Thursday, 29 April 2010

Confidence (or lack of), training (or lack of) and sketching.

After the disappointment of the Lakes last weekend, i felt optimistic for our usual wednesday off Uni to go climbing. Unfortunately, car drivers were unavailable so i got on the bus up to Caley to see who was about. No one was about so i decided to solo some stuff i hadn't done which mainly meant Tip Off (E2 5b).
It was greasly warm, very humid but ultimately the climbing is very straightforward. So much so i felt confident for an attempt at the right arete, which gets E3. Soloing up 'Rip Off' i attempted to make the move but chickened out (confidence?) jumping for the sloping ledge to the right, which was a ludicrously dangerous move in all honesty, as it looked easier to do than it was. However, that improved my confidence and i jumped back on it for a second bash, in full knowledge that i could jump off - if it went tits up.
Well, what a sketch.
I pulled up to the weird chipped box thing, and put my left foot on a smear - reach up to a small edge and then staddling the arete and with hands bunched together i realised then, that i didn't have enough purchase on the rock, to lauch off backwards onto the awkward-to-land slab. Fuck, what a mistake, with the crack between the two buttresses in waiting. I popped for a small ledge to the right which had a small amount of Chalk on it.
It's good - and it turned out Ewan had chalked it on monday night after he had considered giving it ago.
Speaking of Ewan, the Lanky welsh punter has been training of late and has developed that most inportant of climbing attributes - Confidence. It's skyhigh, running around the Yorkshire Grit like a man possessed he's climbing anything with an E in front of it.
I'm glad my most called upon partner at Leeds, is finally pushing his limits as when i first met him he was clearly capable of more than VS.
That said, soon i'll be the one 'puntering' as i get the feeling he can only get better with training (with which he seems hell bent) and the fact he's the perfect climbing build, lanky and skinny. It has inspired me to maybe start training, as i've never trained properly, though i feel next year will see my developments as i will have a finger board, a nicer area to go running and also i'll be buying a season card for the Leeds Uni Gym... We'll see.

Anyway, after some messing around traversing blocks and doing the horn again and smearing up the Angels Wall block without chips, i decided to wander over to Chevin Buttress.
Arriving, it looked as i imagined it and looked like a lovely place to spend the afternoon.
Long story short i soloed the VS's which are all quality lines, Vampire Ledge being the best tick in my eyes as it takes some pretty exposed terrain on some hidden holds that spice things up, until you find them.
Chevin Buttress is a real classic, the crux on that is superb and then the VS through the bulge is a beaut, a bit dirty to start and definitely the most difficult to solo!
Quite confident i soloed the Unstarred (deserved so for its escapability) E2 to the left of Chevin Buttess that involves one tricky move and then a bold move, then a more straightforward finish near the C.B direct. Confidence flowing, I then tried the Waster (E1) but it felt tricky and far too well protected for leading, to be soloing so i departed quickly.
I checked out the quarry, it looks worthwhile to be honest - The starred HVS's look good fun and the E1 crackline 'No Prisoners' could be a good finger lock test.

Returning to Caley i met Connor and Ben (slightly frustrating), so after a short chat and cool down (it really was boiling) I had a quick tootle up Angel's Wall, finishing the correct direct way and then totally sketched Boot Crack (VS), as i didn't fancy laybacking in the greasy conditions so elected for an armbar and footlock. Bad day for doing slightly silly things, might take it a bit easier this weekend in Wales. Or not.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Esk Buttress - Central Pillar

Finally, i would be tradding in the Lakes with Ewan 'wales is the best, i like sheep' Russell. This was a chance for me to convince the most psyched climber in Leeds, who incidentally has a car, that the lakes is a very pleasant distance from Leeds and well worth the effort more than 'now and again'.
The weather was very, very dry and it had been for days. I mused about Gimmer, Pavey, Dow but decided that (when i heard Franco and Luke were going to try the Cumbrian and that the approach across 'the great moss' would be in good nick) Esk Buttress was the best bet. A stunning piece of rock, with some classy lines the main target for me being Central Pillar (E2 5b***).
We rocked up in beautiful conditions, sun beating down and a slight breeze. Ewan and I pretty much instantly racked up and jumped on Central Pillar.

