Friday, 27 May 2011


After all this tarting around on limestone, today I returned to the warm, comforting bosom of Gritstone, and boy, was it good to be back. A arranged to meet Jaime at Stanage Plantation, and we warmed up with a spot of bouldering on the Lone Boulder. Conditions were nice and cool, and I somehow managed to onsight a couple of 5c smearing problems, and retro-onsight a 6a one. Twice. Get me and my skills. They didn't even feel particularly hard, I just trusted that my feet would stick and they did. I wish I could bottle that feeling for use at a later date.

Buoyed by this we wandered over to Dover's Wall. I unwisely started up an HVS with a steep finish, but after a little bit of strategic downclimbing and resting, the top turned out to be covered in jugs. Jaime then led a brief sortie into the cleft of Cleft Wing, but retreated (including reversing the allegedly 5b crux) as she didn't have the right cam to protect the strategic fall across the void. I led up with the aforementioned cam, but then discovered I could reach the jugs on the other side without any falling. A bit of monkeying around on them and I was back on normal ground.

Cleft Wing (yes, that's the right way up)

After leading an easy VS each we spent a few minutes trying a seductive looking E1, but it flattered to deceived, so I had a little solo-fest yomping up some of the easiest VSs you'll ever find. Sometimes I find soloing on grit a little perturbing, but the friction felt good, and everything felt very in control.

I still found time for a little 'traditional' soloing

I rounded off the day by leading August Arete, an HVS 5b (my first on grit I think). The moves were nice, with a thin swing round the arete off a slopey break and pleasant padding up biggish slopers above, but there didn't seem to be any 5b anywhere.

Unfortunately at this stage Jaime had to go home to fix a leaky tap, so I didn't get the chance to see if Millsom's Minion felt just as easy. Hopefully next time out the grit will be as kind to me. It certainly was good to be back.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Better Than Having A Job

On Tuesday, after struggling to find a willing partner in crime for some midweek climbing adventures, I established that Dan Arkle had the afternoon free, so we hatched a plan to escape the high winds at Stoney. I'd actually been quite keen for a return there after a previous visit which had been much better than expected. A conversation about the best VSs in the Peak a while ago had made me realise how many of the limestone contenders I hadn't done, and Stoney has a fair few, so we started with Froth. I led the first pitch, which was buffed to a high sheen, but not debilitatingly so, and Dan led the very nice traverse on some more of those weird cemented-on nodules.

Showboating on Froth

We moved over the Tower of Babel, a jutting prow with a VS groove up its left side, Sin, and an E2 straight up the front, Lucy Simmons. Dan was sufficiently taken with the line of the E2 to get on it, and after taking a long time arranging a substantial nest of good gear below the headwall, launched up it. After deploying a fulsome array of fridge hugging techniques (including many fancy heel and toe hooks), he stopped for a gear faff and then ploughed on to the top. It turned out that the moves weren't too hard, but the gear was pretty shocking. My favourite kind of E2 to second, and the sort that dangerously makes me think I can lead E2. Oh dear.

The upper section of Lucy Simmons, with the groove of Sin to the left

After abseiling off I led the groove of Sin, which gave excellent, chunky climbing, and from which you could see daylight through the back of the tower itself. Makes you wonder what's holding it on... The last route on our agenda for the day was the classic combination of Gabriel And The Pearly Gates. Again, I led the first corner, which was a bit disappointing, but did have a crucial mono on it, and Dan led the exposed top pitch, which we both thought was a bit hard for VS, but did have some great positions.

At this point Dan had to go home, so I drove over to Birchen to meet up with other Dan, Jen, Rich, Adam, Kate and mad dog Tammy for the evening. It was nice to get back on the grit, even if it did feel a bit short. I led a Severe and a couple of VSs, followed Adam up a couple of filler-in VSs on his quest to tick the crag, and soloed a few things. I sometimes find soloing on grit a bit perturbing, but it all felt very secure and I didn't have any moments of terror, hurrah.

Rich following Dan up the in no way eliminate pillar of Emma Royd (see what they've done with the name there?)

The next day I had boldly made arrangements to meet a man called Dom from the internet. I was very pleased to discover, when I picked him up at the station, that he was a) apparently not a psychopath, and b) very friendly. Again trying to escape from the wind we drove over to Dovedale and walked in to the weird fins of Tissington Spires. Like inland limestone's answer to Lower Sharpnose.

