Archive for May, 2010

Caley – Do you remember, chalk hearts melting on a playground wall…

Friday, May 21st, 2010

OK, if you're too young to remember Marillion, then you probably think that Caley is just a bouldering playground.  However, there are also enough proper (sorry, ‘trad’) routes to provide good entertainment for an evening.

The weather wasn’t quite warm enough to melt chalk on Tuesday evening, but unusually of late, thermals were not required.

Peri had lured us there, as she had wanted to do battle with ‘The Scoop’ (VS, 4c) – a notorious bold balance, well above gear.  However, according to Jim, led by Peri with very little drama.

Gordon, Luke and myself confined our attentions to lesser stuff.  First, ‘Pedestal Wall’ (S), a fine and varied favourite, finishing up an airy arête.  Then Gordon led ‘Holly Tree Scoop’.  Rather short, but actually worth doing for a Diff.  Next, it was Luke’s turn to lead, with a choice between three equally unappealing V diff chimneys.  He opted for ‘V Chimney’ and soon realised why both Gordon and myself had been so insistant that he lead! (To give him practice at placing gear and to build up his leading confidence, of course).  After much huffing and bruising of knees, he was able to embrace the big tree belay and bring us up also.

To finish off the evening, we did ‘Zig-Zag’ (S).  I tend to agree with Simon’s comments on Rockfax that it feels a bit stiff for a severe.  However, the gear is so good, that I’d probably be accused of being soft if I suggested it were any harder.

May Day Meet

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

This year's May Day weekend was a return to the George Starkey hut in Patterdale, and we had a good turnout.

Saturday's forecast was for early sun with rain later. Carmen and I opted for some obscure climbing near the hut. We started with Coffee Slab (details on, which turned out to be a large boulder with half a dozen piss-poor 'routes' – despite being only 5 minutes from the path it's not worth the trouble. We then moved up the hill to Dubhow Crag, another new addition with details on the FRCC site. This one was a bit better, though over-starred. We started in the wrong place and ended up doing a new route by mistake (Caterpillar Ridge S 4b) – nothing great, but no worse than the rest of the routes we did when we found the right buttress! Rain was by now threatening so we wandered back to the hut but managed to stay dry – whcih is more than can be said for anyone else!

Peter and John had set off at first light for Eagle Crag in Grisedale. They climbed the fine Kestrel Wall (S **) and were half way up Doctor's Grooves (HS *) when the heavens opened, so they abbed off and swam back to the hut.

Peri led another group of climbers to Castle Rock of Triermain, where they had time for Via Media (S **) before the rain arrived.

There were also various walking/scrambling parties, but I'm afraid I've forgotten what they did (I'm writing this 6 months after the trip) – I do know that it involved getting very wet though!

The next day was much better, dry with some sunshine. Carmen and I set out early for a long run, training for the Fellsman. Round the east side of Ullswater to Martindale, then up the curiously-named Pikeawassa and along the ridge to Wether Hill. Then south over Rampsgill Head, High Street, Thornthwaite Beacon, Stony Cove Pike, and down to the Kirkstone Inn. Slog up Red Screes, then round the ridge to Fairfield, back over St Sunday Crag to Patterdale and the hut. Phew!

Peri's group of climbers went to Shepherds Crag, and various walks were done, perhaps someone will remind me of the details!

Finally, on the Monday, John, Peter, Carmen and I all headed for Longsleddale, where the Buckbarrow bird ban had been lifted early. The Evanses climbed the crag classic Sadgill Wall (S **). We'd done the route before, so went for Dandle Chimney (VDiff *) – some good climbing, but extremely vegetated. This was followed by Slab and Rib – allegedly VDiff but due to guidebook confusion I think we finished up a VS instead! Bright and sunny with a bitterly cold north wind. Peri and co chose Corvus on Raven Crag, and claim to have enjoyed themselves despite the wind!

More photos here.

The Fellsman

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Well here we were. 9am in Ingleton, at the start of the Fellsman. Time to see if all the intense training (ahem!) paid off. Fortunately the rain that had been forecast earlier in the week has stayed where it belonged, in the south of England, and we had dry mostly sunny weather, though with a strong cold wind.

