Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Kay Nest Crag / Feeding Franco's Insatiable appetite for First Ascents

So, here i am back in the moors - the hive of the climbing world.
It's lashing it down, it feels decidedly cold and i'm feeling pretty un-motivated for anything.
However, the current plan made around 2 hours ago is to get up bright and early before anything will have had a chance to dry off, get in the car and drive to Bilsdale.
From here, walk 30 - 40 minutes up a heinous valley (they all seem to be around there - they keep going for ever, thought at least the bracken will be low) to a crag that no-one has climbed at since the 60's. Kay Nest.
The prime objective of this ridiculous mission; to see the route still graded VS 5a A2. All 30metres of it.
The line, which actually sounds pretty good, tackles a bulging-thin crack and has both bolts and pegs insitu - i can't wait to see them.

Local sources seem to think it was dirty in the 60's... so Christ, this is going to be chossy day out. Made all the better by the fact the weather forecast is for strong winds...therefore, we decided if it was a bit shit, our next stop would be... Roseberry Topping and it's 'sheltered' delights.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Stoupe Brow, Moors Homecoming and general psyche

I arrived back in Leeds after my Pembrokeshire Fieldclass and quickly sorted things out and caught the last train up north. My mum picked me up from Northallerton - i asked what the weather was going to be like and apparently the next day was dry but then rain for a few days.
I rang Franco and we arranged to go 'somewhere'.
The morning was dry, but particuarly windy. I mentioned the idea of Peak Scar, but in the end we decided to go to Stoupe Brow (aka Ravensdale), as i needed to put diesel in the car at Whitby.

I hadn't been to Ravensdale since our first visit and i remembered it having great potential. I wasn't totally mislead by my memories, though, there are probably less 'quality' lines than i remembered. The main lines sticking out to me, were the plethora of splitter cracks, the White Scoop, the roof crack on the right and a few of the central buttress lines. The central Arete looked less impressive than i remembered it, though i know the climbing on it is class.

The wind made it chilly and we warmed up with some of the bouldering on the huge boulders in the quarry base then we wandered up to climb the Roof Crack at the right hand side of the walls.
Franco had abbed the line previously and said it looked tricky but well protected - he hadn't looked at the starting finger crack as it looked straightforward.
I jumped on lead and started up the crackline, it was fairly straightforward and it involved some nice bridging moves. I looked up to see the crackline thinned so much so, i wouldn't be able to climb it. I placed some gear and spanned left to a hold on a small ledge about 2 metres left of of the crack and began to mantle up into the void below the roof. The rocks above me were blocky and i reached for an edge rather than a block.
I barely pulled on the edge when a sinuous crack formed all the way around the hold and it parted company with the wall.
In a bit of a blurr, i had swung back right and slammed into the wall, i think i knee'd Franco as well. The rock narrowly missing the both of us.
5 minutes rest and i got back on the route. I climbed the corner easier this time, which is about 5a and then spanned left to the hold and mantled, this time to the base of the newly formed rock scar. This scar brings the hold around a foot closer to you, making it slightly easier than my first attempt.
I placed a couple of bomber Cams in the roof crack and then attacked the crack placing a nut higher up. I down climbed to the ledge.
From the ledge it would be possible to chossily traverse out to the left, which is a shame as it makes the line what they call escapable. That said, i don't think i'd really want to 'escape' that way.
I jammed back onto the crack and reached it's overhanging lip. I could see a few footholds and the jams were reasonable. I pulled up and pushed a foot against a smear and jammed my way up to a final, slightly desperate pop for a sidepull. I placed a nut and negotiated the top out.
I was quite pleased with the quality of the line. Two contrasting 'parts' to the climb, unfortunately marred slightly by the poorish band of rock at half height. That said, i would be happy to climb it on a trip to Northumberland or the Grit so it's worth the Star i gave it, in my opinion - there isn't a tremendous amount of roof cracks on the Moors.
Grade wise i was unsure, ultimately it felt like a Yorkshire Grit E2 crackline.

