Archive for April, 2009

almscliff evening sun …

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

A sort of joint effort with many people from Yorkclimbers and non members all agreeing to avoid Brimham after the downpour.

A fine evening's climbing, Simon and Carmen trying (but failing) to equal Will's speed record on Parson's Chimney (HS), Peri and Clare getting stuck (into/in) the Goblin (HS), Dave S and I climbing Overhanging Groove (HVS) and Z Climb Eliminate (E1), Guido and Stu Bolton polishing off ZCE (then providing lots of advice to Dave) and Pulpit Route (also E1), Tuze and Katie (non YAC) doing the Nose a cute little VS and Black Wall Eliminate (E2).

We managed to dissuade Peri from starting another route long after sunset! Pub stop at Kestrel and home for 10ish.

Yet more sunshine

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

Luckily the rain will return tomorrow and put a stop to all this outdoor enjoyment nonsense.

Carmen races off at the startToday's sun was in the unlikely setting of some woodland east of Scunthorpe. The event was the Lincolnshire Bomber Long O, a 20km orienteering course, which was to serve as the final (and, indeed, the first) training for next weekend's GL3D.

Almost caught upWe were taken to the start by minibus, and made our way back via a long dog-leg of woodland. And very nice it all was too. Mostly native trees with their associated birdlife, and a complete lack of the brambles so often found in orienteering woods. It was all pretty runnable, the limiting factor being a lack of fitness and ability, but somehow we kept going. The water and (more important) banana provided at the last road crossing were vital in getting us to the end, I for one was running on empty for the last 20 minutes.

Always please to be photographedCarmen started 10 minutes before me, and it wasn't until the 10th control (out of 30) that I eventually passed and pulled away from her. I finished in 2 hours 22 minutes, which I was rather pleased with, despite being well down the field – the winner took an impossible 87 minutes! Carmen did rather better, taking 3 hours 12 minutes, which was only 15 minutes or so behind the fastest female.

Details/results/pictures can be found here.

Rylstone – more yorkshire sunshine

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

Simon, Carmen and I made a late start due to confused weather reports and eventually (about the A64) decided to go West instead of South (or North!). Rylstone is a superb grit crag, near Skipton, stuffed with quality routes (and bouldering), many in the lower grades.

Carmen on Dental Slab

Carmen on Dental Slab

Despite the sunshine it was, as usual, quite empty with a few other teams spread across the broad crag. We headed for the slabs area and finding Presidents Slab free we played there, with me leading the HVS (sometime E1) Hotline, nice route but one move wonder. Carmen Sauntered across the slab and Simon and I soloed a few easy routes nearby.

Carmen tops out on Senators Saunter

Carmen tops out on Senators Saunter

Simon's goal was Persistence which could easily have been named Luminescence as its bright green sheen could be seen from the road (20 mins away!). He instead selected Laughing Gas on the Dental slab, which despite a scruffy start turns into a fine bold 4c arete at HVS. Carmen took on Dental Slab, a 4 star Severe, and it was like having teeth pulled. Struggling with confidence she eventually battled her way to the top.

Simon on Laughing Gas (HVS)

We rounded off the day with Simon sprinting up Trowel Face and me padding up the beautiful Extraction (HVS but via the easier RH start as the direct is a boulder problem at 5c – imho). Our stroll down was in beautiful evening light, and we managed to check out the ducklings midge-hunting.

evening view

evening view

Great weather, marvellous view, one small shower but a chilly wind on top, a great venue.

My Pix here

Staden Quarry: Never trust a sheep

Friday, April 24th, 2009

And now over to our special correspondent – reports just in that not all limestone is steep intimidating choss as previously believed!

Our correspondent travelled to Staden Quarry with Guido on thursday, having bribed Guido to go midweek climbing for the second day running by promising him free choice of venue. Over to her:

On arriving at Guido's secret volcano headquarters, I asked hopefully if he fancied Burbage (thoughts of gently slabbing hard severes in my mind). Guido shuddered visibly before announcing "nay lass, tha needs limestone, we're going to Staden Quarry".
"Whats that like?" I asked innocently
"You'll see" he replied darkly.

