Archive for February, 2009

HPM Recce 3 – The Dark Side

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Alan had a cunning plan. Take 2 cars, drop one off at Cut Throat Bridge, drive to Edale, and then do the first 12 miles of the HPM. An excellent idea, we all agreed.

One other minor detail – this was to happen after work on a Friday, so it wouldn't affect any other weekend plans. A good theory.

Will was one step ahead of us and arranged a prior engagement. So it was just Alan, Carmen and I who set off from Edale in the dark at 5 to 7 last night.

It was actually quite fun, though the fun abated slightly as we waded through the oozing "mud" thoughtfully provided by a field of cows on the approach to the first hill. The skies were clear though, and it was lighter than I'd expected, courtesy mainly of the City of Sheffield.

Hollins Cross and Lose Hill were fun (though a few tumbles left Alan reconsidering his decision to wear walking boots), and the going easy enough to allow some half-hearted running. It was made a bit trickier by the portable hill fog, as every breath was illuminated by our head torches. The ascent of Win Hill was brutally steep but fairly short, the descent from there to Yorkshire Bridge was steep, muddy, and unending.

Avoiding the temptation of a pint or 3 in the pub, it was up the road to Stanage. The path to High Neb is easier to follow in the daylight, and the climbs easier to identify! We missed High Neb slightly, but consulting the climbing guide later I'm fairly confident we'll find it on the night (I'll probably live to regret that statement). All that remained was a boggy yomp along the edge to Moscar, and back down the road to Cut Throat Bridge.

Last year's race times for this section were between 2 hours 10 minutes, and 4 hours 15. We had hoped to take about 3 hours, but took 4 hours 13 minutes. Oops. We consoled ourselves with the knowledge that we could have been faster if we'd run more, but on the event we'll need to conserve as much energy as possible for later on.

Got back home about 1.30am. So much for not affecting weekend plans, it's 6pm and I'm off for a snooze.

Less than a week to go…

Vital statistics: 11.5 miles, 980m ascent, 4 hours 13 minutes

Calling Dave Meigh, it's 5 o'clock, are you awake?

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Sron na CreiseFollowing several weeks of cold and snowy weather in Scotland, with the best conditions in years, we managed to time our February trip perfectly – at the end of the week of the big thaw.

Not to be daunted, we planned a day on the hill and were awake by 5am.

Eventually we got back to sleep again, and got up just after 7. My original (pre-thaw) plan had been to take a look at the Inglis Clark Ridge on Creise, a fine grade III. Since this was now completely devoid of snow, Rob, Carmen and I headed instead for Sron na Creise, a grade 3 scramble up the north ridge. Sron na CreiseDespite occasional light drizzle, the rock was clean and the friction excellent, with nice exposure in places. And we were sheltered from the strong southerly winds until we eventually reached the summit ridge, where strong gusts occasionally threatened to blow us over.

After a brief detour to Clach Leathad (the south summit), we descended east towards Meall a' Bhuiridh, our 2nd Munro of the day. The start of the descent looked fairly desperate, as we appeared to be stepping off the edge of a cornice, but it was actually quite easy, especially in retrospect. Ice FactorFrom the summit, a long series of standing glissades (ski-ing in walking boots) took us down through the (closed) ski area and back to the car.

Inspired by an awful weather forecast, the next day we'd already booked in at the Ice Factor indoor ice-climbing wall. Great fun it was too, so much so that most of us booked in for another session in the afternoon.

Loch LomondThe next day dawned wet and horrible again, but Rob, Dave D, Will, Carmen and I decided to stop off for a walk anyway, and by the time we parked at Ardlui (by Loch Lomond) it was dry, with even occasional glimpses of the sun. Ben Vorlich was a bit of a slog (OK, a lot of a slog), but the bum-slide descent made up for it.

Some more photos here.

Glen Etive Weekend

Friday, February 27th, 2009

In fact by Guido (who was having trouble adding this from his pc)

Dave, Peri & I travel to Scotland although the weather forecast is atrocious the car is stacked with climbing gear (optimistic fools). Arriving at the hut 10ish we find 5 early birds already there & news that the weather had been ok.

Three of us play the who’s done what munro game & decide on a trip to the Mamores, the guide tells us it’s a big day 3 munro's, so its early to bed for an early start.

Mamores Friday 20th Feb

Pre dawn sees Dave & I get up very quietly, 5 minutes later Peri’s alarm goes off & all hell lets loose. We start walking as dawn is breaking, its grey warm & moist, we make several minor errors not helped by the selective nature of the guide but make good time to our first objective an iced covered lochan below Scurr Eilde Mor 1010m we approach by a NE ridge which is covered in verglass coated boulders, treacherous.
Eventually we top out & find the summit cairn just peeping out of a snow cone, its blowing a hoully so we set of down the W ridge which is in the same treacherous condition as the ascent, needless to say it took us some time to get down this safely, at this time the chances of us doing 3 munro's looked slim.

