Getting ready to set up a top rope on one of our climbs
Matthew found an area to climb called Blue Run Rocks in northern central PA, in the Tioga state forest. We climbed there twice. On the second day I lead a Trad climb, for the first time. It was on a route rated as 5.4, easy. Well, it should have been easy for me. With confidence I had no trouble starting, I placed 3 pieces and was feeling good, until I tried to go up past the 3rd piece. The last piece was in a crack and I had to add a sling to it, this allows the rope to line up more cleanly, and decreases how much the piece may shift while you are climbing, it also adds more length that I will fall, if I do fall. The climb was on a flake, I used the crack to get up, but the crack kept getting wider. I have small hands so I was unable to do a fist jam (as it sounds, jamming a fist in between the rocks). I could have tried a lean back move but I was higher up and felt scared. The fear of falling started to sink in, along with self doubt about my ability to place pieces and my skill at climbing. I felt uncomfortable and climbed back down to where I placed the 3rd piece. It was a good resting place, I had a nice little ledge to stand on. I took some time there looking up and considering my options. I had a little way to go to finish, and no more pieces I could place to make me feel more comfortable about it. I was so close and didn’t want to back out, so I went for it. I struggled, it wasn’t pretty and by the time I made it to the top I had a mix of fear and fatigue. I was hanging on the edge with only my arms and head over the top, as I went to move my foot up it didn’t budge. More fear sunk in as I realized my foot was stuck in the crack. I hovered there cursing, trying to calm down and gingerly giggling my foot to get free and finish the damn climb. I’m sure it didn’t take as long as it felt, eventually I dipped down a little and got my foot out. Now with even more fear and fatigue I had to push the rest of my body up. I thoroughly scared myself and Matthew on this climb. It took me a minute or two to recover, then I set an anchor, top belayed Matthew so he could clean the pieces and we rappelled down. He checked each of my pieces and if I had fallen on the last one I would have been fine. The fall would have been about an 8 foot drop. Now I wonder if I had fallen, would it be less scary next time? The plan from here is to keep Trad climbing 5.4 routes until they are a breeze, then I can move on to 5.5 routes. So far neither of us has had a fall on a Trad climb, only top rope and Sport. They are safer so we are a little more risky with moves and pushing ourselves. With Trad climbing we are taking it easy, even if it does not always feel that way.
View from the top of the Trad climb, the crack at the top center is what I used to get up, albeit ungracefully.