I warmed up on Silicon, a ticklist HS which was quite stout at the grade, but had some nice jamming, then we scrambled further up the unpleasant scree-filled gully to the base of the Ten Craters Of Wisdom wall. Dom led the scrappy first pitch which all four routes on the wall share, and then led off up the very reachy Simeon Direct. Only one tricky move, but I'd be interested to know how the less reach-endowed climber would get on with it. We abseiled back down to the ledge and I set off up Ten Craters. The guidebook promised surprising holds, and it wasn't wrong. Mega-jug after mega-jug kept appearing, and I was having a whale of a time, until suddenly they run out, and I had to make another huge reach to just tickle my fingers round a good hold, from which more easy romping led to the top. A good route, but rather unbalanced, with the crux move being much harder than anything else.

Bizarre Yew/not Yew double tree above Ten Craters Of Wisdom

Feeling emboldened after leading his HVS, Dom was psyched for a look at George, the classic E1 of the valley, but the line in the topo climbed a blank, bulging wall with no holds or gear, so he sacked that in and decided on the three-star HVS John Peel instead. The apparent start to this featured a very hard move with dodgy gear, and Dom had rest on this for a bit (brave man) before recovering composure enough to crank through the move and into the curving overlap which was meant to form the meat of the route. Subsequent inspection of the guide makes me think that this was actually the real start to the E1, and the HVS took the scrappy (but much easier looking) ramp to the right, which would make sense, as the moves definitely felt like 5b. After committing himself to the overlap Dom managed to kick out his only bit of gear, which spooked him somewhat, but he manned up and whizzed up the rest of the pitch, to belay on the dead stump of an old yew tree (!). The climbing was nice enough, but it didn't feel like a three star line, and the amount of traversing involved made it quite mentally taxing to second, so we were both pleased to survive the abseil back down of the dead tree (backed up by a comical nut which was clearly just for show) and get back to our bags.

This seemed like a good time to run away, so we found a weir we could walk over without getting our feet wet (win!) and beat a path through the undergrowth to the base of Dovedale Church, a cool pinnacle on the other side of the valley. the objective here was Snakes Alive, a three-star VS corner, which looked right up my street. Armed with plenty of hexes I pulled round the initial awkward roof and began jamming. About halfway up it started to rain, but the groove stayed magically dry, and I carried on jamming and bridging with gay abandon. Eventually I reached the in-situ tat at the top of the pinnacle, and with it the rain, but what a route. A brilliant climb, which would surely be polished to buggery if it didn't require crossing a river to get to it.

Time was getting on, so we wandered back down the valley talking about how great it would be if there was an ice cream van (for me) and a coffee shop (for Dom) in the car park. After a surreal moment when we passed a fake stone barn on wheels (yes really), we were greeted by a mirage of an ice cream stand which sold coffee. Enormowin.

So I've climbed some Peak limestone, and even had fun, but I'm quite keen to get back to the grit now. I miss the friction...

Monday, 23 May 2011

Sophie's Fitness School

With a few days off between jobs, I hatched a plan with fellow non-working bum Sophie to go to North Wales and climb it. All of it. Sophie was especially keen to climb steep things, so I took some prusiks and my best set of forearms.

We were quite tardy in leaving Sheffield due to some very important cake-cooling, so we headed to Millstone. I decided to start on Oriel, a VS which I'd heard was a bit hard, and it turned out to be so. A nice jamming crack finished a little too soon, leaving an indelicate flail into a big sandy cave. My initial attempt was rebuffed by the apparent jug actually being slopey and useless, so I downclimbed a couple of moves to a bridged half-rest. At least I tried to, but put my foot on the wrong bit of the crack and promptly fell off. Oh the ignominy. After a brief rest, I contemplated pulling the ropes, but since the gear was in the relatively straightforwards crack, and was trivial to place, I decided to forgo the ethical niceties and just get up the thing. Second time round I found a slightly better hold, laid one on a bit, and reached the sanctuary of the cave. The rest of the route was a lot easier, although it did feature some thinnish moves in a position with quite a high plummet potential. Exciting.

I managed to save some face with a swift tick of the fun Little Lotto Arete, although I should have flashed it. I got fooled into trying to use some tricky footwork, when the answer was obviously just to use my high-stepping skills to stand on the big ledge. We tried the V4 next to it, but there was a big ledge which rendered it simple, and not to use it was a bit too distressingly eliminate, so we sacked it in and went back to the proper climbing.