Binnien Beig 943m

We have a break & decide to press onto the second Munro Binnien Beig 943m this goes very well & we are now back on shcedule to attempt the third hill.
However on the descent to the adjoining col the wind picks up a notch & the weather deteriated so we decide to return by the lower path, arriving back at 16.45.
A quick pint in the Clachaig & get Peri the cooky back to prepare the evening meal.

Glen Etive Saturday 21st Feb

A more leisurely start today, 7 of the group have decided to go to the Ice Factor in Kinlochleaven so they chuff off about 07.30 leaving 5 of us sat around the hut.
Dave comes to the rescue & suggests a plod up Sgor na h-Ulaidh 994m, another Dave (Dickinson) decides to join us & we have a three. The weather is foul raining constantly & with high winds forecast we set off apprehensively. We approach via Gleann Charnan a wet boggy glen our route follows the main stream very steeply to a landmark lochan. Failing to find the landmark lochan in the mist & snow & we decide to ascend the west face where we estimate the summit should be.
The map shows no crags but we have to weave our way through outcrops until we find a steep snow slope, luckily it has good steps in it, out with the axe’s & it’s a grand way up to a fine summit.
We retrace our route back & get back to the hut early to bags prime drying places for our gear above the Stove.

Bridge of Orchy Sunday 22nd Feb

The weather forecast is the same old crap suggesting better conditions further south so after another leisurely start Dave, Peri & I we set off homeward, deciding the final walking venue en route.
After the whose done what game we plump for an obscure hill off the A82 Beinn Mhanach 953m.
This involves a long approach up Auch Gleann the highlight of this is several river crossings.

Summit of Beinn Mhanach 953m

Once again Dave made a good suggestion with a circuit of the hill making use of the estate roads to gain height.
The summit was brill & the first clear summit of the weekend, this lead to an excellent descent down grassy spurs.

We got back to the car 16.45 & set of home, A great meet well attended with 15 people around over the weekend all making the most of the conditions.

Bouldering in the 'County', 22nd February 2009

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Having spent the weekend visiting my mate Pete in Newcastle (who I used to climb with in Oz), I was keen that we should try to get out and climb as the weather was superb. We considered numerous crags and in the end decided we would get more done bouldering. Pete suggested Shaftoe, which is one of the nearest venues to the 'Toon'.

Pete had climbed a lot here, along with other members of the NMC and rated it. It is located in a lovely rural setting with the hills rolling away in the distance. The rock is a gritty sandstone and has excellent friction. It had had 2 good dry days before our visit, something to be aware of is damp sandstone holds are easier to break off.

Pete took me out to the 'Ship's Bait Cabin' area first where there are some popular introductions to the crag. We both climbed 'Galley Wall (sit start)', 'Port', 'The Thug and a few unnamed problems there. Despite the low height they all felt higher and often had very rounded top outs.

Pete on 'Port', Font 5+.

Jim on 'Galley Wall (sit start)', Font 6a.

The last problem in this area was on a seperate buttress called 'West Wall', this had a testing finish, literally having to test every possible combination of holds, before I commited to the mantle move at the top.

Searching for the best hold on 'Problem 32'.

We then moved down to 'The Ravine', where we did a few easy problems and one that felt hard for it's grade of Font 5, called 'Way Cool'. It was probably the best one we did though and felt very hard going over a bulge using a couple of finger pockets. Satisfied with what we had done, we headed off for a walk along 'Hadrian's Wall', after visiting a cafe for refreshments.

Pete on 'Way Cool', Font 5', some of the best moves of the day.

Shaftoe is a good place to spend a bit of time at, some of the boulders were a bit too damp at the base this time of year, but in a decent dry spell it would be excellent.

Chairs' Climb

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Keith heads up the ice Yes the apostrophe is in the right place as I joined Keith, Chair of Leeds MC, for a dash over to Lakes to see if we could catch Black Crag Icefall. Some excellent pictures on UKC had my hopes high but it does say get their early – almost impossible from York. The road being closed for resurfacing didnt help but we parked just north of Brothers Water and walked in along the easy track. As we approached we saw two people gearing up at the bottom. We stopped and watched.

Keith playing in the gillThe bottom part looking really patchy and hollow and we decided we'd have to wait for at least an hour before starting (we heard later that pitch 1 was poor but pitch 2 fantatsic – grrrr). So we played in the Gill just to the left trying to avoid the deep pools, before heading up and over the Hart Crag summit and down via Link Hause to the hart crag ice falls.

Stopping for some lunch just off the summit out of the wind a pair walkers without axes or campons or an idea bwtween them slid past us – hmmm.

