The Zone E9 6c | Curbar |

Guy VG "video still of Ollie on The Zone just before he commited to a drop test of the skyhooks using himself, dedicated headpointer that he is"

Guy VG: “video still of Ollie on The Zone just before he commited to a drop test of the skyhooks using himself, dedicated headpointer that he is”

Never really had a ‘project’ before, unless you count getting up a route 2nd session, and if that’s the case then I’ve had 3. But The Zone felt like a project for sure. I first tried it on a bitterly cold day a few weeks back. In the biting cold I had a play and decided I was keen fo sho. The moves were cool, and suited me. All I needed. It was on.

One week later later, the sun is out and it is anything but baltic. Thermals off, belay in a tee, this doesn’t feel right…… Regardless I set about working and tweakin’. All the moves go in the heat, the game was on now. So so on. But it was warm, was the grit season coming to a sweaty end? No.

Minty winds and blue skies return. Its fresh again. And the sharp end calls. Arrive at the sky hooks, weight  them down, clip runners. Its all going well. Hands are warm, we enter the crux sequence. I shake out thinking nothing of it, but 5 moves later I thought something of it. The left hand rather inconveniently becomes pumped and the perfect dish no longer feels perfect, I can’t drop left foot……..

Everyone and everything seems to go silent. ‘Shiiiiiiiiiiit’ I took the plunge. All the skyhooks hold, well placed by sen (well done me), and well caught by Sean (well done him). I so thought it was in the bag. Why hadn’t I done it? Surely it would go next time? A cup of tea and I mill about contemplating what to do like.

A few hours later, and the whole process is repeated. The skin creeps, and the fall is met with confusion. What annoyed me most was that I hadn’t now just fallen once, but twice, after being almost certain I would succeed second time round. It felt so wrong to fall off E9 twice, as Nathan Lee bluntly put’s it “you’ve lost one of your nine lives their mate”. And I now had a mental crux to overcome; 1 move, 2 falls. Fear of failure for sure. Jeeez. Anyway I joined the exclusive ‘Fall off an E9 and survive Club’. Hollaaa that.

Now for a week of school, sorry Guy, I mean 6th form. And of course dead fresh conditions outside. What is this? Do not allow this. Oh look, snow for the weekend. God has da weather on shuffle. Sunday is horrendous, but I trek out to brush off melting snow. Pause for thought, a youth brushing snow off rocks must look well odd to non- climbers. Get your creep on.

Snow is brushed off, but when I woke up to a blizzard I thought my efforts had probably been in vain. The Mother is rather confused as to why I am still going out, even I send a doubtful text. But I pack all kit just in case. 12 inch icicles linger atop the route. These will need to go, would be a messy end if they hit ya! Psyche is high during the blue skies that greet us between the blizzards, considerably lower whilst Scottish Winter meets Curbar.

It was between these blizzards that I climbed The Zone in cool march sunshine. It all went so smoothly in the end, like it always does. Didn’t have any expectations when I woke up to the tundra that morning, so it was even better to eventually do it. So good to top out, but as I topped out I almost wished I was still on the crux, as the process was at the end of the day, good fun.

Thanks for the video, from GuyVG, and repeated belays from Sean Warren! And everyone else, especially Tom Cain ;-) Onwards…….

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