Saturday, 28 July 2012

A Thorgill Highball

Sophie returned from Deutschland and we returned to Thorgill, a crag set in lovely surroundings near the sleepy village of Rosedale. Franco was keen to check the highball wall out and I was interested in a bit of the bouldering too.

We warmed up on the slopey, slippy Thorsminde (7a) and then boshed the excellent Bermuda (7a+), which climbs on positive crimps and pockets on a steep section of wall avoiding the right arete, finishing at the apex, which fortunately feels natural and non-eliminate. Ace. Franco then turned his attention to a 7c, which i looked at a 7b dyno called KGB. I like the idea/motion of dynos, but i'm absolutely crap at holding holds dynamically and i really fail to time everything and generate the power required. Anyway, after 7 or 8 goes, i found myself swinging from the monster jugs at the top. Delighted.

Bermuda - 7a+ **

Franco then started work climbing the red coloured, barrel-shaped wall above this boulder which was clearly home to a tricky highball. Franco cleaned the centre of the wall to an undercut, while i looked at a hole a metre or so to the right. After some holly tree bending, i found this provided the easiest method of gaining the line of pockets at 1/3 height. I however, found the start anything but easy and repeatedly failed on the move even though my fingers were around 1mm from the hold. I couldn't static it and if i popped i fell off. I got increasingly annoyed and this increased when Franco simply reached the hold, barely trying!

He found the upper wall bold, but soon managed the line above our raft of pads :-)

The Parochial Dream - E5 6b *

Thorgill highball from Dave Warburton on Vimeo.

I, eventually, repeated the route too which was a good confidence builder for me, as i'd probs not have managed this last year. All in all a good shortish day. Some good bouldering, a first 7b for me and it was a dyno and then finishing up with a highball 7a/E5 6b which we both thought was rather good... Two E5 6b's this week at opposite ends of the style/climbing variety spectrum. 

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Coastal F.A's - Psychosis E5 6b ***

With some good weather forecast and strong westerlies, we decided the east facing coastal escarpments were a prime venue for a two-day hit. The team of Franco, Sam and I was joined by Matthew Ferrier and we made our way through the 9ft high bracken towards the base of the crag...Jurassic Park indeed. It would have probably been best to abseil in, but we enjoyed the bracken-bashing, as it was a fine warm up!

Sam and Matthew got to work on the left arete of Contraband Buttress, a route Franco reckoned would be around VS. Franco and I geared up to try the ace-looking splitter crack right of Contraband Crack (HVS 5a **). I had cleaned the line in the winter but Franco wanted to try to onsight the route. A few ups and downs placing the starting wires and working out the moves, provided him with a good warm up. Ready, he pulled on via the bold feeling sequence past a good/flared (depends on hand size i think) jam. He managed to get some more slightly fiddly gear, but then floundered on the hard sequence above. He worked out a powerful sequence utilising a mono and climbed the perfect finger crack to the top. I was delighted the line had turned out to be a quality pitch.

Sam trying to onsight what would later become Pi Arete - E3 5c *

Franco fighting with Psychosis - E5 6b ***

Taking advantage of the situation, I said I would give it a go on flash, on Franco's gear. Too good an opportunity to miss really! I pulled onto the lower wall and made the moves up to the jam. Pulled over the overlap and found a comfortable position in a slight bridge. From here, a big move off a mono was apparently the way forward. I however, tried a different, hopefully more static sequence and found one which resulted in a large cross through. Ace moves. Boshed up the final crack, milking the really good locks until the final move which is sweet. Really cool route!

Shorter mans method...

Franco repeated the line placing the gear and I did too. It's a really good route, solid climbing and a strong line. Excellent gear the whole way which can be fiddly in parts which really adds to the work the arms have to do! Delighted with this climb. Franco thought it was worth E5 6b and I thought it was pretty similar to Chain Gang (E5 6b)...but Conor and I thought this was worth E4 6a? Perhaps we were going well, but regardless this is a little harder so E5 6a/b seems right to me. I think my crux sequence was easier than Franco's but he didn't try my method so we'll see. With that, Psychosis was born.

Cross through

quality finger locks to the top

During the same time, Sam and Matthew climbed a short but nice looking unprotected HVS 5b slab on the left flank of Contraband Buttress and then went on to lead a good looking crack system. The route starts at the left most crack of Evasion Buttress, before climbing up and right joining the continuing crack systems and gaining a fair amount of milage on good quality rock. Well protected, enjoyable climbing. I really enjoyed a quick repeat and felt E1 5b ** was a fair reflection. Sam decided to call this Sea King, as a helicopter whizzed by during the day.

