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.