A few weeks later the perversion had set in again and we were backat Black Rocks. Our plans to do Gaia had been curtailed for obvious reasons;but I was keen to settle the score. The impact of the Meshuga fall had leftNeil suffering from bouts of dizziness whenever he moved his head quickly.Added to that he was a bit spun out to be back at Black Rocks, but was keen tobelay. As I reached for the last hold, Neil looked up to me and down, suddenlyhe started to spin out and in his mystified state, was convinced I had fallenoff. But were his eyes deceiving him? The implications of this decision werecritical: If I had fallen off he must run back to take in rope and prevent mefrom hitting the ground. If I was still climbing and he ran with the rope, thenhe’d pull me off and impale me on the prow or even the ground.
Aftertopping out, stoked by the ascent, I untied and scooted down the gully to sharesuccess with my friend, only to find him crumpled up in a ball with his head inhis hands, completely distraught and horrified by the ordeal.
The walkto the crag from the Black Rocks car park was becoming a pilgrimage and a yearlater, I found myself completing it once again. But this time, it was to tieinto the sharp end to prepare for Meshuga with Charlie belaying. No matter howmany times I practiced, it always felt at my limit. As I stood therecontemplating whether today was the day, I couldn’t help thinking about Neil’sfall. What had changed so much when he tried to lead it causing him to blow it?Would it happen to me too? I knew Neil had found the climbing easier than I.There was no way that I could climb it eight times in a row. My mind raced asthe adrenaline floodgates burst open once again. It was now or never.
As Iset up for the infamous knee move I started my sequence: Shut your eyes, push,push with your left leg, fully extended, lock as far as you can with your leftarm, and then a bit more, reach as far as you can with your right and walk yourfingers up into the sloping dish. Open your eyes. I had it. Nothing couldprepare me for the overwhelming release when I finally reached the protectionat 15 metres. Everything went into meltdown but in the distant haze I rememberhearing Charlie’s jovial voice beckoning me upwards. Staying there for severalminutes I had a few words with myself, to calm down before setting off to jointhe image of the jubilant Seb Grieve topping out on his first ascent; an imagethat will stay in my mind forever.