A Sublimely Painful Day . . .
Despite a late night of revelry after Mikes slideshow, with a quick visit to the Dog for a bit of rap graffiti, it still seemed like a good idea to go climbing regardless, particularly of my shoulder which still isn't heeled after very little climbing over the past few months.
A bit past midday and we finally reach Sublime, me lagging behind after going to inspect my handiwork from the night before . . . kinda visible, will have to do something far bigger at a later date . . .
The others - Zac, Sophie, and Metti?(French guy, not sure of spelling) - are warming up on the first latter-day sport route they reach. 'Well theres no use getting on that' I can just hear John say 'It'd be like puke-warm quick-porridge as a warm-up to a real hearty breakfast; bland, tasteless and not really fulfilling. Come along here a little I got just the thing for you, in your condition'. My condition is merely that my shoulder is stuffed, not XMas turkey style but about as useful it seems I will find out soon. So long as I don't have to reach up or need to pull down at all it could be ok, so long as I don't have to push or sideways at certain angles, or move my arm about whilst loading it - I should be fine.
Lead Zeppelin is a chimney sort of thing with a short steepish blocky start up to a piton at the base of the chimney and up through the shadows to probably a tree or something that I can rap off, John can't quite remember, it was a long time ago. The rope is quickly tied off for self belay with my modded grigri, 'Mate you won't need any chalk, and those whose ail be fine' he says. I figure he knows what he's talking about so I launch up and into the first little alcove and plug a bit of gear to protect the bulge that leads up to ledge a few metres higher. I work out a sequence and move up, find a nice position that avoids straining my shoulder too much - so far, so good I think as I commit into the middle moves, and medium agony, and a thrutch into a slightly more stable, less painful position. I looked down and considered the fact that I did not consider what I would do in case of considerable pain , and considering that the option of letting go then and there was in-considerable, I launch into the final move or two to get me to at stance at the base of the ledge, plug a quick wire, and traverse to a nice seat for a bit a of a R&R. John's laughing 'That was bloody great mate, thought you might come off for a moment there, all's good . . '. Barely have time to start medicating before the others cruise through and join in the laughter - 'Yeah, a little issue with the shoulder, thought it would be ok but maybe not - might just lower of the pin if it's ok' There heading to the Great Red Wall to check out Collosseum Corner, looks like I have Zac sold on it finally. 'Cool, I won't be long, see ya there'. I get the pin clipped and it seems ok but unfortunately it makes the angles all a bit weird with my current best piece being almost pulled out of it's placement and the other piece too low to help, so I lower of the nut instead, and hurry to catch up with the others.
Sunday 2pm (local time) Same time as John's memorial service in New York in 16 hours or so, how appropriate. We are at the bottom of Collosseum and Zac's confirming the line, yeah mate you just head straight up the corner, there's only a little bit of greenery, it'll be fine' And it's not done? Well so it would seem, not sure why. . . 'What the bloody hell have people been doing?' says John , 'this unclimbed yet theres aid bolts back on Vespians'. 'It's ok, Zac will tick it, it can't be any harder than 23' . ..
Zac heads up, joyfully plugging away a rack deserving of a bit more attention till the options ran out. 'Just gonnna build a bit of a nest, this top piece is only so-so' He comes down a little and whacks two cams in a horizontal, 'Stonking, even if the top one blows these will be fine . . ' Classic Zac - well classic climbing really: build a nest that will protect you 'just in case' then head off into the unknown until you reach a rest where you can finally get some good gear, and don't bother stopping in the middle of anything cruxy to put anything else in, trust your climbing ability as your main protection, and don't fall, even though you know it would be fine. John loves it. Zac finally reaches a stance a ways further up and plugs in some good gear - 'Cool that was really nice, one more piece and I'll punch to the ledge' 'Safe!' The Memorial Variant Direct first pitch is finally ticked. Not by me unfortunately but I was part of the inspiration and part of the team on the day. Sophie cleaned it and they continued up the line as I got ready for my shot.
I had brought a slightly old school rack for todays proceedings a few nuts, a rack of hex's, a few solid-stem friends, and maybe 8 draws. I chucked the draws and cams on my harness, tied in and realise/remember that I can't really reach my right arm behind my back, the chalk bag will have to go at the front. Soon after I headed up the corner, to where Zac had placed a large cam and where I hoped my largest tube chock would work, only to find that I couldn't find it. In fact as I would discover I had left all the wires, hex's, tubes and a few draws on the ground. Hmm, fortunately I managed to wiggle in enough off my smallest cam and get a good enough stance that I could confidently go off-belay and pull up some more gear. With a far more appropriate selection of gear I continued, managing to stay on my feet and avoid to much arm aggravation. Eventually I hit the one tricky move on the climb and everything went down hill rapidly. I can't reach up to where I have to get to, nor can i get my feet higher enough easily so i don't need to reach. I find a sightly strenuous, tenuous way of seemingly getting half-way there only to discover I can't really manoeuvre my arm easily to where it needs to be. As my sticktion deteriorates I am forced to try to go the long way around and right at that moment where it all seems like it is going to work out my should stops working and erupts in pain again, and I'm off . . . Damn, certainly won't be trying the direct today, lets just pull through this move so I can traverse to the ledge and sit down - five minute later thats done. And not longer after that I have stripped the climb and I am back on the ground. Zac and Sophie are finishing the final pitch after catching a shady belay at the tree.
I had previously rapped the top bit to check it out, rope soloed out and gave it a little clean in anticipation of climbing it with John on an expected visit which never happened. I found the top half to be in pretty reasonable shape and certainly don't think it would have presented too much difficulty, it all seemed pretty climbable and I did not need to do too much cleaning. John admits that it could do with a bit more cleaning or rather that it is greener then he remembers it to have been, before realising he has a memorial he needs to be at. 'Thank Zac for me, it's great to see there are still people keeping it real and pushing things along, see ya' "See ya mate"
Collosseum Corner - It's a pretty classic corner - well worth getting on for it's entirety, and now with a slightly harder direct first pitch option that makes it a far more aesthetic and challenging line, there is no reason not to. When you do, try to imagine what it would have been like doing the first ascent without all the conveniences of modern climbing - you may be following in Johns footsteps but are you able to fill his shoes . . . .