He took a gentle step out to the right  onto the arete, which rose above him like a knife blade. The holds looked rounded; there would be no safe granite edges here but he had grown used to that. In his youth the edges of the sea cliffs had been his friends. Since moving further south, the schists had proved more problematic.  He relied on friction as he eased his way up the sharp edge, switching sides regularly to make best use of the features on either side. The next move l0oked like a difficult balance piece. He paused to compose himself, slowing his breathing. His movement was deliberate, taking his time he extended his left hand in an exaggerated curve to reach a two finger sloper and then applied gentle pressure.

His feet met with small features and he rocked his weight over to his left, swiftly moving his right leg up onto a small rugosity before stepping up and making the long reach for the next handhold. His fingers met a disappointingly rounded two finger bulge. Still balancing on tiny features he reached up with his left hand and found another poor hold. His situation was now precarious. He could feel the tiny features through the sole of his rock shoes as he constantly adjusted his body position to keep his feet on the wall. His hands were starting to tire. His forearms were stiffening up. Holding his arms in this semi-locked position was tiring, the dreaded forearm pump was on it’s way. He felt his temperature start to rise, sweat cooling rapidly on his back. His right leg started to quiver uncontrollably. He glanced down to see if there were any better footholds. Nothing. He looked up. The next handhold was small and a long way off. The only option was to move off the arete and onto the main wall but he was off balance and the holds were only useful in one direction.  If he stayed where he was he would tire and surely fall, if he pushed on there was a chance. He had to commit.

He breathed in and out hard three times, trying to pump his muscles with oxygen, then he straightened his arms, dropping his torso down towards his feet, almost squatting, then drove up hard with his legs. He catapulted upwards, the power of the movement making him leave the wall. Time slowed. He had executed it well,  as he reached the apogee of his flight the uppermost handhold slowly dropped into reach. For a precious time he was weightless, neither moving upwards nor down. He was exempt for the tiniest of moments. He stretched for the hold and placed two fingers onto it’s gently sloping face just as gravity started to drag him back to reality.  As the weight came onto his fingers he scrabbled with his feet, trying to force them onto the  holds he had just been clutching. He felt a sense of relief as his left foot thudded onto a hold and moved his hips into the wall to put his weight over it. His foot slipped, his stomach lurched and he was off.

Falling. The arete flashing before his face, as if the force of gravity had realised that he had escaped it for a moment and was now pulling harder to make up for it. It was over. The end was nigh.

He felt a tug at his waist and the speed of his descent started to slow as the autobelay kicked in. He drifted slowly down to the floor. Two men looked at him quizzically from their nearby seats.

He spoke for the first time: “Bloody hell. That’s pretty tricky for a 6b+, I’ll have to get it next week”

He then watched as his mate Jon went and flippin’  flashed it.

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