Ali met Mike, Chris and Paul for a 2 day trad lead course at Symonds Yat after several email communications. They had little experience and limited equipment having done a first steps course, then taught themselves to sport lead climb indoors with help from a female instructor who felt sorry for them – they are all very cute!
It was Mike who contacted me and arranged the trad course after deciding – on behalf of his friends – that climbing outdoors would be far more exciting than indoor climbing, but felt that perhaps now was the time for a qualified and experienced instructor. Chris, a pilot with Ryanair had no idea what he was letting himself in for, but found climbing far more scarey than flying a plane!
Day one began with familiarising them with trad gear and the hierarchy of gear placements – natural limestone is great for using spikes and threads. Intelligent young men they quickly grasped the concept of good gear and began constructing belays and learnt how to top rope belay to bring the second up. By the end of Day 1 they had all led Golden Fleece with a few bombproof pieces of preplaced gear. Chris, the first to lead, almost gave up half way as his fears overtook him and he got sewing machine or Elvis leg (technical term!), but with gentle encouragement he persevered and was elated when he topped out.
Day 2 began with the Musketeers using the guide book to try and find the Waterpipe Bay area, which they failed to do as they informed me they were just looking at the pictures and it was a while since they had read anything! The upper tier of the Waterpipe Bay area has an exciting approach and is a good warm-up. The first route – Seven Deadly Dwarves they led with only 3 pieces of preplaced gear, the rest they placed themselves, with Ali alongside checking their gear and offering advice. The 2nd route – Rooting Toot had only 1 piece of preplaced gear and the 3rd route – Musta Bindun – they led on their own placed gear. By the second route, they were setting up belays at the top of the climb, belaying the second up, then setting up abseils and abseiling off.
As they all began to get more comfortable with placing gear, and doing so with just one hand – Ali was able to coach their climbing technique to save energy and make their movements and placing of gear more efficient. It was difficult trying to convince Chris that he only needed his toes on the holds and his tummy above his base of support rather than resting against the rock, but as the picture of Chris leading shows – he got there. Their final route – Farewell (very apt) was a little more challenging and made them use their feet well as the foot holds were small, with even a couple of smears, so balance and body position were essential.
It was an amazing progression, watching Mike, Chris and Paul develop as trad lead climbers and great fun was had by all. And, of course, they had to take advantage of The Saracens Head pub for a well earned beer. Cheers Paul!
‘Thanks Ali, it was brilliant.’ Mike King
‘Thanks so much for a great couple of days. Gave me exactly what I needed. Really enjoyed climbing with you and hope we can meet up again sometime soon.’ Paul Maloney