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Topic Date User
A short story 26-Jul-2004 At 6:28:31 PM IdratherbeclimbingM9
Another true story ...

Night Aid.

The darkness was complete due to a new moon at the time.
It came again all too quickly during the remainder of the lead, and caught me much further from the belay than I had expected to be. I continued by headlight and my belayer worked in the dark to conserve his own battery.
I was still only half a haulrope length from him when my headlight went out.

I was on a #3 RP… my fourth thin piece in a row. I had already eyed up the next placement which looked like being a decent small stopper, but hadn’t yet stepped up to organise and place it, for I was in the act of engaging my fifi-hook when it happened. I considered groping in a short-thick ‘lost arrow’ piton and cold-welding it with my hammer, as the prospect of spending the night at this spot on thin gear was extremely unattractive.

I was experiencing the standout scariest moment of the climb thus far, which was in stark contrast to enjoying the headlight climbing. I found the sudden loss of light combined with my tenuous position unnerving, though my mind was greatly focused.
I remember thinking…
“Is it the wiring ? .... or, just the globe ?”
“What if I fumble the piton placement, and drop it? ... I only have one this size and need it to get safe, in order to work on the headtorch”.
“How much shifting will the RP take ?? ...
I don’t want it to fail now” !!

This anxiety was a product of having committed to this piece without thorough testing, as I knew the next placement was a much better one, and I’d simply intended to ‘just get there’, in order to speed things up.
I yelled to my blayer that my light had gone dead. Communication was not good due to the regular gusty evening breeze, and I had to repeat it a couple of times.
I was aware that my throat was dry and my voice was edgy; and that this was not a result of my usual thirst.

In the dark I found my body position relative to the piece I was on was OK, so after communicating my intentions I used the haul-line to obtain my belayers headtorch in order to fix mine. It’s pretty amazing how darkness and a precarious position, enhances your awareness of body-english. I found myself mindful of not allowing too much upper-body movement while manipulating the retrieval rope, in case it precipitated the failure of the placement I was on.
I even tried to breathe lightly!

The bulb appeared OK so I checked the wiring. That also appeared OK, so I changed the globe anyway while taking extra care not to touch the halogen spare with my bare fingers.
It worked …. HOORAY !!

I started to relax in the comfort of the somewhat bright light. After checking the piece I was on and the time, (about 2200hrs), I returned belayers headtorch to him. When he looked up in my direction I noted with headiness the faint arc of light essancing out from the lip of the bottomless corner well below me,.
It was good to relax again…

I continued to climb and five metres higher darkness grabbed me again !!
... I could scarcely believe my luck and was simultaneously torn between thinking;
“bugger, ... I hope my partner has a spare globe”; and …
“at least the piece I’m on this time is reasonable”!

Turning my head towards the belayer caused the globe to rattle in its bezel !
Instantly hope sprang to mind that the globe was OK, and had simply come out of its normal position.
I managed to replace it in the dark without dropping anything, once again by wrapping it in my handkerchief. I guess that I had simply overtightened it in my anxiety last time, causing it to finish at the point of re-engaging its thread…

How many climbers does it take to change a lightglobe ??... I think I know the answer now, … but at the time it wasn’t funny.

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