Everyday life

Gatekeeper

Gatekeeper (6b) is a crack climb at the gatekeeper buttress. The access is through evening terrace, and is on the left side of rooftop. The climb starts at one corner of the top of anxiety state crisis cave, then veers left up till the 4th or 5th bolt, after which it follows the crack upwards.

Standing at the start of the climb, we could hear our friends who were doing the multi-pitch Reunion at Reunion buttress.

We had left the guide book with the rest, so Alex and I spent some time looking for the climb based on what we remembered from the guide book. Alex led the climb first and onsighted it easily. Coming down wasn’t as straightforward because a vertical drop means landing inside the cave and he had to swing back and clip back into the draws to get to me.

I started climbing just after the rest came to find us. I was extremely nervous, as this was the first time I was going to lead anything harder than a 6a+ outdoors. Also, the possible fall into the cave below and the height made it scarier. I took several deep breaths to compose myself and told myself, screw it, no point being nervous down here, I’m just going to go.

The first part was easy, just walking across the sloping ledge cautiously. Then came the crack portion. I cleared the first one or two clips of the crack portion without much difficulty. But for some reason, I became more and more afraid. Of what, I didn’t know, but the higher I went, the more I tried to jam my body into the crack. At one point I turned around to clip and had to turn my entire body around to untangle myself, all that while holding on extremely tightly to the handholds.

But body jamming and clinging onto sloper hand holds in the crack is hard and at some point midway up the crack I gave up–I couldn’t hang on any further without panicking. I tried to slow my breathing and rest my arms but they refused to listen. I called for tight and fell on the rope. Only then did I realize how silly I was–by jamming myself into the crack, I had failed to spot all those lovely footholds behind me that would allow me to bridge and rest in more comfortable positions.

I completed the rest of the climb painfully. Stressed out by the entire process–there was one point where I had to do a few hard moves above the last quickdraw–I just wanted to get to the top. Two bolts from the top, I really wanted to throw in the towel and come down. But I was encouraged by my friends who reassured me that the last few clips were not difficult. I found a couple of good holds, although flaky and so thin that I seriously doubted they could hold my weight. Finally I reached the anchor, which consisted of two karabiners. Tired and shaken, I wasted 3 tries trying to clip in before finally succeeding on the third try.

I was exhausted by the time I descended back to the ground.

Looking back, the climb was really not too difficult. If I had kept my composure, I could probably have climbed it a lot better. But hey, I can’t help but feel an enormous sense of accomplishment at having completed my first ever 6b outdoor lead. And definitely, it would not be my last.

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