Archive for July, 2009

Dashing out the weather window

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Despite thundery downpours throughout most of the day dogged optimism paid off and by 4pm it was sunny, though very blowy. Suprise surprise it was very windy indeed at almscliff – good points – the rock was dry – bad points – well, doesnt really need saying. Clare Kirk and Skenders made a beeline for High Man regardless, me and Ian didnt fancy the gale so hid at Low Man.

After a gentle warm up on the classic Fluted Columns (severe 4a, ians lead) we headed for Pram Pushers Paradise (VS 5a) – the line of this route has always been a mystery to me as its mentioned but not shown on the topos, but we managed to find someone to point it out. I'm glad we did – its a great little route with a belter of a finishing move, exposed and airy. It also has an excellent faff ledge, which I made full use of trying to work out where the finish actually went. We also had several "send a loop down" moments due to my over zealous attempts to rationalise my rack. Rope drag was an issue with just one rope – take doubles!

PPP done , and the wind having died down, we headed up to High Man where ian led bird's Nest Crack and enjoyed the jamming so much he almost headed past the swing right onto the chicken head and had to be sternly ordered back on route. Then back down to join the others who had now completed Central Climb (VS 4c, Kirks lead) , Zig Zag (HS 4c) and Zig Zag Direct (VS 4c, Kirks lead) and moved back to Low Man where Clare finished off with a twilight lead of Pinnacle Flake (severe 4a). The arrival of a solitary bat (presumably out in the belief that where it could see climbers there must be midges too ) announced we could now leave with honour, having made the most of the weather window in an otherwise dismal week.

Barbecue Summer

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Scugdale in the rainIt was raining when we optimistically left Wetherby, and was still raining when we rather less optimistically arrived at Scugdale. After 10 minutes sitting in the car, Davids Kay and Dickinson arrived. Everyone else was either on holiday or had chosen not to ignore the weather forecast.

It stopped raining so we dashed to the crag and looked for something to climb.

A strong westerly wind meant that it was all surprisingly dry, apart from the north-facing buttresses, which were not-so-surprisingly green and slimy. We picked one of the few remaining sub-VS routes that I'd not done before: Hybrid, which starts up one route, makes an exposed traverse round the corner on surprising holds, and finishes up another route. It was raining lightly by the time I got to the top, and raining a little less lightly by the time Carmen joined me.

When we reached the bottom again, the rain was bouncing off the ground. Carmen briefly considered a deep water solo of Razor Rib, but a tsunami warning had just been issued so we swam back down the hill to the car and sailed home.

Routes climbed:
Hybrid (HS 4b)
Blaeberry Buttress
Blaeberry Buttress Direct
Blaeberry Crack
er, that's it.

Challenging Bowland

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Bowland ChallengeOff to the Forest of Bowland last weekend to defend our title in the Bowland Challenge. The inspirationally named "Team YAC" (Alan K, Carmen, and me) spent 10 hours on Saturday running/walking/crawling round the hills north west of the Dales, covering about 31 miles/4600 feet ascent in the process. Amazingly it stayed dry all day, and even more amazingly, despite our best efforts in failing to find several of the controls, we managed to win.

Highlight of the day – rescuing a particularly stupid sheep who had managed to end up on its back and was waving its legs feebly in the air, unable to right itself, like a big woolly beetle.

A good fun event, open to both runners and walkers, next year I'll try to remember to circulate details in advance. Their website is here.

The view towards the lake District from Hutton RoofsThe next day Alan stuck with his plan to drive home and sit on a lounger watching golf. Meanwhile, Carmen and I abandoned our plan of climbing steep limestone at Trowbarrow, as I'd managed to strain a leg muscle. So instead we contented ourself with a bimble in the sun around Hutton Roofs – a 6/7m high limestone edge with about 80 routes, mainly below VS, we managed 15 of them. Not a crag to drive a long way for, but worthwhile if you're in the area (eg retreating from lake District rain) and fancy an easy day. UKC crag details here.


Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Another large block joined the others at the foot of the crag. I moved up gingerly, reluctant to test the next handhold in case that too came off. "Below!" I decided to save my breath and only shout out when there wasn't any danger of rock fall. So everything went strangely silent.

Why was I here again?

After over 30 years of total neglect due to access problems (the landowners didn't want anyone climbing there, and the crag is in plain view of the farm in the valley below), Orgate Scar is finally open again. The left hand end of the crag is on Open Access land, and the BMC have managed to get agreement to climb on the rest from the start of February until the end of July each year.

The last guidebook talked of 'fine lines', and described it as a 'major crag'. So last Saturday, half a dozen intrepid explorers/gullible fools made the 90 minute journey to Marske, near Richmond. It's a 20 minute walk across sheep-grazed grassland to the crag, which is blessed with glorious views over lower Swaledale.

