It took me a while to muster up the courage to try Mecca; a classic, short, power endurance route at Raven Tor. If I’m honest, I had felt a bit intimidated by it. The combination of the grade, it’s reputation, the British climbing scene and my “then” self doubt meant that I put it off for some time. Before this route I had only climbed up to 8a+ sport routes and I felt maybe jumping onto an 8b+ was not the thing to do. However, I soon realised that “not the thing to do” type phrases are no way to govern oneself in life or climbing. I had always wanted to try Mecca because it was classic and the climbing looked amazing, what was I doing letting a number put me off?
Eventually I took the bull by the horns and had a go in May this year. My first session went really well and I managed to do all the moves, but only just. I had another session where it started to seem more realistic but then the UK summer began and the rain came. I was also competing in the IFSC World Cups during this period so time was limited. Then David and I left for Colorado.
We returned to the UK in July and I was psyched to re-open my Mecca account. Only it was wet and continued to be so for a few weeks. About two weeks ago, when I had nearly given up for this year, I heard rumour it was dry and that someone had climbed it. At this point I wasn’t sure whether it was worth starting again on it. David and I are heading back to America on the 19th September and I had multiple competitions and a family wedding to contend with before that.
I decided to have at least one session, to re-assess how long it might take and to re-familiarise myself with the moves. The session went well. My climbing has improved a lot in the last six weeks or so and this really showed on Mecca. It felt like a different route and I found myself having a redpoint go that day.
The repointing sessions began and I slowly moved my failing point higher up the route from the bottom of the groove to the knee bar. Yes, I fell out of the knee bar! My penultimate session saw me shake myself out of this infamous resting position. The knee bar, although a good rest for the arms (one at a time, I don’t know how people manage to take both arms off!), required a lot of tension on my part to stay on and I slowly slipped out of it from pure fatigue. A frustrating place to fail.
While on this subject I feel I should clarify for those who are interested: I did use the knee bar and I did use a knee pad, as has been done in other recent ascents. This was always my plan but in addition I am maid of honour at my sister’s wedding in a week’s time and my dress sits just above the knee, a small gender specific consideration….
So, having fallen off quite high on Monday this week, I returned on Wednesday morning to try again. My first go saw me slip on the crux section. Second go, I felt good, I found myself back in the knee bar but this time not nearly so tired; I wasn’t shaking and I felt fairly composed. A deep breath, a word to myself and I embarked on the top section. I tried bloody hard. And then it was done.
Nick Brown aka Outcrop had come along to film too so he got the whole thing (my little piggy-sounding-trying-hard yelps at the top included…).
Big thank you to David for all the belaying and Pirie for the final belay
I’m now in Norway for an invitational competition called The Battle where the competitors set problems and then compete on them….wish me luck! Live feed on Saturday night at www.nrk.no/sport
Mecca, Raven Tor, 8b+. Photo Nick Brown.