We headed down towards Cold Lazarus but the guibeook is (IMHO) bloody useless in trying to identify the routes, a photo topo would be great as its a two or three tiered crag wth ice all over it ! There was lots of snow about and it felt pretty horrible, but was ok as its wasnt really very steep. We geared up after chattig to the people we'd seen on Black Crag and headed up for a continuous line of ice to the left of the crag.

sun is going down !Keith led the first part to a twin ice screw belay. I recoverd the ice he'd dropped and led through up a good ribbon on ice with a coupe of steep steps WI2+/WI3 with great gear (screws). Almost 50m later I belayed at a block and watched the pink glow on High Street. Keith enjoyed the pitch and led through to the ridge and surprisingly strong and cold winds.

We dropped off quicky towards Dove Crag – passing a bag of logs ! and down to the easy path via snow gully. Back at the car for sixish in the drak we headed home.

Not the day I was expecting but great fun nonetheless !

Some of my pictures of the day

Picture that inspired us on UKC

Winter Sandbags

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Grisedale TarnAll week I'd been thinking about a weekend trip to the Lakes for some winter fun. And all week I'd felt myself going down with a cold. By Friday, I was completely voiceless and off work. But the conditions were rumoured to be perfect so it was too good to miss, and arrangements were duly made.

I couldn't face the 5am start favoured by Rob and (mainly) Will, but we still managed to leave York by 7.30, and parked at Dunmail Raise a couple of hours later. As we were getting our kit out of the car, Will and Rob drove up. It was a long story apparently, involving a forgotten rope…

So, off we raced, along with hundreds of others, up towards Grisedale Tarn. We passed several parties on the way up, and were then passed back again when we chose an unnecessarily slow traverse line towards Tarn Crag, on the lower slopes of Dollywagon Pike. When we arrived, it was teeming. All the grade 1 and 2 gully lines contained queues, as did Dollywagon Gully (the 2* grade III we'd been hoping to do), and even the largely snow-free grade 2 buttress.

But Dollywagon Chimney (grade III, no stars) was free, with just one other team on it already finishing the 2nd pitch. More of a mixed route than we'd had in mind, but better than queuing. As we geared up, Will and Rob arrived and duly joined the queue for Dollywagon Gully.

Dollywagon Chimney pitch 2It was a bit hard. Actually, it was a lot hard. An initial tricky rocky groove was followed shortly afterwards by an even trickier icy groove then some more tricky bits before the belay. I took 50 minutes, Carmen about the same. The 2nd pitch looked slightly easier, but wasn't, as snow and ice gave way to some nice back-and-footing. Carmen thoughtfully let me lead this one as well. I muttered a few choice words as I rounded a corner and the narrow chimney of the last pitch came in sight.

After bringing Carmen up, I convinced myself it must be easier than it looked, and set off. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't easier than it looked at all, it was slightly harder. I bridged and struggled half way up the narrow chimney, until the holds ran out. Luckily, there was a small spike out on the left at this point, so I could pull myself precariously out of the chimney, and make a few vaguely terrifying moves up before stepping back into the gully proper. Some nice neve then led to a buried-axe belay at the top.

Other people's comments on UKC suggest that a more accurate grade might be IV 5!

By this time it was 5pm (5 hours for a 130m route!), no time for anything else, so we packed up and headed back down to the car, no need for torches due to a glorious full moon. We expected the others to have got back already, but Will's car was still there. So we drove to the campsite and were putting up the tent at about 7.20 when Will phoned to say they'd just topped out! having finished the Gully and decided to follow us up the Chimney. Unsurprisingly, they decided to return to York rather than staying until Sunday.

The final pitch of Dollywagon GullyThe next morning we were up before dawn to return to Tarn Crag, this time to climb Dollywagon Gully. Vague hopes of beating the queues were dashed, and we were the 4th team there. We decided we may as well wait and climb it anyway – so we did. And very nice it was too, fortunately rather less traumatic than the previous day's epic. An initial rocky chockstone was followed by a nice snow plod, and then some water ice to finish (unfortunately rather hacked to bits by this stage).

We descended Tarn Crag Gully 2 (grade I), then dithered between Tarn Crag C Gully 1 (I/II *) and Falcon Crag Gully (II *). We went for the latter, as it was a little longer, with 3 pitches rather than just 2.

Descending Tarn Crag Gully 2It started well with a nice (though hard for the grade) ice pitch, with an optimistic belay at the end. Then a snow pitch, which Carmen led, also with an optimistic belay. Next, what I hoped was the final pitch, as it was snowing by this stage, a turfy groove and traverse back into the gully proper. I was a little surprised when I popped round the corner and found the gully disappearing out of sight in the distance, with an obviously difficult rocky groove in front of me.

