Friday, 25 November 2011

A Chilly Day At Froggatt

Brown's Eliminate looking seductive (but still scary)

The sun was out this morning, but there was a chill wind in the air. Hoping to avoid the worst of it James and I paid a rare (for me at least) visit to Froggatt. The ground was damp on the approach, but the wind had dried the crag off. We warmed up (in a sense) by soloing something easy, before I tested out the coldness situation on Chequers Buttress. I had seconded it some time ago and remembered the crux being a long stretch to the arete. I was somewhat surprised, therefore, to reach the arete easily, but to find some climbing waiting there for me. I reached the top with fingers which were remarkably still warm, good stuff.

For some reason James had convinced himself that Chequers Crack was easier than it's reputation, the guidebook and everybody who's ever climbed it claimed. He was quickly proved wrong and joined the extensive club of people who've tested the gear on the lower crack. After plenty of effort for little reward he found some sequences that worked and reached the midway resting ledge. On second I lost feeling in my fingers rather quickly and managed to quickly reverse to the ground. Twice. At this stage I decided to run away and preserve the onsight (ha ha ha) for another day when it isn't so cold and I'm a much better climber (with somebody else's arms).

Before it all went wrong...

We ran away to the trees to try and escape the baltic wind and I thought I'd tidy up another HVS I'd seconded long ago. A few minutes later I was elegantly applying my knees to overcome the usual grovel onto the block on Tody's Wall. Last time the rock onto the slab had felt like the living end (and I'd had to sacrifice most of the skin of my forearm to ensure success), but it went fairly easily this time and the upper crack was a doddle. Hilariously some people think this is the crux.

James and I both had designs on the adjacent slab of Motorcade, but I was feeling a lot less keen after James had backed off citing hard moves and a potentially long and bouncy fall, so I opted for the hopefully less bold CMC Slab. At HVS you're allowed side runners in the crack of Heather Wall, which came as a welcome relief. Things seemed to be going well, with a little bit of mild smearing, but then I ran into the crux. A bit of self-persuasion was needed, but I managed two whole consecutive thin smears before I lost my bottle and threw my foot far too high onto the nearest proper hold. There then followed a long and painfully slow rockover, before I could desperately snatch at some poor pockets and then the top. Phew.

The sun was getting low in the sky, so James jumped on Strapiombante. Cold hands got in the way of the onsight, but after a short warm he swiftly dispatched the crux. I'm still harbouring the idea that I might lead this one day, so abbed for the gear instead, and finished the day off with a long-overdue solo of Cave Crawl. I'd backed off the start to this several times before, but it felt easy, and the journey into the centre of the crag that followed was well worth the effort. Delightful.

So all in all a successful day (at least for me, James' was less productive), and for the first time in ages I'm keen for a return visit to Froggatt. Who knows, I might even give Three Pebble Slab a go next time...

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Altar Crack At Last

Ever since climbing The File 18 months ago Altar Crack at Rivelin has been playing on my mind. Not only is it the nearest 3 star VS to my house, but it's notable for being one of the few routes that Oli and I have gone to do and both flatly refused to lead because it looks to hard. Oh, and it's a layback crack. I've been to Rivelin so many times that I've climbed everything else there at VS and below (pretty much), so when Mr Oswald somehow persuaded me to go there on Friday, I knew the game was up and I'd have to get on it.

Luckily it's at the far end of the crag, so I ignored it in the hope it might go away or fall down, and climbed Kremlin Krack instead. The guidebook bills it as a "dark delight for the lover of fearsome wriggles", but really it's not too bad. There was barely any thrashing around or offwidthing (or even jamming), and a size 4.5 camalot acted as a convenient mobile toprope for the hard bit. Maybe only VS 5a with one of those?

Anyway, that was a good start. James led the rather hard (and slightly worryingly protected) Left Under, which was good, and then I strangely found myself half way up Fringe Benefit fiddling terrible gear in trying to kid myself unsuccessfully that it might keep me off the distant-looking ground if I muffed the next move. Then it started spitting. Luckily I was on a big ledge and it stopped after 5 minutes or so, so I made the moves and didn't test the gear. The rest (including the not very 5b crux) was easy enough once I'd sorted my footwork out. Another E-point to add to the collection. That's 9 this year I think. I wonder if I can find a 10th in the next month...

Gareth making The Brush Off Look pretty easy

James wasn't persuaded by my mutterings about Roof Route, but he gave the neighbouring Groove Route a go (apparently hard for both 5b and HVS, which makes you wonder why it isn't E1). After trying a lot of duff sequences he used some strategic palming and it all came together. With this beta it felt ok, still 5b but not hard for it, and it was a nice sequence of moves.

Unfortunately that meant I either had to man up sufficiently to do Roof Route (har har) or go and climb Altar Crack. I had a plan of attack for Altar Crack which involved some strategic climbing up, placing gear, then climbing back down. I put this into action and almost fell off on the way up, and again on the way down, getting quite pumped in between. This didn't bode well. I sat on the sacrificial altar for an age sorting my arms out and went for it. I jammed back up to my top bit of gear, stuffed a toe in the crack, stood up, entertained the idea of bridging on some pebbles, started getting quite pumped, stuffed my feet back in the crack, getting more pumped now, here's the horizontal break and here's a jug. Hooray. Only I still didn't have any footholds and I was really pumped. There was an in situ cam by my face but I didn't have the strength to clip it. I wanted to give up and slink off into the undergrowth, but that would only mean I'd have to come back again some other day to do it. So I dug into my hidden reserves of oomph, told myself that my last piece of gear was less far away than it looked, and pressed on upwards. The crack was too thin to even pretend to jam by this stage, so I was forced into a filthy layback. Snatching wildly at the crack with each successive move I managed to run my foot up into the break and with a truly desperate pull managed to get my weight over it and cram as much of my arms as would fit into the friendly break by my face. I placed considerably more gear than was necessary, stepped up and threw myself inelegantly over the top of the crag.

