Friday, 30 September 2011

Summer's Here Kids

Now it's almost October and summer has finally poked its head above the parapet for a few days, it seemed rude not to make use of it and do some climbing. Unfortunately Dan was suffering a bout of sport-climbing induced man-flu, so I set off on my own on a quest for some esoteric low-grade bouldering.

After wandering across some beautiful moorland in glorious sunshine I arrived at Rabbit Warren. The crag was small, but appealing, and there was even an alluring offwidth. I spent a pleasant few hours climbing most of the easy problems and managing not to bottle out of some of the slightly highball finishes. Whoop. I had a quick bite to eat and turned my attentions to the appealing undercut prow of The Tomb. Depending which guide I believed this was either well within my abilities (V1 5c) or far too hard for me (font 6b+). In the end I managed to climb it in two sections, but failed to link them into each other. It was a nice problem though, maybe even justifying a return visit with some motivational hecklers.

The esoteric delights of Rabbit Warren

On returning to the car I was disappointed at the lack of the promised ice cream van, but once I'd got over this I drove up the road and struck out through some man-eating bracken and shin-destroying heather towards Harland Edge. The guide had warned of an arduous approach in summer and they weren't wrong. Eventually I reached some rock, and promptly got totally spanked by a V0 fist-jamming crack. After the loss of much blood and much cursing I finally hauled myself up it. Grrr.

A bit more bracken-wrestling took me to the main event, an impressive little buttress which could have escaped from Slipstones. Unfortunately it didn't appear to have many holds and I was sweltering in the heat, so I could only summon the beans for one problem, but it would definitely be worth another visit with spotters and better conditions.

Harland Edge

After a recuperative drink in the Robin Hood, and a brief wander down to Stump Hole Cavern (which was damp and a bit spooky, but the eponymous problem looked good), I huffed and puffed my way up to Birchen. After an hour or so of soloing and easy bouldering (that still felt very hard) Adam, Kate and the hound arrived. Adam provided the necessary motivation and heckling to persuade myself up some of the problems on Copenhagen Wall which have always evaded me. In return I tried to persuade him up the comically graded VS 5c right-hand version of Camperdown Crawl. He got as far as furtling the crucial holds before deciding better of it and bravely running away.

So, by this stage I ached a lot and had absolutely no skin left on my fingers. So obviously we went to the Works for a couple of hours. Surprisingly I actually managed to do a few problems, but I'm paying for it now. I feel like I've been in a fight. With a bear. Made of grit.

So obviously I'm just off out climbing again (well, it is sunny...).

Monday, 26 September 2011

Leeds, Home Of Rain

Availing myself of my new-found part-time working status (and before the part-time studying kicks in properly) I moseyed on up to Yorkshire on Friday. My attempts to locate a random internet belayer had failed, so I headed to Brimham for a spot of bouldering. Within about 10 minutes I was pumped, had no skin left on the backs of my hands and had already backed off the top out of a V0-. Twice. On the plus side I met a random old dude who was quite cool, and who confirmed that Thunder Crack at Ash Head Crag is going to be HVS in the upcoming Yorkshire Grit guide (see previous whinging on this blog if you need to know why that matters).

I wandered over to the cubic block where the winning continued when I fell of a 4c traverse. Twice. I got it in the end, but it felt about 5b. Deary me. I lowered my expectations and soloed a Severe and a Diff and moved on. I cast a fearful glance at Acme Wall on the way past, before happening upon a very low roof with a V3 6a through the middle of it. The whole problem was less than 6ft high, which seemed ideal for my massive height-induced lameness which afflicts me whenever I go bouldering on my own, so I thought I'd see if I could still climb 6a. After a number of inglorious failures I promised myself a cup of tea if I could haul my talentless arse up the problem. This did the trick, and lo, a V3 tick for me.

The V3 roof of enormo-win

After a very enjoyable cup of tea and some soup from the deserted cafe I soloed a few more easy routes (including a delightful thrutchy chimney) and bottled the top out of another V0 before deciding it was time to move on.

