Hazel Findlay has claimed the second ascent of the mind-control testpiece Chicama (E9/5.13c) at the sea-cliff of Trearddur Bay in Wales. This dangerous route -- which takes a striking line through the center of steep 45-degree wall -- is protected with a mixture of pegs and cams.
"We hoped that the pegs would take a fall," Findlay told Rock and Ice, "but they aren't bolts."
The idea to repeat Chicama, which was first climbed by Tim Emmett in 2003, began in the pub. Findlay mentioned to Emmett that she was heading to North Wales and needed a project and Emmett suggested his route, which still lacked a second ascent.
The fact that it was unrepeated was "quite the opposite of a selling point," says Findlay.
But soon she found herself undertaking the mission of unearthing this sea-cliff testpiece. However, working the moves and preparing the route for a second ascent turned out to be difficult due to the route's steep nature and sparse gear placement. "Lowering in from the top means that a toprope fall sends you a good couple of meters out from the rock, with no means of getting back in," wrote Findlay on her blog. Eventually, she was able to piece together the moves, but while inspecting the route Findlay discovered that much of Chicama's pre-placed pegs were now rotten due to years of weathering from the sea.
"Some of them fell out whilst I was working the route," explains Findlay. "Two of them snapped when we tried to get them out, which means that you can't use the same placement and have to find another spot for the pegs to go."
Findlay replaced enough pegs to make Chicama protectable again, and after three days of preparing the route she was ready for the lead.
"Well I wasn't completely sure I wouldn't fall off," says Findlay, "but my decision to try the route had been made a long time ago so I'd accepted the fact that I was going for it, and more importantly the weather was okay and I had a belayer -- so no excuses!"
Findlay luckily didn't test the bad fall potential and sent Chicama, which she describes as having "wild heel hooks, egyptians and knee bars – not your standard trad affair."
This is Findlay's second E9. In the summer of 2011, she became the first woman to climb the grade by repeating Dave Birkett's Once Upon a Time in the Southwest at Dyer's Lookout in Devon, U.K. While traveling abroad, Findlay has repeated American trad testpieces such as Pyromania (5.13a/b) in the Needles of California and Air Sweden (5.13) in Indian Creek, Utah. Her future plans involve a trip to Morocco for The North Face in May, sport and alpine climbing in Europe for the summer, and then back to Yosemite for the fall.
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