Brunkensen – Crash test at the Helleberg

We had just one day for a climbing trip this weekend, so we checked out another area in Brunkensen, near Alfeld, roughly 35 km away from my place. The weather had been alright whilst cycling there, but as soon as we arrived it started raining. Fortunately, it were just a few intermittent showers, and we started off on a 6- (5.8) sport route to warm up. The rock was a tad wet and slippery in the lower regions, but it got better the further up you went. Rikta toproped that route too and the tried a 3+ on the same anchor, which she had considered doing on the lead – but after having a few minor difficulties she decided against it under those weather conditions.

Getting into the Abendweg

We continued with another easy route, this time a 4 (5.5) trad route, and Rikita did this one and another one of the same difficulty in toprope. I wanted to do something a tad more difficult – and this particular rock offered two 7 (5.10c) trad routes. On the first one, I couldn’t even get into the route, it starts off with a little roof, and I couldn’t find a good hold after the first two or three moves. After trying several approaches, I got frustrated and went on to the next one. This one had an easier start, which it shared with another easier route (6-/ 5.8) from which it diverged in about 5 meters height. I placed the last piece of protection there with a sling extension, in order to get a decent rope line. I managed to place another piece on the other route, but was stopped there as I couldn’t figure out one move as there were no holds whatsoever. By that time I was really frustrated and after several unsuccessful attempts I resolved to abort and return to the easier route and finish that one. I place one more piece of protection, but did that somewhat fitfully and tried to proceed – and came to a part which wasn’t that obvious, so my first attempt didn’t work exactly – being wound up from all the other frustrating experiences already, I resolved to take a chance and just scramble up there using friction. Next thing I know is me falling and Rikita screaming and the ground coming awfully close. I heard two distinct „pings“ of protection popping out and smashed onto a ledge before one good piece of protection stopped my fall about a meter above the ground.

Placing protection (Abendweg)

Well, apart from some bruises on my left upper thigh and ellbow, as well as on my ribcage nothing untoward happened. After a cigarette break to calm down I went up there again and this time I placed a decent piece of protection, but somehow I had lost my confidence. So in the end Rikita went up the rock from the other side and put in a toprope, as I didn’t want to take any more chances. I was really annoyed went I went past that point really easily in toprope – all I had needed to do was assess the options calmly instead of  letting my frustration dictate my actions and take unnecessary chances. After getting up that route, I went back to the point where I had been stopped cold by the 7, but I had neither the concentration nor the shape to get over that point, so I came down again. Rikta mangaged the 6- in toprope too, although she needed the support of the rope on the crux.

By now the adrenalin had worn off and the pain kicked in – when belaying Rikita the pressure from the harness was starting to really hurt. So we cycled back, and not a moment too soon, as we got drenched on the second half of the journey.

Well, it was a good afternoon after all – I note it as a learning experience, which will certainly make me more cautious in future, making sure that all the pieces of protection I place will hold a fall, even on easy routes. At least for the next few weeks, I will have palpable reminders of why I have to do that 😉

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