Posts Tagged ‘hot aches’

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.

Classic and Not-so-classic Rock

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

It's March, the forecast is for summit temperatures in low single figures, so where would be a good destination for the weekend?

After a few minutes' thought we hit on the obvious answer – Pillar Rock a north-facing crag at around 750m, and one of the remotest in the Lake District.

So having somehow squeezed climbing kit, camping gear, and two bikes into the back of the car, we duly arrived in Ennerdale on Friday night. The next morning started well, with clear blue skies, but on the 4.5 mile cycle up the valley it began to cloud over. As we approached the crag, a light but bitter wind arrived to complete the picture.

After much dithering about what to do, we eventually decided to stick with Plan A and duly arrived at the foot of Rib & Slab Climb (HS ***), one of the pair of Pillar routes in Classic Rock. A bit more dithering later, and having donned 5 layers of clothes against the cold, Rob set off on the first, uninviting pitch, a short traverse followed by a steep dirty-looking groove.

In the event the pitch was much better than it looked, taking the clean rib next to the groove. The next pitch was mine. The tricky starting moves didn't seem hard enough, so I climbed up and down several times until I'd lost all feeling in my fingers and toes before finally committing. When I'd recovered from hot-aches in my toes, I brought Rob up as the sun at last made a brief appearance.

He quickly despatched the next pitch, a fine unlikely-looking traverse into nowhere, but the holds kept appearing when needed. I took the last pitch, another short traverse and then straight up a fantastically rough slab to the top.

Some more dithering followed as we decided how best to descend, in the end we opted for an abseil into the Jordan Gap, followed by an exposed scramble to the top of Pisgah, which we later discovered to be Pisgah West Traverse (Mod). A nasty scree descent down Western Gully led back to the rucksacks.

We now dithered some more about the next route to do. South West Climb looked excellent, if unlikely at MVS 4b, but the cloud and cold breeze had returned and we didn't fancy an epic, so plumped instead for New West (VDiff ***), the other Classic Rock route on Pillar. We'd both done it before, but it's worth repeating. An excellent route in 4 pitches, including two more fantastic exposed traverses. Abseil – scramble – Pisgah – gully then back down to the bikes and a quick half hour down hill got us back to the car.

The next day we dithered briefly before deciding on something south-facing, so to make the most of being in Ennerdale we went for a look at the seldom-visited crags on the Ennerdale face of High Stile. A shorter cycle to just past the Ennerdale YH was followed by a steep slog uphill followed by a long traverse to the diminutive crag of The Knorrs. A spot of sunbathing was interrupted by some badly placed clouds, so there was no option but to climb something. I started with the excellent traditional chimney of Squeeze Box (S+ *), surprisingly clean but a bit runout, then Rob led Short Change (HS-), poorly protected and quite tricky, even on the blunt end it felt closer to MVS 4b.

Next we traversed to the main crag, Raven Crag High Stile. Rob started, leading the excellent line of Butterfly Crack (S+ **) – a potential 3-star route, but unfortunately very dirty with some suspect rock – would benefit from more traffic, which it's unlikely to get! I finished up with Outside Edge (VDiff *), again very dirty, with a boulder-problem start followed by easier but poorly protected climbing with a 20m runout to finish. There are some fine-looking harder routes up here as well, including Emperor (E1 5b ***), Painted Lady (E3 5c ***), and Alpine Ringlet (E4 5c ***), but all looked even dirtier than what we climbed.

As we reached the valley the weather started to improve rapidly, the dense haze that had hidden the hills for much of the day cleared, and by the time we started the drive home the whole of the Lakes were bathed in sunshine. C'est la vie!

An excellent trip, not the best of weather but far from the worst, and apart from one group of walkers who mistakenly followed us on Sunday as we traversed towards the crag, we didn't see a soul on the hills all weekend. Great wild-camping too, somewhere to go back to (but could be midgy in summer). And enough routes on Pillar to keep us busy for dozens more visits…

Rob's photos here
My photos here

Unexpected Pleasures

Monday, December 6th, 2010

We wanted to take advantage of the cold snap last weekend, but only had one day free. The A66 was closed which meant we couldn't get to the Lakes for a day trip; the North York Moors had too much snow; and publicity on UKClimbing meant that the icefalls near Todmorden were likely to be heaving. So we decided to take a look at Wild Boar Clough, near Crowden in the northern Peak District – if it wasn't frozen then it'd be a good day for a walk.

