Rhapsody E11 7a

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Dave MacLeod - 10/04/2006


Rhapsody E11 7a takes the true finish to Requiem on Dumbarton Rock's main face. The Requiem crack fades out into a blind seam halfway up the wall and the original route follows a flake on the right to the top. It was always an obvious project to climb the seam all the way to the top. After his ascent of Requiem in 1983, Dave Cuthbertson inspected the line, but left it on account of the obviously very hard climbing and "protection problem". The next attention it saw was from me in 2002 after having done Achemine (E9) just to the left. I could only do about half the moves and felt it was very futuristic but possible for someone - there are holds all the way, just very small and unhelpful ones. In early 2004 I managed all but two of the moves. Then in early 2005, after a lot of day on the shunt I managed to climb each of the individual moves. It took the spring and summer of 2005 to build up to linking the line on a top rope, working and training on it almost exclusively (and hardly getting any other climbing done!).

In September I had my first lead attempt - the headwall above the crack feels about F8c in itself and there is no more protection, so a fall from the final moves ends almost back at the belay ledge 60 feet below, with a violent swing and slam into the rock. After falling fairly low in the crux section a couple of times, I made it to the last move, and despite touching the finishing hold, fell, snapping the RP3 runner and falling 70 feet, passing the belay ledge on the way. The lead attempts continued into October, until my worst fear was realised and the rope wrapped itself around my leg as I fell, flipping me upside down, crushing and burning my leg and slamming my back off the wall. I just managed to pull my head out the way, If I hadn't I would be dead. I had already lost the momentum, but then it was completely gone after I snapped off the crucial crux undercut and had to start working a new crux sequence from scratch.

That was it for the season, so I regained my strength and confidence from doing two Font 8b's over winter and training specifically for more attempts in March. Things came together quickly and with Claire belaying me on the first time on the route, I linked it first try on the top rope. The following week I was back on the lead, feeling confident through the crux in perfect conditions and a big crowd below. I was convinced I would make it, but as I adjusted my feet and looked up at the finishing jug, I felt all my strength disappear, elbows come out and confidence evaporate. I slapped the hold but the next instant was flying again with a massive smash off the wall, spraining my ankles, twisting a knee and cutting and bruising my feet.

After several days enforced rest, everything was set for Sunday - good forecast and the positive vibe of Claire holding the rope again. But on arriving at the crag, a two hour blizzard kicked off, ending all hope of getting on the route. But the warm sun came back out and we inspected the line, trying to dry the finishing holds with t-shirts and tissues. At the last minute it was dry and I called Claire. Back on the horrible shake out I felt awful - nervous, negative, I just didn-t want to be there. So I tried to think positive and thought "just climb it then and you won't have to come back here again, either way it will be over in a minute". I shook and wobbled through every move and arrived back staring at the finishing hold. To grab it and pull over after all those times falling is an indescribable feeling. I thought I was going to melt!

After putting everything else aside for two year to climb Rhapsody I'm now looking forward to climbing other places again. A lot of people helped me do this route - thanks! Top effort to Hotaches Diff and Dave Brown (and the team) for filming the whole process; including driving over for every single attempt and spending way too much time shivering at the top of Dumbarton rock waiting for my next go. But with more than 500 feet of airtime on video, I reckon it was worth it eh?

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