Archive for March, 2016

Good Friday 2016 at Bamford Edge

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

Mike and I took advantage of the good weather forecast for Good Friday to head out to the Peak. We decided to try somewhere a bit quieter, especially if Stanage was going to be busy with Easter weekend warriors, so we headed to Bamford edge. With some great views across Ladybower reservoir towards Kinder and Bleaklow, and over to Stanage in the other direction it certainly has a good location.

Once the sun had swung around to hit the crag by late morning, despite a strong breeze it was warm enough to enjoy a days climbing (with down jacket while on belay!) on my first rock routes of the year. I stuck to the easier routes and some great little leads including Bracken crack (VD *) and Bamford Wall (S 4a **). Mike's season needs less warming up than mine (note to self, need more winter training down the wall next year!) and he made swift work of Bamford Rib (HVS 5a **) and Gunpowder crack (VS 5b **) which I then struggled up on the second to retrieve the gear.

We did a few other routes, and some easy solos on bridging corners or short, easy slabs with great friction on the rough gritstone. Overall a great day out to kick off the season, and a nice little crag for something different to the usual Peak District haunts.

Spring has sprung at Slipstones

Monday, March 14th, 2016
Catapiller enjoying the sunshine

Caterpillar enjoying the sunshine

With the weather finally drying up, Karl, Mike and I headed to Slipstones for the first routes of the year. As usual I packed my downie and a flask of coffee, expecting to hunker down between routes. As it turned out, shorts and ice cream would have been more appropriate. Even the caterpillars were out enjoying the sunshine.

 

Despite only living twenty minutes away I arrived just as Mike and Karl were finishing off there first route, Jack the Lad, HS 4b in rockfax, but upgraded to VS 4c in the newer gritstone guide. Next Karl had a go at Trumps Right-Hand (HS 4b) but wasn't having much luck – I soon found out why when I took over the lead. A couple of seriously thuggy moves with nothing for the feet lead to an easier finish, not exactly the easy warm-up route I'd hoped for so pleased to get up it. I repeated Jack the Lad and Mike ticked off pretty much everything else on the Aces High block before relaxing in the sun with a spot of lunch.

Karl shows us feet are for wimps.

Karl shows us feet are for wimps.

Aces High

Aces High

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards we headed down to Jenny Binks wall as there are a couple of VSs I fancied a rematch with having struggled to second them about 10 years ago. Mike and Karl headed up Tranmire Crack whilst I had a good look Easy Pickings, but by the time they'd finished I 'd completely psyched myself out (is that pocket any good? would that massive break take any gear? etc) so went up Barnley Wall instead, which proved to be another thuggy affair. Mike fancied a pop at Easy Pickings, which put up a good fight and after seeing the shapes he was throwing, I thought I'd made the right call to give it a miss. On second however, it went super-smooth so I've got no excuses for next time.

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Easy Pickings

Making it look hard for the camera

Some crazy shapes

The big finish

The big finish

 

 

 

 

We finished up with a quick play on the excellent Tip-Toe, before grabbing a pint in The Black Swan in Fearby. All-in-all, a great start to the rock climbing season.

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Helyg Winter Trip

Monday, March 14th, 2016

SAM_3042Helyg was opened as a Climbers Club hut 90 years ago and has undergone a few updates since but still retains a wonderful atmosphere and was our base for this months meet. Twelve of us made the trip, Pete B was outgunned on the distance, by Karl coming from Geneva.

Saturday was forecast windy and snowy, Donal, Jamie and Warwick took their bike to B-Y-C trails and had a good day riding 25Km and no accidents.

Paul relaxing

post run relax

Paul had a day alone, always enlightening in challenging navigation conditions and really focuses the mind as there is no one to discuss it with! Along the valley from the hut on trails to Cwm Idwal, up past the slabs and staircase of the Devils Kitchen to the summits of the Glyders (Fach and Fawr). These are rough underfoot and with snow around quite testing. Back along the ridge to Joe Browns at Capel Curig and a track leads back to the
hut.

An excellent full day out for anyone and alone in fell gear quite a challenge. Warwick repeated this on Sunday but I am not sure of his time or conditions, but it was quite wild when we were up there later that day.