The day seemed to have passed us by in a poorly-psyched, wind-battered blur. I nearly got on the big sandy crackline however a viewing showed a very slopey top section that looks to be the crux. I think i'll leave it maybe ab down it to check it out, seeing as it's an FA.

Franco and I then, had a short session working Alan Mankers 'White Scoop' which breaks left from the Central Crack and i had dubbed 'a Ravensdale, Time for Tea'. Franco however, declared it was more like 6b.
I had a go, and pretty quickly fell off. A few 5c moves lead to a reach to a crimp that sort of depends on body position, which i didn't do. The second go i got up to the pinchy/crimpy thing and slapped out left. I couldn't find this 'hold' Franco spoke of, but gave it a few goes and finally found it.
I said then, that i wouldn't be leading this line anytime soon - like ever.
From there, it gets worse. A rearrangement of feet and a heelhook allows a small amount of height to be gained to reach up and left to a crimp. I fell off this move and decided the sequence was tricky E7 6b? .Maybe. A couple of stars anyway the moves are brilliant - what is it with this crag having brilliant moves on good routes that nobody is going to probably bother with?

We'll be back, i intend on going back on a slightly warmer day to clean the cracklines and have a few more go's at the Scoop - it would be very nice to get the moves in a oner.

Overhanging crackline fetish's

Of late, my weight has increased from about 11 stone 7 to 12 stone 3. I found this quite disheartening as i have been eating far healthier at Uni than while i was at home. But the most annoying factor has been my massive decline in form.
Admittedly to be climbing well, you need to be climbing regularly - which since i have got to uni i have found quite tricky. I'm not sure why, perhaps i've just had a poor winter seaon?
Either way, of late, i've not been at all up to E3's and i've been failing, massively on E2's.
Recently though, i've seen a bit of an increase in form. Successes on Suspense (E2) at Lawrencefield, Ram (E1 - Hard Work!) at Baildon and most noticeably, Satire (E2) at Baildon.

Satire, is a route that is described as 'making Higgar Tor look like a Slab'. Fair to say, even though its not exactly picturesque, it is fairly impressive! It takes a very overhanging crack system on the leaning wall of a pillar. Fallout from the route would be fairly painful as well as the gritstone slab behind is not that far due to the overhanging nature of the line. It just has to be climbed.

Via a collection of jams, armbars, footlocks and size 5 cams and a half height run out due to full body pump, i managed to sketchily mantle on to the top.
The top out itself isn't exactly hard, but i was pretty tired and i had a few anxious moments trying to hook over the lip. Awesome.
What has happened to me, i never used to fall off. Indeed i used to have a pretty major dislike of falling which i seem to have lost - is that a good thing? Also, I used to climb E3/4 on slabby, slightly technical boldish routes and now i'm spending the majority of my time hanging from Kneebars and amassing a collection of jamming scars. Perhaps, i'm just a tad to fat to climb routes that require finger strength these days and i'm sub-conciously drawn towards jamming and locking lines.
Whatever the deal, i'm starting to enjoy my climbing once again.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

A weekend above Hathersage

The BUCS event was having an after competition climbing weekend at Millstone - so not participating in BUCS, Leeds decided to send a contingent of Sean Jacobs, Rowan, Jamie Goodwin and myself to climb and sample the banter...

I was going as i'm fairly fond of Millstone and had some unfinished buisness, namely Knightsbridge and Suspense at Lawrencefield. However, i wasn't travelling with the utmost confidence having fallen off the majority of routes i've tried over E1 in the past couple of weeks and i decided getting on routes like Suspense - which you just don't want to fall off, would be a good idea.

