Wednesday, 80's Pete and I travelled to the Lakes in search of classics in the HVS to E2 range. We decided that the often talked about Sergeant Crag Slabs was probably the best option, seeing as we'd never climbed there is easy to get to and had plenty to go at.
We arrived to a pretty full crag with two parties already there. In a rather slow day, we ticked Terminator 2 (HVS***) and Lakeland Cragsman (HVS***). I climbed the classic slabby (E2 5b***) Aphasia, with Pete also climbing the pleasant Quicksilver (E1**). Aphasia was interesting as it was much more sustained and far better protected than i thought it would have been, i ran out of QD's by the crack and sacrificed cams and screwgates but ultmately just ran it out a bit!
Pete was at work at 6am the following day so we rushed off to the car, i'd hoped to have gotten enough time to climb Bleak Howe Buttress (E2 5c***) but it wasn't to be.
The following day, when Pete finished work at 2pm, we journied BACK to the lakes with an evenings cragging in mind. I decided that Hodge Close would be ideal and we quickly despatched the classic 'Behind The Lines' (HVS***), this being Pete's first Slate climb. I told him that he'd get on well with the climbing as he's an intelligent climber and places his feet well. I then decided to sack off trying Limited Edition (E4 6a***) to do the reputedly very good Big Dipper/Mirrormere (E2 5b***).
I asked Pete to climb the first pitch up a strenuous crack and then lovely rampline, which is E1 5b on it's own. This line takes a cool left to right of the buttress, with a belay on bolts. The second pitch which is E2 5b, tiptoes from the belay leftwards for 30 metres to an arete, via two bolts.
Great piece of climbing, on both pitches a definite classic.
After Hodge, we returned to the Hut at Patterdale where we met Chris and Heather Woodal, which is always nice, they told us about their week in the lakes in the good weather - jealous.
The forecast was potentially hot with thunder showers, but even so i decided a trip up to the esoteric gem of Langdale, Neckband Crag, was the best bet. I had half considered Goat Crag, Borrowdale, but decided to hit Neckband as it was likely to be in condition given the recent very dry conditions.
It was in condition and im exceptionally glad we went. Pete warmed up on the distinctly awkward classic HVS corner crack, Mithrandir. Great climbing but definitely awkward for the grade. This was the trend of the day.
I was going to get on Gillette Direct (E2 5c***) but Pete declared an interest, so i got on the *** variation to an awkward E3 6a. This route, Tracheotomy(E2 5c***) misses out the very awkward looking overhanging finger crack, that i looked at but couldnt fit fingers in. However, Tracheotomy, turned out to be more than worthwhile.
Starting as for Gillette Direct, it pulls out right and follows the upper cracks of the E3, with some great thin locks and padding and brilliant gear. It was all very sustained and ultimately amazing, worth *** at any crag in both our opinions.
Pete then climbed the well thought of Gillette Direct (E2), which again provided thought provoking, intense climbing for the whole 35metres.
I finished off with Gandalf (E2 5c**) which looked inaccessible with the traverse to its undercut base being totally mossy. However, the holds were clean in the main and i climbed this again, with interest. Not as good climbing as the previous two routes (no bad thing!) but probably more worthy of ** than many routes!
Pete then finished with what has to be one of my favourite climbs yet. The E1 5a***, Razor crack, tackes an obvious splitter through 4 overlaps. He climbed it steadily enough but was tired. I go on the second and was blownaway. Juggy climbing, with perfect gear lead to a cool rock onto a jug and then, brilliantly, a little offwidth section. I decided i may as well offwidth climb it with a fist and hand jam pull into the niece and then an ankle/leg lock hands off rest and lean back. Brilliant.
Finishing up the final overlaps via some quality locking and more perfect gear!
E1 5b for my money perfectly sustained 5a climbing with a 5b crux and perfect perfect gear. Go and do them all, now!
The left side of the crag is clean, despite the large black mossy streak, however the righthand side appears to have been forgotton for longer. I fancied the E3 there, but the crack systems were very much vegetated and regrettably, i'm not the one to clean them.
Wandered back to the car in the baking sun (having been almost chilly in the northshade of the crag) and returned to the moors via some convection rainfall (showing it was a good couple of warm days!) content with money well spent!