbing, sport, technique, top rope, walking, wall and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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