Archive for January, 2015

Eat Your Greens

Friday, January 30th, 2015

greenGreens 6 : Rob 0
Last week The Goat changed yellows, blues and greens and on a short trip on Monday evening I failed on every new green route ūüôĀ I can usually puff my way up about half of the greens so I was a tad disappointed with my performance.

red-goatOur regular thursday night Goat session (YAC members get a £1 discount) I caught up with Paul (no Carmen, Mike, Will or Anthony though Рslackers) who was resting himself on the sofa. He'd twisted an ankle (falling off can hurt) but thought it'd be ok. After some warm ups and a round of some blues and yellows I discussed my failure and Paul reckoned he could do some of them. So we set off in quest of the soft touch, the green range is V3..V5 and I reckon i fall smack in the middle of these (usually).

Sarah and Peri arrived and a couple of prospective members introduced themselves to Paul (in his YAC t-shirt), who then introduced them to me whilst I was 4ft up, mid move on a blue :-). Sarah's tales of multi coloured toe-nails (not in a good way) kept us amused for minutes.

With a bit of Beta from Paul and some working between us we started to tick off the greens, tea and cake and a chat stopping us for a while. The other thing stopping us is the fact that some of them seem impossible to me, I realise that i wont ever do them all but I now have some targets. Paul left and I stayed a while mixing with Peri, Sarah and a few randoms before heading home at 9.15

Greens 2: Rob 9

In the dark

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

We didn't have the best of preparation for this year's Dark Mountains. First Carmen went down with her annual cold/cough, then I duly caught it and turned it into full blown man flu. A week off work was followed by another week wishing I was off work, then the morning of the race I was so tired I thought about pulling out.

But it's become my favourite event of the year (OK, equal favourite with the LAMM), and this year was held in my favourite running area, the Howgills. So I had no choice.

After a brief kip on the drive over I was feeling a lot better, but our aim as we started will still just to get round in one piece, and not to repeat last year's miscalculation which left us in joint last place. Of course this resolution lasted until we were given the maps, at which point I immediately checked where the highest scoring controls were and worked out if it was feasible to get to them! (We were were doing Long Score Р10 hours to get as many points as possible).

We spent a good 10 minutes planning a route, and decided on a vague line to get to the east of the map for a line of high scoring controls. We'd then pick up whatever we had time for before heading for home where there was a concentrated group of controls near the finish.

This plan lasted approximately 2 minutes. There seemed to be more tracks leading away from the start than were marked on the map, and we weren't sure which to take. And we also decided that it would be better to pick up the grouped controls at the beginning, to be sure of getting them all. So that's what we did.

I'd like to say that we found them all first go, but we didn't. However, we found most of the more elusive ones 2nd or 3rd try, without losing more than a few minutes. A couple more changes of mind followed, and we soon found ourselves on the summit of The Calf, with about 4 hours 15 minutes gone.

I was tempted to leg it down the path to pick up a 50-pointer to the south, but Carmen was more cautious (ie sensible). Instead, a 30-pointer loomed in a re-entrant a couple of km away. This looked quite tricky, with no obvious attack point from above so we decided to miss it out Рthen changed our minds, and were soon counting paces as we traversed the hill before a diagonal descent to the check point. Of course once we reached the re-entrant and got to the right altitude, there was no control. Wrong re-entrant.

A study of the map suggested showed 2 possibilities for where we might be – one slightly too far east, the other slightly too far west. At this point Carmen mentioned some other possibilities, chiefly about what would happen to me if we were late back and lost all our points again. Luckily I made the right choice and we traversed west into the control.

Up and over the hill again, and down to a control inside the Andy Goldsworthy sheepfold above Cautley Spout. We'd been there before on the 2012 OMM, but that didn't stop us running straight past it and having to retrace our footsteps. From here, if we'd been feeling more optimistic then we might have headed north east to pick up a line of good scoring controls. But this would have left us with a long way to the finish over trackless terrain, and I was starting to feel sick, so we decided to play it safe and headed north along the ridge instead.

The downside of this was that we ended up running out of controls to visit, and after a series of climbs and descents to pick up every available checkpoint between us and the end, we finished with some 35 minutes spare. With hindsight we'd probably have had time for that 50-pointer, but better 35 minutes early than 35 minutes late like last year!

Much to our surprise we finished 4th in the long score, and first veterans team (at last, an advantage of middle age!)

