The adventure continues:- Returning to the Dark Side – Monique versus the Elephant Man

Our last trek to The Dark Side had been an experience to say the least……there were so many people in such a confined space and it was chaos. So many strong climbers in one space I had never experienced. Just hanging out and working 5.13+ routes and making them look relatively cruisy and hassle free. Lisa was this rangy brunette with this lilting southern accent and she was the most amazingly natural technical climber I have seen.

That day at The Dark Side
That day at The Dark Side

Then there was this guy. He was a local lad who was talking the entire time we were there and just basically complaining about how people don’t clean the routes off after themselves and that it makes climbing the routes harder (Im sure it does!) Monique and I rolled our eyes at each other listening to him rabbit on about any number of things that jumped into his head. He jumped on this route he wanted to do called “The Return of Darth Maul” 5.13b (30) and proceeded to go draw to draw cleaning every hold, whilst whinging and bitching about it. I sang out to him and said “maybe you should rename the route Tantrum!” There were smirking faces everywhere and Monique told me later that she had to turn away from me to stop from bursting out laughing. I couldn’t help myself and made no apologies for being the shit-stirrer that I am.

So anyways………after a solid climbing day yesterday we decided anyways to head back to the Solar Collector regardless. The threatening rain, with hints of drizzle, managed to convince us that it would be a short day out anyway. I was not feeling great this morning and was out of sorts in a major way. I decided to just warm up slowly with the hope that it would improve my frame of mind and really start to lift my spirits….this however did not happen and after a waste of an hour and a half I said to Monique, lets go and get on your project at the Dark Side.

We wandered over to the crag and we were surprisingly alone, as opposed to yesterday where it was super busy. Monique was psyched for the peace and quiet and I wanted nothing more than for her to be able to just climb. We had a bite to eat and stared up at the wall and surveyed the route that is “Elephant Man” 5.13b (29), a crag classic.

The powerful start off the ground was reachy and committing, after leaving the ledge the climbing was all on, up through a twenty foot deep line of sequential technical pocket climbing then onwards to more stellar cruxiness to gain a rest, with the anchors hovering thirty feet above. Not to make anything sound to simple, the wall is a steep 35 degree over-hanging face and its about eighty feet long. It is superb in every way.

Monique tied in and slipped on her shoes and smiled at me with a pensive close-lipped grin. Her skin was gone, she had pink fingertips so she taped a couple of fingers to protect them. I had clipped the first bolt and was ready on belay. Stepping onto the little cairn she could only just reach the first hold, as she pulled on the game was afoot.

The battle begins.
The battle begins.

Punching up through five quick moves to gain a rest, she shook out her arms, chalked her hands and stepped up to pull into the first pocket, the start of the real battle. Moving with precision and commitment clipping the next two bolts as she had done on her the last shot the previous day, she reminded herself of the foot placement that she needed to then gain the crux pocket, lock off and hit the slopping jug not ten feet from where she was.

The force you must use.....mmmmm.
The force you must use…..mmmmm.
Breathing through the lower section of Elephant Man
Breathing through the lower section of Elephant Man

Resting out was in order, and to do this there was foot swapping and body position shifts to create the best tension, just to get a little something back, without over doing it. A couple of minutes later she was moving right then up through the next section of the linkage crux. With total determination and focus Monique pulled through the technical sequence of pockets and underclings, thrust up to the last pocket to freedom to only be denied as her hand didn’t hit the mark. The sound of Aaarrrrgghhhhhh Fuuuuuucccckkkk!!!! echoed through the amphitheatre; I felt the rope tighten as I arrested her fall and felt her frustration at not having landed this move. She lowered back to the ground only to be sprouting words on positivity and determination. This lady is a powerhouse and one of the most inspiring people that I know and a pleasure to be around. After a forty minute rest and some discussion about feet and positioning Monique conquered the beast in stunning fashion and I was the only one there to see it. It was fucking awesome.

We walked back to the car and drove home to clean up and prepare for another day of rest and recovery.

It wasn’t that late when we got to the house and decided yet again to head out to our local and celebrate a little with a glass of wine or two and dinner. We had become institutionalised wholly and solely because we could just sit and relax and breath for a while and chat about our days, technical issues on routes, movies we liked and wanted to see, how much we missed our people and tomorrows plans and also what really motivated us.

It had been a big year for me and I was definitely not motivated to go and crush, but I was here in The Red with someone who was quickly becoming a friend and we were having so much fun that I think we were forgetting that we had never really spent a lot of time together. Its a great thing when you just get on with someone and it felt that this was how we rolled. At no time any time did I feel like I was hanging out with someone I didn’t get. It was the easiest travelling that I have ever done in my life, nothing was an issue and it made me feel really at ease.


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