Ewan lead up to the stance shared with the Cumbrian and i followed up 'getting back in the Rhyolitic groove' after far too long on shitty Gritstone.
Then, guidebook read i climbed the first 5b pitch that is described as being 'a great pitch to second'. I expected boldness, what i found was bliss.
A well protected easy crack leads up and right to a small ledge, where a couple of moves up leads to a peg runner. Clipped, i was set to follow a couple of grooves up to a ramp. I knew the crux was to come and it mentioned in the guide about a 1.5 cam placement. I came to the conclusion, quite quickly, that this was probably the only gear between the peg and the stance.
Anyway, i started what i had seen on the UKC pages as a 'monster runout'. Nice flowy moves, leading up a couple of grooves, to what could be called an overlap. I pulled through, probably 10metres? up from peg, and while reaching to a small edge noticed a perfect 1.5cam placement to me left.
Shot by Ewan of climber making his way up the long 5b pitch on Central Pillar.

What i thought here was a bit bizarre really, in hindsight. I spurt out "Well, it wouldn't be E2 with that..." and proceeded to climb up to the stance, my lonesome pegrunner some distance below.
Up came Ewan, and he quickly and efficiently despatched the second 5b pitch, a lovely small pitch pulling steep terrain on positive edges and buckets. The following 4c pitch up the undercut flake, is a real shame. The climbing is too short! If this was a long pitch it would be brilliant! I'd have probably enjoyed it even more if i wasn't in urgent need of a toilet break - but i manned up and stretched my leg across the wall to the foothold!

Shot by Ewan of climbers on top pitch of Central Pillar.
Anyway, we wandered down off the top and at the bottom i attempted to go to the toilet. This was a disasterous event. I will not go into details, as i barely understand them myself but nothing happened, except i developed massive pains in my bowel region. It felt like a knot.
I hobbled back to the bags and Ewan, Huw and Alec and said 'i may be some time'. However, the pain very quickly increased to quite agonising proportions.
I laid at the bottom of Esk Buttress for about 2 hours? trying to find positions that were comfortable. I found a small amount of comfort in 'massaging' the area (read violently pushing it). I was actually quite worried. In my state i wasn't going anywhere and i couldn't think of how to get back to the car? After a couple of hours though there was a noticeable improvement, in so much as i could hobble around crunched over.
Me in Agony, as the lads laughed.

Found this vid which i'd forgotten about. Quite funny, the odd hilarious comment. enjoy.

Me in pain at Esk Buttress. from Dave Warburton on Vimeo.

I spoke with Ewan who agreed to carry my rope back to the car when they finished climbing, so i left my heavy gear at the crag and proceeded to stumble my way back to the car. I felt ridiculous, i'm glad it was Eskdale and not Pavey or somewhere busy!
I squelched my way back via the 'dry' Great Moss and the hills inbetween. I laughed to myself about the guide description "Esk Buttress, despite it's isolated position can be reached quite painlessly..." Yeh Right!
I fell over a couple of times just because i couldn't lift my feet and eventually after what must have been 2 & 1/2 hours, i rested by a river below the gate. After about 20minutes the climbers who had also been at Esk passed by on their way home. We chatted and they were from the Manchester group, told me that Franco and luke had gone to East Buttress on Scafell (can't blame them like, it looked ace!) and that they had a hut in Duddon.
I started to wander back and noticed a definite increase in health! I expected for something to happen like a huge passing of wind or a massive urge to go to the toilet but nothing, i just became more and more normal.
Arriving at the car about 40 minutes later? I found, amazingly a Flat tyre! I felt pretty OK now and set to work getting the tyre out and finding the wrench and stuff. Unfortunately, Ewan's car didn't have a wrench...
Ewan, Huw and Alec turned up and we asked at the farm but soon turned our attention to a few figures walking down from the path from Eskdale. AS it turned out, it was manchester folk and soon Franco and Luke turned up.
Luke had a wrench in his car and while i chatted to Luke, the wheel was replaced and we journied down to Duddon to the manchester hut.
Anyway, Central Pillar is well worth the effort, and as Victor Scott said - "you'll not forget Central Pillar" - that's for sure! If you climb E2, go and do it. I'll have to return in a few years when i'm stronger and get on the Cumbrian! That would be nice.

