Racking up above the Sea, Pabbay (Hot Aches)
On the first day on Pabbay, Ali and me made a beeline for Banded Geo. I've had something of an affair with this Geo since my very first visit to the island, the Ship of Fools wall leers out like a galleon in full sail. Long and steep at 45m and 5m in the respective planes it offers fantastic climbing on incuts and scallop-sculpted walls. My attempt at repeating Ship of Fools E6 6b (first put up by the original pioneers of E5+ routes in the Isles, Paul "Stork" Thorburn and Rick Campbell) in 2002 proved problematic as I went horribly off route, cutting through the lower roof with an extremely difficult sequence and then rejoining the original route ten metres below the top. Tim Rankin, a few days later repeated it via the correct line at E5. The following year I returned and added an independent start and finish to my variation, naming it Geomancer E7 6b which turned out to be an optimistically high grade, more on that later...
Banded Geo, Ali (orange speck) seconding Jonny Scuttlebutt (Hot Aches)
A few days later I stood under the Ship of Fools roof again, waving my arms about and describing to Dan McManus where to go on Geomancer. Dan seemed nervous, muttering about hard boulder problems through the roof but then discovering a slightly easier and more natural solution by traversing left on the lip before cruising the next thirty metres to the top. I followed, surprised and embarrassed at how easy the climbing felt: oops, definitely not E7 then. I had to agree with Dan on a reassessment at E6 but thankfully retaining all of it's three stars.
Dan climbing Geomancer with ease (Hot Aches)
Grooving up the first Pitch of Redemption Ark (Hot Aches)
Dan on the second pitch of Redemption Ark (Hot Aches)
The final pitch. A choice of three loose looking corners. Dan begs me not to take the one above the belay, I note for the first time that we are not wearing helmets, stupid...Stepping to the left and away from Dan, I find lots of gear but I don't trust any of it, the rock is wet and I keep pulling half of it off. Contrasting with the powerful and positive first pitch, this final pitch is draining me with the nervous tension. I keep my hands and feet tautly in position, stretched tight and responsive as another hold crumbles away. Cramp is creeping into my legs. Many options present themselves and then immediately discarded: the flake with my left, nope it moved; the jam with my right, the side of the crack falls off; move my foot onto that edge, it snaps. Really hating this now, why can't I do something nice and safe like watch football on the sofa (no, better make that golf, not as exciting as football) and drink beer and then go to the pub and then watch crap t.v? Finally, better rock is reached, relief washes over at the top. Dan comes up smiling, escaping into the amber light of the sunset.
Redemption Ark E6 6b XS, and where did the name come from? My favourite science fiction book of the same name, suitably dark and gothic: a very well thumbed book on my shelf.
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