Monday, 8 October 2012

Struggles, Ignominy and Autumn Weather

Having been abandoned by my girlfriend for the weekend without a car last Saturday, I found myself negotiating the delights of public transport en route to Chateau Julie and Andy in Leeds. I arrived to find Julie suffering with a cold and Andy bemoaning his own snottyness, a veritable cavalcade of psyche. After several cups of tea, Andy and I decided to see just how windy it was at Almscliff. The answer was very, but Black Wall was out of the worst of it. I took a near-infinite amount of time to lead South Wall Traverse, a VS with an exceptionally polished start (with no gear and a little too high for comfort), before falling off several times trying to follow Andy up the unreasonably steep Black Wall Eliminate.

It looks so benign from afar...
Hoping to claw back some dignity I managed to lead Traditional Climb in polynomial time and with no lapses of style. Things were picking up. As was the wind. Andy then led Demon Wall, whose top out had defeated him previously when he tried to go the wrong way. It turns out that even when you go the right way it's still bloody hard. As if to prove this I fell off then my foot popped whilst I was flailing around uselessly with my pumped arms trying to locate the finishing hold. Very undignified, especially on an HVS .

Not keen for Overhanging Groove (which was directly in the wind and covered in top-ropers, or at least aspiring top-ropers, as their attempts to lower a rope down the route were rather hampered by the wind blowing the rope horizontally along the crag)), I lobbied for running away to somewhere less windy. We ended up at Brimham, where I ran straight for the first slab I could find, which also conveniently had a three-star VS on it. I'd belayed Oswald on his ill-fated cold-fingered attempt on this back in February, so I was expecting a modicum of difficulty. I wasn't disappointed, but a frisky little scuffle past the crux overlap and a teeter for the top saw me alright.

The hardest technical move of the day - getting into the car avoiding the puddle Andy had managed to park in the middle of
Keen to drag me back down into ignominy Andy then insisted on climbing Minion's Way. We'd bouldered out the start before and it was desperate then. Turns out it hasn't grown any less awful, and a combination of general uselessness and some inconveniently wet holds led to me grovelling horrendously along the mid-height ledge on both knees trying not to peel off backwards. On finally reaching the top crack I discovered it was far more awkward than it appeared from below. Only the determination not to fail on yet another HVS kept my going as I was forced into laybacking, shudder. Overall it was a rather inglorious day out, but a good reminder that a lot of grit routes need some actual stamina. I've kind of always known that, but perhaps it's time to do something about it...

The following day I indulged in more train-related fuckwittery, before racing out to Burbage with Oswald just in time to get to the crag, rack up, then run away again when it started raining. We tried again on Monday afternoon at Stanage and this time I actually managed to climb a route, an HVS, even, without falling off or nearly dying. I'd been trying to do Tower Face for about 2 years, but it was always covered in rain or people, so it was good to finally get it ticked (and it was a cracking route). James then started up Fern Groove, and had just placed the crucial runner when it started to rain and we ran away again. Well, I say runner, what I mean is 5 cams within a metre of each other, but you catch my drift...
Five shalt be the number of runners thou shalt place, and the number of thy runners shall be Five. 
More successful adventures were had yesterday at Millstone with Adam. We arrived to find Kyle and the youth about to do Plexity, so I racked up to take advantage of the fact that Estremo didn't have an in situ owl for once. It took me far, far too long to finally work out how to use the awkwardly wide crack (too wide for fist jams, too narrow to get in), but once I did it wasn't actually too bad, and the worrying layback at the top turned out to be avoidable by sexy wide bridging. Whoop.

After Adam had made short work of Great Portland Street, which he'd unaccountably never done before, I toyed with the idea of doing one of the Embankment E1s, but decided instead to take advantage of having brought my big cams with me, and get involved with the "Salivating fissure" of Crew Cut. After a false start involving a very painful and near-terminal knee-jam, I managed the necessary medieval thrutching to reach the ledge of loin-girding. I found some sneaky bonus wires here which was pleasing, since the top required an actual proper layback. Against a green sidewall. Bleurk. Somehow I didn't die, and ended up, panting, at the top, glad to be alive. All very type II fun.

From here the guide recommends doing a further pitch, rather than skulking off rightwards, so Adam quested off up into the undergrowth. A heathery crack led, via some very green looking footholds, to a few runners, some more heather, and a tiny sapling. A delicate teeter leftwards past some more heather led to the arete and a proper hold (but no more gear) and then an exciting move or two in a position where falling off would have been ill-advised at best, led to a nasty, sloping topout. I don't recall seeing Adam look so chastened before. According to the UKC logbooks it's only had 3 ascents, and the last one of those was in 1984, so I'm not surprised it was so vegetated. At least it's been upgraded from VS though, that would have been a nasty shock!

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