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.
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.
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...