Archive for December, 2008

Twelve Miles, three crags, three routes

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

Our mission for tuesday 30th december : work off all those mince pies by  visiting Crookrise, Rylstone and Rolling Gate crags on Barden Moor, doing one route on each crag, which as it happened also worked out nicely as one lead each climber. Me, Guido and Stuart B set off bundled up to the eyeballs as it was a mite parky, however at least with the ground frozen we didnt have to wallow round in mud and mire.

The tactic for the day was to stick to easy slabs in order to minimise time spent faffing around freezing our bits off. First stop was Crookrise, where we had a spot of indecision about what to climb,  ending up on Octopus(S)  led by Guido, although Stuart just to be different used the same rope to go up the neighbouring Diagonal Crack (VD) instead. 

Diagonal Crack, Crookrise

Job done, off we yomped across the moor to Rylstone, pausing to admire a very nice waterfall along the way which looked as though it might have ice climb potential were it ever to get cold enough to freeze. We also found  that wading through frozen sphagnum moss feels oddly like walking through soft snow and takes as much effort.

Arriving at Rylstone we headed straight for Presidents Slab, said to be the best diff on yorkshire grit – seems fair enough to me. 22 metres of perfect clean grit although I thought it was a mischievous trick to fill the top out jugs with ice.

Presidents Slab, Rylstone

Pausing only briefly for mince pies we moved on to Rolling Gate. This was new territory for all of us, but according to the Yorkshire Grit guide it contains one three star severe route, Rolling Gate Buttress, which is allegedly worth the walk in by itself. Stuart B led. Hmm. Not convinced about this one. Pleasant enough, and worth a star but hardly three we agreed.

Rolling Gate Buttress, Rolling Gate

By this time an icy east wind had sprung up and our fingers were stinging with cold, so with the climbing over we hastily packed our gear, turned away from the grit edges and headed back across the  moors which by this stage were looking very pretty with a heavy scattering of hoar frost.  We arrived back above embsay reservoir just in time for sunset and to admire Deer Gallows from a distance – much to my relief we decided not to pay it a visit as my feet were muttering to each other and plotting mutiny.  An excellent day, thanks to Guido and Stuart B for organising/driving.


Friday, December 26th, 2008

With the maxim ‘Any winter climbing is a bonus before January’ in mind we planned a possible trip to Scotland. None of us had been to the Lochnagar area before so it was all new to us.

The weather as usual was not perfect & several of the people who were originally interested bailed leaving Dave, Brockers & I. I booked Braemar hostel last minute & we set off on a clear Sunday afternoon.
Monday morning, clear skies & very warm conditions, there were a couple of climbers in the hostel who had been there several days & they were very pessimistic about the conditions, they had resorted to going walking.

We drove to Spittal of Glenmuick & made the decision to not take climbing gear just crampons & one axe.
It was a clear day very warm but as we reached the col a very cold 35mph wind hit us, we quickly descended into the coire where it was sheltered & warm.

We decided to do the Black Spout a classic grade 1*** & we eventually did the LH variant which was slightly steeper, the gully had good snow & ice conditions.

On our way up we passed under Raeburns gully, where a couple of climbers dropped some gear, we picked it up. When we reached the summit they were just finishing so we had a natter, they said the gulley was just doable but very slushy.

Tuesday morning we awake to find similar conditions as the day before & made a decision to take the climbing gear up to try Raeburn’s, today when we reached the col it was like a summers day so we deemed it not worth going down into the coire & headed back getting back home at a reasonable time for a change.

Despite the warm conditions we had a couple of great days on the hill sussed out a new area that has a lot of worthwhile climbing & walking potential for the future, after all it is only December.

Prince of Darkness

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Prince of Darkness (POD) 700’+/-, 6 Pitches, 5.10c was one of the classic routes for me to check off in Black Velvet Canyon (BVC) at Red Rocks Conservation Area near Vegas. I prefer trad climbing to sport and had placed less emphasis on POD than other classics like Dream of Wild Turkeys (DOWT), that was of course until I stood beneath this must do line.