Oh, and if anyone reading this happens to fancy telling me what might have been wrong - I felt fine, no headaches or anything. I'd drunk water and tea as per any other day. I'd eaten carbohydrate rich food, Cous cous in the evening before and then pasta in the morning but i've done this before without ill affects! And, i did pass a small amount of wind, but nothing extraordinary and when i went to the toilet it was normal! My thoughts were that putting off resulted in a blockage, but again, i've put off plenty of times in the past and never experienced this. Perhaps just a weird turn, sent to tell me Wales IS better than the Lakes? Next weekend will show me the path maybe?

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Ogden Clough

Wednesday midday, i'm packing my rucksack to go climbing after a morning lecture on Palaeontology. This is why i decided on Leeds Uni, the ability to get out quickly to the surrounding crags, even if they are Gritstone.
Ogden Clough was the venue for today, apparently idyllicly positioned above Ogden Water near Halifax. It attains a height of around 7m and having seen a photo of the place, i decided a rope was probably Necessary. As it turned out, Ewan was also in need of visiting as he had volunteered to write up the crag for the upcoming Yorkshire Grit Guide.
We arrived at the crag and i realised it was pretty much a soloing venue, though it did speak of 'hard topouts'.
I quickly set about O/S soloing the 'E' grades, of which there is plentiful supply. E2 6a seem to be the grade of choice but they are varying in difficulty and crux height, some of example have cruxs near the floor and little gear, others are hard moves between breaks with plentiful camming potential.
Either way, Mike's Meander (E2 6a**) was probably the nicest of the bouldery solos, but i soon set my sights on Joe Cool (E2 5c***). This was on the same wall of rock, tackling the right arete. I did wonder why it was E2 and 5c, when the routes of similar stature were E2 6a?
Either way i decided a Solo was a much better option, and Ewan took some photos which was a good plan, as it turned out.
The starting move is a gem, i took two or three attempts making sure i didn't fluff it as i fancied this one Onsight and it felt like the kind of move that if you get wrong, your off. It went however, a nice bit of footwork and a slight reach to a break.
I stood around here for some time searching for holds and cleaning them abit. Then tried a big rightwards rockover. The Buttress slightly leans towards the river, as a result this rockover felt massively unbalanced but pretty cool. I decided against it however.

I chalked up and tried it leftwards second time around and after quick swap of feet on the break and a slight reach, the top break was gained. From here was one of the 'Ogden' top outs, which in all honesty, are perfectly fine on all the routes except from, Linus (E3).

This E3, seems to get it's grade for the Topout - probably because back in the day they soloed it. However, for my ascent i opted for a rope and a couple of small cams. Placed i went for the top and after struggling to decided where to go, left, direct or right. I found the 'just left of centre' topout but fell off due to a combination of sandy/licheny rock, sweat and tiredness.
I pulled up on to the top with ease and returned to the floor, pulled the ropes and went up again. This time, i fell off again due to sandy holds, i can only think that topping out first time disturbed the holds after i'd cleaned them.
3rd time lucky i thought, but this time i was tired and my hands were oddly greasy. Frustrating.
Ewan abbed for the gear, using myself as an Anchor (a quality moors technique).
Ewan proceeded to solo Mikes Meander, Lead Joe Cool and also lead Linus, though with a slightly more leftwards finish, still i'd say the crux of the topout is pulling around the lip so a good effort from the lanky, welsh, VS punter.
All in all, it's a pleasant little crag well worth a trip and made all the more inviting by the fact you could spend a nice day up there around the Ogden Water, and the surrounding moorland. Definitive family picnic sort of place.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Horrendous Anti-Psyche

I don't even want to write up this day, but hopefully i can use it to make sure i never feel like i did today.
We drove to Whitestonecliffe, to get on the overhanging handcrack of Black Mamba (E3). However, when we arrived the new loose blocks at the base of the crag from the harsh winter and also the fact Black Mamba looks horrendous, made me totally loose all 'psyche'. I looked at the line for the best part of 10minutes trying to see something that made me want to do it, i couldn't and we departed with me saying it was the last time i visited Whitestonecliffe.
Peak Scar was just down the road, so we popped there - with the classic B.B.C (E2) on the hitlist. I'd twice sat under the tower of roofs belaying Franco, and on both tries his attempts to go direct were met with a swit downclimb.
This time however, Franco ran the two pitches into one and got to work 'sending' the roof. He went direct, as always, but this time he actually went for it.
Numerous shards of rock peppered all around me, as he took a whipper from just level with the roof. He was pulling hard on crusty crimps and they didn't stand up to the test.
He got back on and did the route more to the left of the roof, using a footlock and reach and was soon abbing back down the line after it's completion.
I fancied it, but couldn't be arsed - i'm either massively anti-psyched or Ill. I'm going with the latter as i feel decidedly light-headed as i write this. Anywho, i lead up to the roof but couldn't do the move, so Seconded Franco up the crux pitch.
Good moves, but it's a bit wierd for E2. Worth doing, if you like roofs and live in the moors - take some hexes.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