After several days travel down the M1 we arrived near Buxton at a semi circular quarry with promising looking slabby sides enclosing a pleasant meadow full of cows and sheep. Picking our way through the cow pats and making a mental note not to hold the rope in our teeth while clipping, we came to Joint Effort Buttress and got the guidebook out. It was at this point I noticed there was precious little below VS (my top leading grade). In for a penny in for a pound, I geared up for the VS I was pointed at, a 4c crack route called Suscipiat (no, I havnt a clue what the name means). Suscipiat was surprisingly nice. Blow me down and stripe me pink, the limestone wasnt polished, it actually had friction, and whats more the rock was as solid and compact as, well, a rock. No detachable holds here! After both abbing back down (no problems finding anchors at the top, big blocks and solid looking trees) Guido set off up the E1 5b next to it, Sunai. This was hard work but good fun to second, crimpy start then lots of balancy but positive little holds, wouldnt have fancied leading it though, nicely done Guido.

Now however my worries were confirmed. Guido announced there was a HVS round the corner which he assured me I could do. Biting back the words "I dont climb HVS" I agreed to take a look. "Its a hard start then it gets easier" he promised. "and theres loads of gear so you can lace it if you want". Oh yes, I wanted. I geared up till I resembled something from Scrapheap Challenge and set off. The start was indeed hard (presumably why it got 5b) After a few moves I slipped off the initial crimpy bulge, lowered off and started again and this time got up onto easier ground and a welcome rest. From here on it was fairly plain sailing really, although you wouldnt have thought it to see me lacing away, gibbering, and dropping gear like confetti. A couple of worrying bits where Elvis paid a visit then I was up on top well chuffed. Joint Effort gets three stars in the guidebook, quite right too.

My hard route of the day over, Guido headed for Bicycle Repair Man, an E1 5b ** classic. The disintegrating bicycle it was named for is still there. Its follows a thin crack, with another awkward start – once again it comes as a blessed relief when the angle eases after the bulge. I failed to second this cleanly, but Guido did a lovely lead, bar one most un-guido like spot of rope drag.

Now at this point there was a slight error of clear thinking. Due to a slightly stuck topmost cam, we decided I would leave it, Guido would remove it on the abseil then I would take the belay apart and walk down. Guido pointed out the descent route, indicating a useful landmark.
"Now then, you see those two sheep? Your descent routes just there"
Can you see the probem yet?
Guido having got to the bottom, I headed towards the descent. It seemed a loooong way round. Eventually I heard distant shouting, and turned to see Guido waving his arms as if trying to take off. Apparently I had gone too far. Never trust a sheep! Not realising their vital role as a landmark, the untrustworthy creatures had moved!!! Who could ever have expected that might happen?

Navigational challenges aside, it was a brilliant day that has pleasantly changed my opinion of limestone. Aside from some bulgy starts the routes we did were slabby and on really solid, unpolished rock. At between 20 -28 metres length for the routes I was also surprised by how long it took us to do them – after two routes each it was just gone four o'clock, I was judging the passage of time by my experience of short gritstone routes, couldnt understand why I was feeling tired already. A very succesfull day and I'm well chuffed to have a second HVS lead under my belt.

more brimham sunshine

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Simon Carmen Gordon Dave D me and Clare Usher all headed off to Brimham.  Spotted Gordon and Dave on the way in half way up Lovers Leap Chimney. Me and Clare headed for Pig Traverse which was good fun as always, however getting over there ate up time so after that we had just enough time left to run up Cracked Corner on the way back to the car.  Meanwhile Simon and Carmen, being iconoclasts as usual, had headed over towards Kangeroo Wall to do Bilberry Groove then followed up with a couple of routes on Turtle Rock and Dancing Bear. Felt great to be out on sunny grit again!

brimham sunshine

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Donal and I made a (I'd like to say quick dash, but it took us ages to get there) trip to Brimham in the sunshine for our first outdoor grit experience tonight. Headed for a very dry and quiet Fag Slab and did the 4 easy classics in great conditions. Back to the car for 8.30 and still light.

roll on summer 🙂

MTB Virgin pops his cherry…

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

In a cold mist and time honoured fashion, Donal fettled the bikes pre-ride. Not Annie's for a change but Peter's which I had borrowed for the YAC beginners' MTB ride.

start of the ride, across open moorland in the sun

start of the ride, across open moorland in the sun

Never having ridden a mountain bike trail and being fairly unimpressed, I thought this was a good chance to check it out and see what the fuss was about, as well as supporting club efforts in organising introductory events. Andrew, Sally and Debbie (with shiny bikes) made up the 6.