Approach to Black Velvet Canyon

On the day we climbed POD, we arrived at the parking area & there were at least 7 other vehicles, so we feared the worst, one team was just setting off & they told us they were going for DOWT the 5.10a line to the right of our route.

Third Pitch of Prince of Darkness

Off they went & we geared up & followed, the approach to BVC takes about an hour & involves a lot of scrambling about &/or a lot of Bushwhacking in a streambed so we were amazed to find when we got to the bottom of the route we were the first ones there.
BVC is regarded as the home of the best cluster of mid grade routes in the Red Rocks area, the guide book will tell you that POD is not the best line on the wall as both its left & right neighbour’s are finer climbs, so on the day we arrived faced with choosing one of the 3, I had no hesitation which route to get on.

Second Pitch of Prince of Darkness

The start of POD and DOWT is an obvious large light colored flake feature that ends at the start of the intense climbing on the solid dark wall above. DOWT takes off on a right angled long crack and POD goes straight up the center of the wall.

1st Pitch- 70’- 5.7/ Head up fast and furious across easy ground staying out of the corner to the right, up and to a small ledge with fancy cold shuts. The bolts to the right relate to DOTW who shares this first pitch.

2nd Pitch- 140’- 5.10b/ Yes you go straight up. Even though the 6th pitch is rated at a higher grade, this is the crux of the climb as it never lets up. In reality, pitches 2, 3, 5 and 6 are all sustained and challenging for their respective grades. Pitches 3 and 5 require more gear placement. Follow bolts straight up maybe placing a piece or two along the way.

3rd Pitch- 130’- 5.10a/ the 3rd and 5th pitches require more gear placements then the other four. This is the third hardest lead of the route.

4th Pitch- 130’- 5.9/ this is the easiest pitch of the sustained climbing.

5th Pitch- 140’- 5.10a/ this is the 2nd easiest pitch of the sustained climbing and again offers some nice gear placements
In a thin seam

6th Pitch- 100’- 5.10c/ The crux move of this pitch and perhaps the route is the vertical varnished slab of to the left of a small finger crack through three bolts to easier ground. The route continues more like 5.9-5.10a through more bolts slanting right towards the shared station with DOWT.

A view across at the Turkeys

Descent is by 6 Rappels it’s quite easy to get the ropes back as there is very little for them to catch on.

While we had been on the climb several other parties had arrived & gone onto various climbs, none had followed us, the worrying thing was that none of the other teams were nearing the top of their respective climbs. By the time we had bushwhacked our way back to the car it was quite late & darkness caught us before we got back to Las Vegas maybe a 15 mile drive. I would not of liked to be any of the other parties in the canyon that day.

POD was one of the highlights of our US road trip, it was my choice of route & Chuck declined to lead any of the pitches so I was very pleased with the way it went. Grade I would grade POD solid E3 5c in English money, a very big undertaking.

Easy Wainwright Day 14th December 2008

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Having been under the weather with a bad chest cold, I decided to take things easy while other club members were out in the Peak District and head to the Lakes for a shorter walk.
My kids have been enjoying ticking off a few Wainwrights the last two years, so with my older daughter suffering my cold at home, I headed off to the Keswick area with younger son Ewan to tackle Bleaberry Fell and Walla Crag.
He is always happy to tag along on a trip, I think he likes feeling he is doing something a bit more grown up.
Driving over the A66, we saw lots of snow, but I was unsure how much would be left in the Lakes. We approached from Rakefoot Farm, just NE of Keswick and it soon became obvious that the snow from a week earlier, when we did Pinnacle Ridge, had melted.

Looking back towards Keswick on the walk up.

Still the day was fairly clear with just a few clouds low down and no rain, so we headed off. Our walk took us up the side of Brocklebeck and out onto open moorland. There were not many people about as we were fairly early. We had the choice of going up Brocklebeck till it faded out into the hillside or via Walla Crag and returning the same way. We went with the first option to avoid backtracking and found the going a bit boggy in places. We were treated to an excellent close encounter with about a dozen deer across the fellside after having a quick bite at a ruined gamekeepers cottage.
Higher up the track breaks out right above some cliffs and joins the summit ridge and main track at a cairn, it was just below here we had another break and Ewan had a chance to play with my ice axe on a small patch of snow. sadly it was not much good, but he seemed to enjoy it.

