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|The Last Kind of Hunger: A New Route on LWF
|6-Apr-2012 At 7:24:33 PM
|The Last Kind of Hunger: A New Route on Left Watchtower Face
We went to the face to be asked again the questions: up or down? on or back? To find how they would be answered with our bodies and our minds.
We were looking for an adventure, yearning to feel the tension between desire and fear. Hungry.
The opening bulge of the established pitch (Watchtower Chimney Direct Start) provides a sobering start - after launching up cavalierly I feel the sloping edges above, then reach back down to place a solid RP before making the moves to gain the crack. Moving out past the corner the jade-orange streak feels wildly slick and progress looks uncertain.
It is classic watchtower climbing: small features yield a passage up a blank looking wall and there is much more protection than you expect, although you still need to commit to the moves. With nervous elation and about half a bag of chalk I teeter upwards as each sequence precariously unfolds leading to another smooth problem.
At two points a footledge runs from the corner across the wall creating potential access to both the Watchtower Chimney and Take Five, but the features and my nerve hold steady to the slab all the way to the belay. Peter and Alice pick their way up the wall, laughing at the unlikeliness of the features, the absurdity of the high-stepping moves.
The way above remains a mystery. The tree choked crack promises the easiest and least appealing option. To the the right discontinuous seams snake up a steep, lichen-flecked wall; to the left edges and sidepulls end beneath a bulge on a blunt arete.
I head up the right hand wall, place some gear, grab a tiny flake and pull hard into the steepness above. Alice catches the hold; Peter catches me. The RP is good, the crumbling edge left behind is not.
I try other sequences and Peter catches me a couple more times. It is doable, but desperate. I make thin moves left to another set of cracks and snatch my way up finger-locks to broken edges. Again doable, but with feet skating on flakes of lichen I think the pitch will never stay clean, so return to the belay.
Out left the rock is clean, the moves cool and the gear, in hidden fractures, is great. I launch up the bulge and into a blankness. I fall. After three more falls, I think I have it figured out.
Fingerlock, sidepull, work the feet up, reach over the bulge to a crystalline edge, paste left toe against crack, smear right foot super high. I crimp two tips against a knob of quartz and reef it violently down to near my waist whilst imagining my body releasing and floating up above my feet. Force and serenity. Tranquility in expression.
For a brief moment I grasp the stillness.
I commit therefore I am.
Desperately sliming the sloper at full extension, the world rushes back into sweaty focus. Pedalling feebly I fail to raise either foot. It is like crimping on a salmon. Fighting the inexorable slide as my fingers grease the dish, I abandon hope and throw wildly at the rail.
I am, but I am weak.
Too spent to complete the moves despite a number of attempts, I accept my indignity, traverse into the crack and make the hilarious struggle past the shrubbery to clear the bulge and reach the next ledge. The others arrive with a frosting of black soil decorating sweaty arms.
From the shade of the chimney I hoick my way onto the wall for the last pitch and lay a series of fictional RPs against the incipient seam of a thin flake. It is a study in self-delusion but it leads upwards until a rounded pocket accepts a good cam and I can step right onto the water-streak. On the steepest part of the wall a tiny pocket winks open to accept a TCU and a vertical wrinkle offers sidepulls to reach the slab above.
Like a lost explorer I had prepared for a stony desert but we discovered Tahiti: warm and welcoming; beautiful and delicate, but reassuringly safe. It is a magic pitch of tenuous celebration.
We looked for an adventure; we were well rewarded.
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