I picked up Derek and Jordan, both of whom had drank rather a lot the night before (that's 4 whole pints for Derek!). The usual conversation ensued as we wound along the road towards Snake pass. Jordan was recounting a recent, rather humorous incident involving some awkward positioning, a bit of heavy lifting leading to a tweaked neck and some smelly substance (you don't need or want to know the details - honestly) when Derek suddenly announced he was going to be sick. I pulled over, all of us still laughing at Jordan's story, and Derek dived out of the car, over the roadside fence and promptly discharged his breakfast explosively into the heather - red-faced and laughing between each expulsion. Jordan's heaving stomach then also started to erupt, in sympathy, between his own laughter. The car rocking with my laughter at the side of the road. What a scene!
We calmed down, eventually, and headed on to Curbar. Derek won the toss for first lead and was able to grab one of the only easier routes around. The easy stuff looked hard. We had missed the bit in the guide saying, "Curbar has always had a reputation for fierce routes, solid grades and being a bit of a tough taskmaster." It goes on to say, "the climbs often feel hard for the grade- intimidating and serious, unlike nearby Froggatt - this is not a place for climbers who like their climbing elegant and dainty". I thnk we would all agree with that now, but were seriously unprepared for the truth of these statements as we set off.
Derek's lead of P.M.C. a 3 star HS, 4a was steady and artfully done. Jordan and I followed and found it not too bad. I then led Owl's Arete VS 4b which was just a couple of steep, slightly awkward moves and an otherwise pleasant arete route. The only other route in the vicinity was Avalanche Wall, a 2 star HVS 5a, which Jordan, still feeling a bit worse for wear didn't fancy. Not wanting to leave it, Derek agreed to have a go. I, too, thought I might have a go at it but stood aside for the Master. That proved to be a fortunate decision. Derek climbed the route in his usual steady, thoughtful style, but it clearly wasn't a push-over. He took his time and made sure his gear was good. I found it steep and technical, even on a top-rope, and ended up getting too pumped trying to make a move onto a ledge and, rather ignobly, fell off. Jordan managed to get up it, without disgracing himself like I did. It was a solid and impressive lead by Derek.
We then wandered along the crags to Keeper's crack, a VS 4b, "a grovel from way-back-when, that adds to Curbar's reputation" (We still hadn't quite got it.) Jordan, to be fair, after a night of drinking that didn't finish until 3.00am wasn't in the most positive, up for it, mood. Although, it's got to be impressive he even made it to our 8.30 rendezvous at all. He had a go, took one of his landmark falls and, given that the next three moves risked a ground fall with a crack to wide for our widest cam, called it a day on that one. That was two of us a bit down-hearted and that's not what you need to tackle the routes here.
We went on to The Toy and it was my lead. There were a pair on October crack, who assured us Pale Complexion, VS 4c wasn't too bad. The guy smiled a bit like Ricky Gervais so maybe I should have known better. However, there was nothing else anyway, so I had a go. I managed a tiny RP in the crack and started to make some steep moves upwards, towards a sloping ledge. The ledge and getting on to it was really difficult and facing a fall onto a 30 year old tiny RP just addled my already battered head from the HVS and I yo-yo-ed up and down before bottling out. Derek had to lead it in the end but he really struggled too. Even on a top-rope, I struggled - and to my extreme embarrassment and disappointment fell off again! Not one of my better days. I thought about trying October Crack, which looked possible but didn't want to face a further battering of my confidence, so we headed to the coffee shop and I drowned my sorrows with tea and a slice of cheesecake.
Derek climbed well and was up to the Curbar challenge. I wasn't. With one bottle-out and two falls on a top rope it was a bad day for me.
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