Thursday, December 22, 2011

Success on Night Dive!

Back in May 2008 my wife and I joined the expat ranks in a temporary move from Scotland to Bermuda.

Job offers in place, the first thing I did was Google to see if there was any climbing. Dr Evil's photo gallery gave my first look at Bermuda Deep Water Solo'ing. Steep limestone above stunning, clear turquoise ocean. I'd never DWS'd before but it looked fantastic (and desperate).

I ended up popping my DWS cherry at Admiralty House- a beautiful park and the main spot in Bermuda for DWS. Hilly trails lead down to an idylllic bay surrounded by crags on all sides. Me and Julie hired a 50cc moped and made our way along the North Shore roads to rendezvous with fellow Scot Grant Farquhar (aka Dr Evil) at Hogfish Bay. Grant has been responsible for most of the climbing development in Bermuda, starting back in 2002. Here's a link to the Bermuda rock climbing wiki

The Doc prescribed an ascent of a route called Pidgin Politics (5.11b). What an intro to DWS....
After a few false starts I found myself clinging for dear life to a wall of savagely overhanging Weetabix. Holds were snapping left, right and centre- but incredibly I was staying on. However, my forearms were screaming for mercy as my hands hit the top of the crag. I had nothing left to attempt the top out and immediately took my first 'dynamic descent' into the turquoise depths below. Julie and Grant were killing themselves laughing as I surfaced, gasping for breath- unscathed and exhilerated. Since then I've clocked air time many pilots would be proud of.
Pumped solid on my first ever DWS- Pidgin Politics (photo Grant Farquhar)

I saw the route Night Dive (5.11c/ Fr6c+) that day at Hogfish Bay. It's a brilliant route- the work of Dr Evil back in 2003 and certainly one of the best DWS in Bermuda. A perfect arete, just begging to be climbed. It looked well out my range at that point in 2008- but what a line. The rock is pretty good on this one, unlike Pidgin Politics!

Over the years I've managed to get up a lot of the DWS routes I've tried here but Night Dive always seemed too hard, too long and too pumpy. I tried it a few times, half- heartedly over the years. But every time I went to my regular haunt of Clarence Cove I saw it, not far away, teasing me.

In Summer I started trying the route again. We'd had the news that our work permits were up in early 2012. After lusting after the route for so long I knew I'd be gutted if I left Bermuda without doing it.

I could sprint up many of the bouldery Clarence Cove routes but I knew my endurance would have to improve markedly for Night Dive. One particular obstacle was the (obligatoire) Fr6b traverse to get to the route. It was too pumpy at first, and it became apparent I had zero stamina as I relearned the sequence.

After a couple of sessions I was improving and could do laps on the traverse but still wasn't making any impression on the Night Dive arete. Long spells of frustratingly wet Autumn weather stopped any further progress. It began to look like Night Dive would remain an ambition rather than a tick.

Just above the crux on Night Dive (photo Grant Farquhar)
In the week before Christmas 2011 a spell of decent weather encouraged me back to have another go. I didn't feel particularly strong, and hadn't been climbing a massive amount. But I had been doing well on some of the Clarence Cove routes. In this session I managed 3 tries and was delighted to pump out well after the crux on my best go- with only the top out moves to do. The moves had become linkable!

Me and Grant headed back to Hogfish Bay a few days later. I felt pretty knackered after a 13 mile jog the night before, but despite that handicap I was totally determined to give Night Dive my best shot. Conditions were a bit on the greasy side on the traverse and required plenty of concentration to avoid mistakes. I got to the wee rest cave before the arete feeling pretty fresh, but had some doubts about the possible conditions on the route itself.

I slithered through the final perma- greasy section to the base of the route and set off up the arete. Initially it's steep but steady on flat holds and pockets. I made sure my hands were well chalked and tried to save energy as I got up to the hard bit. The flat finger hold on the left felt small and slick with an unhelpful sheen of grease. I gritted my teeth and pulled really hard for the dynamic long move to a flat jug. I got it solidly with my right hand as both feet cut loose.

With only a wee bit left in the tank I climbed as quickly as I could, crimping my way up the top section. I could feel the lactic acid burning my forearms, but with the top out only a move away I wasn't going to give up now. I matched a slippy, slopey hold and grabbed for the top of the crag. I could hear Grant's shout of 'go on ya HOOR' as I latched the top. It was the first time I'd been aware of anything external since the start. I got the feet up and grabbed for a tiny sapling a few feet back. Got it. Yes. Stand up. Phew. Thank God for trees! What a relief. I'd thought the top out would have been a mantle from hell. Night Dive in the bag at last!

Here's a wee film 'Winter DWS'- it features my Night Dive ascent and a some other routes. There's some funny footage of Marc Burgess's  first top out on Night Dive at the end.

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