To cut a long story short, there were another 2 long pitches after this, mostly turf with some rock, and though one of the belays was good, there was not a lot of protection. Over 5 pitches, we placed a total of 4 pieces of gear, and 2 of those were on the first pitch! So the easy 3-pitch turned out to be 5 hard pitches. The discrepancy in grade (maybe IV 3?) can be explained by conditions, but the guide is seriously wrong in its estimation of length!

We topped out (in a blizzard) at 6pm, just as it was getting dark. Luckily the descent is quite straightforward, so despite the lack of a helpful moon, we got back to the car at about 7.30 and were back in York for some fish & chips at 10.

Next weekend we're having a rest.

A few more photos can be found here.

Midweek snow

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Wed last Peri and I met up with Guido and Keith at Borobridge and headed off for Red Tarn face on Helvellyn. Easy journey apart from road upto Greenside Mines being too icy near the top (we parked off the road and got a warning note from the ranger !)

At 300m its a good start to the day, we slogged up into the mist and geared up underneath the face. Everyone was looking for V Corner (III ***). The mists lifted for a while we got a brief glimpse and Peri and I headed up. Guido and Keith were wandering around to out left. From the snow slope I climbed a short bit of ice and started looking for belay to bring up Peri (her first ice route after a snow gully in Wales). After 55m I managed to find a thread (as Peri had all the rock gear on her harness) and dropped the rope vaguely on her direction. As a delaying tactic I sliced my finger open on a flake of rock and dotted blood all round — nice !

Higher up was a short, near-vertical pitch and an interesting corner, great fun and well protected, Peri came up without and hassle with a huge grin, and lead through up the snow slope to the summit plateau. Guido and Keith wanderd past having just soloed Nethermost Gully (just the other side of Striding Edge) after V Corner. We compared notes at the shelter with about 4 teams claiming to be on or near V Corner. Who knows !

Peri dished out chocolate to all-comers and we soled back down No 2 gully – good long snow gully and back up No 1 gully which was excellent with good ice in the narrow steep part and tiring top part where it joins Number 2 in a snow bowl. Well done to Peri for her composure and commitment.

The walk down along Swirrel edge was as good as ever, but the pub was closed so we made our the way home

No pictures as battery ran out at the tarn !

Guidos take on events and some pictures at yorkClimbers

Fort William Weekend

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009
Green Gully

Green Gully

This meet was a bit impromptu & weather driven with ok forecasts for the weekend anyhow 10 of us met up at the flat in Fort Bill on Friday night Paul, Dave & I being the last to arrive at midnightish.

Early rise on Saturday saw 8 of us taking the first gondola up to Aonach Mor & contouring round to the West Face, even in the sheltered approach glen we were getting buffeted by the strong southerly winds & as we gained height we started to get knocked off our feet so we turned back.

A shame but we got a shock when we found the Gondola was still operating as it was in the lee of the wind.

Glovers Chimney

Sunday had a better forecast so an earlier start saw 4 of us at the CIC hut at daybreak unfortunately the high winds had not stopped but the good thing was that they were still blowing from a southerly direction & the north face was sheltered, so we concentrated on routes that did not reach the wild summit plateau & a good day was had.

Other teams headed for Aonach Mor & Buachaille Etive Mor

Warm & glowing in the Drovers a great end to the weekend

On the way home we had a meet up in the Drovers at Inveranan for a pint & a platefull, all in all a great weekend & all

Trial by name…

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Yesterday at some stupid early hour, Carmen and I set off to Hayfield for the Kinder Trial, a fell runner's version of orienteering – lots of running with a bit of navigation.

We had to visit 10 controls in any order, though in practice the main choice was just whether to do the circuit clockwise or anti-clockwise. I went for the anti-clockwise option, as it would hopefully leave a long downhill run from the last control to the finish. Coincidentally, Carmen made the same choice, but I soon managed to shake her off so she had to make her own mistakes for most of the race rather than copying mine!

The weather stayed cold and cloudy, with regular snow flurries, but the clouds were well clear of the tops all day. Which was a shame, as it gave less advantage to those of us who can navigate OK but can't run for toffee (it's a well known fact that 98% of fell runners don't know what a map is). At least most of the boggy bits were well frozen.

It was mostly great fun (in an exhausting sort of way), and visited some parts of the Kinder area that people wouldn't normally see. The main exception to the 'great fun' rule being the planned easy run down from the last control, which by the route I choose mainly consisted for the first mile or so of deep exhausting heather. I'm told that there was a runnable route available if you looked in the run place. Arse.

There's a map of the route here.

And some photos here and here

Vital statistics:
about 11 miles/2600 feet ascent.
153 started, 136 finished.
The winning time was an amazing 1:49:28, the final finisher took 4:55:59. I was 67th in 2:46:17 and Carmen was 108th (20th female) in 3:34:12