Posts Tagged ‘blocks of doom’

March winds and April showers

Monday, August 8th, 2011

After a few days of sitting in the office watching the sun out the window, the weekend forecast promised flooding on a Biblical scale. This duly arrived on Saturday, but Sunday sounded slightly less bad, with the chance of some dry weather before the rain returned in the afternoon. So we decided to risk it.

Despite lots of rain down the M1, and some more on the roads as we approached the crag, Agden Rocher was dry when we arrived, and mostly sheltered from the strong winds. As always, we were the only people there (the crag has a reputation for looseness which is only partly deserved).

We started with The Whittler (VS 4c *), which has a hard but well-protected start, giving much opportunity for faffing (which was duly taken). As Carmen passed the initial overhang, it started raining, but she persevered anyway, with some bold climbing up no-more-than-adequately-protected wet rock to a small cave where the rain got heavier so she stopped to belay. By the time I joined her it was dry again so she led the 2nd pitch as well (I've previously led the route). A really good climb, surely worth a couple of stars.

The sky was black again so I went for an easier route, Harlequinade (VDiff). Nobody ever climbs this, and you can see why. It climbs a crack behind a tree, and the crux is getting to the start of the crack, up loose vegetated choss. The crack itself is quite easy and involves battling with another tree. Two other climbers passed by as I was setting off, strange to see anyone else here, let alone in these conditions – shortly afterwards they wandered back again, presumably headed home as the rain started. By the time I reached the top it was raining hard, and there was no cosy cave to belay in, so I got more than a little wet. Just like mountaineering, only with added trees.

We decided to call it a day, but kept the harnesses on just in case we could find a dry route under the trees. We could, and even better it stopped raining and the sun came out, and the wind meant that the crag dried really quickly. So I led Hagg (HS), up a fine corner with some worrying rock but solid enough if you avoid the perched blocks of doom near the top. It finishes with an exciting step right across the void. I later discovered the new guide describes the route as "dangerous", but it's not really (though don't come crying to me if you try it and it falls down on top of you).

Next Carmen led the fine arete of Bianco (VS 4b *), a minor classic that would have queues if on a more popular crag.

To finish, I went for Derision (S). We climbed this on our first visit to the crag some 8 years ago and thought it a good route. The new guidebook reckons it's poor so I thought I'd better have another look to make sure. The first third is indeed fairly poor, with lots of turf and some crumbly rock, but it gets much better after that and the last section is excellent. It was graded VDiff first time round, but I wouldn't argue with HS 4b.

A nice late-Spring day, can't wait until Summer arrives…