Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Season O'The Grit

Friday promised a perfect forecast and actually delivered for once. Sunshine and perfect temperatures for the gritstone. Young master Oswald and I went to the Plantation for some routes and very nice it was too. James got the ball rolling with a smooth ascent of Left Unconquerable, which was fairly straightforwards, but quite steep. I then got stuck into Wall Buttress, a saucy looking wide crack which is rumoured to be HVS. It turned out to be exactly the width of my fists, so very little struggling was required. I was glad to have a daft number of large cams with me all the same.

Namenlos was next, and felt pretty soft for E1. James did impress me by placing four cams in the crucial break, which puts even my gear profligacy to shame. Good effort. I was dead keen for Billiard Buttress, but there was somebody on it, so I had a bash at a random HVS called Parasite. It was pretty easy, although the moves to the ledge at half height were protected only by two lobes of a cam, with a ground fall in prospect if/when that failed, so HVS felt fair. A quick whiz up Pegasus Rib (nice, but eliminate to stick to the arete near the top instead of following the obvious holds out left) and we were below Valhalla, a ticklist VS which looked like it might involve laybacking. Thankfully it was actually just a jamming crack, so went fairly easily.

Our last route of the day was the well named Nuke The Midges, featuring a short traverse and then some kind of pop for a flat just followed by a stylish mantel. There was only one opportunity to place gear, so James again stuffed four cams next to each other, before styling it out to the top. I seconded with slightly less panache, but then 5c moves can be quite hard. All in all a very good day. Nothing below 5a and only the crux of Nuke The Midges had actually felt hard. A reminder that HVS and E1 on grit can actually be reasonable sometimes. As long as we aren't talking Higgar or Ramshaw of course...

Monday, 24 October 2011

Grades, Grades, Grades

Friday was forecast to be dry, so Jaime and I hatched a plan to climb some rocks. Nobody had told the weather about the forecast, so I awoke to some thoroughly de-psyching dampness. Everywhere. Bah. We arranged to scuttle off to The Works instead, but a last minute reprieve was had when things actually started to dry off. A rendezvous at Apparent North for some bouldering was arranged, where we discovered that everything was a bit windy, so we sought the shelter of the Plantation.

Passing underneath Crescent Arete (every time I walk past this it looks harder and higher) we found a nice spot with a bunch of V0s which we duly crushed. I even managed a ridiculously eliminate V3 with a spot of high stepping and some heinous mantelling. Grrr. The easier problems all felt very easy, except for a thuggy little number which involved monkeying along a jug rail with your feet dangling in space. I managed this, although not without accidentally fly-kicking Jaime in the process.

Jaime pulling some shapes

We stopped by the Lone Boulder where Jaime finally defeated her nemesis 6a slab and I managed to haul myself up some overhanging bollocks V0 5a which I've failed on before. It still felt desperate, but at least I don't have to do it again. Jaime didn't help by somehow making it look very easy. Boo to that sort of thing. I got my own back with some ridiculous mantling (and a small amount of chin-rock-interface) from the start of the Green Traverse.

We finished off with a little play on the ironically named Pebble. I scared myself going up the descent, which didn't bode well, but managed to man up enough to get to the top of a few other easy problems before the line of Delivarete caught my eye. V1 5c from standing, which looked ok, or a hard sounding V4 6b from sitting. Now I can't haul my ass off the ground for toffee, so this felt ambitious, but I had a go anyway. A few seconds later I seemed to have achieved a standing position without trying very hard. Another few seconds and I was at the top. Hmm. V4 6b you say? This would make it only my second ever 6b move, and my first V4 onsight. If only it hadn't felt several orders of magnitude easier I'd be really chuffed. Instead I'm just annoyed that it's so over-graded. Grumble grumble. Still, it was a nice problem I suppose.

Jaime figuring out the start to Delivarete

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Man + Limestone = Win (for once)

This weekend was the 3rd annual mid-late October Pembroke adventure spectacular. Just the thing to help me get over the fact that Autumn is depressing and wet and windy. I headed down on Thursday with Julie and Andy and, thanks to some excellent planning, we arrived just in time for it to get dark. Hmmm. We celebrated our skills with dinner in the St Govan's Inn, which made everything a bit more ace.

In the middle of the night DrDanDanDan arrived, so he joined in the communal psyche in the morning when everything looked grey and wet. My insistence that the crags would be dry and sunny was roundly ignored and we skulked around for ages until we ran out of skulk and had to head to the crag just to see if I was right. It turned out I was (I ALWAYS AM) so we abbed into St Govan's and wandered around looking for some inspiration. The start of The Arrow looked a bit damp, so I opted for Tactician instead, which was a good call. The crux was tricky, but I used my mad bridging skills to get a rest in the middle of it, and the remainder was great. Proper, chunky corner climbing with lots of gear (21 bits to be precise). Oddly it's given E1 in the new CC guide, which gave me a dilemma, as it was clearly only HVS. I do like E points though...

Julie on Tactician at St Govan's

Next up, determined to shun all of the good looking, clean, inspiring lines, Dan chose a filthy looking unstarred VS. It turned out to be filthy, hard and polished, but he seemed to enjoy himself all the same. I finished the day off with a brief tussle with Front Line's rather unreasonably imposing first move, which ended with some very elegant ledge-beaching antics. The brilliant exposed upper groove made it very worthwhile (and a touch harder than Tactician, but still definitely HVS).

Simon and Frank (who was a surrogate Claire for the weekend as she's busy being broken at the moment, sadface) had joined us by the time we found ourselves marching over to The Castle in the sunshine on Saturday morning. We spent a good few hours having fun on Spink wall (except for on the eponymous VS, when I unreasonably had to lay one some distance above gear, bah) before Dan stepped it up with a pleasant little HVS and I thought that maybe it was time to stop prevaricating and actually climb Lucky Strike.

