Tuesday, 23 August 2011
The weather recently has been pretty dry, but this seems to have coincided with a spell of no wind. Having already been midged off Stanage once this month, I was a bit apprehensive when Adam and I went to Curbar last week. There didn't seem to be any in the car park, but I was on guard. We wandered along to the Flying Buttress area, where a couple of two-star VS 5a's lay in wait. My limited experience of Curbar VS 5a's is that they're impossible. Like everything else at Curbar. I was afraid.
Adam took the initiative and set off up Calver Wall, a pleasant wall with a top crack requiring 'hard fingerlocking' or 'insecure laybacking'. Oh goody. Although he made a few harassed noises, and put in more than two bits of gear, Adam didn't seem to take too long, but he did seem to do some laybacking. Eek. I followed, and found the top crack steep and unhelpfully wide (you'd have to be some kind of massive-fingered hero to fingerlock it) as well as a bit steep for comfort. Eventually impending pump forced me to actually do something and I tried Adam's laybacking solution. Distressingly it seemed to work. Must have been a one off. It wasn't easy for 5a though. I think I'd have been upset on the sharp end.
Curbar and Baslow in the evening sun
With this in mind I was pretty apprehensive about Wall Climb (inspired naming). I was promised "surprisingly sustained" climbing, with a comment about tired arms. Double whoop. Somehow I had actually found the only soft touch on all of Curbar, and every move was followed by a rest and gear. I got to the top feeling a bit cheated, especially when a cloud of midges tried to eat my face off whilst I was belaying Adam. Once he was at the top I took full evasive action and engaged full midge lockdown. This left me feeling rather warm whilst belaying Adam on the next route, but the slow massacre of the little buggers as they landed on my hands (the only bit of me they could get to) made me feel a little better.
The next route in question was Baron's Wall, a VS 5b with a Joe Brown pedigree. The start looked hard. Even more so when Adam essentially dynoed for a pocket of unknown goodness and made some pleased sounding grunts when it was good and he didn't fall off again. I was unable (or maybe just unwilling) to replicate his dynamism, but found a desperate static sequence and just managed to tickle my hand into the pocket before I peeled off backwards. 5b my arse. The top crack was fun, but would be stiff for VS on its own. It was kind of reassuring to get back to proper Curbar grading. Unfortunately by this stage the midges were unbearable, so we ran away bravely in the style of Sir Robin.
A few days later we were back out again, but this time I lobbied for an exploratory foray to Stoney Middleton (is there any other kind of foray there?) to see if the fabled midge-repelling properties of limestone were really all they're cracked up to be. It turns out that it isn't all a conspiracy, and there really weren't any midges (hooray). I was super-keen to do Evasor, and Adam graciously/foolishly volunteered to lead the 'poor and sparsely protected' (and totally cack looking) first pitch. He climbed slower than I've ever seen him climb, and spent an awful lot of time moaning about the gear being rubbish and the rock being loose, but eventually he reached the stout tree belay. Only it wasn't very stout, being rotten and full of grass. He didn't seem very happy about this.
Around about this point Kate told me she was sure it was going to rain, and then disappeared off with Tammy the enthusiastic hound. Psyche. The first pitch was indeed rubbish, but at least it wasn't polished (at least I don't think there was any polish under all of the dirt). The second pitch started with a traverse which hadn't looked far from the ground but seemed to go on forever when I was actually there. It was relatively easy, but quite exposed and I was wary of running out of quickdraws.
A terrible photo, but proof of Adam climbing on something that isn't grit!
After a lot of sideways scuttling I looked up to see the corner I was aiming for above me. It looked steep. Very steep. The start seemed to be well-blessed with jugs though, so I hauled on them and found some more jugs and then some more jugs. And then I looked down and realised what the guide was on about when it mentioned VS climbing in an E3 position. Wow. Some more jugs and exposure later (with the crux exactly where it should be) I placed my last quickdraw and tiptoed up the slightly dusty exit to the belay. One of those routes where the first pitch is worth -1 stars, but the second is worth 3, so it averages out at 2. Adam appeared mostly to still be too grumpy about the first pitch to really enjoy himself (although perhaps that was just being on more than 15 metres off the ground), but did begrudgingly admit that it had been quite good.
So, another win for Stoney. I'm almost starting to like the place...