Archive for August, 2010

Here for the crack…

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

The venue this week was Brimham. Will and I headed for the pinnacle area first, where we bumped into Simon and Carmen making their way up Turtleneck Chimney.  The rock seemed reasonably dry so we decided to take a look at our target routes of the day, which were both on cracked buttress.

I bagsyed first go and headed up Central Crack.  The start of this is very pleasant and about HS, but it has an evil off width finish that I fell (several times) foul of a few years ago. Anyway, after a summer of off widthing I felt the time was right for another go.

A little while later,  stationed at the final ledge, I was questioning my own sanity. The thing looked as off width, off balance and holdless as ever. Quite a long time passed while I tried various tactics – facing left, facing right, upside  down (obviously that last ones a lie) before eventually most of me managed to reach the top ( I left quite a lot of skin in the crack) and flopped onto my back without even sufficient breath to shout 'safe',  so poor Will had to stay on belay while I finished hyperventilating.

Anyway, having entertained Crofty and Will (and Simon and Carmen who had made a short heckling and giggling type appearance) it seemed only fair that Will should do some swearing on his chosen route of Parallel Cracks which looked  choicely green and damp.

Twilight was approaching as Will headed off with enthusiasm and before long was just below the final moves, which, like everything else on this buttress, provide the sting in the tail. Will decided to go for the left exit, which has an excellent, but completely invisible from below, hold. Its also a lo-o-ng way back, so getting it requires a bit of a blind launch and then a frantic grope till you find it.  Now it was Will's turn to try various techniques, bobbing up and retreating like a demented yoyo before eventually deciding to just throw himself at it (it was either this or bivvy for the night, as darkness had not only approached but reached us some time ago and was now settling down to brew a cup of tea). Success!  Will topped out, I hastily donned a headtorch to follow and Crofty was dispatched to sweet talk the rangers waiting to lock the gates.

Hinterstoisser Traverse bolted!

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Angela m climbs The Shattered Pillar (F5+, Giggleswick version)

…and the White Spider, Exit Cracks and Shattered Pillar too. All the routes on the new Swallows Nest sector at Giggleswick South are named after pitches on the Eiger. So if you want to pimp your logbook without having to climb one of those awkward, pointy vertical snowy things, do as we did and get along for some bolt clipping.

Angela M, Dean and me had in fact only come here because the routes at Foredale were damp and seeping after the torrential rain on friday. We did a few routes there on the introductory wall, which was just a smidge wet, then as even the diehard limestone fans (Ali and friends) were legging it to drier crags decided to follow their lead.

Dean on Broadsword Calling, 5+, foredale

I had never been to Giggleswick before and heard conflicting reports, but I really liked what I found. Being a newly bolted section, the Swallows Nest area has no polish 😀 and a good range of grades for the non hardcore sports climber – 5 to 6b, and the grades feel very reasonable.  Harder climbers don't fret, there appeared to be plenty to keep you busy on other nearby sections.  Its not high, but has a friendly, unintimidating feel and is set among trees on a steep, southwest facing hillside. I'm told its a suntrap on clear winter days. This is definately a limestone crag I will go back to.

sunny scuggy evening

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Will, Clare and me ignored the lowering dark clouds and york races gridlock on tuesday evening to head up to Scugdale.

Once suitably DEETed up against the ravening midges we headed up to Barkers Crags and bloddering mats were deployed into battle position. It was a little hard to find our way between buttresses underneath the Jurassic bracken, but two buttresses were visited and much fun was had. Barkers Crags get less traffic than Scot Crags and as a result we found the grades a little more unpredictable, and for some strange reason a rule of thumb seemed to be that the V Diffs felt harder than the severes. The landings were also quite a lot less reassuring than Scot Crags – less flat turf, more pointy rocky bits. In particular the top out on Pedestal Wall felt quite hairy for a V Diff – at 7 metres you really dont want to be doing unprotected mantleshelfs.

Clare giving it some elegant layback action

Will had been there before and took great delight in pointing out problems which he already had wired – I spent some time scratching my head over the initial moves on Breakout (VS 4b). Will then gave a masterclass in his new technique, the Undyno, which consists of repeatedly and dramaticly failing to latch the key hold on an overhang (see pic below).

Will demonstrating the Undyno

The light all evening was dramatic. A parting between two layers of clouds was spotlighting the hills and vale of york with a golden glow as we arrived, and as the light faded the effect grew progressively more molten. Every so often a top out would be followed by an exclamation about the spectacular sunset.

