Trepidation, or a feeling of fear or anxiety about something that may happen.
For the last two years I have wanted to climb Silly Arete (E3 5c), at Pant Ifan, Tremadog. I have read everything I could do about the route from the usual sources : Extreme Rock, UKC reports and various guide book descriptions, but I still could not shake my feelings of uncertainty. What would this route feel like to climb? how would my head cope with the routes challenges and exposure?
I had wanted to climb Silly Arete for nearly two years, but in getting myself ready for my MIA assessment I never seemed to be able to justify selfish personal climbing. I had looked at the route from different vantage point whilst climbing at Pant Ifan and wondered what the moves would be like. I knew there was going to be a run out section, and the various guide book descriptions state the word ‘bold’.
Along time ago I learned to ignore any feelings of reverence in relation to routes and particular grades as it only clouds your mind. Never accept you cannot do something or worse still be told not to try something, make your own mind up. That said it is an Extreme Rock route steeped in history.
Since completing my MIA I have more time for training and over this winter felt my stamina and strength returning. I had planned on trying the route this Easter, but our unusually warm February weather and a shout from Tom Grady on the MIA Facebook page provided a perfect early opportunity. The date was set Saturday 23rd February plenty of time to think about the route. Friday morning and walking the dogs I found myself looking at the time and thinking in 24 hours I will be on the route. The route was getting in to my sub conscious adding to my trepidation and excitement.
Saturday started off as a beautiful warm morning. So with two layers on Tom and I climbed Scratch Arete, mainly as a warm up, but also as Tom hadn’t lead the climb before. Tom lead the top pitch without any hesitation. At the top of the route the cloud had rolled in, the wind speed had also picked up and the temperature had dropped. We agreed to abseil down straight away. In my head I had planned on abseiling down Silly Arete for a look but now that wasn’t going to happen.
Now it was my turn. Opportunities for good weather and no commitments don’t often combine, so there was no excuse now – time was up. Tom did a great job reminding me that the route was only F6b+ and a V3 boulder problem – no problem! Now I was buoyed by feelings of excitement and bravado. Although I had not met Tom before I had total confidence in his abilities. Whilst living in Spain for a year I learned never to show any anxiety or doubt before doing a route, my Spanish friends all seemed fearless. So that’s what I did, I smiled, and got ready for the challenges of the route.
I read the Rockfax description and split the route into 3 stages: the lower wall, the overlap and the slab. Standing at the tree belay looking the pitch, the crack line leading to the arete on the lower wall looked thin but I could see several good footholds where I would have weight on my feet. Feeling the Spanish in me, I set of. Instantly the climbing felt positive and enjoyable, furthermore 4 brilliantly seated wires meant I was safe. At the end of the flake the gear stopped and I understood the ‘bold description, approximately 2 meters of climbing, to the big holds under the roof. A fall here would be well protected and safe. What is there to worry about? True the penultimate holds were not as good as you want them to be just climb quickly.
Under the roof place the sling over the rounded spike and be sure to put in the size 6 friend to stop it lifting out. I also took the opportunity to get rid of anything big on my harness. I remember reading that the holds of nothingness at the overlap were as good as they would get so no piano playing fingers at this point. Without hesitation and full of Spanish bravado, first right hand, then left hand (brain telling me they are terrible) then rockover with the left foot quickly shifting my centre of gravity over my foot and away from my fingers. Keep going on the rockover until you can let go to find the next good edge with your left hand. In a flash I was on the slab and making good progress towards a vertical crack 2 meters me. At that point I felt pleased and relatively safe. I knew I was in control and the trepidation hadn’t been given a moment mainly because of the quality of the climbing. I was really surprised at how much gear there was leading from the crack to the arete. I had seen a good edge on the arete which was my next point to aim for, with another well seated wire beneath my optimism was high. The climbing on the slab is about English 5a with possibly one or two 5b moves in the run out section. However in the middle of this section of climbing, there is a very shallow wire placement in a thin letterbox of rock which would possibly hold a fall, and slightly higher up a shallow size 1 cam.
The moves were so good and the gear more abundant than anticipated. I can see why it’s a top 50 route to do. Feeling stoked sitting at the belay looking down the route I understood why trepidation hadn’t stood a chance. Brilliant absorbing climbing, more gear in the route than I had allowed myself to belief and Spanish bravado. I would gladly go and repeat the route again – it’s that good.