Sunday, 27 December 2009

Winter Madness: Part Three

Franco and I were very happy with our climbing in the Lakes, so much so we threw caution to the wind and went to try the 'seldom in condition', Cold Climbs classic, Chock Gully V,5.
There was a lot of snow about, the walk in was much harder than on previous days with drift and powder.
We arrived at the base of the Gully. It was full of powder, avalanches of powder cutting rivers of snow through the snow already in place. Franco started up the gully.
An hour or so later, i could see him. White with powder as he finally managed to swim his way up the constantly replenishing 8ft powder drifts. He then shouted down to 'pay attention' as he was on rotton ice below the Chock. He managed it and set up his belay sheltered from the constant powder avalanches.
I followed up and found it thoroughly unpleasant, though, quite fun! However, Franco insisted that i had a crack at the Chock pitch, which i was not sure about!
I found a crunched up rest under the chock and placed a nut and clipped a peg. I stuck my head out and got nailed by an avalanche of powder. It was cold.
Franco then said, 'It's Clear!' so i leaned out and slammed an axe into the crack, torqued and then thrashed around trying to get some purchase in the powder above.
I was gripped, worried that i would fall awkwardly and i was fighting a loosing battle pulling into the steep powder. I saw grass, and slammed my axe into it. Bomber. I swung from the left of the chock to the right gully wall and hauled my way into the unstable snow. I dug and dug and dug, intent on finding gear so i wouldn't end up below that hideous chockstone! I found a new, though slightly poor peg! I shouted in delight!
What followed was a carbon copy of the first pitch. The Cold Climbs story by Birkett, said 'easy snow slopes' leads from the Chock. The 8ft powder made this, somewhat untrue! Swimming, bridging and awful ice steps led up to a narrowing and a mixed step up and left. Scared i placed a hex, which when i pulled on to the step, fell out. My heart raced as if i fell i would end up below the chock, or as a chock myself!
I couldn't go on any futher and managed to find a few cracks, so i set up a rather poor belay. I couldn't help laughing as i began to force my limited gear into any conceivable gap.
Franco managed to second the pitch and then lead past my cramped stance. I was extremely happy when he began to pull in the slack up to the top pitch.
An immense route, which was truly brilliant, even if it was in 'poor nick' in so much as there was too much snow!
We swam back down to Grisedale Tarn in the powder drifts, absolutely knackered but we knew we had done an absolutely amazing climb!
More tired, wine related bollocks.

Winter Madness. Part Deux.

After our 'FA', I had the feeling Franco was rather uninspired with grade III gullys and ridges. I also fully enjoyed the technical outing the day previous.
Luke Hunt had arrived that evening and declared the conditions 'prime mixed conditions!'. He then said, that Bowfell Buttress was high on his list and fancied a trip to langdale.
I was sceptical, knowing that Bowfell was a mixed climb at V,6 but quite sustained really with pitches of IV and V. I was slightly worried to say the least, not just because of the events on the Ben but also because i didn't feel i was good enough to get on such a classic route. Franco said, in his usual confident manner or 'ultra-psyche' that he was up for it and that i was good enough.

Another issue was that snow was forecast and i didnt fancy trying to get the Renault back from Langdale to Grisedale.
My first trip to Bowfell, was a nice walk in, in perfect winter conditions. -7 celsius according to the car, was a pleasant suprise and when we arrived at the route we were amazed to see a couple of lads already there!
These lads turned out to be Jamie and Tim from Leeds, which was a pleasant coincidence. Conditions were a bit poor low down, so we avoided the first pitch and i, intent not to second the whole route, said i would lead the IV groove even though i had no idea whether or not i could truely lead IV?!
The pitch was similar to the top groove of our FA the day previous, hence the grade given. I then seconded the rest of the climb, with Franco leading the 6 crack and the top pitch being a cracker, led by Luke.
It wasn't over though. Franco and Luke went FA hunting on the buttress opposite, climbing the horribly obvious hard looking corner. Franco and luke said it was both commiting and poorly protected in parts. I just stood in the blizzard for an hour or 3 watching!
They abandoned the attempt due to darkness falling and the worsening weather. I was not looking forward to driving home!
We walked back to the car and then had fun and games sliding our way back to Ambleside! A couple of sideways slides in a Renault Espace is enough to give you a bit of a scare.
Scarier than the mixed climbing!

Hut ramblings about Photos, wine and other bollocks.

Winter Madness - Part 1.

It's been a while since i found inspiration to write about my climbing exploits, a combination of poor weather and lack of psyche meant to bugger all climbing to speak of. Admittedly, a cool trip to Tremadog with the LUUMC and Franco was a good bit of weather dodging wales action. A snowy Slate Quarries allowed a quick ascent of 'Goose Creature - E3' and then a showery Tremadog allowed a beautiful climb of the uber-cool 'The Plum -E1'.

However, the winter came on the week before Christmas. Phonecalls and Facebook planning saw myself and Franco meeting up in the Lakes at Grizedale.
I was 'psyched' not to repeat the events of 2years ago in Scotland on the Ben, i was quite content to tick a load of III's and possibly a IV, but just happy to get out and get experienced.

The first morning saw us climb to Nethermost Cove, with an idea of doing the grade II gully, prominent on the hillside. However, it was clear that the route was not 'in'. Snow was limited and although it was cold, there was a lot of rock exposed in the gully, this was Mixed conditions.
So, staying true to my ambitions of grade III cruising... I allowed franco to talk me into climbing a potential First Winter Ascent of a prominent bulging corner, around 100metres to the left of Nethermost Gully.
We arrived after some grade II mixed steps and soloing, which was about as close as i came for the whole long weekend, to 'easy' climbing.
Franco geared up for the imposing overhanging start to the crack. It was the sort of climb that looked HVS in summer. A couple of useful turf tufts proved inviting enough, we also new that 'Torquing' would prove invaluable. Franco started and amazingly onsighted the heinous corner, with aid of the iced crack, i asked if the belay was bomber!!! It was.
I started up the corner and removed the tricams in the ice crack. Bomber... I then placed my axe in the crack pulled and then smashed the ice out. Pisser.
As a result i had to torque my axes more in the crack more than Franco, but it was probably of similar difficulty. As we wandered down Striding Edge, we laughed at our first lakes route, indeed, our first mixed route being an FA, onsight! We had no idea what grade it was, but we knew it would be something like V, 7 due to the fact it was a nails move, but very well protected by winter standards! Its a clear crux pitch, around 30metres with scrambling before and a 30metre grade III/IV up the continuation corner. All in all, we believe it is a good addition to the routes in the Helvellyn range.

Listening to madness in the Landy.