The rest of the team piled into 2 cars, Mike Marven and Simon driving with Carmen, Dave Wiffen, Karl, Mike Shaw, Pete B and myself as ballast, and headed for Lech Du Spur (aka Crib Lem) above Bethesda. The long gentle walk in was really quite pleasant and we were sheltered as we caught up the team of 4 at the top of the slog up. We sensibly put Carmen out front doing her energiser bunny impression and we followed the foot steps of a soloist who had turned back. When the footsteps ran out, Simon set off swimming up the loose power. This was solid grade I territory and serious as a slip would have been bad. We all made it across with some retreating to the lower easier approach, previously occupied by the other group.


topping out partyOnce on the ridge it all went swimmingly, what makes it such fun is the ability to avoid or confront all the difficulties to suit ones preference. So obviously we sent Mike S over all the hardest bits. We moved up together taking a range of lines and staying roughly together to the end of the fun bits about 100m below the summit. Some debate about descent options (over the tops back to the hut or down direct to the car) were resolved quickly when we hit the summit ridge and the wind. Some nav practice saw us back at the cars and hut before dusk.

 

Jamie, Paul and I delivered another YAC spectacular repast, a Fridge-a-stronie soup, Chilli with Crispy Pitas and Crumble & custard filled us to bursting and an early bed for most.

Sunday the weather was meant to be better once we had lost Mike M and Pete to Mothers day duties and Donal to a Cnicht walk, the remainder (bar Warwick off to beat Paul's time) set off from the hut for a Bristly Ridge assault. 10 mins later Rob and Jamie set off again, this time with Rob's crampons.

Carmen dragged us up the path to the Tryfan col where we geared up and headed for the gullies which were full of poor snow and proved quite tricky. SAM_3049Paul and Mike S scared themselves in the main gully, the rest of us, in the gully just left, used a rope for two little steps, while Paul and Mike recovered their composure and waited (ie got cold!). From there to the top is full of pinnacles and great fun, much like the day before but a little less avoidable. Some great sport to be had never felt too serious, but a slip would not have been clever.

A trip over the top isn't complete without the Cantilver Stone pose and Summit cantliverand Castle of the Winds ticks, so it's a shame Mike failed to complete the hat-trick :o) The Gribin ridge is a great descent and reminds me of the top of Swirrel Edge, through some grade I ground with deep powder before easing where the False Gribin joins it from Cwm Bochlywd. We took the opportunity to peer down Cnifeion Arete and into the Cwm where Clogywm Du looked plastered in snow (hard routes had been climbed over the w.e)

A stroll back to the cars, tea and leftovers in the hut before a swift tidy up was all that was required after Donal Warwick and Karl had sorted it, and on the road for 6, York for 9

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looking over to Tryfan

 

A great meet where we surprised ourselves with two good days walking and scrambling, running, and biking in a great little cosy hut.

Picture Links: (pix used from simon and mike the rest of theirs are below…)

Mike Shaws Pix.

Simon's Pix

Snowy Lakes

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

Karl looking for a filing cabinetKarl and I made a second trip to the Climbers Club hut in Grange, Borrowdale, the first was Christmas eve where we did a damp and cold Corvus, this time it was winter walking on the cards.

A early start on Sat, delayed by a lost sleeping bag (not stolen!) saw us gearing up in the morning sunshine at Seathwaite and leaving the car about 10.30 for the walk upto Great End. We overtook many groups but as expected it was heaving up there. South East wasn't complete but Central and Window Gullies were very busy. We counted 14 people gearing up at the base of the screes as arrived, put on some crampons and wandered across to Custs Gully. By the time we had left another 12 were there. Great neve took us all the way to the summit, soloing, with just a brief stop to allow three climbers to kick snow on us on their descent.

On the summit we were treated to magnificent views of all the lakes hills and Scottish southern hills clearly visible. It was a busy day with many teams on bowfell (including pete b with another team staying in Ambleside) and Scafell Pike – our destination, bristling with summiteers. We made our way across the plateau ticking Ill and Broad Crags and joined the masses. I estimated  1 in 8 had crampons and whilst not liable to fall over any cliffs it would have made their walking a lot easier and less slippery.

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Broad Crag with poser

We descended via a Corridor Route variant, taking us behind round how, a lovely quite little cove overlooked by some knarly looking cliffs and hanging icicles beneath Broad Crag's summit. We picked up the CR and headed via Sty Head tarn back to the road arriving just after dark, or pub time as we like to call it. Swift pint then to the hut for an enjoyable evening chatting to Chris G and Martin H (both Yorkshire climbers).