Ewan practicing with an ice axe.

From here it was only a few minutes to the summit, which had clouded over while we had been having our break. It was a bit miserable with a light breeze that just made things a bit too cold to hang around. we sheltered behind the bivvi rocks and had some hot chocolate before heading off.

Ewan on top of Bleaberry Fell.

Looking back at Bleaberry Fell.

The path down from below where we had joined it was much better, with stone steps and better views as the cloud had now decided to lift again. We could see our next objective Walla Crag in the distance. The bottom of the path gave way to more boggy and wet ground (due to all the snow that had melted). We tramped over to Walla's minor summit, to be pleasantly surprised at the great view it offered of Derwentwater, Skiddaw and Keswick. More food and drink, photos and a rest was had, before beating a retreat to York and a viewing of 'Attack of the Clones', on TV.

Both of us on Walla Crag, Ewans 15th Wainwright. My 50th.

The sun comes out on Skiddaw.

Gritstone edges walk

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Grindleford Café, it may be under new management but it ain’t changed that much so here are a few of the choice signs that have decorated the place over the years.

Grindleford we luv you

I was not sure who was going to turn up on this one if anybody at all so when Peri, Stuart & I arrived at Grindleford café I was pleasantly surprised to find 11 people waiting for us. The walk is that it’s basically a figure of eight so half way round you are very close to the starting point if the weather is bad or anyone wants to drop out & go to the pub. Anyhow it’s ideal for one of those days with short daylight around Xmas.



That other factor, the weather was behaving itself, ideal for a walk, dry, cold with light winds & a promise from the met office that it would clear later in the day.

Millstone Edge

We left the café well after 10.00 & set off up Padley Gorge past Lawencefield, Millstone a brief excursion to the top of Winwards Nick then onto Higgar Tor which we missed & had to take a little detour to get to.



A coffee break was requested near Burbage North & continued past Burbage South & the quarries.

Curbar Edge

The walk now passes through the Longshaw estate, at this point we are very close to the starting point. Nobody wanted to cut it short in fact it was the reverse we were racing round the circuit as we ascended White Edge had a quick lunch stop, as it was rather exposed here nobody wanted to linger. 






 So we continued along the edge to near Curbar Gap before we turning back for the final time and followed Curbar Edge, Froggatt Edge & descended back to Grindleford by traversing under Tegness Quarry. Once back at the café we decided to adjourn to the Fox House pub & have a quick drink before setting off home.

Another classic to finish with

Big thanks to Peri, Stuart, Janet, Jacquie, Allen, Adrian, Barj, Paul, Mark (PJ), Gem, Kate, Rob & of course Jesus for joining us, hope you all enjoyed the walk.

Best laid plans

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

After our last efforts at finding climbs resulted in wandering around looking for ice, this time I persuaded Will to head for Hellvelyn a place he knows well. Given we had to wait till Friday due to work commitments (how inconvenient!) we hoped being high it would be a good bet. A relaxed start and some roadworks and diversions in Thirlmere got us to the Greenside car park before 10 and on the track with a few others with similar ambitions and a pair of skiers!

It's quite a easy walk up (about an hour on good track) but it was pretty cold and the wind was much stronger than anticipated. Arriving at Red Tarn (partially frozen) the mist was down, visibility about 10..15m and no shelter from the wind.

Plan A: Confident that Will could find V-Corner we set, leaving a couple of soloists poking around looking for one of the easier gullies. We wandered back and forth across the face, up and down a bit and traversed he whole hill side until we hit Striding Edge! On top we met one of the soloists and a team emerging from the Gully.

Plan B: descend the grade I gully to get us to where we wanted to be. This plan lasted about 2 mins, until the high winds, spindrift, very poor vis and poor snow (some powder, some windslab and some neve') meant a retreat to the summit shelter.

Plan C: We descended Swirral Edge, intent on another foray onto the face

Plan D:Worsening vis meant we legged it down and around Catstyescam to do the gully (grade I/II) in its north flank. We traversed for a while found a gully like line which petered out into snow plod/slopes but got us back to the ridge (and the wind). Probably nothing, but good exercise.