Finally it was undeniably dark and we headed downhill, speculating about whether Simon and carmen were still climbing – little did we know the crafty devils had skived off for the evening and were sitting at home sipping wine.

Carpe Diem!

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

The forecasts for last weekend's weather were getting worse by the day and it seemed like yet another weekend of dodging the showers was on the cards. But on Friday, the predictions changed suddenly, with the main area of rain moving south where it belongs. Carmen's enthusiasm overwhelmed my inertia, so on Saturday morning we drove to the Lakes. It rained for much of the journey, even as close as Dunmail Raise, but as we approached Langdale the clouds cleared and we were rewarded with blue sky and sunshine (remember that?).

The rest of the afternoon was spent at Raven Crag (Walthwaite), just 15 minutes walk from the campsite in Chapel Stile. I'd hoped to climb the classic offwidth VS of Walthwaite Crack, but found that it had fallen down 4 years ago, but there was plenty still standing and we climbed Enterprize (VS 4c **), Route 2 (HS 4b,4b ***), Walthwaite Gully (VS 4b 4c **) and Route 1 (S 4a **).

The next day dawned even brighter, with a cloudless sky, so we decided to make the most of it and start on the Picco Harrison Integrale – a long link-up suggested in the guidebook of VD/S routes on Lower Scout, Upper Scout, White Ghyll lower, White Ghyll upper, Pavey Ark, and finally Harrison Stickle.

Lower Scout – Cub's Groove (VD *) horribly polished.
Upper Scout – Route 2 (VD ** 4 pitches) very pleasant, not much gear.
White Ghyll lower – Slip Knot (VS 4b *** 2 pitches) harder than planned, but it was on the tick-list and there was nobody on it! A welcome escape from the heat of the sun.
White Ghyll upper – The Slabs Route 2 (S 4a ** 3 pitches) I ran all 3 pitches into 1 due to failing to find the belays described in the guidebook! Carmen then added on the last pitch of The Slabs Route 1 to make up for it.

Due to the earlier choice of a VS we were now running short of time, and Carmen's feet were suffering, so we decided on Rake End Chimney (Diff ***) on Pavey Ark – a very traditional route! and only 2 main pitches. This wasted a good half an hour as I started off and then retreated as it was (a) very wet, and (b) not the sort of route to climb with a rucksack on!

It was obvious now that we wouldn't have time for the route on Harrison Stickle without risking an epic, so we chose Cook's Tour (VD ** 5 pitches) to finish the day. A strange route, 50% walking, not sure of its classic status. Though our impartiality may have been impaired by having been eaten by midges for the last 3 pitches!

A glorious descent in the evening light finished a long 11 hour day.

The rain's due to return tomorrow…

More photos here.

Does anyone fancy a bit of an adventure?

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

The belay for the last pitch on Chee Tor Girdle

My first experience of Chee Tor was in 1976 before the York Alpine Club was even a glint in Tony Ruddock’s eye. At the time I was a budding VS man & one of the easiest ticks in Hard rock was the Chee Tor Girdle Vs _ , 4b, 4b, 4a, 5a, 4c.

Six of us in 3 teams of 2 set off across the traverse which gets increasingly more exposed as it progress’s. Vic Scott who was on the second rope bottled it, flapped & rapped off before the final pitch, the story goes that he descended in a shower of urine as his mates vented their feelings & bladders in disgust.

Chee Tor girdle is still a great day out & it well worth visiting the crag if you only do this route.

Peter harris making Match of the Day E2 5c look very easy.

During the late 70’s the crag went through a massive development phase but were not climbing well enough to take advantage. By the early 80’s we had caught up however so had most other climbers of the day so Chee Tor became more popular than Stanage. During that era we had many visits to the crag & I did all the climbs I was capable of climbing at Chee Tor culminating with a lead of the Extreme Rock route Mortlocks Arete E5 6a.

Extreme Rock route Morlocks Arete E5 6a

Nowadays the crag is hardly ever visited and its hard to believe that it was ever popular

The climbing is still superb, steep pockety limestone walls with generally good nut placements maybe a bit more polished than it used to be & some of the less popular routes have become overgrown.

Typical face climbing on Absent Friends E3 5c

During the last couple of years have had several visits even rapping down a few routes cleaning them & replacing the old rope threading the pockets.

