Monday, 26 March 2012

Sunshine At Stanage

It's summer. Or at least it appears to be. So I've been mostly celebrating the unseasonably ace weather by venturing to the far flung and rarely dry delights of, erm, the popular end of Stanage. And why not? Saturday afternoon and Monday evening both provided windows of opportunity, and climbing was done in the sun. Whoop.

Continuing the theme of leading classic VSs I've only seconded in the distant past, I did Hargreaves' Original today. It was suitably classic. I also righted a wrong by leading Green Crack, which I'd had a half-hearted look at last year. It was a delightful elegant thrutch. Marvellous.

Otherwise it's been obscure VSs - Ugly Mugs was worth it for one particularly spectacular jug in a superb position and The Z Crack was hilarious nonsense, and an encouraging smattering of HVSs. I'm normally a bit afraid of grit HVSs in case they're secretly The Sloth, but it seems that there are a few friendly ones knocking around. Now if only natural grit E1s could be this friendly...

Adam getting properly stuck into The Z Crack

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Cheshire Misdemeanours

I was full of good intentions on Monday to do some work, but then the forecast looked sunny and Matt was keen to meet up somewhere on his way back from North Wales so my resolve crumbled and we arranged a rendezvous at Helsby. It was only on the way over there that I remembered that the crag faced a bit North, and wondered how dry it had been in Cheshire recently.

When we arrived at the crag it was clear that there was some residual dampness hanging around in places, and some ominous patches of luminous green mank, although most of the crag seemed dry enough. Hmm. Not optimal sandstone climbing weather, but I'd driven a long way, so I resolved just to avoid pulling too hard on any holds.

In keeping with recent strange developments I led the crag's classic bold VS slab, which was a bit worrying scrittly. Then climbed Agag, which the guide promised to involve "sustained laybacking and jamming", but there was emphatically none of either anywhere. Bloody Chris Craggs. What does he know...

Matt 'enjoying' Cloister Traverse

I wasn't too psyched for anything else. Eliminate 1 looks brilliant, but not when it might be a bit damp. Matt, however, being the renaissance man that he is was keen for a ridiculous Severe girdle traverse which started and finished on the ground. Top stuff. Maximum sillyness and a little bit of green-foothold induced terror at the end ensued.

After this I felt that the crag was trying to tell us to piss off, so we went to check out Frodsham. More to see what was there than to actually climb anything. It's a funky little collection of buttresses in a very pleasant setting, although much of it occupies that hinterland between highball bouldering and short routes. A good place to go with a lot of mats and a large posse of spotters on a sunny evening. I soloed a pleasant wee Severe to earn my first new crag point of the year, and we headed back to the cars.

Frodsham - like The Churnet on a hill

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Joy Of Shitty Eliminates

After some slight manning up issues last weekend and a windy forecast, the youth and I paid a visit to Lawrencefield, where I had a long-standing date with Delectable Direct. Oswald kicked off proceedings by leading Once-Pegged Wall, eliminating the top arete for an HVS tick. The crux was forcing yourself not to hold the obvious arete right nixt to you, but there was a good move or two as a reward.

I had a vague desire to lead Eclair on the Gingerbread slab, an E1 with probably no gear, but was distracted by the promise of at least one runner on another nearby shitty eliminate, Every Man And His Dog. Again, avoiding the obvious holds on neighbouring routes was a challenge and it was very easy for the suggested 5b grade, but it probably just about scraped into E1 territory for the exciting bounce you'd take down the slab if you fell off the 5a top move. First E-point for the year. Ooh yeah.

I managed to tempt James with another daft eliminate line on the slab, Vanilla Slice (mmm, vanilla slices...) by pointing out that there was the possibility of a runner or two at half height. Never one to be under-runnered, he managed to squeeze three nuts into about an inch of crack. Silly boy.

As the alleged 5c moves on this didn't seem to hard I went for Eclair and it turned out to be fine. A little oomph was required mid-crux to overcome a little flutter of mild peril, but I was rewarded for pressing on through the fear barriers by some actual gear. Well, a bomber cam and 4 terrible (and completely unnecessary) RPs.

