Incompatible Wants and Needs

Incompatible Wants and Needs.

This might not be the experience I've wanted this weekend, but it might just be what I  need.  I didn't imagine heading for a big fall onto suspect trad gear, I wanted to spend the weekend cruising stylishly to victory over climb after climb.  But the first thing I need to do is survive it, and that's going to depend, mainly, on something I've done a minute or two before.  Placing a tiny piece of gear, a lump of metal the size of a wine gum...

He's looking shaky...
And as I pad my feet uselessly around, bunched up, unstable and out of balance, I look for handholds, try out my options, then return to what was inadequate a few seconds before.  The handholds -as I find them- don't change but they seem to get worse, as my strength runs out.  Finally, they spit me off in disgust.  Curbar has no tolerance for the weak, the clumsy or the cocky.  

Forget all that shit about falls lasting forever: I'm dropping through the air, but in less than a second I am bouncing on the end of two half-ropes, gently sproinging in the air, halfway down the E1 route. Two or three pieces of nonessential gear - as it turns out- are ripped out of the crack by the sideways whip of the ropes, they twirl down the ropes, still linked on by their quickdraws.  I look down at Lee, who has got his 'fucking hell, Pete' face on.

"I think you saw that coming, mate."

He nods.  "Yeah.  It was a mess."

Our gang of mates from Norwich, sitting on bouldering pads, look delighted at the entertainment I am providing.

Mind you, now that I know I am alive, I'm pretty pleased too.  A lot of people go through their climbing career without a genuine, uncontrived fall onto trad gear.  Lucy Creamer (or maybe Airlie Anderson) once famously called Al Burgess -one of the notoriously tough Burgess twins- a wuss when she found out he had only ever had one trad leader fall.  I like Lucy Creamer (or maybe Airlie Anderson).

Bob toasts my lack of success

Now, the fact I have put a big old fucking fall on the gear does one thing incredibly well.  That gear ain't coming out.  After a few half-hearted goes at moves on the rope, I take the ropes, rig an abseil and swing down to get the gear out.  Two nuts are not moving. 

'Anyone got a nut-key?'  Everyone looks confused, they scratch around and come up with nail clippers and a plastic brush.  For the sake of politeness, I have a go at getting the nut out with these, but it is as useless as trying to move a broken-down truck with a pencil.
Advice floats up from ground level:  "Get a big loop of rope, and yank it from above.  Don't rotate it, just sort of pop it back the way it came!"  

The most original idea though is: "get some deodorant and spray it so it chills the metal and contracts."  Now, I'm 99 percent sure that this won't work, despite being based on sound physics.  Part of me will always regret not trying though.  We should have done it, just for the crack.  One of the lads even HAD some deodorant, it would have cost us nothing to try.

Its fucking hopeless, I need some tools.  Lee has a go, no chance, so I walk all the way down to the car and grab a load of screwdrivers from the boot of my car.   By the time I get back to the crag, a few people have had a go at abseiling down and trying to get the nut out.  Its quite a good laugh.  

So begins the massive fuck-on of trying to
get out a lodged nut with a pair of nail-clippers.
With the screwdriver, it takes a few seconds to get one of the nuts out.  Tragically, the other is there to stay.  Until the cold weather - or deodorant- contracts the metal perhaps and it drops out not the hands of another more deserving crag-rat.  To be honest, its quite a relief when we give up on the other nut.  I mean, it cost a fiver and saved my life so owes me nothing.

The other lads move on and we say goodbye, then me and Lee head along the crag.  We have time for a few more routes, having wasted an hour and a half on those lodged nuts.  Plenty time enough for me to climb a couple of E1 slabs with minimal protection, and take another fall off another E1.   Now, it might not be as good for your ego, but these falls, and making  mistakes, is going to make me into a much better climber  Which is what I want, and therefore, this fucking fight is what I need.