This one has a sting in the tail…


Today is the big route day, a seven pitch classic called the Rattlesnake with climbing up to 6c+ and a final chimney that looks horrific even from the distance of the ground, which is several hundred meters below. I find the best way to deal with things like this is to entirely switch your head off, start climbing and deal with the terror when it happens.

It’s also one of our main day for pictures since we’ve come here for dramatic shots of soaring granite cracks. Tom Randall suggested we get on Rattlesnake as an Orco classic that would provide what we needed, and we soon see that he’s right. Every pitch is stunning, from chimneys to splitter cracks and delicate slabs, and the backdrop is like Yosemite. It’s the kind of place climbing photographers get silly about. I get so excited that I get Jude to climb the crux pitch twice.

The upper sections of the route are the really fearsome bits, and it falls to me to tackle the overhanging offwidth on the penultimate pitch. I have a very memorable foot-cut-loose moment several hundred meters up, yet I’m not on the hardest bit. That pitch falls to Libby – an insanely overhanging corner that leers out over the void and requires you to switch off the bits of your brain that deal with fear. Libby battles heroically for the camera and at the top we’re greeted by the familiar relief that comes at the top a large walls.

As we abseil back down I realize this is the moment when the shoot is officially done. It’s the moment I await on all big shoots – the moment when it’s clear that I’ve got the images I came for – and as always, it’s a moment of deep satisfaction and relief. Now to nurse these swollen hands…



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