Plan E: The path down was easy and it started to rain – don't think its stopped yet

Narrowly avoiding a deer which jumped into the path of the car was the most exciting thing to happen all day!

Wonder if I'll find any routes this season ?

Pix to follow from Will.

Central Gully & Scafell

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Thankfully the good weather continued and allowed us another great day winter mountaineering in the Lakes.
Scafell sunset

Scafell Sunset

Today it was just Peter & Myself, Will & Rob opted to chance the conditions would hold for a further day.
As we drove to the lakes the temps were to yoyoing between 1 & 4 degrees so after much discussion we eventually plumped for the Great End gulleys allegedly the most reliable crag in the lakes.

When we got there at least 6 other teams had the same idea so we geared up & set off to see what the conditions were like for ourselves.

Our chosen start was Central Gully a grade 2 in normal conditions today it was lean & hacked up. The early pitches were soloed & provided some good sport.

Starting Central Gully

When we reached the gully fork there were three teams in action right, middle & left, none of the options looked easy, the middle team finished first & so we followed them.

The route went into a corner which exited left on a spur of steep rotten ice, I caught up the team in front on the stance & we conferred that the pitch was probably grade 3 in the conditions of the day.

Join the queue

The rest of the climb went easy enough & we reached the summit as our beautiful day started to deteriate.
It was too late to start another route so I suggested that we make the most of the day by continuing along the ridge to Scafell even though it would mean getting back to the valley in darkness.
It was a great walk along the ridge with some amazing cloud formations, we were treated to a spectacular sunset on the summit, this descending in the dark is getting to be a bit of a habit, thankfully we got our Night Nav practice session in.

The day was rounded off with a quick pint by a roaring fire in the Scafell Hotel.

Finishing central Gully

Advanced Down Jacket Testing

Monday, December 8th, 2008

After a week of crooning over down jacket specs, the Chosen One arrived in the post just in time for a munro bagging trip. Clearly, no matter what the temperature, some testing was in order, and test conditions seemed excellent, with  roads and car park a skating rink as we arrived in Crianlarich
approaching Stob Coire Odhair
Attempt 1) All attempts at testing the jacket on day one failed due to brilliant sunshine and the exertion of slogging up the Black Mount through knee deep powder snow.   By the time we reached our first summit, Stob a Choire Odhair,  we looked a strange sight – our bottom halves swathed in big boots, gaiters and waterproof trousers, our top halves in sleeveless T shirts. Alastair even had shades and a sunhat on. knee deep in snow
The real air temperature became all too evident once we sat down, we had a hasty lunch then arse-slid down the hill to the bealaich whooping with glee.
We slogged our way up the ridge to Stob Ghabhar and reached the summit cairn just as the sun was setting, then paused to take in 360 degrees of pink tinged snow covered mountains with  bronze glints from the occasional loch. Head torches on hand, but not required – we finished our descent in brilliant moonlight reflecting off the snow.
sunset at the summit of Stob Ghabhar

Attempt 2) Fine test conditions. A chilly wind and incoming cloud. We headed for Ben Chonzie. Reputedly the dullest mountain in Scotland, Ben Chonzie is known for  "collecting the snow".   After saturdays 12 mile extravaganza I was knackered before we started and made heavy work of the plod uphill. At the summit near white out conditions  descended and a bitter wind dropped the effective temperature to -12 or less. I was very taken by the grotesque rime formations,  but few photos were taken as removing gloves for even a moment caused stingingly cold fingers (must get some liner gloves). The snow was drifting and at places we broke through the crust into thigh deep holes. A fine chance to test the jacket! Out in came in all its magenta glory, and I am happy to report that combined with a gortex layer it was toastily warm even while sitting on snow eating sandwiches.A nice day for a picnic

First taste of Winter

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Rob on the way up DeepdaleLast Tuesday (2nd December) me and Rob headed over to the lakes for our first taste of winter. With reports of overnight temperatures of nearly -10 we were hopeful of finding something to climb. After a horribly early start, Rob enjoyed what looked like a relaxing two hour sleep while I battled wintery roads on the drive over. We'd decided to head for Link Cove, the idea being that if there was ice around the routes on Hart Crag might be doable and failing that, the classic Pendulum Ridge on Scrubby Crag might be in as a mixed route.

