Posts Tagged ‘cold’

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.


Raven's Scar

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Indecision about the weather meant a last-minute choice of Raven's Scar for this evening. It had been dry all day in York, but as we neared the crag the wet roads told us that Clay Bank hadn't been so lucky. Having got that far, we thought we might as well go for a look at the crag, which turned out to be fairly dry, and also covered with members of the Cleveland MC. Plenty of routes to round though.

Roy's introduction to the crag was to follow Carmen and I on a fruitless search for the whereabouts of Galaxy (VDiff *). We've tried and failed before to find it, I think it's the figment of someone's imagination. Having given up on that, I went for a quick lead of Airlift (S) via the variation start. The word "quick" only being true in a geological sense. By the time I reached the top the others were showing the first signs of frostbite in the northerly wind.

While this was going on, Will and Rob made genuinely quick ascents of Ahab (HS) and Forest face (HS), before deciding to slow things down with a protracted siege of Jonah (VS 5a "my arse"). This took up enough time for the 3 of us to tick off Forest Face, after which most of decided it was too cold to climb anything else. But Rob and Will were in training for winter hot-aches so finished with En Passant (S).

One of the best crags in the Moors in the right conditions, which unfortunately weren't in evidence this evening!

A few more photos here.

Pick a grade, any grade…

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

As a club we've not had a good success rate in terms of the weather for our recent trips to Northumberland, and perhaps because of this it was a sadly depleted group of 2 who made it to Bellingham last weekend. Either that, or everyone wanted to stay at home and watch the foopball.

For once, the weekend was forecast to be warm and sunny, but form seemed to have reasserted itself when Saturday dawned overcast and windy with occasional drizzle. Not to be deterred by a bit of discomfort, we headed for Selby's Cove, which the guidebook said was sheltered; also it faced west, which we hoped would offer some protection from the cold north wind. Some protection was indeed given, though not quite enough, and we spent most of the day climbing in more clothes than we wore in the depths of winter.

It's not a bad little crag, but judging by the vegetation, not climbed on that much. The main routes were clean enough though. We started with The Corner (Severe ***), Carmen kindly offering me the lead when she saw how steep it was. An excellent route, which would be top end HS anywhere other than Northumberland. Next Carmen led The Arete, a nice Diff (more like boldish VDiff), then it was my turn again with Lichen Wall, allegedly VDiff. This turned out to involve about 5m of unprotected climbing up a slightly overhanging wall on ever-shrinking holds, and by the line described in the book would be at least VS 4b, probably harder. I took a line slightly further left, which was less steep, with bigger holds, and allowed some side runners to be placed, but still felt VS 4b. Finally, I led Holly Tree Wall (Severe *), which would be a good route (with a hard jamming start, maybe S 4c) if it weren't for the fact that the ledge at the top had been recently vacated by nesting ravens, so the rock was mainly white and smelly.

The only remaining routes were a 3 pitch Severe traverse (which we didn't fancy as the 'best' pitch led through the deepest section of guano), or were VS and above, which given the harsh grading we didn't fancy risking. But by now the sun was out, so we stopped off at Simonside North on the walk back. Carmen led Innominate Crack (VDiff **) a nice route and amazingly the grade was right. After I'd spent an age repeatedly failing to work out the crux move of Flake Corner (MVS 4c*) before retreating ignominiously, we finished with a quick ascent of Great Chimney, a brilliant 3-star Diff.

Sunday's weather was much better – bright sun with just enough breeze to keep the midges off, so we headed for Crag Lough, a fine crag on the Whin Sill buttresses immediately below Hadrian's Wall. Despite the weather, the fantastic views, and the large number of multi-starred routes at VS and below, we had the entire crag to ourselves until about 5pm when 2 other pairs arrived. We'd hopped to have a look at the classic HS's of Main Wall and Great Chimney, but a nesting kestrel made it clear that our presence wasn't welcome, so we stayed well clear of that part of the cliff!

Once again the guidebook grades bore little resemblance to the actual difficulty. Routes climbed:
– Spuggie's Gully (VDiff **). A fine lead by Carmen up steeper-than-they-looked cracks, passing nesting jackdaws (sorry) on the way.
– Raven's Tower (MVS 4b ***). My lead, that rarest of beasts an overgraded Northumbrian route. It deserved all of its stars though.
– Tarzan's Mate (VDiff **). Carmen again, and a return to reliable Northumberland sandbaggery. Probably (H)S 4b, but at least the gear was good.
– Hadrian's Buttress (Severe ***). This one took a while! I spent ages working out how to leave the ground, and then higher up I met another impasse that took another aeon to solve. A classic route, but definitely VS 4c!

Finally we wandered along to Peel Crag, a continuation of Crag Lough, where I led Sunset (MS ***). I'd already done this on our previous visit (7 years ago!), and it was just as good as I remembered it – thoroughly recommended to anyone, whatever grade you climb at (unless it's Mild Severe or below, as this one is really a tricky severe, especially the start).

A fantastic weekend – for those who stayed at home, I hope the England match was half as good!

More photos here.

New Year Meet 2009

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

This year's new year trip was to the Alex Macintyre Hut, near Glencoe. A dozen of us made the journey north, and for once the snow didn't all melt the day before we arrived. Carmen and I drove up on Boxing Day, everyone else turned up a day or two later.