Altar Crack ate my hands...

Unlike The File, or any number of other routes I've climbed, which have felt like a desperate fight at the time, Altar Crack wasn't even type II fun. Whenever I think about it I'm just filled with an enormous sense of relief that I don't have to go anywhere near that sodding climb ever again. And a slight satisfaction, I guess, that I managed to press on and really go for it when it felt like failure was imminent.

I finished the day by tarnishing things slightly after refusing to second James up Ring Of Roses, an HVS traverse. In my defence though he did make it look like the hardest thing in the world (and this was borne out when I inspected the holds whilst abseiling for gear to discover that they were largely illusory). Bloody good lead that man.

For a change of scenery I spent a few hours on Sunday afternoon at Burbage South with Adam, Kate and the enthusiastic hound, bouldering in the sunshine. Somehow we ended up doing a lot of scrittly mantelshelf problems, including the hilariously desperate Cobra Mantel. But I did manage a pleasing number of 5c and 6a onsights. And I fell off a V0. Whoop.

Holds? You'll not find any of those round here...

Sunday, 13 November 2011

More Stupid Bloody Dampness

Another Friday, another reasonable looking forecast, another day of thoroughly unsuccess. Bah. Things looked reasonably promising at my house, but as soon as I got out into the Peak the cloud was everywhere. I was with Mark, one of these keen youths that seem to proliferate in Sheffield, but after running away from the Trackside boulder at Curbar with frozen fingers things were looking grim. We took a punt on Cratcliffe being an oasis of sunshine and warmth, but it was cloudy and damp instead. We did find a small amount of dry rock and managed a couple of problems, but it was fairly far removed from what one might describe as fun, and we soon ran away.

Luckily the forecast for the weekend was good. Unluckily the weather hates me. Saturday morning was dry, with even the odd touch of sunshine, but the ground was damp. Eventually the sun came out around lunchtime and J-Ro, Simon and I ventured up to the Plantation. Of course when we arrived somebody was about to do Tower Face (I think I might be fated never to climb this route), so we went South and James prevaricated for a bit about how damp August Arete looked. Eventually he got on with it, grumbled a lot about how it was all wet, he couldn't feel his fingers and all the holds were in the wrong place, but made it to the top all the same.

James enjoying himself on August Arete

Some gnarly old dudes were on Namenlos, which was going to be my route of choice, having seconded it a fortnight ago and found it dead easy, so I started gearing up below Billiard Buttress instead. The start looked steep, and on closer acquaintance it was, and the pockets weren't the enormo-jugs I'd imagined they might by, so I stepped right into the start of Milsom's Minion, which looked less steep (this is officially sanctioned in the guide as making the route "more balanced", so I wasn't cheating...). Unfortunately it still appeared to feature a thin 5a move with a groundfall to congratulate you if you get it wrong.

Looking unnaturally stylish on Billiard Buttress...

Obviously I did what any right-thinking person would do in this situation and hung around for ages getting ever so slowly more pumped, until finally I manned up and did the move. Hooray, gear. I shuffled back leftwards, placed some crucial cams blindly by my feet and smeared upwards. The footholds were dry, but the handholds were green and manky, which made things feel quite exciting, especially with the gear receding ever more into the distance below me. Eventually, via a terrible tiny cam and some easy moves I was at the top. Phew. Simon finished the day with a good effort on the rather heightist Paradise Arete (the team next to us even joined in with the heckling, which I'm certain helped him out).

Today it's foggy and gopping wet everywhere. I'm sitting in bed sulking. I hate the winter, why's everything got to be so bloody damp? Harrumph.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Farewell To Dr DanDanDan

As Dr DanDanDan is moving to Kansas (who am I going to sandbag into coming girdle traversing with me now?), it seemed fitting to have one final session at Stanage. After last Friday's general aceness I was psyched for all kinds of things - Tower Face, Fina, Milsom's Minion, Billiard Buttress etc etc. Sadly the weather had other plans and things were looking decidedly wet and minging until the sun came out around 11:30. I convinced Dan (and myself) that the crag would be dry within the hour and was consequently slightly surprised that nobody else was in the Plantation car park when we arrived.

It soon became clear that the crag was dry in places, but also quite wet in places. The path was also doing a passable impression of a river. This was not a world of goodness. Lowering my expectations slightly we wandered up to Lookout Flake, an epic Severe. Half of the flake was dry, unfortunately not the half you actually hold on to, but once I'd got off the ground it was ok. Dan's travails getting off the ground provided me with some light relief too, which was thoughtful of him.

The colour that every gritstone climber loves to see...

As everything else in the area was hard, wet or both, we walked along (nearly slipping to my death on the wet grass several times) to the general vicinity of Paping About Like A Man With No Arms (which looked even more delightful than usual, shudder). After scooping plenty of water out of a big pocket onto a crucial smeary foothold Dan led Poor Pizza, which was better than it sounds (and not even that wet), but a touch bold.

The next route, Scorpion Slab, was even bolder, with only a sideways RP1 protecting most of the route. Luckily it was really easy, although Dan tried to prove otherwise by falling off it somehow. It was nearly dark by this point, but a few chants of "Is it a bird, is it a plane, no it's TURBO-DAN" seemed to provided the required motivation, and Dan hastily racked up and set off up a VS. He quickly managed to get himself committed at a rather worrying height, with no gear in. Whilst I was trying to assess whether I should try and spot him or do my best crash mat impression should he fall off, he got on with it and reached the top, hurrah.

Hopefully things will be a little bit drier next time...

Impressed with my bomber RP1 placement