Matthew on the second ascent of Sea King - E1 5b *

Franco checked a potential super route and Sam soloed an E1 5b slab between his HVS slab and the unclimbed arete. I rapped, cleaned and checked the arete then lead it with this knowledge. A good one mover, which is an uncomfortable height above wires in a slot. Possibly tricky to read, but easy enough when you know how... Sam managed a good flash. The route is made up of 4c climbing up the lower, juggy arete before a 5c rock over to reach the top out. The rock is lichenous, but it's uncleanable lichen which is the odd stuff that basically coats the rock in a hard plating. It climbs fine. I enjoyed the move, as did Sam so we decided a star was worthy for this shortish route. I called it Pi Arete, an excellent name that Franco came up with.

Sam Marks with a quick repeat of Contraband Crack - HVS 5a **

Day one over!

Day two was a little less full on, with Sam and I climbing a new E2 arete I called Eidolon before, Sam and I climbed Fire Dance using the bolts which is about F6c+ I think... Franco rapped a crack which is another good looking route, so plenty of future potential.
Central Crack, White Scoop and Fire Dance on Walrus Buttress

Low down on the Eidolon arete - E2  5c

Barry the boulder with a lovely view

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Esklets - Chilled out cragging

I haven't been to the Esklets for many years, it was infact of the first places Franco and I did some 'FA's and we've always regarded it as a decent crag. I still want to climb Slip and Fly (E3 going on E5 6b), plus i wanted to sort out the crag grades, stars and climb a few of the routes i'd not actually done yet.

Right Unconquerable VS 4c **

Sam and Jack, who joined Franco and I at the crag, warmed up on the crag classic Right Unconquerable VS 4c **. Franco and I chose to climb the good looking Esklets Eliminate HVS 5b *. Both climbs were are spot on and well worth doing.

Esklets Eliminate - HVS 5b *

Recent ascents of Waiting For An Alibi MVS 4b and No More Heroes VS 4c last year, resulted in votes on UKC of ** and ***, respectively. I reckon they both deserve a * for sure, as they follow good crack systems.

I then tried to repeat Eskrement HVS 5b **. This was one of my first 'proper' FA's but i remembered placing a side runner in the crack to the left (before i knew what side runners were). So i fancied climbing the line without the runner, thinking it would be around E2 5b? I set off up the scoop, passing a small cam placement before reaching a slot. I cleaned the slot to find a good nut placement. From here it's pretty easy to place a cam in No More Heroes, which is a bit of a shame, but it's not actually higher gear and it's further away from the moves. You could reach the break above, by climbing the crack, but the slightly eliminate line of Eskrement tackles a mantleshelf on the right side of the ledge/rib. I couldn't commit to the move... Oh dear!

Realising i'd sandbagged myself, hilariously, i checked the move out on a top rope... Jesus. I really must have not known anything about grades. The move is certainly 6a territory, but a small crimp was pretty greasy in the sun. I'm not the best at mantleshelves, but regardless the move is harder than 5b! It's a strange one, it feels awkward, hard, unbalanced and a tad scary but then it's all over. A solid one mover! I was glad to have re-lead it and sorted this little issue in my mind out. I knew deep down i'd sandbagged this, but i thought it was just adjectively, not technically. I'm quite amazed i lead this climb when i did, as the top rope practice won't have been extensive!
The line itself is ok, but it is eliminate. One could place a side runner (i don't think it would make much of a difference) but then also lay back up the crack. But i suppose you could argue that about many climbs. Certainly not a ** line, as i gave it when i did the FA 4 years ago, but i think it's worth a * for the moves and the feature which is followed is good.

Sam, Franco and I climbed the HVS 5c, Eskhew, which we felt was closer to E1 5c * for the fact the route starts with a tricky 5c move, with 5b at the top with an unprotected and dodgey fall. Franco and I then climbed the HVS 5c to the left, which starts with a massive 6a span, before unprotected 5b climbing to the top. E1/2 for effort, i thought.

Franco tried a slab project, but conditions deteriorated and I had a look at Slip and Fly. The peg looks shit, it's a massive move. I reckon this is E4 6b at least, as although gear below the peg will keep you off the deck, it's going to put you into a unpleasant roof. The peg could well hold, a good chance it will if you tie it off (on abseil first?). Either way, it looks good and i'll go back and do it, as it's reachy and powerful - something i shy away from on trad.

