Having got midged off Stanage this evening (grrr), it seems opportune to bring things up to date with my recent mini-adventures.
Bimbling At Birchen:
In spite of a mildly ominous forecast I managed to persuade Adam to chance our arms one evening and pay Birchen a visit. I managed to make amends for an oversight on my last visit and did Nelson's Slab with the correct finish, and Monument Gully Buttress, which looked hard, but was made easier by successive lying down, sitting, kneeling and knee bar rests. Dan, Jen and Rich turned up, and we kept them amused with Adam's, and then my travails on Saltheart Foamfollowed, a short but rather brutal (and terrifying) HVS. Dan then returned the entertainment favour by managing to fall off the route before he'd even left the ground. After soloing a few things it got dark, although not before Dan had almost got himself stuck inside the crag. He's like some kind of dangerous genius, that boy.
Dan making it all look very easy...
After a rather excellent barbecue/party down in Lichfield I woke up with a bit of a hangover, and an ankle that was still feeling a bit sprained from a footballing mishap the previous Wednesday. In spite of this I thought I'd just stop by at Harborough on the way home to get some fresh air. About 90 minutes after parking up I was back at my car having soloed 30 routes in glorious sunshine. My ankle didn't feel particularly sore, so I thought I'd pay a visit to Windgather and see if I could make it up to 50 for the day. I got a little bit carried away and somehow managed 45 more routes to leave me on 75 for the day (as well as one rubbish non-route where I misread the guidebook). I still felt pretty fresh, and could certainly have managed another 25 to push me over into the magical century, but it was late and I was hungry, so I went home and ate cake instead. Oddly, in spite of feeling fine that evening I spent the next 3 days aching like an old man. Oh well. If it doesn't kill you it can only make you stronger...
Feeling a bit sluggish after an appointment with Godspeed You! Black Emperor's wall of sexy noise the night before, I needed something unusually silly to persuade me to go out climbing instead of having an early night. After a little deliberation I struck upon the idea of trying to repeat Herford's Girdle Traverse at Castle Naze. Allegedly the original girdle after which all others are but pale imitations I'd always stayed away for fear that it was a bit anti-social, but how many people would there be on a muggy Wednesday evening?
We rocked up at the crag to discover a few other climbers there (as well as all of the midges), but Dan and I didn't let this put us off and duly set off. The guide is somewhat vague about the exact line to take, so we explored a few blind alleys, and had more than a few issues with rope drag. After 3 pitches I could see the end of the crag, but this was getting harder in the gathering gloom. Dan set off towards the reputed crux, and, after trying to force his own route across an overhanging wall, he followed the guidebook and teetered around onto Keep Arete and tiptoed across the eponymous scoop of Scoop Face. There was little in the way of gear (in spite of have some friends on the ground throw some extra small wires at him, I think they quite enjoyed that) so I suspect we were both fairly relieved when Dan found some gear and a belay, with apparently easy ground remaining. I had my headtorch passed up to me, discovered that the batteries needed changing, but thankfully managed to recruit some nearby spotlights holders to point out the holds. Eventually I managed not to fall off, and scrambled across to the finish line. I then spent a few minutes stumbling aimlessly around the top of the crag trying to find a belay before I almost fell over a suitable stake. I brought Dan over and we retreated back to the car feeling a mixture of elation, relief and amusement at having managed to get benighted on a crag less than 15m high.