The chugging of the train beats a regular rhythm as I march up the Llanberis path for the third day in a row. Unencumbered from the usual burden of a heavy rucsac my pace is swift; or perhaps it just feels that way as my mind races ahead of myself to the lofty heights of Cloggy. As I approach the base of the cliff I notice that conditions are good, great in-fact and that today there can be no excuses, other than my own will power, as to whether or not I climb ‘The Indian Face’.
It had started two days earlier. I’d walked up to Cloggy in the late afternoon coming into view of the crag just as Caff reached the finishing holds. It was great to witness somebody leading the line, especially after Caff had only practised the route on abseil that morning. I was keen to take advantage of the chalked holds and attempt ‘Masters Wall’ on-sight. Caff, however, soon dissuaded me from that idea, telling me that ‘Masters…’ was a poor eliminate and not worth the while. Instead, just out of interest, I gave ‘The Indian Face’ a go, along with George Ullrich. We both on-sighted the route on top-rope and suddenly knew that the lead was on.
The climbing on ‘The Indian Face’ is fantastic. The handholds are surprisingly positive, though they are mainly side pulls, whilst the footholds are just poor enough to make the climbing feel that touch insecure, even after rehearsing the moves on a top-rope. The protection revolves around a cluster of poor small RPs which offer some psychological support but little else.
I returned the following morning, feeling well prepared mentally to go for the lead. The moves felt reasonable on a gri gri but I was really concerned about how humid everything felt. I felt like I could scrape through the moves on lead but this wasn’t a route to shake and slap my way up! Ray Wood, having checked his constant stream of twitter updates (!), confirmed that it was indeed humid but that Derek the weatherman was forecasting low dew points for the following day.
Perturbed but as motivated as ever I had one final day to attempt the line before three 12 hour shifts of work, a week of assessment and a six week trip to the Alps. I knew that the likelihood of returning for the line in the Autumn was very low which added a little more pressure.
Up on the cliff I was back on my abseil rope. The moves went well on a gri gri and I felt ready for the lead. But I had no belayer! I’d expected to lead the route the previous day on which I’d had the offer of a belay but I’d had no luck finding a belayer at last minute for this day. I was anxious to get on the lead whilst I was still prepared mentally but it seemed to be slipping away. Fortunately for me, Dan Parkes, who I’d met on the walk up for the first time, had just come down after climbing ‘Great Wall’ with his dad. I asked him if he’d be willing to give me a belay on ‘The Indian Face’. He very graciously accepted but after a moment’s thought nervously asked if I was after a lead belay. I left the choice open to Dan and thankfully he decided he was happy to belay me.
The lead itself went fairly smoothly. My plan was to lead the route quickly, before any fear or doubt could enter my head. I’d left the cluster of RPs in place; not feeling well enough prepared to place them on lead and with no time left practice there placements. There was one moment on lead, a couple of moves after the crux, where my fingers began to creep off a crimp and I was forced into making a hasty slap for the next positive side-pull; a moment that retrospectively sends shivers down my spine! It took me around seven minutes to reach the finishing jug, where you can finally fully appreciate the quality of the route and enjoy the easy climbing that leads up to the belay.
Later that same day George made a very smooth ascent of the route and we all headed back down for a pizza and a pint in Llanberis where we met up with Caff and enjoyed the evening sunshine.
Thanks to Caff and George for the motivation to try the route and Dan for the impromptu belay!