The climbing is limited at Vs, if you are steady on Hvs there are some belting routes like Great Central route Hvs 5a *** and Leering wall Hvs 5a** is a great
warm up.

While anyone who can lead E1 or above is going to be spoilt for choice of 3*** classics. Yes it takes a bit of adjusting to climbing on Chee Tor its bigger, feel bolder, more exposed, makes a big impact in your memory & you need to have confidence small wires.

Those who make the effort will be rewarded by some of the best climbing in the Peak District & when you go back to gritstone its feels tiny.

More Chee Tor reading

Its got to be Chee Tor

Wait in line please!

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

The Crux traverse on Pause

Simon & I had driven up to Glencoe on Saturday night and pitched our tent on the free camping space outside the Kings House. Half an hour later Team Brockers rolled up so we went for a quick pint in the Kings House.
Next morning we split, Team Brockers headed for the Skye ridge while we headed for the Etive Slabs.

Never ending queue on Spartan Slab

Although it was quite crowded at the base of the slabs we could not believe our luck as everyone was queueing for Spartan Slab while non of the other routes got any attention that day.

Great for us as I had done the Hard Rock route Swastika E2 in the past & Long Reach E2 which is one of the best routes I have ever done in my life.  So today we did another 2 great classics Pause E1 & Hammer Hvs both were 600ft + & very sustained, even the easier graded pitches were run out & technical.

There had been a strong cold NE wind all day keeping the temps down, ideal conditions at the slabs but this dropped at dusk & out came the midges, we had intended to stay a night in Glen Etive but we quickly returned to the Kings House area where the wind was still cold & brisk leaving it midge free.

A great climbing day.

Climb…rain…climb…rain…climb…courtesy of Stanage Pop

Friday, August 13th, 2010

After an obligatory detour to Outside in Hathersage to acquire a very essential clipstick, Peri, Rob and myself arrived at Stanage Popular as it began to rain; we decided it must be time for a picnic 'a la car' (this nearly involved the challenge of eating couscous without a fork / spoon by one group member but was luckily avoided).  The rain didn't last too long fortunately and as it stopped Sean arrived to join us.  Off up to the crag we went.

In between dodging further rain showers, Peri encouraged me to do a few easier routes to get myself back into leading: Physiology and Small Crack (both starred routes – YAY!), whilst Peri herself completed a nice handjammy route with ease: Castle Crack.
Rob and Sean climbed a good number of routes during this time including Gargoyle Variant and Gargoyle Buttress, then, after being  joined by Martin, Lancashire Wall, Heather Wall, Chimps Corner and Grotto Slab. Finally as members of the group started to leave (babies, social commitments etc) Rob and Martin had grand finales on Prudence, a thin and fingery HVS crack, and Eliminator, an impressive looking HVS arete/wall combo, after which the remaining three legged it on the grounds of it being %^^$ing freezing. 

If you go down to the woods today . . . part 2

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Club trip was to Wharncliff as we can climb until 9ish but Peri had some time off and I moved a meeting so we could escape early. Simon, Carmen, Dave and Gordon arrived at a more usual time and stayed around the main edge, but apart from a few txts we were incommunicado so I am not sure what they did.

Our journey started badly, stuck behind a small town being transported along the A64 at 40mph meaning we didn't get to Wharncliff until quite late. With Himmelswillen on Peri's tick list we warmed up soloing the routes on the black slab and variants then onto the main event. Sunshine and blue skies accompanied Peri's grunts and she made the lovely moves around the overhang to the flake and laced it with gear. All goods moves and worth repeating now she has finally ticked it.

I had a hankering for a brace of VS ** off the beaten track. We soon found Pocket Buttress VS 4b ** , some signs of a recent visit but not much traffic. A good cleaning and an indirect start (avoiding the 4c/5a direct unprotected moves) to the pockets and gear, followed by a lovely traverse and moves up onto the nose. Really good varied climbing and worthwhile.

Next was Scarlett Crack VS 4c/5a ** – some 200m further on, except it's not it's 330m, so we took an age to find it, but Peri got some fungus for later consumption. It's actually not that hard to find – from the Outlook boulders go 300m to a HUGE (car sized) cubish block behind a tree by the path waiting to fall off, in another 50m you will see large the pinnacle with small tree on top, down on your right, jungle bash your way down to it.

The front face is clean apart for the start of our route and some ferns. Peri made a meal of the start muttering some heightist rubbish 🙂 the rest of the route is a joy and went without a hitch. Getting down is entertaining but easy and short lived.