It took us a while to find our bearings, during which time Carmen and I climbed a loose unprotected Severe chimney, mistaking it for Chockstone Chimney (VDiff). By the time we got to the top, the others had found the real Chockstone Chimney, so we climbed that as well, finding it to be fairly solid and only Diff. The area around this route appeared to contain the greatest concentration of clean looking rock so we stayed put.

Several lines were climbed, most of them being on good quality rock, though with some vegetation and some loose sections, as you'd expect on an obscure crag that's been neglected for a few decades. In general, there was less vegetation than expected, and on the best lines probably less loose rock. But this was more than made up for on the chimney crack of Owake ('Severe')…

"Below!" I shouted again. Another head-sized rock had been dislodged by the rope, trailing uselessly below me via several pieces of imaginary protection. Luckily Carmen was belaying safely round the corner. I looked up again. The end was in sight, only a few feet above. And miracle of miracles – a short crack, both sides of which were firmly attached – some reliable protection! I carefully topped out (all the rock on the ground at the top was also unattached) and brought Carmen up.

A major crag? Well, no, not really. But a very good minor crag. Some fine lines? Certainly, the best routes could hold their own on any low-grade Yorkshire limestone crag. Some awful lines as well, but with one exception we managed to distinguish between them in advance! Grades were mostly roughly right, though a lot can change in 30 years so they shouldn't be relied on too much.

After initial misgivings as we arrived at the loosest most jungly end of the crag, I think everyone had a good time. I'd certainly go back, though I suspect that between us we did all the best routes.

Routes climbed:
Feather Light Flakes MVS 4b **
Gossamer Groove VS 4c **
Impede HS 4a *
Evel Knievel VS 5a *
Yo-Yo VD *
Chockstone Chimney HD
Jack the Gripper VDiff (VS 4c in the guide!)
Owake VS 4a bag of crumbly shite

More photos here and online guide here

Wharncliffe Wash out

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009
  1. Leave Work at 4:15 pick up car – failed MOT 🙁
  2. Drive home pack – no food – throw together random stuff 🙁
  3. Wait for Peri and Donal drive us to Deepcar – 🙂
  4. Arrive meet Ian basking in sunshine and gear up 🙂
  5. Ian has an interesting time on route and drops rope for me to have a go 🙂
  6. Light rain begins 🙁
  7. Team YorkClimbers Arrive 🙂
  8. Heavy rain arrives 🙁
  9. Heavy rain continues 🙁
  10. Rain stops, rescue gear pack up 🙁
  11. Help Dave (YC) with belay setup and bringing up Carlos 😉
  12. Wander along and find Peri sat atop Hell Gate and Donal about to finish 🙂
  13. meet Guido and Stuart looking for routes to solo 🙂
  14. Black Clouds approaching rapidly 🙁
  15. Run Away to car past jim soling everything in the rain 🙂
  16. lie about location of pub / chav lounge – it's J38 🙂
  17. Everyone finds it apart from S&C (who i guess didnt look 🙂
  18. Home late – never even got my boots on 🙁
  19. Fun evening 🙂


Thursday, July 9th, 2009

As the evenings start to draw in (!) we thought we'd try to take advantage of the daylight before the first snows arrive, and headed for Eastby, near Skipton. Not that far away, but due to Harrogate, it takes ages to get there.

As is now traditional with any long-distance evening crag, the person who suggested it didn't turn up, so it was just Donal, Carmen and me. A cool cloudy evening with a gentle breeze to keep the midges away, climbing conditions were perfect. Donal started with a lead of the fine Pillar Rib, a nice VS 4c, but spoiled rather by the ease with which you can go off-route! Stick to the rib throughout and it's a solid VS 4c, wander too far right and you end up in VDiff territory – Donal was mostly rigorous and got his VS tick 🙂

Next I had a look at Heather Flake (MVS 4c *). A tricky boulder-problem start (much harder for Carmen who had to resort to technique to make up for her lack of reach), followed by a nice, easier-but-very-run-out slabby section, and finally an exciting hand traverse up a flaky crack. Better than it looks, and improves steadily with height.

Donal then led the 3-star Severe of Nose Climb, a long traverse, a bold slab, and a short hand jamming crack. Could be quite traumatic for someone pushing their grade! Meanwhile I soloed Early Doors (MS), the crux is right at the top which made it a bit scary.

Donal then left for an early night, but there was still some daylight to be had, so I finished with a lead of Eastby Buttress (VDiff ***). Described as one of the best VDiffs in Yorkshire, and I wouldn't argue with that!

