The Dark Half - 8a

Yesterday I managed to successfully climb The Dark Half, my first 8a! 

Luke styling out 'the big rock over' 

About to attempt the crux

I managed a successful red point of the route on my second lead attempt after four days spread over two years trying the moves on a top-rope.

The Dark Half, like all hard slate routes feels utterly desperate until you work out the sequence. Once worked out, the sequence of moves on the route are totally amazing; powerfully dynamic yet precise and balancy with a degree of slate weirdness.

My first encounter with the route was in April last year. I was in the slate quarries sans guidebook, I spotted the square cut flake which The Dark Half  starts up and the vertical smooth wall above and thought wow, what a line! Thinking it looked about 7a+ I jumped on it, it's fair to say I got spanked. Nonetheless the seed was sown and the account had been opened!

In February this year I spent a couple of cold days on the route trying to work out the moves generally getting shutdown by almost every move.

Last week I surprised myself by almost managing every move. The crux is particularly dependent on being able to make a very big dynamic move off an extremely small foot hold. New climbing shoes with a sharp edge are key to getting the most out of this tiny foothold.

Powerfully dynamic crux move from the microscopic foothold

Yesterday armed with new shoes, good people and some steak and dauphinoise potato left overs, I went for the lead for the first time. I surprised myself be sticking the dynamic crux move. After a rest and a mouthful of steak I went for another attempt, I couldn't quite believe it when I found myself reaching for the first respectable hold of the route at the end of the crux sections. I suddenly become very nervous, I was about to climb my first 8a! I just about manged to hold it together and climb the easier but still fall offable runout top section. I don't think I've ever concentrated so hard.

Fueling up with steak dinner pre-send! *

Big photogenic (but not from this angle!) rock over, see photo of Luke above 

Dynamic crux move again, this is the actual successful send!

Contorted awkwardness crossover

Big thanks to Iona for jugging up a rope and hanging about to take these super awesome photos. I definitely owe you a belay!

Also thanks big thanks to Andy Psyche for a constant source of inspiration, encouragement and a loan of a clip-stick!

For years I've aspired to climb an 8a, it might sound silly since its just a number but I think it's healthy to have something to aim at. I've always jokingly said that when I do climb an 8a I'll quit sport climbing and just go trad climbing! I hope I wasn't serious since I've got a trip booked to Spain in a few weeks....

*Caution: ribeye steak and dauphinoise potatoes may not always be the best choice of pre-performance nutritional intake, I have heard reports of others experiencing quite the opposite effect from consumption!