Franco and I then soloed a few short walls on the right hand buttresses, about 10m to the right of the main buttress, which afforded some nice moves and positions.

A choppy arete, around E3/4 5c.
A quick potter at a crag without access, allowed some lovely micro routes to be ascended. I donned full colours for the event. The arete direct is around Font 6a+ or E1 5c *. The left wall provided a terrific font 7a span. The right wall provides a nice HVS 5b and a sit down rounded prow finished the short session with a font 6c. We were shouted at to leave, so we did.

Arete Direct - E1 5c *

High Feet

HVS 5b

Incline Beasting

We trekked up to Ingleby with a load of gear, pads and a stake + hammer to cover any eventuality at this expansive and largely unknown crag to us. We knew the routes, but not the belays/gear etc for many potential gaps.

We warmed up on a direct start to Pepsi (HVS 5a). Franco made a quick onsight attempt, slipping off trying to reach right into a damp slot found on the finish of Pepsi. I then, after two false starts on the flake, found myself on thin crimps. I sorted my feet, a blind push into the big hole with Franco giving directions, before spanning left to a dry pocket. A good move, a pushy boulder problem with a slopey landing. We originally thought it was 6b, so E2 for effort without pads, but hindsight makes me think that it was perhaps 'only' 6a, therefore E1 and i wasn't pulling hard in a hope to retain finger tip skin!

Unclimbed arete left of Pepsi

Franco did some nice bouldering, but i chose to watch/take pictures in an attempt to retain skin, before we headed over to Love or Confusion E4 6b *. I had wanted to do this for a fair while as i thought it looked a good line with a scary mantle finish... Franco cleaned it and said the top looked 'ok'. I flashed the boulder problem start, which I was pleased with before making my way up to the gear slot. Hex placed (it's been a lot time since i've done that!) and i made the cool step up to gain the protruding ledge... Now mantle!
I couldn't make head nor tail of the mantle, so with a choice of falling or trying a different approach, i stepped right and spanned to a flake before rocking up and to the top. Felt E3 6a or so, perhaps 6b if the start is 6b and a nice bit of climbing... but not the original route!

pleasant bouldering on perfect rock

I asked Franco to second me and see if he could finish direct. After a bit of a look, he managed to pull on two minging crimps and a high heel. Basically, a dodgey 6b, possibly 6c according to Franco move at a safe, but uncomfortable height above the gear which i would describe as adequate rather than bomber... We felt Onsight, the mantle made this route more like E5/6 6b! Certainly a good piece of climbing, but * felt correct as it's escapable at the top (thankfully).
When we were younger, Franco tried to climb the tall slim wall left of Love or Confusion, he dubbed it Physical Graffiti and reckoned it would be around 6b/c. Very small sidepulls/thumb sprags lead to an obvious thin slot via a big move. I rapped and cleaned it, something we never considered 'back in the day' and this first ascent mentality we've developed allowed Franco to quite quickly manage the font 7b? moves up the wall. It is a boulder problem in regards to style, but the landing is not great and it manages to achieve a fair height, so the old Moors/Northumberland grade of E4/5 6c seemed appropriate. I didn't bother trying, i can't dynamically climb to save my life! It looked nice though and a bit of an odd feeling, even for me, that a 'project' that had been around for so long was done. The term project is a bit of an odd term though in this regard. It was a problem Franco had tried before Uni and never looked at since!

We wandered along to the impressive buttress that host the classic VD Cozy Corner and Time Captain E4 5c **. After a quick abseil down a couple of potential projects, Franco cleaned the final groove of Ellis's Eliminate E3 5c * and i racked up with a few cams for the break. Pete Whillance apparently soloed the F.A of this climb, which would an amazing achievement if he did it onsight... It attracts a bit of dust on the crux! Anyway, I pulled up to the horizontal break, then traversed right placing gear about half way. The final moves towards the ledge were a little green, dusty and slippery in the sun... I rocked around the corner and blasted Franco for his poor cleaning skills. I wasn't bothered really though, if i'd fallen off it would have been different!
Franco quickly seconded, chalkless, which nearly cost him his clean second!

We then checked and cleaned some projects which should be excellent. Time Captain, when the slab is dry, looks amazing but actually pretty hard at the top! Stoked.