Sophie fancied a look at the bold arete of Watling Street, so bambered up the easy start of By-Pass to reach the big ledge from which it started. After a bit of a look she decided it was a bit heightist and belayed on the ledge, from which I finished up Scoop Crack. Deciding that something less subtle and more pumpy was called for, Sophie whizzed up Dexterity, proudly proclaiming at one point to have done six jams in a row, a personal record. I followed by the skin of my teeth, with my arms nearly succumbing to the pump on the top moves. Rather than abseiling off we escaped from the ledge up April Arete, which was quite fun.

Still feeling a bit the worse for the wear I lead The Hacker, a nearby VS, and still managed to make the moves onto the ledge feel very hard for 4c. Oh dear. The upper arete was thankfully much easier, and quite pleasant.

Unfortunately Sophie now had a taste for steepness, and dragged me round to the grossly overhanging wall at the far end of the crag. The guidebook promised that Brimstone would get you "as pumped as you're ever likely to get on an E1", which sounded as bad as it looked. Sophie used her Arapiles-honed fitness, and general skills to cruise the route, which is a lot more than can be said for my seconding attempts. After a particularly trying few minutes wrestling with a very intransigent nut I managed to reach the crux, forearms ready to explode. After a while hanging around getting even more pumped I somehow found the oomph to make the move and grab the jug, hooray. I pulled up, got stood on the jug, and, with only one more pull on massive (really, really massive) jugs to go to the top, fell off. Very unjust. As if to prove to myself that it wasn't a hard move I hardly rested at all before doing it, topping out and immediately collapsing in a heap of lactic acid and failure. Sophie just laughed at me. I did, at least, manage to talk her out of doing the E3 next to it, which was even longer, and even more overhanging. So we drove to her cottage in Wales instead.

The next day the forecast was a bit ropey, so we had an epic lie in and some awesome pimped porridge to set us up for the day. Intensive studying of the forecasts suggested Gogarth was the place to go, but we began to doubt this as we drove across Anglesey in the rain. Even as we got to Holyhead it was still drizzling and we were preparing for an epic cake-fest in the cafe, but when we pulled up it was dry if a little overcast, so we started walking and thinking positive thoughts. We headed for main cliff where I was psyched for Emulator, The Gauntlet, Bezel and The Ramp, but Sophie suggested I ought to warm up before getting on Emulator, so she led off up Aardvark, an E2 6a slab. I found the moves low down quite trying on second, which didn't auger well for the actual crux above. This was preceded by a very awkward rest, from which it was possible to rest all four limbs, but only one at a time and via an advanced sequence of balancey contortions. After milking this rest for all it was worth I finally committed to the fingerlocking and thin footholds above, and somehow made it through to the easier juggy finish. I managed not to fall off this time, and scrambled through up a pile of grass and perched blocks to the base of the upper tier, below Bezel.

Gogarth in the sunshine all to ourselves

Since we were here already it seemed sensible to do a route before heading back down, and I mooted Bezel as a quick and easy suggestion. By this stage the sun had come out, and we were both somewhat overdressed. Sophie had used her leader's prerogative to make me carry her excess jacket, which did little to cool me down. Still, the views were beautiful and we had the entire crag to ourselves and not a cloud in sight. My suggestion was quickly shot down in flames as Sophie insisted that one of the E2s would get us back to our bags, and water, quicker. Accordingly she shot off up the very steep weirdy rock of The Eternal Optimist, pulling some funky shapes up the steep groove. Soon it was my turn, and in spite of working hard at convincing myself that it wasn't that steep, as soon as I was pulling on the holds the inevitable onset of the dreaded pump began. I fell off after a desperate lunge for a distant jug was met with a not-jug, and again after messing up some footwork, but managed to tussle my way round the crux overhang eventually, and onto friendlier-angled ground. There was still an awkward crack to deal with, which drew some blood, and then the inevitable Gogarth top-out. Shudder.

When we finally got back to our bags it was late, and I was far too beasted to even contemplate anything hard, so we snuck off to Holyhead Mountain and I bambered up a slabby VS to finish the day.

Saturday started with a bit more rain, before we headed to the Orme. I was pretty uninspired by all this hard limestone nonsense, but we wandered round to a spot with an E1 that Sophie assured me was only HVS. I moaned a bit and set off rather warily, but it turned out she was right. It was soft, well protected, and actually quite fun. I felt a bit dirty.