The long walk had done for Karl's so a shorter day was called for on Sunday, but what a day, cold crisp frosty but clear blue skies, stunning place to be. We headed up to a stripped Brown Cove Crags, where only 2 other parties were in evidence, Helvellyn was very busy as snow condition were great. On the left hand side of the crag we found a suitable short route going up the rib between two gullies, one with plenty of avalanche debris from a collapsed cornice, not much snow low down but all frozen up. We left the sacs, I took a short rope and we made our way up the mostly frozen block, choosing the most awkward route and pitching 2 short sections. We both really enjoyed it even though short lived was entertaining and engaing the whole way up – it's given II which felt right. We downclimbed the neighbouring gully (grade I) doing some snow anchor practice, bucket seats, lowers to add to the boot-axe belay and other tricks we had used yesterday. We collected the sacs and headed down, Karl's knee giving him lots of grief, but we were treated to wonderful views and it was still light.

A top weekend out, shame Mike was being a property tycoon and couldn't join us, next time maybe

Set in drab moorland, this isolated hill has little to commend it…

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

Beinn Bhuidhe…is what Irvine Butterfield said about Beinn Bhuidhe in his classic book on the Munros. That's probably why we left it until our 8th-from-last Munro, I'd even thought about saving it for a bad day's quick hit. But the forecast for last weekend was good so we decided to combine it with some climbing on the Cobbler.

And what a magnificent day it was! Cold and sunny with little wind, and hardly another soul to be seen – we met a couple of other parties at the Loch Fyne car park, both going to cycle up the glen for a quick there-and-back ascent of the hill. But we fancied making the most of the weather by staying up high for as long as possible, so we ascended steeply up the hillside to Clachan Hill at 658m.

Arrochar Alps

A long flat ridge over Beinn Chas (680m) was slow going, as the hard nevé alternated with a breakable crust and soft powder underneath, but the views made up for it – the Arrochar Alps to the south east, Crianlarich hills to the north east, Ben Lui and Ben Oss to the north, and the unmistakable Ben Cruachan in the north west. And all the while the long summit ridge of Beinn Bhuidhe looking Alpine in the spring snow.

12794911_1114226181934502_7503434133664158715_oThe avalanche forecast was for considerable risk on south through east aspects, which of course was the direction we were approaching from. If all else failed we'd be able to traverse a few km to the foot of the west ridge. But although there were plenty of loaded snow slopes guarded by big cornices, we found a route up a steep grassy spur followed by a short traverse to gain the east ridge just a few hundred metres from the summit. Here we found the footprints from the other walkers, and could see them a long way below us as they headed back to the valley. Other than this we saw nobody all day, nor any footprints in the snow.

12792292_1114235601933560_7021446749372056390_oFrom the summit we descended to the col where the normal approach comes up. Rather than descend immediately we decided to go up the other side to the unnamed NE top, before descending its SE ridge to pick up the normal route. We were expecting a steep pathless descent to the valley and a long walk down the glen, but there have been a lot of new tracks bulldozed up this side of the hill recently, with copious use of dynamite by the look of it. Much as I hate this sort of thing, at least it was made slightly less of an eyesore by the covering of snow, and it had the advantage of taking us on a mostly-gentle downhill across the flanks of Newton Hill and back to the valley just a few km from the car.

Far from being as uninspiring as we'd expected, this turned out to be one of the best hill days we've had in Scotland. Presumably Butterfield never visited in winter!

1After a chilly night in the tent (about -6C when we got up on Sunday), we headed for the Cobbler – Carmen's first ascent, and my first in winter. The weather was if anything better than the day before – not a breath of wind, and not a single cloud in the sky.

12794774_1114236015266852_6634526237604187597_oMany more people around today, unsurprisingly, but still not as many as you'd find on a wet and windy November day in  the Lake District! And once we left the main track to contour to Chockstone Gully (grade II) we were on our own again.

We moved together up the first long pitch, Carmen going first and placing gear before belaying in a cave under the eponymous chockstone. I led from there to the top, avoiding the squeeze exit option  by the surprisingly heavily iced slabs on the right – I even managed to place the token ice screw I'd brought "just in case".

10394841_1114229325267521_7786127929327546860_nFrom the top of here it was a short walk to the foot of Great Gully (also II). We moved together again up here, but with the novel variation that I had all the gear while Carmen went first. Oops. Topping out it started to get busy again, with worrying numbers of people slithering about above big cliffs without crampons or axes, but nobody fell off and at least they weren't muppet enough to be roped together!

Across at the main summit, almost everyone restricted themselves to the easy top opposite the true summit, accessed by a short, easy, but very exposed scramble (grade II in winter). Since we had climbing kit with us, we of course went to the top, a long spiral through the window, along a ledge, and back up to finish directly above the starting point.

12764336_1114230701934050_4985023918196950196_oWe skirted under the south summit and were back at the car in time to get home at a civilised hour for once.

One of those superb weekends that make up for the wet and windy weather we normally enjoy so much!

Lots more photos here