Dan was incredibly psyched about the idea of abseiling into a ledge from which the easiest escape was given E2 in the CC guide, a grade neither of us had led, and which involved an awful lot of traversing. Still, to his credit he followed me down the ab rope instead of running away. To say I was a little apprehensive would be an understatement, but these routes don't climb themselves, so I took a deep breath and set off across the initial traverse. A hop, skip and a 5b move later and I had the start of the juggy flake line in my hands. It was in the bag. Except I was quite pumped and this next move didn't look very easy...

A quick word with myself and a little bit of trying rather hard and I flailed elegantly upwards at what I hoped was a good sidepull. A few more pushy feeling moves and I had a sort of rest. Phew. I celebrated by placing 4 bits of gear. Just in case. The sea did look quite unfriendly after all. Some easier moves led up past a series of incrementally better rests to an actual jam. Whoop. Not much further to the top. Up the crack, cram some gear in, sling a dubious, but obviously well furtled little spike, getting a bit pumped again now, juggy undercut, feet up, grab the top, gurn like an idiot, slap around desperately for some bigger holds, paste my feet around aimlessly, for the love of god don't fall off now, more desperate slapping, these holds feel good enough, feet up and lo, I was at the top. What a route. Another Littlejohn wunder-route. Dan managed to make it all look a bit easier on second than I'd have liked, which was a bit unreasonable. Bastard. Sadly I don't think it was really an E2's worth of effort, so I'm inclined to agree with everybody else I know who's done it, all of whom agree it's E1. Shame, I'd like an E2 tick...

I'm alive!

The evening brought a celebratory steak and a fair amount of beer back in the St Govan's. Mmm.

It rained overnight, but it was dry and sunny in the morning, so Dan and I abseiled into Trevellan to humour me and my desire to climb The Hole (how could you not?). I'd been put off the direct start by rumours in the Rockfax guide of 5c moves, so I took the pansy left-hand option (at a mere 5b). After a little bit of trying hard again and about 13 runners in 10 metres I reached the fabled hole. Like some kind of jug-infested chimney of win inside the crag, it was totally brilliant. A pretty unique route. Why can't all climbs be topologically non-trivial?

It was now definitely Dan's lead, so we moseyed across to St Govan's East and he romped up the very pleasant corner cracks of Ganymede. At this point we both fancied a go at the very aesthetic arete of Rear Wind (fnar fnar), so Dan borrowed Frank as a sacrificial belayer and I set off up the neigbouring HVS with Simon. I had failed to notice quite how steep the route was until I was half-way up it, which was exciting. Luckily there was a sit-down rest on which to compose myself, and all of the jugs in the world, so it was all ok. The top out was a bit harrowing, mind. As was constructing the belay out of small rocks, grass and optimism.

Frank looking unusually uptight on Rear Wind...

Dan soon joined me at the top of the crag and proclaimed his route to have been very good and not too hard. A very satisfactory combination. Sadly the appointed hour of our departure had arrived, so I had to confine it to my ever-growing list of Pembroke psyche. Normally I go to Pembroke with a list of routes I want to do as long as my arm, climb none of them because they're all a bit hard, and end up coming home with an even longer list. This time I actually manned up and climbed some of them, but saw at least twice as many new inspiring routes. Oh dear. I really need to learn to climb E2 properly and then come back. It all looks so ace...

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

50, 900 And The Grandest Line On Grit

So, somehow I've managed to whitter on enough to reach 50 blog posts. Yay me.

Anyway, today I escaped the wind at Turning Stone Edge with Dan (who was preparing for his imminent viva by working hard). We had a pretty productive day, which included some minimal faff leading of Overton Arete by Dan, a rather nice VS featuring an abundance of silly rockovers. He also managed to make pretty short work of an HVS slab (eek).

Sadly I didn't take up the challenge as all the other HVSs looked steep and frightening, but I did manage my 900th ticklist route, Amber Arete, which was very nice. I also lead the rather wonderful Vee Chimney, which Dan particularly enjoyed seconding. A proper classic of its type, and somehow denied the three stars it clearly deserves. Outrageous.

We finished our day out with a visit to the nearby Cocking Tor (fnar fnar) for a quick new crag point hit. The crag features only one sub-extreme route, the unstarred and inspiringly named Short Corner. When we fought our way through the bracken to the base of the crag we found a line of untold majesty rising from the greenery.


Somehow I mustered the courage to confront the magnificent corner head on, and against the odds I succeeded. As if enraged by my effrontery the heavens opened immediately, but too late, I had won. Whoop.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Some Things What I Did Yesterday

1) Ached like a bastard
2) Spent the better part of an hour trying to heckle Dan up the awkward start to Martello Buttress (to no avail)
3) Led The Nose (no, not that one), it was pumpy and bloody hard work
4) Had an amazing ginger beer/lemon and lime toffee flapjack combo from the van in the Plantation car park
5) Had some old school chimney fun in Tower Gully
6) Laughed at Jaime's amazing ropework skills
7) Finally tried Helfenstein's Struggle and didn't get stuck. It was almost disappointingly easy
8) Climbed some things I'd found hard a long time ago and found them easy. Hurrah.
9) Watched Pete & The Pirates at the Leadmill, they were ace, but it seems about 75% of all of their fans are total fucknuts. There should be some kind of embargo on bad people liking good bands. And I should be in charge of administrating it. With a big stick.

So, not a bad day :)

Jaime's ropework 101