Monday, 26 May 2014

Never Never, Land

A few weeks earlier... 

The Dark Lord and I had just arrived in the valley and hadn’t yet started thinking about trying Salathe Wall. The primary plan was to check out the potential for new free climbing around the area of Never Never Land and Aquarian Walls. Apparently, McHaffie had heard from Hazel who had heard from Tommy that it would DEFINITELY go free – sounded pretty promising. What Caff had forgotten to tell me was that a rough grade had been suggested as being somewhere in the 5.14s, so somewhere between French 8b+ and 9a... on a slab. Not knowing this at the time we set off for a look at the first few (crux) pitches a few days after arriving in the valley.

To make things even more of a challenge I was climbing in my trainers, because Charles De Gaulle had lost track of one of my bags, so for the first few days I was without any climbing gear whatsoever. This meant Caff was doing most of the leading, and we set off up the initial easy corners and cracks that lead to ledges on the left hand edge of the Great Slab, before the tricky climbing kicks in. Caff then lead a long rightwards traverse pitch that follows the aid lines out onto the slab. This would make a great free pitch, mixing some slab climbing with pocket pulling over the lip of a roof with poor footholds, which we thought would go at about 7c+. 

I followed Caff across, climbing where I could but mostly pulling on gear. The next pitch was a bit of a different story. The aid line takes a bolt ladder straight above the belay and when Caff aided up it he discovered that it is almost completely blank, and it turns out it isn’t a slab either, but overhangs about 10 degrees. Our assessment was that it was probably impossible, but if not then it would be at the upper end of the V scale. 

This meant a quick end to our dreams of climbing a new free route on El Cap. We made a hasty abseil retreat from here and headed down to make new plans. My bags eventually arrived at camp 4 and we started prepping for our adventure on Salathe wall. We thought that there may be other ways of tackling the Great Slab and therefore reaching the upper pitches on either Never Never Land or Aquarian Walls, but that this would require a lot of exploring and weaving around between climbable features, and also probably lots of bolts. We chose to leave this for a team with more time and stronger fingers. 

El Cap looking as big as ever
The Great Slab
Mchaffie scoping out the first pitch
Seconding the first pitch in trainers
Running away

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