It's not a Dale - Aka - Snotterdale

This horrendous/hilarious sounding crag perched in a plantation near Scugdale, has for the past few years been on the radar, but we've as yet never got around to going.
However, the recent poor weather (showers most days), combined with the fact i was having lunch with my family in the middle of the day and also a visit from Victor Scott, who popped by to very generously gift some surplus gear (pegs, screws, nuts, chocks and some original RP's) all in a rather cool old rucksack - pure Moors (and other areas, but they're not as good!) history.

Franco came down and we arranged to quickly motor to Snotterdale as we decided, if it was wet then we could just look at the crag for the next guide and also for any Last Great Problems or just FA's!
We pretty much ran up the plothery track to the head of the dale thats not a dale,so giving the crag it's name. However, upon arrival at the plantations in the area we found the description of how to find the crags lacking - the only part that made sense was "The crag can be difficult to find"...
Luckily, we used our loaves and were soon walking along a ridge in the trees and soon found the main buttress, with the well respected line of Desperandum (E2).

Franco quickly abseiled down the prominent arete, which would be an FA, to see if it was possible. He said it is, but felt it probably wasn't worth the effort currently, compared to our other goals on the moors.
Knowing that we were running out of time, we decided to quickly jump on, what is probably the route of the crag, Desperandum.
Franco climbed first, reaching and finger locking his way up the steep cracksystem. He described the line as being 'a myriad of finger locks, some of which are class'. He made a huge reach up to clip a peg from a lovely handjam and solidly polished off the line. He declared it well worth the effort in a similar sense to Warrior at High Crag - if you walked up to do Desperandum, you wouldn't be disappointed and there are other similarly graded lines there too.
I then climbed the line, but we left the gear in due to time restraints. The first few moves are on hand holds but at 1/3 height the crack climbing starts properly. With fingerlocks and some efficient footwork, i too made it up to the handjam at just above halfheight. The next move was for me quite tricky, as i gastoned and then laidback, into a reach to the crack above the peg. I found a poorish fingerlock, which i used to gain a much better one and then the top.
We chatted about the route as we wandered over to the rest of the crag, which is further to the east. Our general view was that it was upper end E2, with maybe a few 5c moves and with good locks that could easily be blocked by over-zealous gear placing - perhaps we did?
As i mentioned earlier, Warrior (E2) at High Crag is a 1 hour walk up Tripsdale and is probably worth the effort, as it's fairly unique to climb such a crack on the moors. Well, Desperandum is a similar sort of route. It's a less unique line, being a steep finger crack system, but its very good climbing and just adds to the plethora of good E2's the moors has to offer - It's worth keeping in mind, if your ticking E2 as you don't have to spend the whole day up at the crag, its a 20 minute walk in if done quickly and you find the crag quickly (we'll write up a better approach for Climbonline) and once you've done it and don't happen to fancy anything else, then Scuggy is 30 minutes away.
The Right hand crack had some lines that would be ok, they were reasonably clean - the impressive arete called Excalibur (MVS) was the pick of the bunch and i got some photos in the diminishing light.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Stoupe Brow - Again!