After a leisurely 8am departure, the drive over was suitably sub-zero with clear blue skies all round, until the last couple of miles when we drove over Woodhead Pass into the clag. The walk in was easy at first as we followed the footsteps of someone who'd been there (presumably) the previous day, but being descent tracks they soon turned uphill, and we had to resort to wading as we traversed in to the clough.

The first fall was well frozen – there was a team there before us who were just finishing it, the second climbing with walking axe and very old hammer, it was his first ice climb. The fall looked easily soloable but partly due to being the first outing of the season, felt slightly worrying, so we got the rope out despite its being only 4 or 5m high and I led off. A bit scrappy, but it was good to be out, even placed a couple of ice screws! The pair in front were well out of sight by the time we'd finished faffing so we were on our own again.

Another slightly longer icefall followed, not quite as steep so Carmen led it in fine style, with absolutely no panicking at all. This was followed by a few short ice steps, and a big isolated boulder containing a fun chimney for playing on/in. Finally a long wade through more deep snow led to the Bleaklow plateau.

On the drive over I thought I'd seen a frozen stream further east, just the other side of the summer crag of Shining Clough, so after lunch we thought we'd wander over and see if there was anything worthwhile. We didn't expect much, but it was a stunning day, we'd walked up through the cloud to emerge into clear blue skies so there was no hurry to head home. The walk was only a mile or so, but took us well over an hour as we had to negotiate deep snow drifts, and were also forced to keep stopping to take photos.

As we neared what we thought was the top of the clough we were aiming for, we saw a couple of climbers topping out from something so went over for a chat, they said it was in good condition and that the lower falls were frozen, which was rare. Not having any idea that there was even the potential for something climbable we decided to go for a look, even though it wasn't even the place we were trying to find but the next stream across. A steep descent through snowy heather got us to the foot of the crag, where we saw our new goal, a fine looking icefall, much bigger than anything in Wild Boar Clough.

The approach was harder, wetter, and colder than expected, but we got there eventually, and with an hour's daylight left decided to give it a go. A very steep start up fat ice (full depth long ice screw) was followed by less steep but much thinner ice (partial depth short screw), with added spice where it started dinner-plating, but after a brief pause for the season's first hot-aches I made it to the top.

Of course I'd left my rock gear at the bottom so we had a brief faff with rope lowering etc before I could set up a belay, but Carmen then made it look easy (which it probably is with a rope above you!). It was starting to get dark by now, but we decided to continue anyway. Another shorter icefall looked quite wet and brittle, so we avoided it with some mixed climbing/scrambling on the left. A few more icy steps led to the top, where head torches came out.

The descent started OK, following a worn track through the snow, but at some point the footprints vanished and we ended up wading slowly through deep snow to reach the old railway at the bottom. A couple of slow miles along this led to the road, where we were saved from the final mile of tarmac by a kindly passing motorist.

Lots more photos here.

Kinder Surprise

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Kinder Downfall

After umming and ahhing for many hours about whether to drive the long way round to the lakes (A66 shut), me and Rob eventually decided to take the safe option and head for Kinder Downfall on Wednesday, just before the big thaw set in. Because of road closures in the peak, we had to take the M60/M62 option which was in itself a rather long drive. After a minor detour to go and see Oldham Athletic's ground (a lifelong dream for Rob) we arrived at the Kinder Reservoir car park. The final kilometre of the drive was on packed snow but the traction was fine.

Cave under Kinder DownfallWe set off walking shortly after a group of 3 had set off and just in front of a group of about 7! We made good time as far as the woodland at the end of the reservoir, walking on packed snow as deep as the drystone walls. Many drifts were well over a metre deep and it was hard to believe we were in the peak district. Beyond this, previous tracks had been covered in and we had to make our own route. Much of this was wading through deep and loose powder which was both time consuming and tiring. As we left the shelter of the valley the wind increased along with the spindrift making for a very wintery feel overall.