We arrived and about the same time, Manchester uni did also. This meant Franco was about, which was good as it had been quite a while since we'd last climbed together - and i generally climb better with Franco as he's fairly odd - and it's contageous.
However, i had agreed to climb with Sean first and i jumped on Knightsbridge. Everything went swimmingly, until i reached the crux. I tired in vain to stick my fingers into the chalked fingerlock but they were having non of it - I must have put weight on over the winter as my fingers are chubbier than previously and that's fairly impressive!
I ended up falling off, another E2. I shouted bollocks or somesuch quite loud, which is most out of character i feel but it was massively frustrating. E2 was my solid grade not so long ago and climbing is a big confidence game.
I dropped down and pulled the ropes and tried again. This time, i attempted to fine a 'crimp' anything that i could use to help me pass the thinnest part of the crack.
Luckily, on my second attempt i did curl my tips over a crimp. Franco had shouted up that he remembered there possibly being a 'hold' on the left of the crack and sure enough there was.
I didn't feel to bad though, as i checked the logbooks and saw a fair few strong lads have struggled with that crux, indeed legend has it Luke didn't manage it either...

My confidence however at the time was shot. I didn't want to climb anything and i had come with aspirations of Erb, Twikker and Suspense. I ended up dossing around eating, talking bollocks to people i've never met and sporting Will Hunt's horrendously colourful Lycra that i had worn for a laugh. I also belayed Franco on Coventry Steet - which he climbed with no problem up until he put his hand on the ledge. It was dusty and he ended up taking an Inverted Whipper into the wall below.

Bizzarely, this psyched me up a tad and i persuaded him to belay me on the close-by E2 of Piccadilly Circus. This two pitcher wasn't to his liking so i decided to run it into one - as it would be good practice. It had the added benefit of making me make sure i didn't fall off as i was going easy on the gear as to prevent rope drag.
The crux pull out of the cave was pretty committing, as i didn't bother with any of the 'potentially rope drag causing gear' in the cave. Baisically, i decided to myself that i wasn't going to fall of this E2 and quite frankly, i couldn't.
I didn't.

That night we all sat around drinking the odd beverage and eating barbequed meat of various origins... Myself and Franco being rather classy with Chicken Breast and Lamb Chops... and then i thankfully got a space in a tent which was nice as i had previously been planning on just sleeping outside somewhere.

The next morning, Franco and I left a cold and windy Millstone for the warmer, more sheltered Lawrencefield.
I jumped on Suspense without much thought and jerkily climbed my way to the crux finger crack. I lopped a couple of wires in and then deliberated how to do it?
My fingers would fit in the crack, thankfully, but the footholds out right looked slippy and shite. I tried and almost as fast backed off back to the foot ledge.
I chatted to Franco about something totally irrelevant and chalked up and then this time using the same technique, the crux went and the top move, was nailed without using the peg scars at the top somehow? Though i can't really remember how or why.

Fair to say i was relieved, as firstly i hadn't fallen off this most classic of routes but also i never particularly enjoy the prospect of falling on small wires. I have to admit i found the gear 'ok' but hardly inspiring.
Franco seconded and said it was hard in the conditions, which were slightly greasy due to the stillness.

The rest of the day was quite relaxed for me, Franco climbed Boulevard and High Plains Drifter (total sketch!) and i ended up being a chicken and leaving Billy Whizz for another day and entertaining myself on Great Peter, content that i don't fall off E1's!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Lakes Weekend - Potentially Epic.

It didn't quite live up to the hype that i thought it might, but it certainly had some moments!
We started off, picking up Huw from St. James Hospital where he was in attendance of a mate, i remembered thinking that i didn't fancy that being a 'warning' for the weekend ahead.
We flew to the Duddon Valley courtesy of Dunc, Iron Maiden on the Ipod and hilarious banter, we then had fun and games following some choad who couldn't drive up Wrynose Pass.