Franco and I returned again, to Stoupe Brow.
This time, the weather was still but it had drizzled on the drive over - the crag is a nicer place to be when its not being blasted by a cold wind!
There were two major aims for the day, Franco wanted to lead the White Scoop (poss. E6/7) and i fancied the long, central crack system that looked about E2 until we noticed the top section. Hidden holds it could be E1/2 without it could be E4.
I geared up and started on the sugary rock that unfortunately makes up the base of this line and after only a couple of metres i was backing off quickly due to pulling off endless amounts of holds and sand. It's a real shame, as the top crack section looks very good and potentially quite a taxing number for a finger crack - i might, shunt it next time i go so theres no belayer below to get hit by rocks and no climber, ie me, to get injured by potentially crap gear is sugar rock.
After this i made do with an obvious hand crack a few tens of metres to the right. It was unfortuanately wet - but the jamming was good and the wetness didn't seem to affect the climb too much in terms of difficulty or enjoyment. I said it was HVS 5a, but in the end it could be VS 5a. Either way, it climbs a jamming crack with solid gear and a few nice/tricky moves. The route itself is a bit grassy but it doesnt seem to affect the line and the top out is rocky which is pleasant for the crag.
After this, we set up a rope on the White Scoop - but it was unfortunately wet. So i ended up climbing the Central Crack (E2) which i hadn't as yet got around to doing, as i thought it looked hard.
A few good moves lead up to a thinning crack and the formation of a scoop/niche. I found getting established in this most difficult - mainly as im not particularly flexible. Tall/flexible folk will be able to bridge delightfully up there, however i sort of 'sketched' a way up smearching (smearing and reaching), until i found myself under a little roof. I placed the only gear i had that would fit, a Camolot 2 and tried to make the pull to the top - i hate making moves that are potentially tricky over only one bit of gear, my gear after that was at the start of the bridging.
I gained the top and found an expanse of grass with a couple of clumps of heather - Franco had told me this was 'not too bad'. I sketched onto the top and gave franco a bollocking - which was mainly down to me being scared more than anything. He seconded me and did indeed, effortlessly pull over the top on the grass. He laughed and said he found grass 'more bomber' than some rock moves.
We then discussed how it probably wasn't E2 5c and was just plain harder and move awkward than that. We decided on E3 6a**, as the moves are good, but i'd suggest placing a handhold at the top if you are afraid of grassy topouts!
After deciding on the upgrade of this line, we had a good long think and decided to go back on my original decision to 'overgrade' the roof crack, 'Snake Charmer', which we made E2 5c* - this is probably correct as it's certainly not a walkover, but it is well protected and is pretty unsustained. We are desperate not to sandbag our lines but the inevitable 'embarrassment' of grade inflation amd soft touches makes grading a tricky old buisness. Repeats would be brilliant, but i'm not expecting anything anytime soon.

Kay Nest Crag

What an odd crag.
It's not the place i'd have thought there would have been around 15 routes and not only that, a rather immense bit of featureless wall, hand drilled and bolted aid action.
The effort that must have gone into creating that aid line, must have been substantial, unless it is easier to hand drill sandstone, that i think!
The line, which sounded in the description as though it followed a line, possibly of weakness, was quite the opposite and forged a bolted beeline, directly through the most continuous and featureless wall of rock. There was some old tat and some pegs for interest as well, one of which looked as though it had been placed/replaced quite reasonably. The Tree below the line had also been cut down with in the last few years and there was a screwgate about 5 bolts up.
Franco and I mused about the old ethics of bolts - on the moors, they only seem to bolt the featureless faces and ridiculous roofs - but it doesn't seem to have happened at the more popular crags like Ravenscar? Admittedly they probably only wanted long routes and for one reason or another, the larger buttresses on the moors never seem to have been popular. Cringle, Beacon, Kay Nest etc etc.
Franco ended up giving it a go and tenuously aided through the blank section to free climb a small section around 6a. So, hurrah! we dispensed with a bit of aid - but it's a line of bolts... I'm glad i wasn't on the sharp end seeing as i weight quite a bit more than him!
Theres a few really nice and large boulders around the base of the crag as well - so for a spot of idyllic bouldering (some of which can be quite hard, sort of V5, V6, V7) then it's probably worth a wander if you like that sort of thing.
We ended the day at Roseberry Topping however, myself wanting a crack at Chris Woodal's, Accelerator (HVS) and Franco planning to 'send' the direct finish to Pasghetti Alpinist.
In the end i climbed the challenging and rewarding crackline first, which was quite a memorable route. The first few metres are unfortuantely on poor rock, but the crack itself is good. Gear is good, which is the important factor. The rock then improves and some of the jamming is superb, but which entering the upper reaches of hte crack, before the small cave i managed to pull off a wall hold - amazingly staying on. I reached the cave quite shaken and placed some gear then pulled out for 'the difficult final roof'. However, the final roof is on buckets and much easier than anything on the rest of the line! Obviously, im a modern climber compared to the jammin' hardcore of the 'good old days'.