We walked back, with all the gear and I felt absolutely destroyed. It's not a long walk in, but you wouldn't normally carry the amount of gear we did! Good day to lose some weight...!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Roseberry Bouldering and a New Route - Rivers of Sand E4 6a

With poor weather being the bane of the UK climbing community at the moment, we've been clinical with our crag choice of late...That said, it would be nice to be able to stick to plans and involve more people, but at the moment it's hit and hope and don't plan anything in advance! For today, the quick drying, oft windswept crag and boulders that make up Roseberry Topping seemed a perfect choice for the foggy, windy conditions. The team was Franco, Sam, Sophie and I and we arrived to light drizzle and fog, but it didn't affect anything and soon the sun burned off the morning greyness, which was a surprise. The wind was evident from the clouds, but the aspect meant we were totally sheltered.
We warmed up with a spot of bouldering, quickly flashing a 6c+ version of Mike Adams' Asgard (7a+), which we started from a dual incut crimp and right heel, rather than in the depths of the cave... Seemed logical to us. Didn't care much for the wire brushed foot holds, like. Then attentions turned to Stegosaurus (7b) and T-Rex (7a+). Unfortunately, the thin and eliminate nature of Stegosaurus put me off, i was also most displeased by the level of wire brushing that had taken place on the crimps. The yellow, newly exposed rock was weathering to a clayey texture. It's really not good, who ever is wire brushing these holds needs to know it's ruining them, it looks shit and it's totally unnecessary! It's basically vandalism and it might improve the hold for you on the day, but it knackers them for anyone else. And with news of chipping at Scugdale, sounds like some pretty serious education is required!

Franco and I flashed T-Rex, so again probs cleaned up a bit from the F.A as it felt more like 6b+... that said, i'm not sure how 'strong' I am at the moment, having done no established bouldering for some time... but the best i've flashed in the past has been 6c+... i know i'm probs able to onsight 7a or above, but this felt too easy... Not sure really.

Edge of Glory - 7b+
(Foreshortened slightly!)

Sam cruised our own The Shelf 6b+/c and then Franco lanked the 7b+ wall to the right, that i knew he'd be able to do, having watched Mike Adams lank it too on a video. Then as the sun baked the rock i tried Edge of Glory 7b+, which was too hard for me and my fingers got sore with the sweat peeling the skin off... so we turned our attention to a trad line we'd thought about for a few years but never got around to.

7b+ Wall right of The Shelf

The route climbs the wall to the left of The Shelf, continuing up the headwall above. The rock looks ok, if a little iron-y so we elected to top rope it... A few ascents to clean the sandy, friable rock up and suss some gear and I felt i was ready to go... The start, up a slim ramp feature leads to a cool rock over and then a high, 5c/6a move which is scary on slightly friable feeling rock.

Starting ramp of Rivers Of Sand

The break allows for some nut placements in a crusty break, providing relief from ground fall and then a move into the niche provides a rest. Phew! I noticed i could see my heart beating in my chest, so i chose to take a chill out in the niche and focus on my breathing... Incidentally, from this point it would be possible to tackle the arete direct from here, which actually looks entertaining with a large reach or pop i.e bolder than the wall climb so certainly not an 'escape'...Anyway, a minute or so later, i followed the line of monos and sandy crimps rightwards... Feet feeling sketchy, even on big holds in the break, the dual mono rightwards move feels ace. Some better holds arrive and a good nut slot eases any anxiety regarding the first break. A reversal back to the left to a crimp, allows a high rock over (such a good move) which gains jugs, sand and the top out! I named it Rivers Of Sand...

Top rock over - cool move! 

It's a good route, bold and pretty serious at the start before gear and a rest. An entertaining, tricky traverse gains good gear and then a 5c, perhaps 6a? rock over gains the top. It retains a sketchy, scary feeling throughout and the rock in parts demands respect, but the gear is good. We felt the start was not actually hard, but just bold which makes the move to the break feel harder than it is... it might actually get 5c if it was on the ground perhaps? E4 5c/6a describes the climbing well i feel, well worth taking a look at if you fancy climbing on the main face of Roseberry... The Pasghetti Alpinist (E5), Accelerator (HVS), Rivers Of Sand (E4) and The Shelf (E1/2 6b) are all well worth doing, the higher grades possibly best suited to prior-inspection style ascents!?