Another excellent event, brilliantly organised as usual and with some well designed courses (I might not be feeling the same if we'd done Elite and been faced with a 14km leg to the first control!). Plenty of choices were available on our course Рthough pretty much everyone did a variation on the same thing. In some ways I wish we'd gone with our initial plan Рjust to see how it would have compared (almost certainly worse!). The only disappointment was the weather Рfar too benign! And the lovely snow that had covered the hills a couple of days earlier had pretty much all melted, leaving just a couple of large snow fields and some water ice on the odd occasion that we ended up following footpaths.

Our route here Рabout 32km and 2000m ascent.

Results here

N York moors winter walking and Nav practice

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

On Sunday Steve, Rob and I met up at Sutton bank on the Western edge of the Moors for a walk, having hatched a plan the day before at the Thirsk adventure film festival. The weather forecast was looking good compared to areas further west, overcast but dry, with a chilly winter wind.

Planning the walk at Steve's 'Bonnet' (should that be boot?) briefing

Planning the walk at Steve's 'Bonnet' (should that be boot?) briefing

After going through some route options at Steve's 'bonnet briefing' we began walking from Sneck Yate, near Boltby at 9.45. We set off at a blistering pace north up the Cleveland way, along some of the Sutton Bank bike trails and farm tracks that make up the byway. Snow was laying in places along the tracks, and the compacted ice from vehicle wheels made it slippery going on the track.

Checking the map

Checking the map

At Hambleton end we decided to do some navigation practice, discussing route choices and walking on a bearing. Pacing and estimating distances was interesting, as we were all about the same on the flat, but going downhill or through high heather I seemed to overestimate compared to Steve and Rob. Doing this kind of exercise in good conditions, when we could see where we were going and mistakes weren't going to be costly or serious was really useful, and will hopefully help me in the next whiteout!

Great views across Ryedale

Great views across Ryedale

Having dropped down into Ryedale, and a quick bite to eat, we headed south through fields, woodland and lots of mud to Arden Hall. By now we had some blue sky, the threatened rain hadn't arrived, and out of the cold wind it was very pleasant walking. From Arden Hall, a short sharp climb up onto the top gave us a 3km easy walk south back to the cars for 3pm.

Arden Hall

Arden Hall

It was great to get out, stretch the legs on a fine clear day, and do some Nav practice. Thanks to Rob for the photos. 13.4 miles, 5hr15mins.

Brown Cove Crags

Monday, January 26th, 2015
Paul on 1st Pitch of twin grooves

Paul on 1st Pitch of two grooves

When Dave Wiffen emailed the club asking if anyone fancied a trip to the Lakes for some winter climbing I was immediately tempted. Having had no opportunity for winter climbing last¬†winter I was keen to try and get out this year. It turned out Rob & Paul were already planning a trip the same day ‚Äď so we all went together. Brown cove crags or Blea water were mentioned ‚Äď the former chosen as it was known to be in condition and a short walk-in ‚Äď so good for a day trip. After an early start (Dave kindly making a no. of pickups between 6:20-6:40) we were off. When we arrived at the car park it was immediately clear that we were not going to be having the crag to ourselves. There were several pairs gearing up and others already walking in. When we arrived at the crag there were numerous groups gearing up ‚Äď and as it turns out there had already been an accident which was unclear as the situation was well under control by MRT (the helicopter attended a little while later whilst we were climbing).

Dave in central gully

Dave in central gully

Rob was on a mission to lead the crux 2nd ¬†pitch of two grooves (IV,6) ‚Äď so this was where he and Paul headed to start with, taking in some ice on the approach. Paul led the first pitch and a half and saved the crux for Rob. Meanwhile Dave and I headed for the somewhat easier option of stepped ridge (III). At least I think we started on this route ‚Äď starting at the very foot of the buttress but appeared to have drifted onto left buttress (II) and possibly other routes. It has to be said that the lines on this section are far from clear ‚Äď and longer than that suggested in the guidebook (5 long pitches). It provided a varied and quite enjoyable climb with a good short ice pitch but not overly memorable due to the lack of line.

Paul on Stepped Ridge

Paul high on Stepped Ridge

With some time to spare but possibly not for another roped climb, Dave and I soloed central gully which was easy in the conditions with only the short ice step at the start being steeper than broad gully which we had used for descent. Meanwhile Rob and Paul were mainly soloing stepped ridge (or some variation of) and then roped up for the final steep upper section.

More people turned up for some dark ascents whilst we were waiting for Rob & Paul. Certainly a popular winter crag (given this was a Thursday!). Although due to the wandering nature of many of the routes and much of the terrain being grade II/III it managed to absorb the crowds.

Good to get out again.

The heroic Yaris

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Given that the weather forecast suggested the best winter conditions in the lakes this year Will and I decided to try Pinnacle Ridge on Great Gable.