The Orme

After failing to toprope a steep fingery F6b+, we moved round to another E1 that Sophie suggested was soft. After a committing move at the start I fiddled in some reasonable gear and made a swing rightwards into a steep grove. This turned out to be full of huge jugs, and, other than spending too long faffing with poor gear, the climbing was fairly straightforwards. Somehow I'd managed to double my tally of Welsh E1s. I was beginning to warm to the place. We headed back towards the car, and Soph decided to get on Anchovy Madonna, an E3 5c with 3 bolts, and then a nut-protected groove. I was satisfied with my lot, but she insisted that I should give it a go on second. I managed to lank through the crux bulge, but the groove above was sustained and it didn't give up without a fight. Eventually I made it to the top cleanly, the first time I'd managed not to fall off anything harder than E2.

The appetising roof of Gritstone Gorilla

So, all in all a really good day in spite of my initial misgivings. Sophie was still keen for more pump, so we drove round Marine Drive to St Tudno's Upper Crag, and I belayed her up the fearsome looking roof of Gritstone Gorilla. I had already put my foot down and refused to second it, and the ensuing diagonal abseil round the roof proved a whole lot more effort for either of us then the route had been for Sophie. Still, she gained a number 8 nut in the process, so it was worth it. At this point the rain arrived, so we escaped to a Karibiner Club hut, where a distant acquaintance of Sophie's was having a party that she had somehow managed to get us invited to. There was even chili thrown into the bargain. Maximum win.

Yet another rainy morning, with added wind, drove us to a late second breakfast/early lunch in the Caban, before things looked to have dried up enough for us to head for the slate with Gareth and Naomi, a couple of Sophie's friends and fellow stragglers from the previous night's party. We stomped up the levels to Australia, and I warmed up on Brief Encounters, a part bolted, juggy HVS. It looked a bit dirty from below, but all of the holds were both huge, and clean, so it was easy enough. Next Sophie led Gadaffi Duck, an E2 6a full of new bolts, to give something like an F6b/+. She suggested I might be able to lead it, so I had a crack, and after no small amount of huffing and puffing at the unreasonably low crux, I somehow managed it just before the heavens opened. This coincided nicely with lunchtime, so we ate, and then let the slate dry off whilst we went for a look up the wonderfully-named Stairs Of Cirith Ungol at the other Caban, a relic of the quarries' previous existence containing some vintage workmen's boots and jackets. Very cool, and a nice reminder of the hard work which went into creating all of this funky climbing.

Gareth seconding Naomi up Looning The Tube

With things having dried off, Sophie warmed up again on a steep F6b, before having some fun trying to work out how to do the crux of Goose Creature. After many aborted attempts she went for it and fell off, but got it second time. Then it started to rain again, so we retreated to the car, at which point the sun came out again. After some flim-flamming I manned up a bit and decided to go and do Gnat Attack, an E1 with 2 bolts and a long run out. On getting to the bottom of the route I learnt that there was another run out to reach the first bolt, which I hadn't been expecting, but I managed to get over it, and the climbing wasn't too tricky. As soon as I clipped the first bolt things got more interesting, and I had to stand on some proper 5b footholds. A few more tricky moves and I had clipped the second bolt. At this point the lower off still looked a long way off, but I focused on one move at a time, and soon I was threading the lower off. Go me.

Alas our further adventures in Wales were curtailed by some truly atrocious weather, including wind strong enough to whip the leaves off the trees. This was probably just as well, as Sophie was trying quite hard to persuade me to have a go at leading Anchovy Madonna, eek. We headed back to the Peak in the hope of some dry rock, but the best that we could manage was a couple of hours bouldering at Raven Tor. I tried to occupy myself with some traversing, but after a few inglorious failures my elbow started to hurt, so I gave up and we came home for recuperative tea.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Limestone Schlimestone

In the face of a slightly ropey forecast, Dan and I rocked up at Symonds Yat on Saturday hoping for some dry rock and a little bit of adventure. I boldly set the ball rolling with a VS, The Druid, which had pleasant climbing, but I seemed to spend the whole time looking for gear or rests, rather than enjoying the route. Dan bombed up Golden Fleece, and we moved on to the Long Stone hoping to find Whitt unoccupied. There was nobody in sight, so I set off up the initial groove, which was steep, but juggy and full of gear. After some gymnastic moves the gear thinned out and i found myself monkeying around a bulge with just a dubious cam between me and a 20 foot plummet, which rather focused my mind. I managed not to fall off, and reached the sanctuary of a massive in-situ thread, and soon afterwards a rather cool little belay niche, with great views out over the valley, as well as the exciting looking top pitch.

The Long Stone at Symonds Yat

Dan joined me on the ledge, and made faces at the crack above. After some initial forays to work out where the holds were, and a few grumbles when I suggested he try some jamming, he hoiked himself into the crack and scuttled up it to the impressive summit of the pinnacle. I cheated and jammed up after him. A super finish to a route well worthy of its three start crag classic status, and it wasn't even that polished.