The first steep climb up Ingleborough was a shock to the system, but we had to force ourselves not to try to keep up with everyone else – it's not the first hill that matters, but the last! This was followed by Whernside, then a descent into Kingsdale (with a slight diversion caused by a temporary stile having been placed across the wrong wall!), a painful slog up Gregareth, and a long stony descent into Dent. We'd done the first 20 miles, in almost exactly 5 hours, and I was shattered.

We allowed ourselves a few minutes at the Dent checkpoint, savouring the free oranges and sausage rolls, before forcing ourselves to leave. A long gradual ascent up Blea Moor followed, not as bad as expected, followed by a long gradual descent to Stone House, then a slightly shorter, much less gradual reascent up Great Knoutberry Hill, and finally a long relatively flat run in via Dodd Fell to the Fleet Moss checkpoint at the 38 mile mark. Our aim had been to get here before 7.30pm, the cutoff point for grouping where everyone is forced to join together in groups of at least 4 for the overnight section. Fleet Moss is a notorious bog and we didn't want to get into any heated debates about the best way across! Much to our surprise, we made the deadline with 10 minutes to spare, and were soon off again.

The next section was the one that we'd recce'd a few weeks ago, so we allowed ourselves to relax a little – bad mistake! It went well up to Middle Tongue, managing to avoid the bogs entirely (it helped that it had been fairly dry for the last few weeks) – but after that it went rather less well!

I was using the Harveys map, which showed the wall/fence we needed to follow; I knew to stick to this until a tarn, then head off in the same direction and we'd hit the Hell Gap checkpoint. Unfortunately, there was a second fence, not marked on that map (though marked on the OS 1;25K map in my rucksack!). I didn't notice the junction and we followed the wrong fence, and only realised the mistake when I saw Wharfedale spread out in front of us, rather than out of sight over the hill to our right! It cost us about an hour by the time we traversed back round (too low) and climbed back up the path to the checkpoint, where we confused the marshals by not having been grouped yet!

We got grouped at Cray, with some folk who we'd been leap-frogging all day, so our paces were roughly matched. Buckden Pike went smoothly, and even Great Whernside wasn't too bad, though between us we failed to find the optimum route. The descent from there was by what in retrospect was probable a poor route choice, heading down a path marked on the map but not on the ground, looking for a vague traversing path which led to the next checkpoint. We got there, but it was slow. We'd probably have been better off sticking to the top of the ridge and following a fence/wall line down directly above the control – slightly longer but with little room for error.

All that remained was the very long descent back to the Yarnbury checkpoint we were were ungrouped as dawn had now broken. We should really have stayed grouped for a little longer, as one of the group had fallen behind due to a painful knee so we should have stuck together – but Carmen and I did the decide thing and waited for him, as by now we weren't racing against anyone else, just determined to finish in more-or-less one piece. We partly ran, partly walked, partly stumbled down the tarmac for the last few miles, back into Threshfield.

63 miles (including the unplanned diversion near Middle Tongue!), 11000 feet of ascent, in a shade over 19 and a half hours – plenty of room for improvement next year 🙂

More photos
A map of the route
Fellsman website

Sicilian Adventures

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Jules on Dietta, PalermoEmploying the sheep technique we decided on Sicily for this years sun rock trip, a new place for all 12 of us. Managing to make the trip to Stansted as complex as possible we all got the plane (just), picked up hire cars at Palermo and drove to our base San Vito Lo Capo. Motorways and wiggly roads led us to the 3 apartments that Tracy has booked over t'interweb.

Our base was well chosen as there is a Stanage sized limestone edge about a mile away and a huge cliff in hobbling distance, visible from the rooftop terrace. Back at Palermo (about an hour and a half away) there is a collection of single pitch crags and multi pitch monsters. In between many areas offering more adventurous opportunities as well as some hard bolted lines. In short, tons of rock, sport and trad, much of it still being developed, at all grades and a variety of styles of climbing – slabs, crack, corners, caves and overhangs.

Andrew had hired a tiny car and set off in various directions driving about checking out the salt pans, some local villages, a couple of walks in the national parks and a few encounters with some fences, didn't put him off though! A cake trip with Paula, Tracy and Jules to Palermo provided the other distraction.

We made a good use of the local edge climbing at either end (encountering bees at one end and snakes at the other) with tiny walk-ins and a great collection of routes to head for. Indeed we spent quite a few days here, just in different areas and were never crowded out by other people. Inevitably there were German teams and a few other Brits.