Our route took us along a road for a wee while then across open moorland and through some farm land. The sun had burnt off the mist and most people started to strip off a layer or two (apart from Annie and me – I only had a thermal top on, and Annie only had 3 layers including a fleece). We were heading for Hawnby from not far outside Osmotherly, across parts of the NYM I'd never been to before. It was stunning scenery, with added baa-lambs for cuteness.
Andrew making a splash

Andrew making a splash

Some pretty steep uphill and fast descents and multiple redundant crossings of a ford, brought us to a great cafe in the sun for tea and lunch, in the lower part of Hawnby village – highly recommended.

The route back included a steep ascent up a track and a lovely ride through some woods, with frequent stops to admire the view and catch our breath. A ridiculously steep path out of a picturesque secluded valley, meant a push to the plateau, but then an easy track ride followed by some tricky blocky paths and a steep super fast descent back to the cars.

Donal rests in the forest

Donal rests in the forest

Clearly I was not doing it right as despite having Peter's bike and helmet I failed to face plant, break anything, lose the bike or actually fall off at all. Donal tells me it was about 14 miles or so and typical standard.

So my first MTB ride, will I be back ? Not if the weather is as nice as that 'cos it was perfect for climbing; in the autumn – maybe. Riding on track and bridleways and roads was great, although it's easy to see how walkers can become irritated with riders and vice versa – I don't think they mix well. My other concern has always been the level of erosion (and IMHO) this was pretty significant on the dry moorland and even the boggy parts. Deep ruts being worn, yeah the walkers are responsible for most of it but each bike seems to impart quite a bit of damage, and probably not helped by my inexperience. I think I'd happily go on purpose-made trails or across some of the open fields and grasslands, but not into the hills themselves.

Debbie en ford

Debbie en ford

Big up to Donal for sorting this one out, and to Peter for equipment and the rest of the gang for a fun day and great conversation, hope people will support these YAC introductory days as they are a good way of sharing skills in a friendly atmosphere.

— Rob

Basic Rescue Skills

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Me and Debra did a basic rescue skills course on Sunday in the Peak, run by Peak Mountaineering.  It was a small group – four of us plus Paul Lewis who runs the course and another guy (Rick something) assisting him, so it was a really high instructor to punter ratio and they were able to tailor the day for our needs. Debra and me for example got shown some techniques specific to climbing on double ropes, while the other two students were more interested in scrambling situations.  I found the day was just what I needed – it covered basic skills for escaping from the system, lowering or hoisting your mate off a route, prussicking and assisted abseils. There was a good balance between the amount demonstrated and time taken to actually practice this stuff. I think we probably both lost a few pounds in sweat trying to haul each other just a few metres, and it gave me a lot more confidence for feeling that if something went wrong part way up a route I would have some ideas how to deal with the situation. And as the whole thing took place in glorious weather in the Peak it was of course all very enjoyable and really good fun as well.

We tied the course in with a climbing skills day which Debra found really good for being able to get someone to look with an experienced eye at her placements and anchors and confirm they were good. And once again that was a very pleasant day in warm spring sunshine!

PS Since we did all the rescue skills stuff on Burbage North I had plenty of time to admire the crag and am now itching to go there and do some routes

PPS We camped at the Hardacre Farm campsite.  It's a lovely small campsite with nice hot showers and an on site cafe which does massive cooked breakfasts. Just two things to remember if you do camp here – try not to site your tent in the top corner by the railway line (though the trains do stop at 11), and allow enough time for your breakfast to arrive – it's really nice but took about half an hour for two (huge) bacon butties, so we had to eat them on the fly.

A Towering Achievement

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Having booked 6 spaces in the CIC hut almost a year in advance, me, Rob, Simon, Carmen and two non-YAC members Andy and Matt headed up to Fort William for the Easter weekend. On the drive up, me, Rob and Matt stopped off to buy the food. Me and Matt were shopping for so long that Rob almost called the police to report two people missing in Tescos. When we eventually arrived at the car, amazement was expressed at how much food we had bought for a weekend away. In particular, our complete disregard for weight (i.e. buying precooked noodles instead of dry ones and one pack of pitta bread per person). Oh well, carrying heavy packs is bound to be good training for something.