Now dark we had the long walk (must be 1K or so) back to the pylons and back through the woods, head torches helping, surprised we didn't see S+C on one last route.

More pictures …

If you go down in the woods today … an exploration of Guisecliff

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Ever since I first read about Guisecliff (almost 20 years ago!) I've meant to go there, but have somehow never made it despite its being less than an hour from York. It has a reputation for dirty, vegetated rock, as it faces north and trees grow right up to the foot of the crag, so its proximity to Brimham means I always end up there instead. The only person I know of who has climbed at Guisecliff pronounced it horribly dirty, and left without doing a single route!

Anyway, I found myself on my own a couple of weekends ago, with time on my hands, so I thought I'd go and see if it was worth a proper trip sometime. The following might be of use to someone who's not been before.

The guidebook recommends North Buttress (nearest the car park) for a first visit, but I decided instead to walk to the far end and then back along the crag, visiting each of the main buttresses as I went. Things didn't start well, as attempting to follow the guidebook directions to No 2 Buttress ('below the TV mast') led to a few small broken quarried rocks, with nothing even approaching the promised 20m cliffs. I eventually gave in and walked towards what I assumed would be No 3 Buttress – however, it turned out that No 2 isn't below the mast at all, but several hundred metres to the west, so I soon found myself at No 1 Buttress. This was surrounded by shrubbery, but had more clean rock than I had expected, and there were a couple of lines at least that looked worthwhile.

No 2 Buttress was much better – far more rock than vegetation, and most of it relatively clean looking. Most of the obvious lines were far too hard for me (E2 to E6!), but one in particular that stood out was the massive chimney of Illusion – HS 4b and no stars, but just cries out to be climbed! I'd taken a rope and some gear, with a view to possible setting up a top rope and shunting some routes. However it quickly became clear that this was not practical, as finding the tops of the routes from above would be difficult and possibly dangerous, with lots of hidden crevasses. So instead, I set off to solo a route at the left end of No 2, called Letterbox Climb. No stars but described as 'worthwhile' – like most of the lower grade routes, the description has been copied unchanged from one edition to the next ever since the 50s, possibly because they haven't been reclimbed!

Graded Diff in the guidebook, but it's surrounded by brackets to indicate it's not been checked in recent years. Of course I didn't let this put me off, nor the fact that it took a line up the most vegetated part of the buttress. I took some gear, and also dragged a rope up just in case. It turned out to be a good route, better than it looked, and the gear was handy to protect a couple of exposed sections. The top part, of which the guide simply says "climb the recess and go through the letterbox slot", was unprotected without large gear (which I didn't take). So I went round it onto the moor, almost fell down a hole, and set up a top rope which I then shunted. Very traditional at the grade, ie a bit of a sandbag – maybe VDiff 4a/b (easier for the tall).

After this minor trauma, I carried on the walk along the base of the crag. The book suggests this is a bad idea due to dense vegetation and that approaches from the top are preferable, but since on the walk in I'd failed to spot most of the landmarks allegedly marking the descents I decided to go with the jungle bashing option instead. It turned out to be fine at first, with each buttress having a path (of sorts), and only the short sections between buttresses requiring care.

No 3 Buttress looked promising, but the left half (with the easier lines) was very dirty. A starred HS looked good but the guidebook description has said "needs cleaning" for the last 20 years, and I don't think anybody has bothered! The right half is clean, but steep and loose-looking. After this, it was quite hard work to reach No 4 buttress, but it's not far.

No 4 Buttress includes the striking crack line of Roc's Nest Chimney (HS 4b), which demands to be climbed (though may currently contain an active kestrel's nest). But the once-starred corner of Dhobi (MVS) to the right is now green and mossy with a very large (empty) nest at the crux bulge.

No 5 Buttress started disappointingly, with Hawk Slab ("the best Severe on the crag") completely invisible behind the vegetation (though subsequent reading of old editions of the guidebook suggests I may not have been looking in quite the right place). But farther right, Jezebel (S **) looked pretty good, as did the adjacent VDiff, HVD, and VS.

Next came Comet Buttress, which contains two *** HVSs, a *** E4 and a *** E5. All looked a bit grubby so would need some cleaning (a stake at the top allows an abseil approach for this). As well as the abseil, another possible descent at this point is to down-climb Scissors (Mod). This area can be seen from the cliff-top path as a flat earthy platform standing out slightly from the main cliff.