The trip was fairly incident-packed, starting with Pete E's encounter with a bees' nest – which turned out to be more worrying with a few stings the price to pay. Pete and Tracy bailed off the multi-pitch route in Palermo, which was fine until the rope got stuck and Pete had to prussic 30m back up the rope, and it got dark – and no head torches. For Jules and me waiting at the car watching the shenanigans it was all a bit concerning. A handy hint from Pete is that your camera works as a backup torch!

Then it all got a tad more serious with yours truly having to jump off a route whilst down climbing and encountering a very loose huge flake. Bruised heel, thumb and a cut finger put paid to our attempt on the trad multi-pitch on Pizzo Monaco – visible from the apartments – that two teams had done the day before (start uphill from the bedsteads!). Peri, Pete, Simon and Carmen had enjoyed their day

…nice route scary abseil, felt quite lonely up there in deepening twilight after everyone else had gone down waiting for the rope to come free, could hear nightjars calling on the opposite cliff and thought of Andrew Peri

Simon said

Guidebook description left much to be desired, especially pitch lengths.

Which perhaps we should have taken some notice of! After hobbling back – we found Steve V on all fours in agony from a pulled back. Not a great day.

Steve spent the rest of the week working his way through the pharmacy and dragging Paula around the Drs and hospitals but never recovered enough to be able to get back on rock. I was much luckier, with the tiny walk-ins I could still manage to climb but not walk far so the local crags were ideal.

I never ventured to the single and short multi-pitch venue in Palermo, but those that did seemed to agree the grades were stiffer but with some good routes, and one designed with Simon in mind

Clessidre a 3 pitch 5b,5b,5b . Pitch 2 was hard 5c and superb, best pitch of the holiday, winding a way through improbably steep terrain. Pitch 3 was about 5b for one move, and involved climbing up through a hole in the cliff and emerging from the top for a Peak Scar-style finish up a floral grassy ramp.

The other highlights of the holiday seem to invove a large amount of ice cream Michelin starred bistro
which was rather good, though the eating out possibilities were very limited being a bit early in the season and so many of us. I think smaller parties could have foraged better in the little local cafes.

The return journey was made loads more interesting by the roadworks on the M11 – meaning people arriving back in York at 6am – not great.

I think I echo most peoples views that it was a fantastic venue with some really high quality, non polished routes, well worth seeking out and some great trad to have a go at. It's not as cheap as the Costas (flight around 140 each, car hire similar and apartments quite pricey – but there are cheaper places if you can find them locally) but definitely a different, less busy, less polished destination – as we only only went to one corner of the island so plenty more to explore with all the culture and ruins there as well.

Silly things to do

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Well the Fellsman is almost upon us! I wish I could say we'd done plenty of training and were feeling quietly confident, but we haven't and we're not. It's the Met Office's fault – they predicted a mild winter, and the resulting snow-fest meant that we were out winter climbing at every opportunity between December and mid-April. Which is good for overall fitness I suppose. But a short walk carrying a few tons of pointy bits of metal doesn't really prepare you for 61 miles with a tiny rucksack and a couple of cereal bars.

Last month we almost ran the 3 Peaks, but decided against it when we found out that the official 3 Peaks race was on that day. So we contented ourselves with some half-hearted climbing-masquerading-as-running instead. Up Simon's Seat, climbed a few routes. Down the other side to North Nab (which I'm writing up for the next Yorkshire Gritstone guide) for a bit more climbing. Then back up the hill to Lord's Seat for a final route. Great fun, but less than 12 miles and only a few hundred rather than the required several thousand feet of ascent.

Then last weekend we finally did a long run/walk. Staying in Patterdale for the Bank Holiday meet (of which more later no doubt), we started by running round Ullswater to Howtown. Then up Steel Knotts onto Wether Hill, and south over High Raise, Rampsgill Head and High Street to Thornthwaite Beacon. Turn right over Stony Cove Pike and down to the Kirkstone Pass for a soul-destroying slog up Red Screes. Northwest to High Bakestones, then over Dove Crag and Hart Crag to Fairfield, before a final leg over Cofa Pike and St Sunday Crag back to Patterdale. 25 miles and 7500 feet ascent, and great fun. Could we run past the hut and done the whole route again? I don't think so! But that's a measure of what we'll have to do on Saturday…