Much as I hate to admit it, I am rather a control freak. I don’t like being placed in situations where my actions have no bearing on the outcome of the event. This is why I’m so terrified of flying, yet will happily go out and race a motorcycle. Obviously, statistically, I am far safer on the plane, but I feel far safer on the bike, as I have a direct input into what is happening. It’s one of the things I like so much about climbing – I can put myself in situations that are inherently scary and very exciting, yet I still retain control of that situation. Do I want a bit more risk? No problem – just don’t place any protection before the move. Do I feel scared? Again, no problem – protect the current situation [1], take five minutes to recompose myself, and work out a plan.

Last night, however, something happened that I think a few months ago would have had me in real trouble, shouting for help and hanging on desperately while I wondered what to do next. I had lead to the top of one of the panels at Hatfield, not a technically difficult route (5a I think) but quite physical. Certainly physical enough that when I clip into the screwgate at the lower-off I breathe rather a large sigh of relief. Last night, however, I reached that lower-off and the screwgate was jammed solid. Nothing I could do to it with one hand would get it open. I could have just abbed back down from the last bolt, but that would just have left our quickdraw there and passed the problem on to someone else. So, a plan was hatched. Climb down to that last quickdraw (I didn’t have any spare on my harness), remove it, climb back up (not as tricky as it sounds, as it’s only about a metre below the lower-off), clip myself to the lower-off chain and rethread the broken screwgate. And, in complete control, that’s exactly what I did. No shaky legs. No swearing. No drama at all. Luckily I carry a spare screwgate on my harness for exactly moments like this, and for the first time it was pressed into service. I was rather pleased with myself when I got back down again – firstly for completing the climb with no trouble, and secondly for remaining calm and composed when I was presented with a bit of a surprise problem at the top of the route. I know that in the grand scheme of things it was a pretty trivial problem when placed against some of the things that can go wrong while climbing, but I’m still happy.

In fact, I think I probably deserve a cup of tea.

[1] I know, it’s not always possible. At my level it certainly is though.