So basically, a good mix at the moment. Some easy and testing bouldering below the crag, some nice highballs on the right hand main face, with some 'adventure' style routes on the main face and right hand main face.. with the smaller, enjoyable solos in the south-east alcoves... Go and enjoy it!

Got a video and some photos of the stuff from yesterday will get them up at some point...

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Blakey Ridge Additions - Brown Hill Quarry and Thor's Axe (E3 5c **) at Thorgill

Franco returned from Austria with my old flatmate Sophie and making use of the good weather in between the forecasted storms, we decided to visit a couple of local venues we'd dismissed/forgotten about in the past.

First up was a quick trip to a small quarry we'd climbed at in the past on Castleton Rigg, but first we decided we'd warm up at Round Crag, by getting on Scut de Scun ai (E7 6b **). I set up a top rope and we both succeeded in linking the problem with little issue...Oh no. I don't want to do it, but its oh so good! Regardless of whether or not I actually get stoked to do it, i was delighted to have linked the route, as i've previously found the climbing to be very difficult. I reckon that this is probs a much harder E7 than Howl Psyche, Fresh Arete, or even  but E7 all the same. BOLD!

We had a little look at my recent addition Tournament of Shadows and decided that this may well be E5 6b actually... The starting move may be more like a tricky font 6b above a poor landing, with an E4 wall above it. I still can't make my mind up about the wire, it might be ok but Franco is right, it's probs not 6a...more like 6b and seeing as i thought it was a hard E4, that probably makes it E5.

With our fingers fully warmed up we decided to try Mike Adams Chasing Rainbows or something, the font 8a slab. After working out the lower wall, Franco slapped to within 2 inch of the top. A fine effort. Definately  one to try again, not in full sun! Neither of us could stride across, like Mike, but Franco worked out some excellent foot beta to make it feasible. I reckon it's a bit morpho like!

Now fully warmed up, we drove to the Brown Hill Quarry. It's about 1.5 miles out of Castleton towards Blakey and contains a central wall of excellent quality, quarried Moors sandstone. The top outs are a bit heathery and blocky at a height of about 7m. A nice little venue, just on the right side of highball.

Franco quickly climbed the direct to the wall, via a obvious central flake. I climbed the weakness on the left of the wall that rises rightwards, across the direct and then added the right hand side of the wall, before figuring out my own beta for the direct. The video shows all! A nice little venue, which we've climbed at before but not recorded anything. Adds a few more easyish but interesting highballs to the already decent Blake Ridge circuit!

'New' routes at a quarry on Castleton Rigg. Brown Hill Quarry/Sammy's Spring Quarry from Dave Warburton on Vimeo.

After a day off due to rain, we decided to wander to Thorgill just to check the crag out. En route we checked out Sheriff's Pit, an old Iron-mine from the 19th Century... Unfortunately this plumb vertical shaft has been filled by old plastic farming bags and general rubbish... Makes the water pouring in sound like Niagara!... Anyhow, we figured Thorgill would be wet after all the recent dampness. We were pleasantly surprised; perhaps not by the crag itself as it's not Ravenscar, but it was dry and a nice place to be on a sunny day. We quickly located viable projects and abseiled down. Fortunately for me, mine was the best on the day... A cool sharp arete, just left of the established handcrack route Banjaxed (HVS 5b), put up solo by Pete Whillance. This crack by the way, looks excellent!

Anyhow, i abseiled and cleaned the lower portions of the arete and removed a bit of the loose rock on the unfortunately shattered start. Then, quickly lead the arete starting on the left. Excellent moves, with a slightly bold feel join up some big holds via a crimp and heel or two. Really rather good. The route finishes up Rosedale Buttress Direct (HD), which accesses the upper, low angled arete from the left and really is quite pleasant, finishing at a good tree belay with a beautiful view. Worth a star i think.

Moi on the F.A of Axe Route - E3 5c **
Photo: Sophie 

Franco then repeated the line, starting from the right. We both felt this was a slightly more direct method and is actually better protected. Same grade, around E3 5c ** so it doesn't really matter where you start i don't think, the left side may have an extra move or two, utilising heels and is slightly less powerful, whereas the right/direct pulls on good, positive holds. Couldn't believe how well this climbed, an excellent little line with the enjoyable Rosedale Direct to finish up.

Franco on the technical crux
Photo: Sophie 

Oh, and if any of you were wondering... Thor's Hammer or Mjolnir, was often depicted as an Axe... so don't get too hung up about the name! There's a few more things to do up Thorgill way, so we'll be back...