Hart Crag - where are the routes?Deepdale was nicely iced up on the walk in although Link Cove beck has only a smattering of ice in it. The climb up to Link Cove was rather unpleasant, being powder snow over wet grass. We emerged into a white looking Link Cove but were unconvinced about climbing conditions. There was no obvious ice on Hart Crag (in fact there wasn't anything that looked like a winter line) and Pendulum Ridge looked pretty bare. We decided to head up to Hart Crag anyway to have a look. By this point it was snowing, as it did for the rest of the day ensuring we were continually covered in spin drift.

Looking back down DeepdaleWe were surprised to meet another couple of climbers who were very coy about their intentions. Assuming they knew where they were going, we followed along behind, traversing under the crag. They ended up downclimbing very steep snow covered grass slopes which looked horrible, so we turned back. After about an hour of searching (the guidebook has no topo for Hart Crag and the route descriptions are next to useless) we eventually found what we thought was the first route. We pushed on, keen to find the crag classic Cold Lazerus (III). Thinking we'd found it, we set off up an easy icy groove. Ice quality varied from ok to terrible, frozen turf being much more reliable and confidence inducing. We then reached a choice of three ways, a snowy chimney, a steep ice fall or a great looking icy corner. Rob set off solo up the chimney, going well until he found himself completely wedged. Extricating himself was going to require some hard and tenuous moves so I offered to find another way up and drop him down a top rope.

Rob on the lower snow/ice slopesI ended up soloing a harder-than-it-looked turfy buttress (about grade III?) and eventually rescued Rob. Time was pushing on by now, so to ensure we got some climbing done, we dropped a top rope down a 40 foot icy corner. This had looked fairly easy from below, but it turned out the ice was next to useless and so gave forty feet of brilliant sustained hard mixed moves (at least tech 4 I would guess). This gave us a chance to try torqueing, can openers, lay backs off axes etc. With daylight running out, we headed to the top of Hart Crag and then down along the ridge towards Hartsop above How. Choosing not to bother looking at the map, we made a series of questionable navigation decisions and ended up walking an un-necessary extra couple of miles along the road. We got back to the car for 5.30pm with very stiff legs and sore feet.

Bits of ice on Hart CragSo, a good first trip out of the winter, but conditions not great. Given that Hart Crag is supposed to have three 2 star grade III routes, it looked a bit disappointing from what we saw. Pendulum Ridge on Scrubby Crag on the other hand looks absolutely spectacular (and steep) – I'd definitely like to head back and do it.

Hidden Treasure

Monday, December 8th, 2008

With all this white stuff on the site here is something a little bit different.

We were having a bad day, it had all started of quite promising, a very early start found us at the crag at 9.00 & we did 2 really good routes then it all went pear shaped.


The magic (shuttle) bus keeps the valley free of cars & the noise, pollution & traffic jams they create but for climbers it sucks, it was the root cause of our problems today as after our failure to find Necromancer we decided to take the magic bus and find Bo Jangles at 5.10a allegedly the best straight hand splitter in the valley.


How did that tree get there? sobering.

After some time we found it then we found we had left critical gear back in the car, not a problem if it was parked 100yds away but we had travelled 10 miles on the bloody bus. Both miffed, not feeling chatty we split & arranged to meet back at base.  A chance conversation in a photo gallery the previous night had tipped me off where you could find some sensational views so I decided to take a looksy. The path was crowded with tourists for a mile until a waded river crossing leaves the tourists behind. The tortuous path got real narrow until you start to go more or less underground, here lies some stunning scenery.

Ok its getting boring now, time to leave

All to soon I had to leave & get back to the nauseating bus bus like the man says if you visit the valley during the season humour the drivers, smile at the tourists next too you & eat it. Disneyfication is inevitable the shuttle is just the start of it.

Big thanks to the guys in the photo gallery for up cluing me on this little treasure trove.