Mindful of not wanting to get my car locked in the car park, we reasoned we had time for one more route. As it was my lead I decided to up the ante a bit and give an HVS a go. I found one which had only been put up in 2009, and was apparently low in the grade and with good gear. It looked a bit vegetated, but the guide assured me not to be put off by that. The start was several metres of chossy nonsense, but that soon relented to give clean, if unfrequented rock. It was nice to climb on totally unpolished limestone, although I did fear for the stability of some of the lovely holds on the steeper juggy wall at the top. Luckily for me they all stayed put, and I made it to the top in one piece. Hurrah.

Adventure quotient duly fulfilled, we drove over to Dursley to visit my friend Paul, who had kindly offered to put us up. We checked out the local curry house, and then Marq joined us for a pint or several in The Old Spot, a pub well worth your attention if you find yourself at a loose end in the area.

After some faffery and omelettes we decided to ignore the rain radar's promise of impending raindeath and go to Shorn Cliff. We had a slight communication error which resulted in Dan and I parking at the top of the hill, whilst Paul and Marq parked at the bottom, but after the 25 minute walk in we met up and found the crag, which was heaving. I was super-psyched for the apparently soft-touch HVS slabs around Laughing Cavalier, but every route there had a team on it, so we started just right. Dan led the rather sustained War Of The Worlds, which had a fun upper section where the gear ran out, and an even more fun top out "past the rockfall scar", with all that that implied.

Marq On State Of Independence

With the HVS still all taken I had a saunter up the neighbouring ticklist VS, State Of Independence, which had a crux involving a stiff pull on some of those weird concreted on jugs which never inspire much confidence in me, but do make for whopping great holds. Then, with the hordes having moved off I managed to 'persuade' Dan to man up with some aggressive rope-flaking and go for it on No Musketeers, one of the three star HVSs. After overcoming a brief bout of ledge-itis near the bottom he made short work of the apparent crux wall, and then the easier slab above, but was stopped short by a steepening near the top. After some pondering he found a bonus hold, and outflanked the problem. On second I found a similar problem; the crux came straight after a spell of easy climbing, and felt like a sudden 5a slap in the face. The solution was a nice move though.

With the gauntlet thrown down I thought I should really do Laughing Cavalier, the neighbouring three star HVS. After a few steep moves I was treated to some more gearful slabby aceness, and was beginning to wonder if this was the softest HVS ever, when I reached a slight steepening of angle. This coincided with a thinning out of the holds, and thus seemed to be the crux. After some idiocy with extenders and rope drag I managed to haul myself up to bigger and better holds, and a grandstand finish on a massive juggy flake. Magic. Still pretty soft, but probably just about scraping into the bottom of HVS. In spite of being limestone, the climbing was somehow reminiscent of some bits of Tremadog, with climbing on spaced, but positive ledges, like the top sections of The Fang or Meshach.

So, my first proper taste of the Wye valley, and it was actually pretty good. The rock was mostly solid, and not that polished. The gear was good, the climbing fun, and the crags were very pleasantly situated. I think I might have to come back...
Tintern Abbey From Shorn Cliff

Saturday, 7 May 2011


After the recent spell of dryness, last Sunday seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally go and investigate the mysterious delights of Duke's Quarry, home to the legendary HVS, Great Crack. I'd long been hankering after this route, but had never been able to arrange a visit when the weather had been dry for long enough for the start to dry out. I found some willing accomplices in the form of J-Ro, Adam, Kate and Tammy the wonder dog, and off we set.

Duke's Quarry itself is extensive and tree filled, though not in a nasty Lancashire quarry sort of way, and would be quite a nice place to go for a stroll. We didn't need to get the guidebook out, however, to find Great Crack, as it's rather strikingly obvious, a perfect hand jam width zigzag crack cleaving the highest wall in the Quarry. Awesome.

The Great Crack in all its majesty

I was super-psyched, so racked up with plenty of medium to large cams, the bare minimum of 20 quickdraws, and jumped on it. The apparently always greasy start was pretty dry, and the jams and gear were perfect, so it didn't pose much of a problem, and the rest of the route was a brilliant carnival of jamming. There was a moment of mild concern near the top, where you have to forsake the crack with one hand and pull on a large flake of questionable stability, but it stayed put, and I reached the top and immediately abbed back down the line, stripping the gear as I went, so James and Adam could both lead it after me.

