Winter is definitely upon us. Other than a very hungover ascent of Giant's Cave Buttress in the Avon Gorge at the end of October I hadn't climbed anything for over a month and was beginning to get a little bit stir-crazy. I was in the Northern Lakes this weekend, and this lack of climbing may have clouded my judgement slightly this morning when I decided that bouldering at Carrock Fell was definitely the right thing to do. Still, I had a willing partner in crime in Oli, and we managed to persuade the ladyfolk that going for a short walk and then sitting in a pub drinking tea was a fun way to pass the day.
As soon as we got out of the cars at the bottom of the hillside I began to have my doubts about quite how good an idea this was. It was absolutely freezing, and I had 5 layers and a pair of dachsteins on before I achieved any kind of thermal equilibrium. The rock also looked substantially damp, but I was still full of my usual blind optimism, so we wandered up to the first boulder to see what could be seen. Some of the rock looked dry, but we were both repelled from the easiest problem in the guide (font 3) by gopping holds, a frightening top-out and frozen fingers. This wasn't looking good.
We decided to have a last forage for some dry rock on the nearby Laurel and Hardy boulders, and this revealed a good and mostly dry looking font 6a+. The crux was low down and the landing good, so it seemed rude not to have a go. After a bit of a play I worked out a sequence using a ridiculous high step and after a few goes managed to hang the hideous tiny crimp, rockover onto the high foot and I was up. Oli had to work out his own, less elastic, plan of attack, but soon nailed it. We were both pretty pleased, not being regular English 6a climbers.
Oli giving it some on the traverse of justice
Our bubble was soon burst by successive problems we could barely get of the ground on (or not at all in the case of one font 6a slab), but we soon found a funky looking steep traverse to burn ourselves out on before it was home time. The handholds were all good, but the footholds started small and then disappeared. Oli managed to get to the same point a few times before falling off, so I gave it a go. To my great surprise, thanks to the cunning deployment of some stylish heel-hooks, I managed to huff and puff my way to the far end, where I effected a very ungainly mantel to finish the problem. Oli soon followed and we left the crag having snatched a rather unlikely victory from the jaws of certain defeat (although destroying our fingertips in the process - that gabbro is rough stuff).