Climbing Dartmoor en-route to Cornwall

Well any time you go climbing after a climbing related injury there has to be some expectation of fear and panic, the nervous apprehension of falling, injury or worse. However I did not believe that I would be susceptible to such things. This trip was the first in 6 weeks following a fall at Fairy Cave Quarry where I fell when a hold that I was pulling on gave way and I went with it, I was left with a few stitches in my knee and damaged ligaments in my ankle. ‘4-6 weeks’ the nurse said, and this week was the end of 6 weeks.

We drove down from Southampton and stopped off in Dartmoor to climb in the Dewerstone and to wild camp overnight. As soon as we found a space we made our way to the crag to find a school group top roping many of the easy climbing options and so made our way to the main face. To our surprise no one was climbing or near Mucky Gully, on a previous trip this route had had traffic all day, so we took our opportunity and got on it quickly. I offered to lead as I felt I needed to start as I meant to go on. This is a very easy climb, only Diff, but was still a really nice route, we intended to multi pitch the climb but instead I just did the whole thing in a single pitch. Once at the top I could feel a little niggling in my ankle but i was happy I had my first post injury lead and I had little fear on the route, after bringing up Jess we continued over to the Needle to attempt Needle Arete.

As I lead the previous climb Jess took the lead. She followed another couple up the climb, so they slowed our progress, but once on belay jess brought me up. I started as confident as the previous climb, but within reach of the belay was some tougher ground, and that was when I felt panicked, I was hanging on for dear life, there was no need to, the climb was well within my abilities and posed very few actual problems. However I was panicking and shaking like a shitting dog…I needed to get my act together, this was only seconding on a V-Diff for Christ sake!! Once at the belay I knew Jess could see this and I felt a little pissed off or ashamed, I even suggested to Jess that she lead the last pitch as well. I managed to get my act together in time and agreed to push on and lead the final pitch, this was only short around the arete and up to a large set of boulders on good holds all the way.

When I popped my head over the top I was welcomed by a great view across the valley, this removed my mind from the climb and whilst I set up belay and brought Jess up I had a quiet word with myself to stop being a pussy and man up. I was still suffering with pain in my ankle and also had very little faith in using the foot, but I was still better than I had shown on this climb both physically and mentally. As a foot note to this little excursion, I later found out that jess who is doing a thing called ‘100 happy days’ where a photo and caption is posted everyday for 100 days. On this day her happy moment was knowing that she had done a route confidently whereas I had panicked, so at least my fear made someone happy!

We spent the night next to the stream leaning the boulder mat against a fallen log and enjoyed a peaceful night with each other, a nice BBQ and a few passing dog walkers.

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