My plan for the weekend was the reason behind it being 'potentially epic'. As it turned out, The Manchester Uni club were also in town and i had arranged to meet Franco at Scafell crag at 9am for some winter climbing - possibly FA's. My mission was walking to Scafell from the Duddon valley or persuading someone who actually climbs in the club to come up to Scafell with me!
Thankfully, Tom Nichols and Gareth Uglow - two lads i hadn't climbed with before were psyched for winter action and Gareth had a car!
We drove around to Wasdale and arrived at the base of Scafell Crag at 8.30. We hung around a while waiting for Franco. But eventually, i decided to just get some climbing done so we jumped as a three on the uber-classic Moss Gill, IV/V,5.

I started up the first pitch and after some nice gully work, traversing moves and an overlap, i arrived in a cave with a thread where i decided to belay. Nichols came up and carried on to below the first crux wall, bringing myself and Gareth up.
Gareth set out on the tricky looking wall and look his time on the ascent, me and Nichols were both cold and some climbers arrived at the same belay. Gareth had a belay under the massive chockstone of the Collie Step and brough myself and Nichols up - i could see why Gareth took his time on the ascent i found that pitch particularly tricky and it was a damn good effort for his first mixed line!
The Collie step was between us and the Ampitheatre. I can't remember if there was a discussion, but i ended up on the Step and was soon clipping the in-situ gear and then began to try and make the step left with leashed axes, i found it tricky.
I ended up lobbing off and landing in the gully below - which was a bit of a shock as i didn't feel that bad a milisecond before!
I jumped back on it after everyone took shelter under the huge chockstone! The thinly iced slabs were a first for me, having never crossed such terrain before but second time around i didn't make much of a meal of it and i plodded up the georgous Neve into the Ampitheatre. I looked up and the only line of weakness i saw, was the horrendous direct finish! Thank god you don't HAVE to finish up that!
I brought up the lads off a rather tenuous belay, but they didn't have any issues navigating the Collie Step and i ended up getting the last pitch up the IV,4 escape from the Ampitheatre - which i felt abit guilty about as i did 3 of the big pitches on the line.
Franco never did turn up, turned out he couldn't get a lift from any of the Manchester boulderers, but i'm extremely happy with what occurred on the day. We also met Kate Silverton on the way up to Scafell Pike for Sport Relief. It's not all bad.
After hilarious banter and feeling ill on Saturday night, sunday proved to be less epic. I teemed up with Tim Elson, again a lad i hadn't climbed with - but i knew we'd get on when he soloed up the first few metres of the first route of the day at White Ghyll and lobbed a cam in when i asked for a belay. Fair to say the day was laid back ticking some very nice E1's, such as Man of Straw, The Palestinians and Do Knot Direct.

It all got interesting though when we decided to get on White Ghyll Eliminate. I wasn't exactly looking forward to this hard looking line. I've certainly done easier looking E2's!
Tim soloed up to the belay and i followed and then started making excuses about how horrendous the overhanging, soaring crackline looked. I don't like very pumpy problems and i didn't think i had enough in the tank to do it.
I got on with it, placed a nut and looked at the crack. Not what i expected. It looked like a hand jamming crack from below but looking at it here, it was barely finger wide. I slotted a poor feeling finger jam in and pulled up to place a left hand finger jam in and started looking for footholds...which were less than plentiful.
I tried to go for a hold, which was being partially blocked by an In-situ wire, but i didn't commit enough and ended up slumping onto my rock 5. I was disappointed to say the least as i felt i had it in the bag.
Second go from the footledge below i went at it exactly the same way and this time my fingers went beneath the insitu wire and into a small incut/jam thing. I pulled up and clipped the wire and carried on up jams and jugs to the ledge above. I wasn't even pumped!
I couldn't believe how different a climb could feel from how it looked and Tim lead the final 5a pitch which finishes with utterly beautiful moves up a nicely positioned wall.
Baisically, i expected a thuggy, pumpy and slightly commiting (in so much as "do i keep pulling or stop to place gear") kind of climb, but i ended up finding a powerful, tenuous one mover on fairly steep terrain. It's a very good route and well worth doing.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Roseberry Collapse

