Thursday, 31 July 2008

A lonely Summer - Soloing

Unable to commit to a trip to the Alps this summer, due to my 'not quite right' knee, i have been left in the UK, while all the other climbers in the area, including Franco have gone to the continent. Lewis has remained, but i feel he will not have the commitment to journey here, there and everywhere and pay for it! Matthew (mini) Cooper, is a longshot as he is a busy person with commitments over climbing, which is fair enough but i hope to take him climbing in the next few weeks. So as a last resort, hopefully Shaun will be around to go climbing with but as yet i have not received an Email.
The weekend just gone, saw me and mum travel to the lakes to see family. This was quite a nice treat and it allowed me to solo some lines that i probably otherwise would have struggled to have gotten around to. The first evening, i travelled to 'Durple Gill' that small slate quarry near Patterdale and soloed the lines me and Franco established there and also a new direct variant, called 'Stalion Twister', due to the Deep Purple/Stormbringer theme. However, i appear to have lost my Belay plate here as well, though i am unsure as to how?!
The next day was a rest day as i felt a tad undertheweather and it was VERY hot, but the following day Flynn (dog) and I raced up Grisedale and i set about soloing the classic routes there, such as 'Sobrenada' Vs 4c**. This is a terrific route, though i climbed this and it's direct finish with a hanging rope, just in case!
I then worked 'Pericles' HVS 5a* before soloing it, this felt about E1 5a soloing, but a very nice route all the same. Similarly, the route at the right of the crag called, 'Morning Slab' which follows a nice scoop up a buttress, given HVS 4c** i decided it was probably just as well onsight soloing it, but i saw two or three gear placements, including one where i thought the crux was! Even so, the ascent i think merited 5a and probably E1 5a** at that!
I'll be happy if the holidays carry on with ascents such as these, i don't mind reducing my grade, if it allows me to climb such nice routes.
Next trip, the East Pennines, to do some Gritstone soloing at spots such as Goldsborough! (I hope)

Whitestone Traverse - E2/3 5c A1***

Firstly what an amazing place, unlike anywhere i've ever been or seen before. The limestone pushes up for about 40metres and is uniquely architectured with gigantic cracks, overhanging caves and 'doggers', which are large concretions which are quite sort-after, as they provide the only really bomber holds!
The venue, as stated in the guidebook is not for beginners, children or pets. On arrival, you can understand why. The cliffe is loose, forboding and is defended by a dense barrier of undergrowth, mainly (man-eating) nettles and lacerating thorns, as well as seriously dangerous pit falls and chasms!. This was my first trip to Whitestone and it was pretty much exactly how i imagined it, perhaps slightly more solid!

We abseiled down and walked through the undergrowth to the start of the traverse, (a traverse called, 'Chameleon' no doubt due to it's constantly changing behaviour!) steady climbing at first for the main part, except from the '4c' 3rd pitch, which was overhanging, pumpy and sparsly protected...E1 4c? The next corner was a nice pitch, probably the easiest that we did, but this still had an unprotected 10 metre runout with a grassy mantle on to a ledge.

I elected to belay here, which was a mistake. It was a good idea as it much reduced rope drag and meant franco was right next to the belay on the awkward mantle, but it was a bad choice (unbeknown to me) because it meant i'd get the next '4c' pitch.
From the tree about 40 metres futher along the cliffe, i set off on this pitch, '25metres of 4c' which climbed along to an arete then pulled around it to a ledge. I set off, immediately a hold snapped, but i held on and put a sling runner on one of the trees branches. I then made the rather strenuous moves to the arete. I pulled to gain the arete. Next thing my heart was racing, tiny bits of limestone shrapnel were bombaring me and i realised that my hold had snapped, again i had managed to hold on, but i flashed a look at Franco, and my tree runner and decided whether it would be better to jump off in to the chasm below (which you couldn't see the bottom of) or to try and climb the route and increase the runout. I elected for the latter and made a last ditch, whale on to the tiny ledge around the arete. The whale itself must have taken a minute or two, as i couldn't make any unbalanced moves due to the size of the shelf, i was fully aware that a slip backwards would have been disasterous.

Luckily, the following pitches were much safer and more enjoyable. The 'large slab' area of Whitestone looks impressive and Franco decided he wanted to climb this route as one push. He did placing two runners! over the 40m slab. I followed him up along the slab in the glorious sun to what has to be the best belay i have been on. The two peg's on 'The Leash' provided a belay well above the trees, about 10 metres below the top of Whitestone, with views into the Vale of York i was happy to stand with my calf's burning on the slab.
The next sections were rather poor. Franco managed to drop his belay plate, but rather than give up, he downclimbed 30m to the base, found it then managed to reascend the cliffe on what looked to be 5a/5b territory? We then climbed around to the large, dead tree on 'Gamin' and abseiled to 'the ledge from which the 5a pitch could be taken'. This wasn't any ordinary 5a pitch though, the loose rock and crap gear meant Franco had the unenviable task of attempting to climb this pitch safely, something he did very well but the poor gear and lack of promised peg belays meant franco abbed off and i downclimbed a very useful but bendy tree from the ledge.
Lewis, who had been taking photos and acting as back up did a superb job and after reclaiming lost gear such as the nut i dropped on the 6th pitch and the gear left in the 5a pitch we journeyed back to the car to drive to Peak Scar and bivvy as this was the next days climbing venue!
We had learned alot, and felt we'd given the traverse a good go, the 9 hours spent on the route taught us much about our climbing and partnership. It's given E2 5c A1 ***, but we didn't get to the Aid pitch, which we intended to try and free climb, but even so i felt like i'd been climbing E2 all day, we thought that E2 5a would have been a much more realistic grade for what we did!! A superb route, 283m of sustained climbing on loose, friable rock and with dodgey protection or at least questionable, such as the gas pipe runner on the Slab pitch!
One to return to, even if next time Franco and luke try it and i'll take pictures!