Ilkley seemed like a suitable choice of venue, since I'd never climbed there and it was vaguely on the way to Leeds. After the shock of finding the crag swarming with Americans I soloed a couple of VDiffs in the quarry and a couple of ticklist routes over at Rocky Valley, including the delightful Long Chimney from the Yorkshire 3 star list of justice. Everything else was a bit green, so I drove to Caley, where I wrestled with some man-eating bracken and marvelled at the size of the so-called boulders. I also ticked a couple of easy boulder problems to ensure I could claim another new crag point, before pootling to Julie and Andy's in Leeds for some marvellous soup.

The wondrous Horsehold Scout

The forecast was indecisive for Saturday, so Andy and I decided it was definitely the right weather for Pen-Y-Ghent. We drove to the car park, got as far as sticking our noses out of the car and decided that the rain and wind were not conducive to a mountain crag. So we drove to Hebden Bridge via Kilnsey and Skipton and spent a while bashing aimlessly around in the woods looking for the mythical Horsehold Scout. Eventually we found it, and it was dry. Unfortunately it was also very lichenous, but this didn't stop Andy, who soloed the "classic" of the crag, Greensleeves (another list of justice route). He seemed to have survived so I followed him up it and we promptly ran away, not fancying any more esoteric nonsense.

Widdop was our next target, specifically Artificial Route, yet another route from the list of justice. We arrived to find a gang of invading OAPs from Lancashire, but we scared them off and struck out towards the glaring luminosity that was apparently the crag. The route takes an ethically dubious line of chipped holds up an otherwise very difficult slab, before sneaking off round the side at the top. It was slightly damp and a little bit green, so I had no problem with Andy racking up and leading the thing. He climbed quickly until the last move when he decried the finishing chips as insufficient and was punished with some rain. After he manned up I bravely followed, and we ran away. Again. In the rain on the way back we decided to check out the slightly esoteric Mytholm Steep Quarry. It was a less than overwhelming spot, but did contain an awesome looking HVS corner crack, Revolution, which definitely warrants a return visit after a dry spell.

Not all Yorkshire esoterica is shit, see...

In spite of a more promising forecast it rained on Sunday. It always rains in Leeds. We went to The Depot and I was mostly a weakling with sore hands. Yay me.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

An Eventful Day Off

I had one day's holiday to take before the end of the month, so with a sunny forecast and Dan being an unemployed dole-scrounger, I arranged to meet him at Stanage this morning with a plan. The plan was to try and solo 100 routes, and/or 1 vertical kilometer. I had prepared myself well, by running around a football pitch last night and giving myself huge blisters on both feet, but I was keen to have a go and see what happened.

We started at Apparent North, where we quickly established that there were midges. Everywhere. Bah. Anyway, we soloed 3 routes and wandered on to the start of the Popular End, where Dan remembered he'd left his lunch in the car. Whilst he was retrieving it I got going, and had reached nearly 20 routes by the time he got back. The midges were pretty insufferable, but at least the top of the crag was mostly bearable. This did, however, lead me to spend rather too much time sitting at the top of the crag, and not enough time climbing. This was made evident when I reached 34 routes and stopped for a ginger beer break and a bit of food, only to notice that it was actually lunch time. Before then, though, I managed to extract a stuck cam from one of the Black Hawk routes. Booty for me - whoop.

By lunchtime my feet were starting to hurt, but I soldiered on like the hero that I am. The midges were a bit more manageable, although still lurking in the odd crack. The crag was actually fairly busy, which sometimes meant not being able to solo the routes I wanted. At one point I volunteered to solo a Diff after the elderly second was unable to follow it, and take out the leader's gear. By was of reward he donated me the hex he'd found buried in the route. Doppelbounty.

Soon I reached 50 routes, but by now could barely walk in my rock shoes, and was beginning to feel pretty tired. I had some more food and ginger beer, which helped for a while, but it seemed inevitable that I wouldn't make anywhere near the 100 target. I made it to the 2 thirds marker, then did another route for luck, but after 68 routes and 715m of climbing, I had to give in and call it a day.

