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A return to Hot Rock... in Wales!

With a day off work and a bright and sunny forecast, it felt sacrilegious to do anything indoors. Particularly given we've all been locked up for the last, not even sure how many, months.

I checked the club's message board - and noticed a small group heading to Shorn Cliff in the Wye Valley for an afternoon of climbing.

The Wye Valley is so close to us in Wolverhampton but for various reasons, I've only managed to get there a handful of times in 15 years of climbing. Time to revisit the area!

It can be a bit tricky finding the right path to the crag you want but luckily Alex knows it fairly well. He guided Carol and me, without fault, to the cave area. With a 10 year absence from the crag, it was like arriving for the first time, I had no recollection at all of what I'd done last time I was here.

To say I was a little apprehensive is probably an understatement. I doubted my ability to get up anything. I'd managed a massive 11 days of rock climbing since I was last here in 2011, and most of those days were in 2017. Luckily I'd also managed to rack up about two thousand days climbing trees in 10 years working as a tree surgeon.

You'd think I'd be used to being on the sharp end of the rope but I find climbing trees a much more comfortable and forgiving environment than climbing rock. Those mental battles we all have on the rock don't get any easier for me just because I climb trees for a living. In fact, I'd scared myself stupid on a HVD last time I climbed.

So it was comforting to know that I was under no pressure today. I was in expert hands and gladly followed Alex up The Phoney War and then ...One for All.

The view down the valley from the abseil point was stunning!

Alex had been eyeing up State of Independence (VS 4b) too and jumped on it for the last climb of the afternoon.

I watch in trepidation as Alex cooly made his way up the route and decided if I was going to lead a route it was now or never (well... for today anyway).

After Carol and Alex had climbed the route I began doubting myself again. Can I do it, should I do it. What do you do with these funny lumps of metal again? Cams? Oh yes... it starting to come back to me now.

I racked up my harness and before I even had time to think about it I was balancing my way up the rock towards the crux. This was more my kind of climbing, good holds on vertical rock with an overlap to negotiate.

I pulled through the overlap on the concretions and balanced there for a moment. My heart pounding. I wasn't sure about the quality of my gear placements but I'd got a few nuts in and a threaded nut for good measure. The top was almost in reach but it looked a bit thin on gear above, a fact confirmed by Carol below. The gear looked thin but the holds looked good so I gingerly work my way up looking for obvious gear placements. Non came, which unsettled me slightly but I was in too deep to stop now and the abseil ring was one move away.

I reached and moved up, finally reaching the safety of the ab-point.

My first lead of the year done on an enjoyable VS with great company. Here's to many more this year and beyond!

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Apr 26, 2021

It's true that I don't like Mondays but I'm very much enjoying Fridays :) !!

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