Plans this weekend involved heading to Nidderdale for Kyle's Birthday festivities, and garnering some new crag points. After an evening mulling over the guidebooks and getting much (probably fair) heckling for abandoning my principles and turning into a dirty bouldering scumbag, Andy and I concocted a plan to head to Sypeland, climb everything and then move on to Ash Head Crag to tick the three star VS, Thunder Crack. What could possibly go wrong...
Andy Trying Horse Gone Wonky at Sypeland
The walk in to Sypeland seemed interminable, especially once the track had been forsaken and we were just bashing across the heather, but at long last we reached the crag. After an initial reconnaissance stroll, where we saw much that looked impressive, and much that looked very lichenous (often at the same time), we returned to the bags and after a misspent few minutes trying an HVS with a horrible rounded top out, we moved along.
After soloing a pleasant little VS, we turned our attentions to the neighbouring route/problem Twitchy Kind Of Way, another HVS. There was a photo of this in the guide which looked easy and not too high, but it turned out to be slightly overhanging and much higher than advertised. Andy romped up it at the second attempt, but I took a nearly infinite number of goes, gibbering slightly higher each time (and at one point actually downclimbing the entire problem) before finally topping it out. Not my finest hour.
After a while failing to make much progress on a funky V4 arete we moved onto the crag's last hurrah, a very aesthetic lone boulder known as Tib's Tent. After a rather frightening scratch up a Severe slab where half way up I realised the whole thing was made of ball bearings, we spent a few minutes working on the perplexing start to Striding Edge, a three star E1/V1 5b up one of the boulder's major aretes. Having cracked the start, the finish, although high and still not trivial, was thankfully a little easier. A great problem, and a good time to move on to our next objective for the day, Ash Head Crag.
A slightly blurry view of Thunder Crack
Although the guide doesn't give it a great write up, when the crag hoved into view it was surprisingly sunny, high, clean, and had a great outlook over the vale of York. Unfortunately when we got there the classic VS of the crag (and supposedly one of the finest in the county) looked rather intimidating, and not a little overhanging. The line was compelling, which a tricky looking arete leading to a footless hand traverse to an overhanging crack, then up this to an even more overhanging stretch for a (hopefully) good rail, along which you monkey to easier ground, but looked several grades harder than was alleged. I spent several minutes wrestling with myself over whether to lead it or not, but eventually decided to cede the honours to Andy. I was proved right in doing this, when he reached as far as the base of the crack before backing off. He tried again, and made it into the crack proper, but was again repelled by the steepness of the route. When abseiling to retrieve the gear (after battling with some interesting heather crevasses) we discovered that the route overhung by some 2-3 metres over its 15 metre length. Feeling rather epically sandbagged we wandered along the rest of the crag, and found that every single route appeared to be somewhat undergraded. This was further confirmed when I tried to save face by soloing a Mod, but was forced back by a mantel at half height into a vertical shrubbery. With our spirits suitably broken we fled for the car, and raced off for the more conventional delights of Brimham.
Here we managed swift ascents of the start to Minion's Way, a speedy bottling out of the crux of Acme Wall (it looked like a fun move, but not at that height), an abject failure to get off the ground on Whisky Galore (must get stronger and better before trying that sort of thing), a gibber up the start of Black Chipper, and a game, but ultimately fruitless attempt at the V3 arete to the right. By this stage we were in danger of being locked into the car park, so we mooched back to the bunkhouse for food and beer.
The joys of Minion's Way
On Sunday, team adventure (consisting of me, Simon, Claire, James, Dan and Kyle and his entourage) headed to the jungles of Eavestone, where my advances on Spinnaker were met with some unwelcome No Entry signs, so Simon and I attempted Portcullis as a consolation prize, a Severe with unusual splashdown potential and a unique technical crawling section. Our reward for a successful ascent was finding ourselves marooned on top of a pinnacle, with the promised tree bridge to safety lying rotting on the forest floor. Eventually we escaped, but only after sacrificing the sling of unknown provenance to the rhododendron gods. Feeling as though my adventure quota for the weekend was now well filled I lobbied for an escape to Brimham, and my pleas were met with some clemency by Simon and Claire.
James seconding Portcullis at Eavestone
We relocated, via some all-important motivational ice cream, to the Fag Slab area of Brimham, where I quite fancied the look of Allan's Crack. The climbing turned out to be tricky, but excellent, and well deserving of its three stars. Next came ascents of Fag Slab, and Fag Slab Variant (twice, as James had turned up by then and needed a willing second), before Simon and Claire headed back South, and James and I moved over to Birch Tree Wall. After a little wobble at the start when I tried to put gear in when I should have just carried on climbing, things went smoothly, although the temperature seemed to have gone up and the holds felt rather sweaty, and I was soon at the top enjoying the view. We finished the day by getting stuck into (in all senses) Right-Hand Crack, before going our separate ways.
All in all a relatively successful weekend (the Ash Head Crag debacle aside), with plenty of new things to aspire to. Next up, a week long Easter trip to the South West with Oli. Some culm-shaped adventure beckons...