December 27. Sron na Lairig, grade II. Supposed to be an easy warm up day, but the deep snow put paid to that! The 4km walk in took a couple of hours, under grey skies with occasional snow flurries. The climb itself was trickier than expected, with no ice but loads of powder over rock with a little mostly frozen turf. A great mountaineering route, with some mildly terrifying pinnacles and an a cheval snow arete near the top, for which we roped up. The continuation to the summit took an age, as it was knee-deep snow all the way with little sign of any recent visitors, but also because the skies had cleared so we had to keep stopping to take photos. The summit too was deserted, nobody else had been that way all day despite its being a Munro. The descent was down the NE ridge, with its notorious bad step. Again, harder than expected – all possibilities looked too scary so in the end we abbed down the last section just as the last of the daylight disappeared. Luckily the full moon was bright enough to throw shadows as we continued along the ridge. We opted for an early descent into the valley, at a point where we could see there were no major crags to find a way round. It still took a good hour to cover the 1/2km to the bottom!

December 28. Definitely a short day this time, a walk up the twin Munros of Buachaille Etive Beag. We'd both done them before but not on as glorious day as this. Plenty of other people about (though most only did the main summit) so the paths were well trodden. Spectacular views in all directions, but especially of Bidean nam Bian and our previous day's route. Meanwhile, Alan and Nigel went for a long walk up Gulvain (near Glenfinnan), finishing long after dark.

December 29. Aonach Eagach (grade II/III). A winter traverse has been on my "to do" list for years, but every previous winter trip to Glencoe has been preceded by a massive thaw. Not so this year! Strong winds were forecast so it was without much optimism that Alan, Rich, Jenny, Carmen and I slogged up the hill. But somehow we managed to be sheltered along the whole ridge – Peter and Annie were on the other side of the valley and had trouble walking due to the wind (or was it the pies?), and Simon, Debra and Ben had a similar experience on Beinn an Dothaidh. It was worth the long wait for winter conditions, we had a magnificent day in clear cold conditions (between -6 and -8 along the ridge). Quick progress at first gradually slowed as we all started to tire, and the ropes came out to safe guard the pinnacled section. But we had passed the tricky bits before the sun set, all that remained was the ascent of the final Munro and the long descent in the dark back to the car we'd left at the Youth Hostel. 12 hours car-to-car, a great day.

December 30. Wild weather was forecast, and duly arrived. Ben and Nigel joined us for a short walk up Sgurr na' h-Eanchainne, a Corbett on the other side of the Corran Ferry. At least I thought it was a Corbett, but realised half way up it was actually a few metres short, so no ticks today, much to Nigel's disgust A nice little hill, with superb views across to the Glencoe hills and further north to Ben Nevis. Peter and Annie pushed their bikes round some snowy woods, I'm not sure about the others!

December 31. Expecting a sunny day, we plumped for the Ballachulish Horseshoe (Beinn a' Bheithir). The ascent up the NE ridge of Sgorr Bhan proved trickier than expected, and soon Carmen and I were on our own. Ben took a long detour round the awkward bit, hoping to meet us later, while Simon and Debra retreated to the nice warm hut. Sadly the forecast sun never arrived and we spent most of the day in the clag. We briefly considered heading back from the col between the Munros, but Ben had left his car at the far end so we pressed on. There was no sign of Ben, but not much sign of anything else either, so we decided not to wait. Navigation on the last section proved tricky, with undulating terrain and loads of identical small lochans, many not marked on the map. But eventually we emerged from the cloud, in roughly the right place. The final descent was a little more entertaining than hoped for, as we had to find a way in the dark round countless small outcrops and a couple of large cliffs, but we made it to the road and soon met Ben, who in best Annie style had bumped into an old friend on the hill and taken the descent from the col. I'm not sure what everyone else did – I think Annie and Peter went up Gulvain, but cheated by taking mountain bikes for the long approach.

New Years Eve. Preparation of the haggis supper was well under way, when suddenly we were plunged into darkness. The main fuse had blown! So we adjourned to a quiet and atmosphere-free Kings House for dinner before returning to the hut – where Nigel had nobly remained to organise an emergency electrician, so we had light in time for the customary new year falling asleep.

January 1. A return to the Beinn a' Bheithir for Carmen and me, this time for some ice climbing. Very slow going through deep powder with a hard crust which sometimes supported, and sometimes gave way. When we reached the north ridge of Sgorr Bhan we saw a small icefall and took the opportunity to stop for a rest and climb it. Nice easy climbing on fantastic ice, Carmen led straight up the middle for a good little 30m grade II. After this, some more crusty powder led to the main route of the day, Russian Roulette II/III. I say 'main' but it's only 50m high! Loads of ice, though more brittle than our first route, with lots of dinner-plating. Back to the sacks just as the last of the light disappeared, and the standard walk-out in the dark.

January 2. We decided on an easy day with a short walk in so went for a look at the Aonach Dubh cliffs on Bidean nam Bian. We didn't bother with a guidebook as we were just looking for some short easy angled ice to play on. Firstly we tried the Allt Coire nam Beithach but there was too much flowing water and not enough ice. Higher up though, there was loads of ice. A steep icy gully looked tempting but probably too hard, and there was a group of 3 just starting (we later found that this was Number 6 Gully, grade IV ***). So we went for an easy looking line of ice further right, which looked about grade II and one or two pitches. One minor epic and 3 pitches later, we reached the top – much steeper than it looked, the last pitch was vertical for a few metres! Harder than anything else we'd done, I reckoned about III/IV. Consulting the book later it turned out to be Squaddies Climb, grade II/III, only mildly humiliating – fun though.

A great week, in great weather – and it was just the beginning of a great winter!

Loads of photos here.
Peter's bike-pushing pictures here.
Debra's photos here.