Ah, teaWe met up with Andy (who had driven from Portsmouth!) and Simon and Carmen and spent Thursday night in a bunkhouse. Friday morning was very wet and miserable so enthusiasm for setting off was limited. Forecasts and conditions reports were mixed, so I was really having to spread my optimism around generously to keep any hopes of winter climbing alive.  While packing our ridiculously large packs, Matt noticed he'd forgotten his boots – this provided an excellent excuse to go shopping in Fort William and waste a bit of time drinking tea. With Matt £350 worse off, we finally headed for the north face car park and slogged our way up to the CIC hut. The general consensus was that this did permanent damage to all of our shoulders. Also, the large selection of fresh vegetables I had carried up had somehow managed to turn into a putrid juice which infected all of my belongings.

Castle RidgeWith a cat 4 avalanche forecast and everyone we met saying the snow was dangerously wet, we decided to spend the afternoon scrambling up castle ridge. This gave a good couple of hours entertainment and a good exercise in scrambling in the wet in plastic boots. We finished in the snow with a taxing descent over scree back to the halfway lochan. Our hopes for anything wintery were all but dashed at this point and we resolved to go for a "summer" ascent of tower ridge the following day.


Tower RidgeWe set off in two teams of three (rob/simon/carmen and me/matt/andy) in the morning and were pleased to note that the snow at the foot of observatory gully had refrozen hard. Also, much of the ridge had a cover of fresh snow. Once we were on the ridge, the sun came out and we were all waxing lyrical about "alpine conditions". At the first steep step, verglas made us put on crampons and move together (the other three took this opportunity to overtake by soloing ahead). From this point on, the whole route was on good snow, with occasional mixed and ice steps. We caught them back up at the little tower where a queue had formed getting past a tricky step.

Tower RidgeFour more pitches beyond this got us to easy but exposed snow leading to the great tower. The eastern traverse looked fantastic, really easy but outrageously exposed. It was matt's lead but I got equivalent excitement going last. By this point it had started snowing and it was getting very cold waiting on belays. We heard some shouts drifting down from the top suggesting the other team were on the final snow slopes. So we were quite relieved to round a corner and find ourselves at tower gap, my lead – argh! I teetered along the narrow snow ridge as far as the final boulder and got in some bomber opposing nuts, then lowered myself into the void. I made the mistake of climbing right down to the top of glover's chimney (the other two just made a large stride over the gap) and spent a good ten minutes trying to work out how to climb back out. Eventually I commited to hanging off a one axe torque and bellyflopped onto the other side (rob later told me it was much easier to bridge up the gap – oh well!) A bit more snow led to the bottom of a small chimney, with an obvious belay at the top – "no more rope" Matt shouted. Bugger! We had to move together for a few metres until I could reach the belay and bring matt and andy over.

Tower RidgeThe end now felt very close, but for the first time we had to move together with no protection and the top out looked interesting. With matt belaying me from a bucket seat, I headed up and placed a small nut in the final wall before thrashing my way up the loose snow slope and cornice. We were all delighted to find ourselves on flat ground again, although we couldn't see much of it as it was almost a whiteout. We began following bearings to get back to the zig zags when we stumbled across a family sitting in the snow in jeans and trainers – "are you mountain rescue?" they said. They tagged along at the back as we continued on our way. We then found another group of walkers – "do you have a gps?" they said "no, but we know where we are". They also tagged on the back. Like the pied piper, we picked up various other stragglers along the way until once we left the cloud we had a group of 15 people following us! A long walk back to the halfway lochan and then back to the hut got us home in time for tea. Tower ridge took us 8.5 hours in total so no records for speed, but it was an absolutely brilliant experience and in excellent condition for a winter ascent.