The heroic Yaris in the flesh, terrain that brought 4x4s to a halt couldn't stop this beast.

The heroic Yaris in the flesh, terrain that brought 4x4s to a halt couldn't stop this beast.

The start of the day in York, a leisurely 7:30 (for winter climbing at least) was promising, even in York it was freezing. Conditions just got better the closer we got to the lakes, arriving at the bottom of Honister Pass we had to stop it fit snow chains to Will's heroic Toyota Yaris.

As we fitted the chains two cars tried to head up the pass but eventually conceded defeat. The only vehicle that did get past was a 4×4 truck so we weren't overly optimistic of our chances of getting to the car park. Chains on we made quick progress to the parking at the slate mines, from the car park there was a view down the pass where the 4×4 we saw earlier was now stuck! Along with another truck (we did check the people were ok). The Yaris had succeeded where other trucks had failed, at least for the time being. The car park was covered in snow and the hills were white, so we had high hopes of a good day out. Lots of powdery snow made the walk to Great Gable was a bit of a slog but we eventually got there (about 1:45 on the way out for future reference). There were a few people on the crag, and the route we wanted to do, but they were high up so it felt like we had the place to ourselves. Gearing up was made interesting by the very powder snow we were standing on, unfortunately, I was lowest on the slop so in addition to carrying my gear up I also carried a few kilos of snow that Will knocked down the hill!

The start of Pinnacle Ridge isn't so well defined but we headed up a gully and tried to stay close to the ridge figuring this was the best option.

Gearing up at the first belay, notice the sun glasses? Guess who loaned his goggles to someone?

Gearing up at the first belay, notice the sun glasses? Guess who loaned his goggles to someone?

As it turned out we had the right route and it was easy ground for the time being so we soloed as far as we felt comfortable. The ground was frozen, atleast in most places so a bit of attention with axe placements was needed. As the ground got steeper and the pinnacles that give the ridge its name started to appear we began to pitch. I took the first pitch, fun climbing but short lived, but the weather was clearing so we had great views north for the person belying. The second pitch, which contains the crux, was Wills lead. But there was plenty of frozen turf and hooks galore. This is an excellent route, the conditions and view made it feel like a proper mountain adventure.

It was getting close to 4 by now so we decided to head back to the car, we set off along the path below Green Gable, heading toward the crag at the far side of the Honister Pass. Or, as we found out about 45 minutes later, a crag that wasn't on the other side of the Honister Pass but the other side of a different valley, that'll teach us not to look at the pass before we set off. Thankfully we noticed our navigation error before we descended into the wrong valley. Thankfully we hadn't gone too far of course and a quick look at the map meant we could check the directions before the light failed. So we ended up walking back to the car following a compass bearing in the dark. After about 45 minutes of walking a set of car lights lit up the car park at the slate mine which turned out to be about 300 metres away, not bad on a bearing on the dark. The adventure wasn't quite over, the heroic Yaris had been sat in the cold all day, which it turns out managed to accomplish what the 20% ice road into the pass didn't, the car wouldn't start. Now I don't know if any of you have tried starting a car on snow chains in a carpark covered in snow but I wouldn't recommend it. We managed to push the car about 10 metres but couldn't get is going fast enough for a bump start, as it turns out this is because we chose to push it up hill! So car in reverse we managed to get it bump started, but don't push from the door, it has a tendency to scoop you up and take you for an exciting ride when the engine turns over! Back to York in the heroic Yaris.

Dales MTB – Windy and wild!

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

Paul, Donal and I headed out to Masham today, eager to get out into the 'Great Outdoors' and work off some Christmas calories, despite the weather forecast. Light rain greeted us as we got out of the car, and we'd clocked the post ride cafe just opening on the square before we'd even set off.

As we headed west I was hopeful that things may not be as bad as I thought, the rain seemed to have stopped, and the sun was trying to get out – this would be short lived! After a warm up along the road, we battled through some traditional dales winter conditions as a few sheep fields reduced the track to a mud bath, and we emerged back onto the road pushing mud-clagged bikes uphill out of the farmyard.

I'd picked the ride as it gave most of the climbing on the road, and as it was also heading into the prevailing winds would be easier, and mean we had the wind behind us on the off-road return leg. As we started the 7km climb past Leighton Reservoir and up onto High Ash Head Moor, the full force of the forecast winds hit us. A sprinkling of rain / sleet ensured that my face got the full 'sand blasting' effect, and we had to use the full width of the road just to stay upright. By now wet feet and cold hands were numb, and you know the wind's strong when you have to pedal downhill….

