Pointblanpicture - ian parnell
Sheffield + Kids + Job + broken house + Trad is a bad equation, especially if the grit doesn’t really do it for you. Replace ‘Trad’ with ‘Sport’ and it just about works out if you’re keen. But the trad beckons, and after a weekend in The Lakes I was as keen as ever! So a family trip to Pembroke, with much beach action and chilled camping, was always going to be a bit of a battle of logistics to squeeze in a few routes. Ian Parnel was also there armed with two youngsters and even more difficulty earning brownie points, but we managed a couple of early starts, which for him were probably pretty late (6.30am). Unfortunately Ian wasn’t armed with a rope so morning one was Stennis/Elmeria connection on my single. Morning two and we’d blagged more ropes, but still found ourselves in the bottom of Stennis Ford with just my rope since the other lay forgotten at the top of the cliff!
Two fluffy ends of a sport rope would do, my route impossible on one line. I’d run out of rope for sure but we could sort that later somehow. ‘Pointblank’ was the route I’d wanted to do in Pembroke more than any other for some time, today was not ideal, hot, sunny, still, and no chalk to mark the way, but I wasn’t gonna be here any time soon, and saving things for later is something you don’t do when you hit 40! Not because you are old (but you are) but because life has a habit of just getting too busy!
Pointblank begins up ‘From A Distance’, a tough E6, 7c in French money with a few pegs and threads to help the head along with the wires and cams. I was surprised how hard it was, but then what did I expect, since when is 7c easy! At the junction I was pumped and the shake out not fantastic, the easy finish was very tempting, a guaranteed tic now of a classic line. But what was very clear was that I could never come back for an onsight of Pointblanc if I did that. The start E6 is too hard. Zipping up this with all the knowledge, i.e. a redpoint, would leave me in a totally different state, and make Pointblank a different challenge altogether! So it was now or never.
Good holds take you off sideways, comforting the mind until a series of surprise bad holds that look good suddenly have you committed and struggling with the gear. It’s obviously the last for a long way, so it has to be good! Easy to place if you are tall, desperate if you aren’t! Moving away I inspected my blind placement efforts, reasonable, probably ok, but even if it pulled my gear way out right would just about keep me off the floor 100ft away. So, into sport mode. It had to be; a desperate sequence on sidepulls had me inching upwards, searching the rock for anything it had to offer, the movement so technical it left no space for fear. Maybe this is the ultimate style of climbing. At last holds came, getting better at a similar rate to my increasing pump, the ropes hanging in alarming arcs off into space. But it was done, a proper adventure. Now I could chill, off to the beach: never has building sandcastles felt so satisfying!
Contributed by: Steve McClure