After nearly a month of attempting to rest my elbows, which seems to have had a negligible effect, I gave up and decided to just avoid steep things. With this in mind, after a late-night weather forecast consultation on Thursday night, I headed down to Oli and Anna's palace of unearthly delights in Keynsham, near Bristol. The forecast was good for Saturday, so we were a little annoyed when we woke up to pouring rain. We were even more annoyed when we checked the met office rain radar to discover that it was raining on every crag within 2 hours drive, and NOWHERE ELSE. Stupid bloody weather.
Eventually we decided that the Wye Valley might be slightly less damp than anywhere else, so we drove over the Severn Bridge to Wintour's Leap. It had stopped raining by the time we got there, and the crag even looked dryish, so we took a stab at Central Rib Route I, a 4 pitch Severe. Other than a couple of small patches of seepage the route was dry, and rather pleasant. There was even some weird flowstone stuff on the second pitch. Oli ran the last 2 pitches together in a bid to get to lunch quicker, but miscalculated slightly and ended up finishing up the final 4c pitch of the adjacent VS. Never mind.
Wintour's Leap in the sunshine.
After some crucial quiche sandwiches we scrambled back down to the bottom of the crag. Nibelheim, our intended route, was covered in other people, so we nipped up Joe's Route, another ticklist VS round the corner. I led the first pitch, which was fairly scrappy, but the second pitch was very pleasant if a little bold. Oli did manage to kick off a house brick sized hold at one point, but this was a mere trifle, and we were soon back at the bottom of the crag again. By this time Nibelheim was clear, so we bambered up it, with a brief exciting moment when I tried to take the crux overlap a little too directly. By the time we got back to the car it was time to retire to the pub for victory ginger beer, so we did just that.
We slightly miscalculated how much red wine it was sensible to drink that evening, so Sunday morning was a fairly sedate affair until we eventually got going with the addition of some bacon and eggs. The forecast predicted mid-afternoon showers, but the Mendips looked less showery than elsewhere, so we decided to go end explore the banned Holcombe Quarries before somebody gets round to filling them in. After a bit of aimless wandering around a very pleasant forest, we found ourselves in the middle of Holcombe 2, which was pretty massive and had a fair bit of climbing in it, but it wasn't what we were after. We crossed over the road, through a hole in a fence, past a large number of signs warning us to keep out, and through another hole in another fence into the biggest quarry I think I've ever seen. The walls never reach more than about 30m high, but the base of the quarry must be about 750m x 200m. Unfortunately most of the rock is bobbins, but some of it is actually solid.
The Unbridled Majesty of Holcombe 1.
We started with the principal reason for our visit, an anomalously graded Severe which was actually just a sports climb (with the might grade of F3+), that somebody had given 2 stars to. This meant it qualified for the ticklist in spite of actually being a sports route, so it had to be done. Unsurprisingly it wasn't terribly inspiring, but it was pleasant enough. As we'd made the effort to visit the crag we felt we should do something else, so we both led Fit For The Future a bolted VS which was actually quite fun, but a bit harder than VS would suggest.
This was enough immorality for one morning, so we headed back to Stoke St. Michael for a drink and to take in the splendour of the village duck race. Then we drove a mile or so to Fairy Cave Quarry for some more traditional climbing. The promised showers were threatening to soak us, but I started up the crag's classic VS, Rob's Crack all the same. It was brilliant, engaging, well-protected slabby crack climbing, and by the time I'd got to the top the threatening clouds had wandered off elsewhere. Aceness.
Duck Race! Feel The Excitement.
We tried to up the ante by laying siege to a 2 pitch HVS, but it turned out to be one of the famous Fairy Cave soft touches, and was actually easier than Rob's Crack. In trying to descend back to our bags we found ourselves at the bottom of the crag's other ticklist route, Real Men Do East Quiche (and, as we know, they certainly do), so I nipped up it quickly while we were there. As you lower off from a fixed anchor at the top of the route, before we pulled the rope down, we decided to have a brief play on an E2 5c which took a line directly up to the anchor. The crux was a short, holdless groove near the start, from which a fall on lead would see you coming dangerously close to the ground, so neither of us really fancied trying to lead it. Besides which, we'd already compromised our souls in the morning, so a little more moral turpitude hardly seemed like a big deal. It was quite a fun little problem, which we both flashed. It felt easy enough that I might almost be tempted to lead it if I go back (so perhaps the top-roping can be justified as preparation for a headpoint ascent...).