Over the winter, the harsh weather has obviously put the final nail in the coffin for the; admittedly dodgy looking, left hand side of the Roseberry West Face.
Eliminator, the ever-widening E2 crackline-come-chimney has collapsed, taking with it a particularly pleasing HVS offwidth.
However, the fall of this rock has probably added to the bouldering below the crag and the wall now has potential for a few more, interesting looking lines.
I feel, the urge to return to the Moors in order to take advantage of this rock fall and also to carry on Ravensdale - my 'psyche' for moors FA's has returned in earnest and im actually abit disappointed im heading to the lakes this weekend rather than home!
However i find myself restrained in my room, doing Geo-Chemistry and about to start a thread on UKC, asking why the Mod's removed Franco's post detailing the collapse of Roseberry. Some of the UKC entreage seem quite friendly and relaxed, some however are fairly choadish.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Dave Macleod's Anubis

I don't generally discuss climbing, as i'm a climber with fairly poor ethics. Indeed, not only this but i can barely put an argument together, but i feel the need to comment on Anubis - perhaps it's time i changed my perspective on climbing.
Dave's come in for some flak as a result of this latest winter exploit, which you can read all about on DaveMac's blog or UKC. There is a fairly split population mainly at two extremes. There are the hero worshipping 'followers' who expect this E8 winter line to be Scottish XVI and then there's the 'this is not a winter route it's a drytool on the ben' brigade.
Rather un-interestingly i find myself agreeing with both sides and my opinion is as follows:
The route, viewed from photos taken on the day of the ascent clearly show it isn't in what many would suggest was winter nick, theres no hoar/rime and limited ice - but it's a mixed climb so your climbing on rock mainly anyway. Personally, rime/hoar is purely an aesthetic thing in my mind as although it adds to the experience of the climb and difficulty to a degree it has it's problems, such as the fact you have to strip it off the crag in order to climb it, which scratches the rock much more than if you could see you placements first time. I really don't think a crag has to be COVERED in rime to be in winter nick, though a black crag is a bit of a piss take in a winter sense.
Dave said there was Ice in the back of the crack and that he placed an ice hook - if true and i can't see him lying, then it's a winter ascent. People have said they don't believe that. Well fair enough to them, but ultimately he climbed the line in the middle of winter, in subzero-icy conditions, with a bit of ice and hooks. Mixed for my money.
I think my main opinion, is however if myself and Franco rocked up to Eagle Crag in Grisedale and boshed our way up Kestrel Wall, or indeed went up and tooled on the Ben - we'd be hunted down by these ravenous UK/UKC winter ethics police and made to answer for our crimes. Obviously DaveMac hasn't 'got away' with it, as such but he has the profile to shrug it off not a problem - similarly with Dave Birkett in the lakes this year. There was a bit of questioning with his classic rock climb but nothing like the level of pure hatred if a 'punter' had done it...
Indeed, a punter like me got a bit of flak as a result of climbing Chock Gully in 'very powdery' conditions. The conditions we climbed Chock Gully in was certainly wintery! The gully was full of powder, the ice below the chockstone was a bit poor but it was there and without it it would have been impossible to get to the 'stone. Tackling the stone itself was more 'drytoolie' as the crack on the left was iced but there was no lovely ice corner or chandelier as in the 70's and 80's.
My point being we raised a few eyebrows climbing that, so if we stuck a photo of us on some crag with bugger all hoar on the rock, we wouldn't have a leg to stand on - as they would have been ripped off and used as belays by the rabid anti mixed climbing brigade...
Summer routes in my opinion, are meant to be climbed in winter a matter or progression, provided they are good winter lines eg Engineer Slabs or Bowfell Buttress. Anubis, certainly looks the test-piece.

DaveMac, good work.

No one reads this blog, so it would be interesting if someone had an opinion to my ramblings...!