All these slabs were boring the youth's over-keen forearms, so we traipsed over to the roadside bay and he led Quantum Crack, which was very much the wrong side of vertical. After a lot of tactical up and downclimbing, he fell off whilst trying to place some a high runner, but got it on his next go. I managed not to get too pumped or fall off (partly through strategic use of a foothold that James had mysteriously decided to ignore), which was a bit of a turn up for the books.

So, last route of the day, and it had to be Delectable Direct really. After a couple of ups and downs at the start to furtle the crucial holds, I laid one on, got my foot high, held the fall when it skated off the hold, used some jedi mind tricks to get it back on and persuade it to stay there and rocked up for glory, snatching gamely for holds as they arrived before me. Bo. The rest of the route was thankfully a touch easier, although never easy, with absorbing climbing and loads of lovely gear. The feared-for crux at the top never materialised (looking at the comments on t'interweb some people seem to think there's a 5c move up there somewhere, they must be dwarves or idiots) and we made it up, back down to the bags and back to the car before it got dark. Win.

So, 4 shitty eliminates of the sort that many would turn their noses up at, but all of which provided some nice moves. 2 or 3 E points to take home, depending on which guide you believe. I'll take the 2, since each of the 3 routes I led felt worth about 2/3 of an E. Worryingly I'm definitely getting better at bold slabs, especially on quarried grit where there are actual holds. This wasn't meant to happen...

Monday, 12 March 2012

Secret Spanking, Lakeland Win

Friday afternoon off, windy but dry forecast, Jaime and Dan keen for some bouldering, it all sounded like a good time to go and check out the Secret Garden. I was keen for some slopey horrors, but having cut the tips of both middle fingers my hand-smearing skills were somewhat impaired. I did manage to flash Chockstone and Beach Cracks, both of which were very bitey and required deployment of an incredibly large amount of try, given their V1 5b grades. That was about the full extent of my achievements for the afternoon. I did manage the first move of Beach Ball before realising that I could neither reach, nor hang the crucial holds. Oh well.

Look at all of the psyche. The problems don't stand a chance. Grrr.

The weekend forecast looked promising enough to risk a first adventure of the year into the wilds of Cumbria. Julie, Andy, Oswald and I stuffed ourselves with Mr Khan's pizza of win and drove up to the CC hut at Grange. It was raining on Saturday morning, so we mooched around Keswick for a bit, marvelled at some bizarrely sexy new lightweight plastic cams: and revelled in the many joys of Booths. After a quick tour of the Bowderstone things were looking dryer, so we went to Shepherds and got our crush on.

Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry...

I finally got on Kransic Crack Direct after thinking about it for years. It was pretty easy in the end, and plastered in some ludicrous holds. Then I followed Andy up the disgustingly overhanging crack of Finale. It was horribly pumpy when I seconded it 6 years ago, and it was no less pumpy this time round. Evidently I'm still a fat punter. Gutted.

Andy was oddly insistent that I get on a wet E1, but I chose to ignore his obvious damp sandbagging (ooh er) and ended up yomping up the very pleasant and well named Delight Maker, which was a good exercise in trusting good, but spaced gear. And the climbing was ace.

On Sunday the forecast was ace, so we resolved to drive round to Langdale and see what could be seen. On the way we devised a complex crag-selection algorithm, but then ignored it because it gave the wrong answer, so off we went up to Gimmer. We began with a traditional solo of Middlefell Buttress, then scrambled up to ash tree ledge and abseiled down to the base of the North-West Face. I was super-keen for North-West Arete after Oli had given it a hearty recommendation a while ago, and after a damp start and some navigational issues (owing to a lack of guidebook, and dodgy beta from Hobson) I made it out to the arete, where there was sunshine. It was most convivial.


The youth wanted to chase some grades, but as Kipling Groove looked wet he was persuaded that the lowly VS delights of F Route were worthy of his attentions, and lo, they were. What a route. I was tempted afterwards to get on Whit's End Direct for some E point action, but a combination of the lateness of the hour, the + after the grade in the guide, and some general lameness put me off. I decided a suitable consolation would be to try and climb as many of the other letter routes as possible before sunset.