As we turned onto the track to begin the return leg, the tailwind instantly made life much easier, even the short uphill sections were a breeze (sorry) and we had some well deserved fast descents on the landrover tracks as we headed NE across the moors towards Ilton. Once here, we'd dropped off the Moors and out of the worst of the winds, and finshed the ride with more muddy fields, and then road through Swinton Park back to Masham.

By the end, my fingers were struggling to function on the gear shifters, and feet felt like…well I couldn't really feel them. However once back in dry clothes and warming up in the cafe, all agreed it was good to get out, and beats spending Sunday on the sofa – just!

Ride distance – 32km, ride time about 3 hours. Would be a great one to do again in summer, and the right side of the Dales for a quick blast from York.


First Goat of the year

Friday, January 9th, 2015

red-goatReturning from the US a few notches to the left on my belt and soft as petal skin, it was never going to be an hard core night at the Goat for me. A good team were in evidence, Will and Andy on the harder stuff, Sarah, Peri, Paul and Mark attacking the greens as I familiarised myself with the new yellows an blues.

I got myself a monthly pass, which at £35 is perfectly priced (cue some input from Karl!) to make me visit often to get my monies worth and make short sub hour trips worthwhile. Remember on Thusdays YAC members get a pound off entrance.

See you down there….

Scuggy on fire

Monday, January 5th, 2015

IMAG1457Cold crisp day with bright sunshine is no time to be indoors or sat belaying and messing with gear so I headed for the ever reliable beauty spot of Scugdale on the moors after sending a desperate plea to stop me being billy-no-mates….

Approaching the dale across the solid ice on the shady road I was wondering if I'd be able to make it as plumes of smoke drifted across the cloudless sky – making it look more like Manchester than the moors. Only a few people were there (some typical shite parking) and I wandered up to the crag with a father and son team from Manchester. Sat at the bottom of the crag chatting i realised I was missing more than some friends, my rock boots – plonker.

As the rock is soft sandstone, climbing in muddy walking boots (or any muddy shoes, or in the wet) is very damaging to the rock so I was resigned to a going for a w*lk. I decided to try and find the mythical Snotterdale crags and wandered along to the far end. 5 mins later Jamie turned up which was excellent news as I could pretend to have mates.

We did a few routes, chatted with the other brave souls, checked out the excellent new bouldering guide, as we wandered back along the edge. Jamie's rock shoes being 3 sizes too big for me made the routes interesting but the friction was good even if the cold was a bit numbing on the hands. We played around until the sun had lost its warmth (not helped by the smoke) around 3.30, and headed home.

Scuggy never fails to deliver

Jamie throwing some shapes

Short trip to the Dales

Monday, January 5th, 2015

p-y-g summitAfter spending Christmas indoors eating and drinking I was looking forward to doing some exercise and having a few alcohol free days. I packed my rucksack and caught the train to Horton in Ribblesdale on Monday evening.
On checking in at the campsite the owner asked me if I would like a drink of whisky and I naturally accepted his offer. That was one of the intended alcohol free days gone already plus it was large shot that I was given.

It was a cold frosty night and the temperature stayed well below freezing level the following day. I set off to climb Pen-y-ghent, follow the watershed onto Plover Hill and then continue north descending to a low level track that returned to Horton in Ribblesdale. The mile or so between Pen-y-ghent and Plover Hill is quite boggy and fortunately it was well frozen otherwise it would have been very difficult to cross. The descent to the north of Plover Hill is quite steep in parts and the rocks were covered in ice. Having no crampons with me I turned round and headed back to Pen-y-ghent summit. On arriving at Pen-y-ghent for the second time I was surprised how busy it was, there were dozens of people arriving and leaving while I took a short rest there.

hull_pot On descending Pen-y-ghent on the west side it is hard not to notice Hull Pot that is half a mile in front of you, it is however difficult to find when you get close to it.
The following day, Wednesday, I did a short walk around around the eastern flanks of Ingleborough and returned to Horton in Ribblesdale to catch the train back home.

Flirting with the dark side

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

We've been doing a few Open5 events recently, which involve orienteering both on foot and on mountain bikes. We've not done a lot in the way of biking, so yesterday we decided to drive up to Dalby to try a bit of real MTB action.

The red routes sounded a bit technical, and green routes looked to be slightly bumpy road riding, so we went for the blue route. Me on my 30-year old Rockhopper and Carmen on her hybrid ("shopping bike") probably attracted a few comments, but we were going slowly enough that we were well out of earshot before they were made.

The route turned out to be rather more technical than expected (harder than some of the "red" routes I did in the Open5) but we got round in one piece. And Carmen can't have hated it too much as she decided we'd go round for a second circuit!

She's now looking for a cheap mountain bike. Oh dear…