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...