A few more photos here.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

In stark contrast to the LAMM's snow showers (was it really only 4 weeks ago?), the Saunders this year was treated to the tail end of a heatwave. Luckily it was several degrees cooler than earlier in the week, but it was still hot and humid all weekend.

Rob had pulled out injured, so YAC was represented by 3 teams: Carmen and me on the Bowfell course; Alan and Simeon on Carrock fell; and Simon and Debra on Harter Fell. The event centre was in Coniston, and the courses headed through upper Eskdale and the Duddon valley, to a mid-camp at Turner Hall Farm.

Saturday started and finished very wet, but in between was mostly dry, with just the occasional light shower to provide welcome cooling. Our course was long and interesting and took us through some seldom-visited areas. A long traverse around Wetherlam to Wrynose Pass wasd followed by a long leg towards Scafell via Great Moss, and finally a loop round the lower slopes of Harter Fell to the finish. Other than a slight miscalculation on the first control, traversing a bracken-covered boulder field instead of using the well trodden path below, we didn't make any mistakes, and finished in 6 hours 15 minutes for an unexpected 13th place.

Overnight rain soon cleared, and Sunday stayed hot and dry all day, without the cooling showers of the day before. The course took us over similar ground to the day before. We started with a control high on Harter Fell, before a descent to Hard Knott Pass and a couple of controls on the other side. Then a descent to the road below Wrynose, a never-ending 500m slog up the hill towards Swirl How, and finally a descent via Levers Water, past some of the old mine workings, and eventually back to Coniston. We didn't feel like we'd done so well today. A loss of concentration in the mist and we ended up fighting through bracken 200m below Hard Knott, instead of following a grassy path to the pass. And then the ascent of Swirl How was such hard work felt like it must have been the wrong choice – our other option being a contour to Wrynose Pass and another contour over the col to the east of Swirl How. Though checking the results for that leg, our route was actually quite good and we picked up some time here.

22nd on the day, for an overall 14th place out of 49 starters, much better than expected.

Simon & Debra finished 78th out of 124, and Alan and Simeon, er, also finished 😉

Event website here and some photos here.

return to scugdale

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Sorry, we didnt have any cameras.

After Tuesday's rainy debacle Clare, Ewan, Kirk and I headed back to Scugdale with a mission plan to solo every route at HVD or under at Scott Crags. We estimated this at about 50 and gradually this mutated into a secondary mission plan – to climb our ages. This was all very well for Kirk, the baby of the team at 28, but somewhat pants for me at 50. We had just acheived Kirk's age when it all started going horribly wrong. Wet stuff was definitely falling from the sky. After a scurry to a cave we decamped back to Swainby for tea and scones.

Tea and scones had, we poked our noses out again. The sun was out – back up the hill went the two little cars. This time we applied a bit more urgency. Ewan's and Clare's ages were acheived (I'm not saying in what order or at what point) with only a slight diversion for Kirk and Ewan to do Pingers (VS 5a) – me and Clare, more disciplined souls, stuck to the mission plan. Finally, down to the last ten, ominous rumbles were heard and an inky black cloud loomed. All attempts at calm dissappeared in the race to achieve the magic number. With two left to achieve disaster struck – the end of the crag! Inspiration struck – race up the nearest HS then finish off in style on Pingers, a clap of thunder sounding as I reached the crux hold.

Then inspiration struck again – with 50 routes ticked it was time for pints of beer all round as the heavens opened!

Scugdale Soaking

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Will, Luke and I met Roy (prospective Oaklands regular) at the car park and wandered up towards the rocks just as Peter disappeared over the top and walked off to solo all the 16 routes at Stoney Wicks about a mile to the right.

With a few mats we all soloed all of the easy routes at the right hand end, some many times, and talked Roy and Luke through a few techniques, mantleshelves and lay aways and balancy things. They impressed with controlled solos of the long routes Razor Rib and variations.

It was all going so well. Will wanted to conquer The Mantleshelf, long masquerading as a Diff/Vdiff now given 4b and I have always thought reckon 4c. We dropped a rope on it I didn't want to take any falls onto my ankle and with some effort Luke, Roy and I made it. Will then soloed it in fine style with a bag full of beta weighing his conscience down. In the distance a faint calling could heard as Peri got out of her car, and Peter joined.

We moved the rope around onto another face for Roy and Luke to try some variations on Holly Tree Wall practising top outs and Will tickled Pingers (5a) – so that was his two objectives done. Peri Clare and Ian arrived just in time to contemplate a route before the heavens opened and we took cover.

Scugdale is badly affected by the rain, soft rock is friable and prone to damage – didn't stop some others.

In a break between showers Roy made a run for it, the rest of us giving up during the next downpour and heading for a pint in the Blacksmiths Arms (home of the steak on a stone!)

No photos from me.