Oswald was keen, so I ran up the lovely cracks of D Route and we were filled with delusions of Ueli Steck-like grandeur. Then we noticed that the other letter routes were rather more than 1 pitch. Oops. We managed A Route in 2 pitches before deciding that maybe heading down was a wiser plan than getting benighted on a Severe. Also Andy was in a girly strop because of some damp routes and a bit of a breeze and we didn't want to leave him stewing in the pub for too long. A grand finale of cheesy chips in Settle provided a great finish to a great weekend. May it be the first of many this year...

Monday, 5 March 2012

Rematch With The Roaches

After a weekend mostly spent cooking and eating outrageously lardy things (cheesy beef hash, jerk chicken pie and a black cherry crumble cheesecake, mmmm), the forecast for Monday was much too good to let the lack of a partner stop me from getting out. So I returned to the Roaches for a rematch after last Monday's rainy debacle.

As hoped the boulders were out of the chill wind and the sun was out, but the temperature was a fair bit warmer than I was expecting, so the conditions weren't totally optimal for maximum crushage, but they were very pleasant indeed.

Bearing in mind my general tendency to get a nosebleed when more than 6" off the ground when bouldering on my own, I mostly stuck to easy problems. Luckily there are loads of those at the Roaches, and I racked up about 30 V0/V1s without finding any of them too unduly taxing. I also bumped into a few friendly folks who offered me beta and spotting on Three Pocket Slab (which I more or less flashed after an initial look-see at the eponymous pockets), and Joe's Arete (which I got on the 3rd go, after realising that I couldn't reach the top without letting go with both hands and totally committing to the dyno). I was pretty pleased with getting those two without having to resort to a protracted siege, as they've both been on my unwritten ticklist of classic Peak V3/font 6as for a while.

Less pleasing was the lovely cut visited upon my right middle finger by Don's Crack (probably from a singularly vicious crystal placed there by the man himself) which caused me to bleed a slightly distressing amount, and forced me to tape my fingers into near-uselessness. I also shinned myself rather cripplingly on the glossy start of Flakes And Chips. But other than those debilitating injuries, and a couple of inglorious failures on what ought to have been easy moves (I'm blaming the warm weather) it was a pretty ace day. It feels a bit more like the rock climbing year is getting going at last. It also feels like I should start falling off more V4s and V5s. Best get my skillz hat on...

Somebody fetch me a surgeon...

Friday, 2 March 2012

Spring Has Sprung?

Youth 0: Guidebook 1

Twas a balmy Friday afternoon and the youth and I decided to visit the palace of unearthly delights of the Popular End. After James being initially bamboozled by the complexity of the guidebook, we ended up at the bottom of Heather Wall, which I had seconded some 7 years ago. I remember it feeling hard then, but it's obviously grown a few more holds in the intervening years. Jugs, gear, jams, more gear, more jugs, the top. Bish bash bosh, first VS of the year.In a t-shirt and everything. Good stuff.

James teetered his way up Grotto Wall, thanking his lucky stars that he wasn't a few inches shorter, which would have entailed some laying one on. I then pootled up the vertical jamgasm of Crack And Corner in my continued bid to lead every route in the graded list (again, I'd seconded this one in 2004, god I'm old).

Emboldened by his initial HVS crushing, the youth picked the appealing, but tough-looking, line of Rugosity Crack. It turned out to be appealing, but tough. I was just beginning to think he might back off and I would be spared having to haul my tubby ass up after him, when he busted some funky manoeuvres and made it to the top. On the blunt end of the rope I huffed and puffed and had to use some serious try to get up the route, but I managed it in the end, to discover James had used some innovation to try and anchor his belay to a slightly blunt spike. If he starts thinking for himself on a regular basis like this we could all be in trouble.

Things were getting a bit chilly, and James had to be home early to catch a train, so I finished the day with a romp up Lancashire Wall (complete with obligatory head jam), before James discovered that slabs can be pumpy too during a glorious failure to lead a nearby E1.

Le headjam classique

In other news I bought my flights this morning to Lofoten in June. Maximum enpsychification.