James getting involved with Great Crack

After we'd all led it, I'd seconded Adam to remove his gear (to make this more interesting I tried to avoid using any holds outside the crack - I managed to get by with only two, but I think it might be possible with none) and we'd bushwacked our way off the top of the crag, I decided to lead a nearby VS which had no stars, but looked clean. It was good fun in a sort of 'which of these holds are actually attached' kind of way, and was definitely worth its no stars, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

By this stage it was getting on a bit, so we abandoned our plan to go questing in the neighbouring Robin Hood Quarries for another HVS called Thundercrack, and went and had tea and cake (with posh china and everything) in the tearoom. It's definitely worth a visit if you're passing, the carrot cake was marvellous.

Tammy vs Tree

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A Systematic Destruction of the Cornish Coast Part III

With only two climbing days left before we had to return to Bristol, we decided to head back to Sennen to finish off the remaining 7 ticklist routes at the crag. We arrived to find the place once again deserted, and decided , as the tide was coming in, to begin with the only tidal route on the agenda, Slippery Slab. The route started up a greasy corner before making a very long and rather challenging step across onto the eponymous slab. All that remained above was six or seven metres of thin crack up the slab to the top, but this took Oli rather a long time to work his way up. When I followed him up I found that this was because almost every move was 5a. Hmmm. Not a good route for a warm up. Or much of a VS for that matter.

When we got back to the base of the crag, all of the world had appeared from somewhere, and there was barely a free route in sight. But after wondering what one of these upstart climbers was doing staring at me, I suddenly realised I knew a whole load of them from Sheffield. Very random.

Civvy Route

The rest of the day's routes passed by largely without incident, with The Arete being particularly worthy of note for its aceness, and The Letterbox for it's sandbagness. The hordes didn't get in our way too much, and we did get to witness a very impressive ascent of Samson Arete at the end of the day. To top things off we retired to John, Mike, Nina and the gang's rather swanky seafront cottage in Sennen village for tea and biscuits (very convivial) before dropping into the chippie in St Just. After stuffing our faces full of tasty deep fried goodness we set off in the pandazoid for Dartmoor, and managed to locate our favourite gorse bush near the Dewerstone to camp under. Just as we were drifting off to sleep we heard a mysterious galloping and whinnying noise go thumping past the tent. Clearly a ghost horse.

Thursday was sunny, but rather breezy, so we stuck with our plan to go the Dewerstone, rather than adventuring around the windswept tors. This was in spite of Oli's debilitating fear of Climber's Clib Direct (he doesn't like jamming), which was my number one objective. The place was deserted when we arrived, so we yomped up a 4 pitch VDiff in 2 pitches to warm up. It was warm in the sun, and the shade was rapidly retreating from the main wall, so it was time to man up and do battle with the crack. It looked alluringly simple from below, just one stiff pull round an overhang, to an immediate rest, then easier angled climbing above. How hard could it be?

5 minutes later I was fighting desperately to make my fists stick somewhere in the unhelpfully wide crack. I had one good jam, but it was with the wrong hand, and every time I tried to release it to swap hands I started falling backwards. Eventually I somehow cammed my knuckles into a slight construction and swam upwards in search of salvation. Joyously it arrived where the crack narrowed again to a useful width, and I caught my breath and surveyed my wounds. I was bleeding from both hands, one elbow and one ankle. Must have been a good fight. The rest of the pitch turned out to be a whole lot friendlier, even the intimidating roof was endowed with bountiful jugs, and I was soon perched atop the belay pedestal wondering where all the other climbers were. The only logical conclusion I could draw was that they had all been eaten in a zombie apocalypse overnight, and that only the protection of the ghost horse had saved us.

Sadly I couldn't quite see Oli's efforts, but I was thoroughly disappointed when he appeared above the crux, in one piece and not covered in blood. The top pitch started off easily enough, but finished with another slightly-too-wide-for-comfort thrash in a glorious position at the top of the crag. Great stuff. After 8 days of solid climbing we were both pretty exhausted by this stage, so I abandoned my vague aspirations of climbing Fruitflancase (another jamming testpiece, but at E1 this time) and found less taxing entertainment by running both pitches of Mucky Gully together to give 48 metres of Diff goodness. We finished the holiday on Route B, which had a sensationally positioned top pitch, and seemed a fitting end to proceedings. On returning to the car park we were greeted by the sight of a car mysteriously parked in the middle of the road. Yet more evidence of the Devonian zombie apocalypse.

The nefarious work of the undead