Saturday, 27 December 2014

Rope Solo 1.0

When I climbed Zeppelin in El Chorro gorge 4 years ago my eyes were drawn to a series of enormous roofs to my right. Los Tres Techos (The Three Roofs) is a 300m aid route which blasts straight out of these tackling the final dizzying roof head on. This year I decided to attempt it as my first rope-solo. I was nervous but excited for an adventure. The thought of spending two days up there completely alone was something I found quite hard to imagine.

One of the things I love about climbing is how multifaceted the sport is, I’m constantly finding new ways to enjoy myself on the rocks.

I mostly used a method of rope soloing called the continuous loop method, with my 80m Edelweiss Curve 9.8. I had a gri-gri, backed up by a clove-hitch with a big loop of slack between. Before setting off I spent a couple of days going up single pitch sport routes by myself. I practiced paying out enough rope on my gri-gri to free climb to the next bolt, where I would clip in again and pay out more rope. I practiced taking progressively bigger and bigger falls to convince myself that the system worked.

I spent Friday night between 9pm and midnight fixing the first pitch. It was spooky hanging by myself in a near horizontal roof that late at night in the gorge, especially when trains would roll past directly underneath me every hour or so. Most of the pitch was a bolt ladder with bolts of varying quality, although there was a short section in the middle with some uninspiring rusty pegs. The next morning Bron came to see me off and took a photo as I jugged up my fixed line from the night before:

Rope-soloing is slow, mostly due to the fact you have to ascend each pitch twice, once on lead and then again to clean the gear. I aimed to bivy on a ledge above the second roof and complete the climb over two days. Instead of hauling I opted to clean each pitch with a backpack containing my sleeping bag, food and water. I coiled my rope into an ikea bag so it would feed out nicely with no-one at the belay.

I got to the bivvy spot and had enough time to fix three pitches up the wall above before dark. Actually the process of climbing alone was a lot less nerve-racking than I expected, absorbed by the moment I didn’t have much time to get scared or over-think things. That night I listened to my ipod and stayed up late reading Lynn Hill's book Climbing Free, I tried to keep my mind from worrying too much about sheathing my rope over a sharp edge or dropping something crucial. The next day I woke early and continued upwards, every now and then I would stop and look around me, just empty air and vultures below my feet. It was extremely windy for the last two pitches, any strand of rope I dropped would blow out almost horizontally to my side. The final roof was wild!

Rope Solo 1.0 from Jacob Cook on Vimeo.

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