A week later and I’m still thinking about it. The third pitch of Great Bow Combination (HVS 5a) on Clogwyn Du'r Arddu. I'm leading and I step below Andy to the start of the crux traverse. As I reach the last of the quartz flecks I try to make the long stretch left to good holds. There's sixty metres of air below me. I struggle to find the combination of moves to see me across. Over and over I try. Eventually it takes a strong push and a desperate lunge to reach the safety of a narrow ledge. Above lies a short wall and the curving crack running up to the belay. It looks dirty and damp. I can see specks of moss and turf dribbling moisture towards me. With nowhere else for protection, I reckon the crack is the only option. Deep breaths. I trust a series of smears and reach for the damp, sloping holds within the crack. With little for feet I quickly arrange protection. But there's panic building inside.
The third pitch of Great Bow Combination on Clogwyn Du'r Arddu
There's too many questions. What if the holds ahead are wet? What if there's no more protection? What if I'm off route? I call to Andy and rest on the rope. After a few seconds my pulse starts to fall, the shakes pass and my mind finally clears. The steep blank wall now starts to slope and reveal its holds, previously hidden cracks offer chances of protection. I start to piece together a path. The ground gets easier with each move. I reach the belay frustrated. I look back to Andy, to the hills and sea beyond and breath deeply. Why did I rest on the gear? Why didn't I carry on? I tell myself it's OK and for a while I believe it. But it's not. Forgiveness doesn't come that easily. This will not be the end of it. As Nick Bullock writes in "Tides",
"Disappointment. Self analysis, self deprecation. And this is OK."