So, what have I learnt? Well, 100 routes is a lot. Stanage is quite big. Ginger beer is ace. Next time (and there will be a next time) I should choose a cooler day with less midges, and not break my feet the evening before. Oh, and crag booty is awesome.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Still More Rain

Sunny Stanage

So, after being rained off Stanage twice in as many weeks (the second of which involved seconding Dan up a route in the rain and a howling gale, mmm) it felt like I was due some good fortune with the weather. Heading to North Wales last weekend for Oli's 30th Birthday festivities, it looked like I might need some. After a strange night in a teepee and no small amount of faff, Oli, Kim, Mark and Tom drove to Ogwen, and bashed our way up through the heather to the foot of Craigiau'r Dena, Milestone Buttress's more rambling little brother. It was damp and windy, 2 of the 5 of us had never climbed before, and this was generally a stupid plan.

Not one to let stupidity be an obstacle to adventures, I set off up the first pitch in damp trainers. I decided to frighten the non-climbers by making it look really hard, so I busted out some extreme bridging and a bit of desperate scrabbling, before hauling myself inelegantly onto a heathery ledge and belaying. Everyone made it up with a depressingly small amount of flailing and a thoroughly disappointing lack of failure, but in the meantime the rain had really started laying it on thick and we were all pretty sodden. Seeing as we were on a big ledge we could easily walk down from, and a party ahead of us (we weren't the only idiots out that day) had just backed off the second pitch citing extreme wetness and general terror, we decided to sack it in and head for the lure of the Alpine Cafe in Betws.

Here we spent several hours drinking tea and eating cake, whilst the sun taunted us by beating down outside. Eventually after a few false starts I mustered a party of intrepid adventurers and we stomped up toward Clogywn Cyrau to try and grab a quick route before dinner. Things didn't go well when we managed to lose each other in the woods below the crag, and then as we were trying to reconvene the heavens opened. We made it to the base of our target route just to check, but it really was soaking, so we ran away to the pub and tried to drink away the trauma.

The forecast for Sunday was possibly even worse, so we went for a wander round Llangollen. After some unfathomably complex lunch bill-division, and some awesome whisky fudge, we managed to negotiate with the women to go to World's End and climb one route (and one route only). Although the weather was dry, I was almost certain that as soon as we reached the crag it would start raining yet again. This wasn't helped when the short drive to get there took ages, and then we had to walk down a big hill only to walk back up it again. Boo.

See, it really was sunny!

Improbably as we approached the crag the sun came out. As Alistair hadn't climbed anything for over a year, we set our sights on a ticklist VDiff appropriately called Incompetence. It looked like a chimney, but other than a classy sit-down rest the climbing was pretty conventional. The holds were pretty polished, but it was still quite fun and it was novel to be on a dry crag (although having to put on damp rock shoes was distinctly unpleasant). Also, and maybe most importantly, not only was this a new crag point, but a new guidebook point. I think that just leaves Jersey, Portland, Swanage, Nescliffe, Cloggy, Cwm Silyn and Arran and Arrochar of the British guides I've not climbed in.

Sunday, 4 September 2011


Other than an abandoned attempt to climb on Stanage in the rain (owing to Dan's optimism in the face of overwhelming forecast-shaped evidence of impending rain), it's been a quiet few weeks. Yesterday I had a free afternoon, and it wasn't raining, so I joined Adam, J-Rowe and Hazel at Stanage End.

Adam approaching the roof of amusement (and no holds)

I soloed a few routes to get back in the swing of things, including The Crab Crawl, which is a slab. With smearing and shit. I nearly died. Impressed with my display of manliness James talked himself up to Incursion. He made short work of it, and it didn't feel too arduous on second. Which was odd for a 5b gritstone slab. I decided to see if this was a fluke, but managed to lead 2 VS slabs with plenty of moaning, but no actual terror.

At this stage Jen, Rich and then Dan turned up, and Rich proceeded to lead Incursion without too much epic terror. So, after a brief interlude enjoying Adam's travails on a rather hard looking roof, I though I perhaps ought to man up and lead Incursion. So I did. It was a little bit scary, but I put my faith in the pebble of justice and it was all good. Whoop.

Rich cruising Incursion

Who knows what this means now. I'm hoping it was a one-off, otherwise I might turn into some kind of slab climbing fairy...