The next section is The Long Wall, and here it became very slow and laborious to get along the foot of the crag. Unfortunately approaches from the top are also few and far between, but except for the E5 leader, there was very little to attract a return.

The exception was Shelter Climb (Diff *), which I briefly tried soloing but decided it was too committing for a solo visit so backed off. Seemed good though, possibly VDiff but might have been easier if approached with confidence, something to go back for. Early editions of the guide suggests a start up the (now tree-shrouded) slab to the left of the cracks, however the cracks were rather good and a more obvious line.

Passing Needle's Eye Buttress (or possibly Needles High Buttress depending on guidebook), I'd been considering a solo of The Intestine (Moderate) which squirms up the back of a cave, but one look at the dripping orifice and I moved on. The 1956 guide grades this as "Moderate technically, but Severe on the nerves" so I'm quite glad I didn't bother! The intriguingly-named pinnacle of the Aiguille des Moutons (VDiff, "may seem hard for a short man") was just about visible through the trees above.

Next comes North Buttress Block, which is very clean and very steep. I couldn't make out the line of The Chimney ("the obvious fissure on the left") so it's probably behind some trees, but Double Top (HVS 5a) looked particularly fine, and particularly hard! And a couple more E4s for the hard man.

The final area is North Buttress, which is the only one with a well worn track all the way there. Unfortunately, it was also by far the dirtiest, wettest, and least appealing on the entire crag. I suspect that this is one of the main reasons for Guisecliff's poor reputation – the buttress is the closest to the car park, the easiest to find, and is recommended by the guidebook for a first-time visitor. If I'd come here first, I don't think I'd have gone any farther! There were several good-looking lines, but all were so filthy and/or vegetated that they'd require major cleaning before being climbable.

A few small isolated rocks and pinnacles remained, but all too short to bother anyone other than the dedicated boulderer.

The the best time to climb would probably after a short dry spell in the autumn. Summer (in theory) is warmer and drier, but also more humid, more verdant, and with more biting insects. Spring would be good, but is nesting season which could put quite a few areas out of bounds (there were raptors flying around at least 3 parts of the crag). A good hard winter could be an ideal time to visit some of the more vegetated parts of the crag!

Although the crag looks to be at its best for the mid-E grade climber with a sense of adventure (and willing to spend time cleaning/gardening/excavating the routes), there seems to be enough for mere mortals to justify at list one trip.

Some more pictures to put you off further are here.

Chevin and Eastby, sun and clouds

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Will and I made another attempt to get a day's climbing but ended up leaving after lunch. Will had a hankering for Chevin Buttress *** VS 4c and the club was due at Eastby – though most usual players were unavailable (or so I stupidly thought).

Chevin was in fine form, being dry (it rained on the A59) and rosy red not green, and empty save for a few walkers. No dramas saw Will lace up CB and I ticked Leeches Wall * VS 4b/c, a nice but bold route just to the left. The weather was still ok, and the forecast said clearing from the west, so we thought Eastby would be good, I haven't been for about 8 years and Will never.

Quick trip via Ilkley as we discussed the possibility of a multi crag *** VS 4c link up, Almscliff, Caley (no *** VSs), Chevin, Ilkley, Eastby perhaps by bike (for Tom anyhow) and we arrived under dark black clouds but all alone. We quickly got on Eastby Buttress ***VD best VD on grit according to rockfax. Whilst belaying I watched the rain further up the valley approach slowly. Looked like Settle was getting a soaking. With the impending doom I ticked Pillar Rib **VS 4c and we had about 2 spots of rain, lovely route. With the rain still holding off somehow we went a little further along the crag, leaving a pair of youngsters to have some fun.

Will faffed on Nose Climb S 4a (* or *** !) but cruised it eventually and I had a look at the blank slab of Index Variation **VS 4c/5a. Interesting route finding as there are many ways of pulling onto the slab, I chose an easy version in keeping with the grade (further left looks about (5b/c). The break swallows cams (0.5,1,2) and then it's a lonely but lovely balance up the scoop to good wires. Rockfax has the route going straight up the wall, but that's daft at the grade and my old guide said go right, so I did.

Getting a bit dark now (near enough 9) we left the other pair having an 'adventure' and headed back.

Two great crags – loads of stuff at Eastby but quite bold in places – good for slab practice!

A couple of pix here