Tower ScoopThe forecast for the next day was looking perfect for some ice, so me, matt and rob headed up observatory gully for tower scoop, while simon and carmen headed into coire na ciste. Many more people were out on the sunday, queues on indicator wall, parties on smith's route, point 5 and good friday climb as well as lots on tower ridge. After a long slog we arrived at the bottom of tower scoop to find lovely thick plasticy ice. I led the first pitch and finally got to use my petzl ice flutes (which are brilliant). Some rather complicated rope arrangements for our party of three ended up with Rob leading the final steep ice pitch belayed by both me and matt. Me and matt were certain the final ice must have been vertical but rob assured us it was nowhere near.

Tower Gully CorniceWe finished up tower gully, spurred on by the ginormous drooping double cornices. There were some tracks outflanking the cornice on the right, but this looked horrendously exposed. Rob opted for an alternative: smash through the bottom cornice, crawl along for 10 feet between the two and then smash out through the second cornice onto the plateau. I found this mildly terrifying and was very pleased to arrive on the plateau in bright sunshine to join the crowds at the summit.

A quick romp round the carn mor dearg arete led us to the summit of carn mor dearg from where a series of snow patches could be linked to allow a 600m glissade almost back to the door of the hut. All that remained was to repack all the food we hadn't eaten and carry it all back down. My strategy was to minimise the time spent with the pack on my back so I ran from the CIC hut back to the car in 49 minutes (probably doing permanent damage to my knees in the process).

CIC HutHopes of a warm bed in a bunk house were dashed as they were all full, so we wild camped in glen etive. Gluttons for punishment that they are, Rob, Simon and Carmen squeezed in a munro on the monday while me, andy and matt devoured a scottish breakfast.

Overall, a fantastic weekend that defied the apparent lack of winter to give 3 days of adventure. The extension to the CIC hut has turned it into a very comfortable place to stay (though the SMC members we met could barely have been more stinging in their criticism of the workmanship!) Perhaps we'll take a bit less food next time though.

Knoydart – where men are men and mice are hungry

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

After some major organisation work by Tom, eleven of us headed up to Knoydart for Easter. The peninsula calls itself 'britains last wilderness' and it is certainly wild, remote and beautiful.

Knoydart is cut off from the rest of scotland by sea on three sides and mountains on the other. There are seven miles of unmetalled road on knoydart, but these are totally disconnected from the rest of the british road system. So there are only two ways to get there – a 16 hour trek over the hills, or by boat. We took the boat, and from there it was an hour's walk in to the Druim Bothy – just as well Tom had arranged for the food and drink to be shipped in most of the way by land rover. The bothy itself was warm but basic. We couldn't get the hurricane lights going so reverted to candlelight, and with no hot running water it was a skinny dip in the icy stream for us. But the landscape and hills made up for it. The scale of the hills rising up from near sea level made the Lake District hills look puny, and the hills rose up in every direction with barely a sign of human life. On Saturday me, Pete, Karen and Annie did a traverse of Luinne Bheinn and
Meall Buidhe.

We were lashed by hail on the summit of Meall Buidhe (boo) then almost stumbled over ptarmigans on Luinne Bheinn (cheers). Then the weather changed overnight, we awoke to a glorious spring day and me Annie Pete (Evans The Fall) Debra and Simon headed up Ladhar Bheinn, a really enjoyable 12km walk starting up a ridge then working our way up a series of rugged ups and downs with some interesting scrambly bits on the final ascent.

The weather by this time was like a summer day, with views stretching from the Ben over in the east to Skye, Rhum, Eigg and Muck to the west. We looked over to the snowy slopes of the Ben and wondered how the CIC hut contingent were doing

We finished off with a couple of pints by the sea in Inverie, then back to the bothy and a quick shudder in the Icy Stream. The by now totally knackered Ladhar Bheinn party then wussed out of the ceilidh due to sore feet so we left Gordon, Fliss, Cathy and Tom to represent us there, they did us proud, managing to walk almost twice the distance back as on the way out due to the amount of drunken zig zagging all over the path. A fantastic weekend, and another three Munros bagged for me – not that I'm ticking!

Oh, can't finish without a shout out to the mice, who scuttled round the sleeping platform and nicked every piece of food that wasnt safely hanging from the ceiling in placcy bags. 10/10 for mousy energy, however I was disappointed they failed to stich up the rip in the arse of my trousers. Warning everyone – the helpful sewing mice in Sleeping Beauty are a fib!

rest of my pics here