Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Peace and quiet.


The Lakes...

Iving Crag in Kentmere - a peaceful dead end valley where the only disturbance to the quiet is distant thrum of engines as cars try to rearrange themselves in a complex parking puzzle on the tiny cramped lane to avoid the £5 payment for a privilege of using a field. Actually the whole journey down to The Lakes was unusually relaxing and pleasingly swift, right until leaving Kendal from whence it was insta-gridlock presumably all the way to Ambleside and beyond. Thankfully we were only stuck for enough time to remind me how shit Lakes roads / driving / fucking bumbly drivers are, before swerving off to Kentmere. Iving Crag is a bit off-piste but it's pretty good for the mid-extreme climber and we got a few good routes done, I didn't do anything too hard as it was all a bit steep and intimidating. By the time we were shat out of the valley, the queue had pissed off to whatever BnBs / holiday cottages it was infesting and it was another relaxing journey over Wrynose to Duddon.

Far Hill Crag in the Duddon Valley - not a dead end valley but even more peaceful, and one of the best places to escape from the hordes in The Lakes, as well as sampling some fine outcrop hidden gems. Far Hill Crag is relatively far up the hill towards the backside of Dow and is thus more hidden than most, it also has some finer gems than most. Every route would be worth an extra star at a more popular crag, and the exceptionally rough rock - with a texture of cement sponge and endless right-facing side-pulls - is worth a visit in itself. If you have working legs and can cope with the walk-in, that is. I don't, but I could, only because it's relatively low angle for it's long length. A couple of routes in and things were going great, but the disturbance of the day came when the perfectly bone dry forecast turned into a drizzly swirling rain shower when I was part way up Lagonda. I suspect they heard my tantrumic swear-a-thon in Seathwaite if not over the hill in Coniston too. Thankfully after a furious cheese sandwich and an hour sulking, the skies cleared enough to grab a few more routes. It got a bit too cold to make full use of the evening, but doing First Of Class (another Duddon guide photo tick) made the day for me, an exhilerating testpiece and my hardest route of the year so far.

Burnt Crag in the Duddon Valley - closer to the road although just as arduous to walk up to, and far more of a honeypot with classic trade routes like Shifter, but still just as tranquil compared to the fleshpots of Langdale just over the mountain ranges. Well it was tranquil for a bit and then a group of local old boys turned up and any semblance of quiet was shattered by a storm of Cumbrian banter, beta, and bloody good laughs. This was actually quite welcome as they were an entertaining bunch, I do like meeting local veterans as they know all the hidden holds and gear placements, are amused when you don't find them, impressed when you ignore them, and generally can share good knowledge and crack about the crags. This was particularly true on the day and perhaps the highlight was the reaction to my last ditch solution to the squirmingly thin intricacies of Scorched Earth (yup another photo tick, the Duddon guide is full of inspiration that way). Tenuously bridged with a juggy ledge just out of reach, the obvious choice was to leap sideways for it....."foooking 'ell, he jumped for it! Did you see that Keith? Aye, foook me that's the move of the day, never seen anyone jump for that!". Quite amusing as that was considerably easier than the moves below.

3 days. 8 routes. 2 new venues. Mostly good weather and only 1 hour of rain and 10 minutes of traffic jams, I can live with that. Quite a lot of walking, and a few pretty challenging routes....I'm feeling more on form and more inspired. So here's a picture of the sunset from Far Hill:


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Seperating wheat from chaff.


I've always been rather fond of the North Yorkshire Moors / Cleveland Hills. I think I first went to Scugdale 17 years ago although I'm not exactly sure. I went to Goldsborough Carr in the evening and got a bit scared by the steepness, slept in my old 340, had a morning soloing at Scugdale and then shepherd's pie for lunch in Thirsk, marvelling at an area of a country that I'd never even seen before. The 1992 Orange guidebook was my bible for esoteric craglet exploration for a while. Later on it was replaced by the North East Outcrops guide in which the information was more plentiful and only a bit less esoteric. Sheffield replaced Nottingham as a base, Northumberland replaced NYM as a sandstone destination of choice, but still I went back on sporadic visits, introducing friends to the quiet crags, expansive views, and funky little sandstone climbs. Then I moved to Scotland and it all got a bit too far away.

