|Traversing beneath the cliffs|
|The tide nearly beat us|
We started slightly left of the ramp and made a long gradual rising traverse in its direction. I climbed only about 10m before we decided it would be best if I made a belay in order to avoid the tide sweeping Jack up.
|Jack climbing the first few metres|
Some quality chalk on the lower slopes quickly gave way to unstable grassy slopes higher up. I clipped onto the lower of two warthogs left last week. Further up an old warthog and tat suggested that we maybe were not the first to retreat by this way last week. I reached the second warthog with the rope at full stretch and set up belay. I looked out to the sea towards the cliffs of France. It was a beautiful day.
|Me leaving the first belay. The steep ramp is in the background|
(Photo by Jack Wooding)
|Short distance above the first belay|
(Photo by Jack Wooding)
|View back to Jack at the first belay|
We were still a short distance below and left of the ramp and so another pitch across increasingly unstable vegetated ground ensued. Turf began to peel away from the cliff as I delicately traversed across it. Unlike last week I felt it loosening so was able to react. I reached the base of the centre of the ramp before rope drag from the overgrowth became too much and I was forced to belay. The ground directly above me was now looking remarkably steeper than it had done from the ground. It was almost vertical in fact. With much of the surrounding cliffs overhung, the ramp's gradient had been disguised. What's more, the chalk was becoming harder to chip holds into the higher we climbed. I knew the climbing ahead would prove an exceptional physical test but I was fully committed to the challenge after last week's failure. I banged in a couple of warthogs in less than perfect chalk and brought Jack across whilst contemplating the climbing ahead. It was already 4pm with one hour's daylight remaining. We had torches so there was no cause for emergency.
|The cause of my fall last week: Peeling vegetation|
|Traversing loose ground to our third belay|
|A look of apprehension below the steep final ramp|
From this prospective the ramp looked less desperate and so my anxiety lessened a little. The start of the ramp was a gentle introduction. I quickly hammered another warthog to counteract the lack of trust in the previous placements. Dusk was now upon us. I switched my torch on. At least there was no cause to rush now that daylight was fading. The ramp soon reared up into a vertical wall of hard chalk and every placement was hard fought and physical. I stood at the top of the wall on a narrow ledge and took a deep breath. With only ten warthogs and two of these needed for each belay I was left with just six runners per pitch. General lack of confidence in the warthog placements forced me to place them in close succession, which quickly drained me of my supply. I belayed just 15m above Jack adjacent to a cave. It was 7pm by the time we were reunited.
|Our first of two belays on the ramp - 7pm|
The climbing ahead would need to swing slightly right to avoid a bulge littered with protruding pieces of flint. Sometimes the flint would offer good foot placements, other times it would easily break off. Rarely could it be trusted. The climbing was exhausting. The repeated chipping of holds combined with the swinging of my lump hammer in order to place gear left my forearms in tatters. Many hours of front-pointing were putting a huge strain on my calves. Only five metres above Jack my axes simultaneously popped. Fortunately by then I had already placed to two warthogs with the second at feet level. I didn't fall far. I looked down at my harness to see that lump hammer still lodged in one of the loops with relief. Dropping the hammer would have been a complication we could have done without at this hour.
The ground once again started repeatedly dinner plating no matter how many layers of chalk I removed. The only way to gain purchase was to remove enough dinner plates in the same region in order for a horizontal shelf to form beneath. I would then strike my axe into the back of this shelf. There was always the possibility that the chalk beneath the aforementioned shelf could also peel away... Protecting this sort of chalk was just fallacy. Fortunately adequate chalk always followed bad and nothing stayed the same for long though.
The ramp now forced me left into its extreme corner. I wedged myself in and chimneyed and bridged as best I could. I was soon out of warthogs again but at least I could see the top. My belay stance was poor but I would have to make do. Jack joined me at the belay and we banged in another warthog for good measure. Three warthogs and two axes should suffice. The belay was cramped and uncomfortable for two so there was no point hanging around.
|Dover Soul (V): The route|
|Ghosts in the night - happy to be on flat ground|
It was the early hours of Sunday by the time we were back in London. The car could get unloaded in the morning.