Day 30. I’d taken a single rest day and then it was straight back to the citadel. Conditions were amazing. The car showed 4c at 7.30am. This was the coldest it had been. Fate was finally dealing me a break.

Trekking back up I still wasn’t sure if I could do it. I’d done all the moves. I told myself that this was a good effort for a guy who’d spent the last 18 months as a suit. But it wasn’t enough. I needed to do it. Warming up at trackside my lats siezed up. It hurt to raise my arms above my head – no doubt the aftermath of the massive press move on Cave Club.

Once up at the citadel I realised just how good conditions were. It was cold, probably the coldest of the whole trip. The wind was blowing. I was slightly chilly even in a hoody. I set about trying it from the start and clearly my body had begun to let my mind deceive it. The jump move was no longer a 1% (or less) move. I made it through the jump move more than once, which was amazing, but also a huge disappointment. Simon’s words rang in my head.

Old Beta

Old beta with a higher toehook – falling here was really painful

After falling twice at the move to the high pocket Emily forced me to reconsider my beta. I should not be falling there. She was right. I was climbing through the hard bit and falling on the easy bit. That’s not how it should be. Luckily I had a secret weapon, something that had lived in a box under the bed for many years. A brand new pair of V10′s. Why 5.10 stopped making this shoe I’ll never know (perhaps some sales data would help?!?) but I found them to be the best shoes I’d ever worn. This last pair of box fresh V10′s had been saved for a day like today. With the sticky rubber on the toe I tried a new lower toe hook. It wasn’t as big but it allowed me to keep my hips lower and subsequently made the move more secure. It was a dubious trade off; a worse toe hook but a better body position. My current beta wasn’t working so I switched.

New Beta

New beta – the change in body position is obvious – falling here again was a low blow

It’s always difficult to make the call to switch beta when you’re already so close to a problem and each go reduces the available power in the tank, but I really did believe it was better beta for me. I made it through the move again, put in the new lower toe hook, and went for it. I fell again. By this point I KNEW the problem was there for the taking. I’d made it through the jump move 4 times (one time my heel slipped on a lower move) and yet I’d failed to capitalise on it. Session 3 was all about overcoming the mental hurdle . Session 4 was the physical hurdle. Having made it through the start 4 times I was now certain I could climb Ammagamma. It was just a matter of time and goes.

But our trip in the Grampians was drawing to a close. Our flights to NZ were booked. I started to think a lot about perseverance, about climbing being the most selfish of pursuits, and what sacrifice really meant. I started to question if I could really leave the Grampians having come this close to Ammagamma. Here I was on my honeymoon and I was 100% focused on a boulder problem. I told Emily that I didn’t think I could leave without climbing Ammagamma. I told her I’d change my flight to NZ so that I could stay in the Grampians another week to keep on trying. What was I really saying? She told me that I just needed 1 good go, that I was going to do it this session.

How could I reconcile my own selfish pursuit with the fact that I was here with my wife? I didn’t know if I really would stay. I’d said it to gauge a reaction… but just saying it had made me ask bigger and deeper questions.

With sore skin, blood blisters on 3 tips from slapping the hold so hard, and lats that were exploding in pain I decided that I had some tries left. I had to have something in the tank. I had to get this thing done. I tried again, and again, going too far into the pain zone. But I knew I just needed that one go. Eventually my body gave up and I had to quit. It became too painful to try, yet it seemed too painful not to try. With great difficulty I called it. I was done.

Now I had thrashed my skin and my body felt very sore. I had 48 hours before we were supposed to be leaving the grampians. Would my skin even heal enough for me to have another session after 1 rest day? I checked the weather forecast and it was set to get warmer again. This day had been the coolest. Fate had tried to help me but I hadn’t converted. The high in 2 days was set to be 28C again. I had no choice. I would have to trek back up super early on Friday morning and just hope for the best.