Mental baba E6
Mental baba E6 6c or French 7c
Katia had gone travelling, Nico was in the loony bin in Bombay and Mop from Germany was my new climbing partner. Mop was a yoga fanatic and sport climbing up to 6c. He was travelling with his harness and 6 quick draws but no rope or trad gear. He was glad to hook up with an English nutter like me with my trad attitude. Today was the day I’d decided to try a superb line I’d been looking at from the road for ages. After staring at it from the road in silence we had to re-decide it would be today as we were actually early enough to get some tries before the sun came over. We walked the 2 minutes up to the flat place at the start.
Mop said he didn’t know much about hard crack climbing but wanted to learn. I told him this was probably an E3 5c or French 6b and so ideal for learning the special techniques required for such a thing. As we stood at the very base of it I couldn’t help thinking it might be slightly harder, but as long as there are good jams to get over the bulging roof section it should be pumpy but okay. I couldn’t spot any foot holds at all on the steep bit so it really would be a test of jamming, for the hands but also for the feet. Mop was making hand movements in the air twisting his fists backwards and forwards, left and right while staring up at the bulge. I could see good jams up there and said to Mop “looks okay doesn’t it ?” He gave me a concerned look which implied definetly not okay and said “mmm, yes Pil.”
I was struggling even at the beginning which was not jamming at all but some type of weird boulder problem. It succumbed and I was putting an excellent friend 2 in a slot then a juicy crimp up right and I was pulling through to the crack itself. Now I could half relax on the good jams I’d seen from the ground and get another bombproof friend. Time for the fun to start.
The crack started to widen and flare not giving ‘perfect jams’ anymore. The pain from the weight being now almost all on my hands was building up and I needed to do this bit quickly. There was almost nothing to do with the feet after the last foothold except ‘thug it.’ I was making slight progress but the crack was killing my hands now and the friend below somewhere out of sight. I was struggling with awkward jams and desperate to place another piece. I spied a place for a 3 friend above and put it in but it was no good and just sitting without its cams being used. I couldn’t take it anymore and didn’t even try to adjust or clip it but Mop didn’t know and had given some slack anyway. The pumped forearms spat me off and the crack eating into my skin on my untapped hands was bad. I flew almost all the way back to Mop who seemed suprised at my sudden appearance. “you CAN climb cracks yes?” he was laughing in a jokey superior way. I told him to have a go but he was shaking his head. He didn’t want to try except on a top rope he said.
We sat smoking a joint and making jokes about soft Americans and taped hands but the pain was real and there was some strange markings on the back of my hand. I explained jokingly to Mop that in the North of England cracks like this were climbed easily without tape and given E1 or E3 but never harder than technical 5c. How could a crack be harder than 5c? He didn’t know what I was talking about. He was German.
I was impatient enough to want to go again too quickly and still half pumped but pulled the ropes through and started. I reached the same place much more quickly this time but the pain was increasing as I fiddled around with the friend 3 above me. It just wouldn’t go in properly and so I spent way too much time with almost all my body weight on one jam. By the time I clipped it the pain and adrenalin was raging. I reached above the cam to a flaring fist jam and tried to blindy twist a foot into the crack beneath to pull through but it was no good. Off I went once again. Back on the ground I was really pumped now and my hand was hurting a lot but I’d become really psyched and full of adrenalin. Only one or two more hard move and I'd be on easier ground. “A proper rest this time and I’ll do it” Then I got an idea.
I had remembered the opium in my medical kit for ‘emergencies’ but had never tried to climb on it before. Today I would give it a go but only a tiny piece I promised myself. Mop looked confused when he saw what I was doing and started to say that I’m crazy. “Just a small bit for the pain” I said and when I looked at my hands I thought it was a good idea. There was blood which was not that important but the pain felt more than skin deep, that WAS important.
“Mental baba” I said, “yes you are” Mop said.
“Not me you fool , Nico, he would have absolutely loved to hate this.” Nico like most typical French climbers disliked jamming intensly. I remembered a route in Thailand with a perfect horizontal jam that he’d used like an undercut making the move much more powerful. When we walked along the road passed this beast I was trying now he had made an oh no face. “If I can climb this monster I’ll name it after him”
“You are the monster mental baba for wanting to do it now, look your hands.” Oh well I’ll name it after me then I thought. Mop was such a typical logical German and wanted me to give up I could sense it. There would no giving up, I could feel it intensely the desire to do this despite the pain. Maybe after all that I’d been through with Nico I had to get something out of my system. I was going to have a decent rest this time and knew the opium would make me hyper and crazy and not dreamy and lazy because of the intelligent size of the dose. “You don’t think it’ll help then?” I asked Supervisor Mop. He shook his head sadly, “yes its reeely going to help, its so performance enhancing is it ?” Well not really I thought but there is something about the combination of adrenalin and opiates and pain which changes the outcome. I was super psyched and could feel myself going into ‘don’t care mode.’
By the time I’d de-pumped I was feeling like a mad dog. It was nearly mid day now so I could also fit in to the stereotype of “Typical Englishman.” Meanwhile the ‘typical German’ was sitting slumped against a rock cringing into half a metre of shade and less than encouraging.
“In Karnataka to move at all is rarely ever done
But mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”
After being spat off twice I really wanted it now and set off at hyper speed. By the time I reached the juicy crimp it had turned into a jug and I even chalked up my left hand to launch the attack. As soon as I got the good jam I chalked up my right hand. I was red pointing now so just had to clip and do the moves. No fiddling around. Without tape I was finding it utterly desperate and seemed to be doing almost footless campus moves on flaring jams my feet desperately trying to blindly twist themselves into some part of the arsecrack in the steepness.
When I finally fought through the bulge I had become a proper certified psycho but a very relieved and happy one at least. Only when I did the last easier moves to the top and sat down in the sun did I realize what I’d done to myself. But I’d climbed the route and I smiled as I looked at my ‘slightly damaged’ hand. It looked trashed and hurt like hell but my fingertips were okay so I didn’t care! Mop set about aid climbing the entire route with my help from start to finish despite encouragement from me to “try jamming”. He was on a mission to get the gear and that’s it. No jamming or mixed tactics at all. “Congratulations on your 7c route” he said at the top in such a pissed off German way it made me laugh. “My skin feels fine do you want to go bouldering now?” I said trying to stop laughing. "Mental Baba” Mop said and was laughing now too.