One of my ideas of what to do in the lakes was Impact Day an E8/9 up at Pavey Ark. I looked at it when James did it and thought it looked really cool.
Pete was working one day and it was raining, so I walked up with an ab rope to look at the move I was most worried about – a big last throw to a slopey jug off a mono. I swung around on a gri gri for a little bit and eventually found a pretty easy way of doing it with a really high foot. The move is really fun and I was psyched to come back and try the rest of the route once it had dried off.
Out of a crew from Bristol and Sheffield, Neil Mawson and Charlie Woodburn were up for trying the route with me. We all did a few routes first and ended up getting on Impact Day a little late in the day. Mawsons was up first, top roped it, then dispatched it without too much stress. Then Charlie gave it a bash and fell off the heart-breaker last move.
Before they had tried it, I had decided in my mind that I didn’t want to do it for a few reasons. It was coming up to 9 at night, it was my 7th day on, I was really cold and most of all I didn’t feel happy about the start. The first few moves are quite big, and although Neil and Charlie thought they were piss (having 10 inches on me) I did not. The way I was doing them was quite dynamic and not as controlled as I would have liked them to be. Those moves are also mainly unprotected. A small cam protects some of them, but after that you have nothing between you and a big ledge (and below that, around 20 meters of vegetated blocky slabs and ledges. But seeing Charlie and Neil try the route got me really psyched, and I had top roped it without falling, so I persuaded myself the start was fine and that I should go for it.
Well that turned out to be a big mistake. I set up for the first move and was a little surprised that I actually had to try hard. Basically I had the whole head pointing mentality all wrong. I wanted the moves to feel easy because I knew I couldn’t fall. But being on the sharp end doesn’t make the moves easy, they were still hard, and I still wasn’t supposed to fall. Anyway, I did fall and I hit the ledge, and then the cam ripped and I launched head first down the slabby ledge system below straight onto the belay. I ended up about 6 metres below a very shocked Mawsons hanging by my ankle.
I was really, really lucky. I escaped with some bruised ribs, whip lash and rope burn but I could have easily damaged my brain (I do actually have one) or broken an ankle or something.
The good thing is that I learnt a number of very useful lessons. The main one being that you should only listen to what you feel about something, and don’t let other people’s experiences effect your judgement. Just because a route has a certain grade, or people say it’s bold or it’s not, your experience of it is relative to you and only you can decide whether to go for it or not.
There was no point where Neil or Charlie suggest I try it, they were good friends and careful not to push me either way. It was totally my decision. But I let the fact that they breezed up the starting moves effect my perception of how dangerous the route is when I shouldn’t have. They find those moves much easier than me and therefore don’t think the start is bold. But, clearly it’s quite bold for me!
Anyway, lessons were learnt, ribs stayed in tact, and I have a cool rope burn on my neck that looks like I just tried to hang myself. Hopefully at some point I’ll summon the bravery to get back on it and finish it off. And more importantly: I’ll not be falling off when I’m not supposed to any time soon.