Sunday, 21 August 2011

Squeeze Chimneys, Rain And Rather Too Much Limestone Part 3

In the middle of the night, in Eric's field, Simon and I were woken by a rather bold fox, which had taken a shine to the cool box in our porch. Shining a torch in its face had little effect, but shouting at it seemed to have done the trick. We moved all of the food inside the tent and went back to sleep, only to be woken again a few minutes later by the fox trying to eat its way through the tent into the cool box (there wasn't even anything particularly exciting in it). I instinctively lept at the raging beast in my sleeping bag and let out a blood curdling roar. At least that's what I imagined. Simon claims I rolled about a bit and went "Rar" in a slightly camp manner. Either way we eventually persuaded the animal to take its attentions elsewhere.

The next day dawned much wetter than we had been promised. And after extensive forecast consultation we were forced to accept that the only hope for dry rock lay at the other end of Wales in the Wye Valley. We set out driving and about 27 hours later arrived at the top of Wintour's Leap (via a rather tasty steak baguette in Rhaeyadr and an awesome old school gear shop in Crickhowell), where it was gloriously not raining. We high-tailed it down to the base of the crag and yomped up Left-Hand Route (which had a rather unpleasantly shiny crux) and Bacchanalian, with its unique finish in somebody's garden.

The next day it was raining again, so we decided to explore 1km long abandoned railway tunnel under Ban-y-Gor which the guidebook mentioned. After some fun and games trying to locate the entrance to the tunnel, we were in. The tunnel was far from straight, so it wasn't long before we were in total darkness. After what seemed like an eternity we eventually reached the other end and looped back via the majesterial tottering choss of Tintern Quarry for a celebratory pub lunch.

Goodbye daylight...

After this the rain had stopped, so we nipped up Zelda (which was slightly underwhelming for a three star route, but perhaps I just don't like Wintour's and it's shiny quarried nonsense) and then retreated to the campsite for a barbecue.

The next day was forecast to be dry, so we got up early and made a beeline for Shorn Cliff. We both got on with the unquarried, non-shiny, hold and gear infested limestone, and had a thoroughly excellent day. I led the 3 classic HVSs I'd not led on my last visit (although not Tiger's Don't Cry, that looks nails), and managed to persuade/bully/chide/harass Simon into leading The Laughing Cavaliers as his first proper HVS. Bo.

The next day was Saturday, so we decided to head back Sheffieldwards. The Roaches provided a convenient stopping-off point and the forecast rain even stayed away for once. We began with a gentle saunter up the uber-classic VS Valkyrie, which I'd somehow failed to climb on every previous visit. After a slightly damp first pitch, Simon tackled the crux flake with gusto (and some comedy faces and mild hyper-ventilation) and impressed some watching passers-by.

Continuing the general classic theme I led Technical Slab with the excitingly green (but thankfully very easy) Neb Finish, Simon led Brown and Whillans' Aqua and I had fun with juggy flakes on the ironically named Runner Route. We finished the day with a tussle with Calcutta Crack (comically undergraded at Severe in the BMC guide) and another Left-Hand Route, then an epic-pizza-y win.

Simon enjoying the greenery on the Neb Finish

The final day of our trip involved yet more limestone. We were joined by J-Rowe and team Lewis at Ravensdale, where everything is buffed to a high sheen. I did lead a rather delightful jamming crack and a pretty tricky HVS. Simon lost all psyche and ran away back to London, so James and I moved to the main buttress and finished the day with a fun jaunt up the mega-polished Medusa. I had particular fun protecting the second pitch entirely with hexes. Old Skool.

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