Saved by the Whole (HVS, 5a), Rainbow Walls

The ample white wine and champaign from last night's wedding reception wasn't helping matters...

A simple traverse from left to right along a wide ledge was baffling me. The surrounding slate walls were overhung. Foot ledges were cut at 90 degrees to the overhung walls as though the cliff was subsiding.

Crawling across the ledge did not seem the answer...

(Photo by Anna Kennedy)
Nor did facing outwards...

(Photo by Anna Kennedy)
Ultimately it proved easiest to simply side-step my way across whilst facing inward. But only after I had found the confidence to press my forehead against the wall to avoid barn-dooring.

The right way
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)
I placed a cam in a shallow semi-circular bore channel. It was just about deep enough for the apexes to grip. My only other piece of gear lay before the traverse at foot level. Horizontally too far and low to prevent a ground fall. At least the immediate climbing looked easy, which led up and slightly back left.

But there was still no gear at the crux. This involved a committing mantle onto a large platform with little in the way of holds to pull through on. Made more awkward by the leaning walls and floor. I looked down and right to my shallow cam four metres below. The edges of the bore channel would likely fracture and the cam blow I reckoned. I didn't trust it. Nervously I searched for gear at the crux but there was nothing. Twice I pushed on regardless, bridged higher to the mantle position but then backed off following minor foot slips and general lack of confidence in the hand holds. I tried to instead climb leftwards up more juggy ground but this led to a totally blank slab that was impossible to exit. Uncomfortably I backed down. "What the f*** am I doing here"!

At the Crux
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)
Some loose slate filled a slot high to my right. I cleaned this out with my fingers to produce a perfect cam placement. I hadn't read the rule book on slate ethics but this seemed acceptable practice given no force had been used. It still felt like cheating slightly. With a lovely medium cam placement now above my head my commitment to the moves found another level. Rather than try to bridge up the mantle shelf I used more traditional means and kept my body in a tighter position. Something changed, and now I felt in balance to rock-over and then pin myself down in the absence of good holds. Drama over. I was soon at the top.

Now it was Anna's turn. Any advantage created by my new cam placement was quickly cancelled out after a large hold at the crux tumbled away beneath her foot without warning. Twice she looked to have successfully mantled the ledge but on both occasions slowly slipped back off after some resistance. Then after much clawing at rock on the third attempt she made it. And with that we had our esoteric trad tick in the bag for the day.

About to slip off the crux any second...
We followed this up with an exciting F6a+ further left called Gwion's Groove. The start was bold with the first bolt approximately 5m off the ground and a guaranteed bad landing. Some gymnastic sloping lay-back moves led up and right before a bold hand traverse led further right towards a distant bolt. The crux was saved for the very top with a thin sequence of moves that Anna needed to impressively dyno to link up.

Gwion's Groove (F6a+)
I was happy with my lot as this was my first F6a+ lead. Anna was keen to totally blow her arms and so set about fighting her way up Drowning Man (F6b) further right on top-rope (the first bolt was very high again with a some bold, difficult climbing to reach it). An impressive array of moves by Anna between ample rests brought her to her dyno move beneath the lower-off again. Arms wasted.

Drowning Man (F6b)
Anna dyno'ing the top move on the Drowning Man (F6b)
All that was left was for a quick lead up a VS, 4c on the Upper Walls called Vertigo. 23m high... no decent gear until close to the top. Only on slate.

We had wasted a lot of time in the morning wondering lost in the quarries despite the excellent Ground-Up guide in hand. The quarries are like a giant maze although hangovers, lack of sleep, and lack of clear objectives were partly to blame. The only climbers we met in the quarries today were also lost. Having found our way to the Manatese area of Rainbow Walls Upper we then set about abseiling two tiers in order to reach some routes of interest. The first abseil down the 'True Clip' was particularly awkward if you intended to use the pair of lower-off bolts rather than trust the sole sole bolt on the large boulder at the top. The quarries despite their ugliness have a strange charm. Something makes me want to return and explore another corner of them. The climbing is good with a unique feel and the rock dries in an instant following heavy rain. There are many things to like.

Rainbow Walls


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