When the weather did turn it didn’t just cool down a little, it fell off a cliff. We went to sleep after another day in the high 30′s and the forecast was still telling me that the following day it would max out in the mid 20′s. I genuinely couldn’t believe it would happen overnight, but when we awoke the next morning it was actually cold. In one fell swoop summer had ended and autumn had arrived.

On day 10 I decided it was time to venture to the furthest crag in the Grampians and so we headed to the Ground Control caves. These caves are high above Taipan wall and to get to them you have to walk a very long way around. It took us about an hour to reach them, which was a little longer than expected due to the obligatory confusion regarding their location. When we did find them I was blown away. Nestled high in the cliff are these perfect ice cream scoop caves. The rock is amongst the best in the gramps, the holds almost too good to be true. The view out to the horizon is the perfect backdrop. The wind was blowing and in conjunction with the cool temps it was apparent that everything had changed. The precipice over which the temperature had plummeted seemed to release me from a mentally tough place. I looked at Dead Heat, V11, and thought it actually looked easy. It did play to my strengths, a crux slap from an undercut to a sloper, so I excitedly warmed up on the problems in the vicinity. Whilst there may not be many problems at ground control, they are all excellent.

Cave Club View

The incredible view from Ground Control – Emily is making her way down into the top cave

Once warm I began to try Dead Heat and I’d soon done all the moves. I was climbing with a hoody on. The last time I’d worn a hoody was in Japan. The wind continued to howl and friction felt amazing. It’s hard to explain the difference a single night had made to the climbing conditions. Only days before I couldn’t do a v5 and now I was here loudly declaring how easy Dead Heat felt. The physical wind was in my mental sails and it was blowing me far, far away from the bay of despair. I was on.

Dead Heat

The first few moves of Dead Heat

I started my efforts from the start on Dead Heat and it took a few goes before I held the crux slap and I was on my way. I didn’t climb it perfectly, my sequence was perhaps a little odd, but I’d made it. There was no despondency now, I screamed, I felt exhilarated  I was actually happy. No, I was delighted. This was a milestone physically and mentally. I hadn’t climbed an 8A for probably 4 or 5 years. To come and do this one in a session felt amazing. This single ascent was the turning point and I knew I was on. I felt powerful, my skin felt grippy, and I was again on the hunt.

Dead Heat

The crux slap on Dead Heat – note this may be bad beta

Success breeds success. I know this. So after Dead Heat we took the precarious path down to middle cave. It’s a somewhat exposed walk above a fairly large drop and with the wonderful wind blasting up the valley it made for an exciting journey. But climbing around the corner and seeing another incredible cave only amplified the psyche. Up next was Killer Dwarf, V11. I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to do the first long move, but I managed it first try. I fell off the next move and immediately declared that I could do the problem and proceeded to set up the camera. The crushing expectation of previous days was gone, now replaced by pure excitement. Killer Dwarf is essentially a 3 move problem, after which there are some easier moves on good holds. But the 3 moves down below are amongst the best I’ve ever done. A combination of power, pinch strength, and perfect movement.

Killer Dwarf

Killer Dwarf

Killer Dwarf

Killer Dwarf

Killer Dwarf

The moves leading into the crux swing of Killer Dwarf – wait for the video to see the rest!

The way I did it hearkened back to days of fooling around with James at the abandoned church on Cemetery Road in Sheffield. It was as much climbing as it was dancing. Following the first long move to a pinch, a quick foot move up, then a panther like pounce. I jumped up, crossing right hand over to a sloper pinch and as my body began to swing, it’s trajectory still upwards towards the deadpoint, I released my left hand from it’s vice like grip and swung through on one arm until my left hand landed on the slopey jug rail. A perfect 1-2 jump, with strength coming third in priority behind timing and movement. Another V11, this time in under 5 minutes. What was happening? I was having a lot of fun, that was for sure. Wonderful movement on the best rock around. That’s what climbing should be about.

All it took for me to rekindle the love, to breakthrough from my negative state, was a drop in the temperature. It might sound ridiculous, but I witnessed it with my own eyes. Everything had changed. From Day 10 onwards my mind was in a different place and my body simply followed. It wasn’t to say that the ugly head of expectation didn’t rear it’s head at times, but each day of climbing was a stepping stone which allowed me to get slightly stronger, slightly fitter, and slightly closer to the dream.