Steep ice on Kinder Downfall directArriving at the downfall we found the ice in good nick but very buried with a monstrous cornice on the right. The usual easier variations were utterly buried in snow, so only the grade IV direct was climable. We geared up in the icy cave under the downfall wondering why the party of 3 in front weren't getting on the climb. It eventually transpired they were off to do something else and the party of 7 were getting arsey that no-one was climbing yet so we jumped on it. Rob made light work of the ice climbing getting some good screws and a thread on the first step. After a bit of loose snow and another good ice step however, he was stopped by the final slopes which were covered in deep, unconsolidated powder. With sprung leashes clipped to the bottom of his axes, plunging didn't really work so he ended up using whole body friction to make the final moves.

Ice bouldering on Kinder DownfallA delay then ensued as Rob was out of sight and the wind made communication impossible. With the full 50m of rope run out, all I could do was hold onto the end and wait, while the waiting climbers got even more pissed off. Finally I set of climbing, opting to wear liner gloves so I could get the screws out quickly – big mistake! By the halfway ledge my hands were frozen solid. Unable to bend my fingers I managed to pull on my warmer gloves and finish the climb. However, by the time I reached Rob, the first pangs of hot aches were coming on. After 10 minutes of lying on the floor moaning and wailing, vowing to never winter climb again, the pain passed and the relief was so good it was almost worth the suffering 🙂

Rob has a picture of me in my darkest moment which I'm sure he'll put on at some point. (and here they are…. Rob)
Will in painand some more pain

A convenient ab took us back to the cave where Rob did some ice bouldering and I took pictures. With the adrenaline now worn off, it was also becoming apparent that my sprained ankle (done by sledging in crampons – not recommended) was not happy with being made to climb ice. The walk back down was a bit of a hobble, especially the final bit along the road.

So apart from the novelty of ice climbing in the peak, is it worth it? Considering its short length, it's a reasonably good route but the walk in (especially in deep snow) is a real killer. I wouldn't rush back to climb it again, but am glad we did it and in very good nick.

Not sure what the surprise in the title refers to, I just thought it sounded good.

First Hot Aches of the season

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

on the snowy ridgeA cold wet weekend forecast. What to do? Obviously perfect conditions for a walk and scramble, so Simon, Carmen, Rob and me headed for Winnats Pass in the Peak, for a scramble followed by a walk up Mam Tor and back via Cavedale and Peveril Castle.

Heading off at a civilised 8.30 in pouring rain, our doubts about our sanity eased as we got closer to the Peak and the downpour stopped, to be replaced by the sight of snow on the ground. Parked up above Winnats, walked back down and eyed up Elbow Ridge, which was disconcertingy wet and snowy. Eventually Rob decided to take the lead and started up, so one up all up it was. Elbow Ridge is an exposed limestone fin, it's an exhilarating but easy diff in good conditions, however when the holds are wet and slippery, your hands are numb from wet snow and you look down at the road way below it feels altogether more exciting. Once we topped out hot aches set in, there was a vicious cold wind and the mist was blowing sideways in sheets as we were now inside the cloud.

Arriving at a unanimous decision that none of us fancied the scramble up Matterhorn Ridge in these conditions we moved hastily on to the walking part of the day. As we headed up Mam Tor the wet white stuff turned to proper creaky snow. Me and Carmen cunningly got to the top first and ambushed Rob and Simon with snowballs, but were beaten off by Rob's cheating tactics of catching all our snowballs and throwing them back at us. Most of the day the visibility was pretty poor but it stayed dry and every so often we got clear views and pretty golden light filtering through the mist.

Heading back through Cavedale and past Peveril Castle we found a heated and barred off cave containing machinery. Rob Simon and Carmen agreed this must have been something to do with the nearby show caves, however I prefer to believe it was Dr No's secret underground headquarters. We completed the walk just as the light began to fade, and felt that all things considered we had made good use of the day.