In recent years, there's been another replacement: noise replacing quiet, static replacing silence - not on the crags but in the new pico-community that are re-discovering and re-developing them. Unfortunately rather than a calm celebration, it's a discordant babble of grating catchphrases, embarassing hyperbole, transparent trolling, beggy look-at-me personalities, and juvenile gimmickry. All of which obscures the useful information and realities of the climbing being done. The attention-seeking "characters" involved don't need any more mention, but perhaps their discoveries DO. No smoke without fire and even if the smoke is pretty noxious, the fire could be quite pleasant.

Thus I headed back down to the North Yorkshire Moors, seeking shelter from strong sou'westerlies and some new crags to explore. We had a whirlwind tour and went to Tranmire, Stoupe Brow, Roseberry Topping, Round Crag, Smuggler's Terrace, Thorgill Crag and Clemitt's Crag, with variable results, all in a few days (and there's enough trekking around there for my poor wee legs!). I was a bit hampered by travelling tiredness, steep ground weakness from lack of training, and skin that was out of practice with continuous sandstone climbing and thus rapidly wore out, but still managed some good routes. I missed out on a couple of other good ones and saved some for the future. I did have to remind myself that I'm still in injury recovery mode - although my wrist has reverted back to steady healing from the last blip, and survived this trip well, it's only a month or so ago I was having to be careful wiping my arse to avoid tweaking it! With the colossal portion of home-made chicken (surely ostrich?) kiev at the Lion Inn above Round Crag, that was some hardcore wiping on this trip so I'm glad it's feeling stronger now.

On the subject of shit....what about the recent routes and developments?? What gems were hidden amongst the forum/blog diarrhoea?? Quite a lot, it seems. The new routes are good, the new venues and re-developments of old ones are good too, simple as that. The information gleaned online was mostly accurate - more so than outright fallacious - and while the grades and descriptions might be a bit varied, the star quality is genuinely appropriate. Out of everything we did, almost everything was worth it's stars, a few maybe one less, but a couple maybe one more. The quality of the developments and the climbing speak for themselves, and that's what I hoped to find down there. At the end of the day, ignore the chaff and enjoy the wheat - that is what we did and it was worth the effort.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Back to square zero...


I've only had two sessions climbing this week:

The first one I did my hardest trad lead of the year so far and thus felt pretty confident about how my climbing was going :)

The second one I pushed myself training indoors and ended up with my wrist the sorest it has been since injuring it two months ago :(

Cuntflaps.

Anyway this was the day out at Glen Coe roadside crags, which were fairly accessible if completely hidden, bone dry despite the location, sheltered from the brisk easterly, and offered fine climbing despite their mossy appearance:

Warming up on the soft touch Sweltering.

Cranking through the crux on the non-soft touch Smouldering. 

The latter took some effort committing first to a fingery 6a crux on the lower wall and then a bold 5c crux on the upper wall with few positive holds and only a C3 000 between me and a whopper whipper. All fun and rewarding stuff. Notice my taped up cranking right hand on the above photo - that is NOT the problem. Direct cranking on small sharp crimps has been fine on my wrist as it's locked in place with little rotating around. Conversely, forgetting about my wrist and flicking my walking pole up into the air and waving it to signal that I'd actually found the damn crag - that IS the problem. Combine that with some fairly cold climbing temperatures and it was a bit tweaky and susceptible.

Then I went down to GCC after a rest day and was trying pretty much as hard as normal on the steep stuff, and now it hurts pretty much all the fucking time. A restrained and gentle session after the Glen Coe tweaking would have been fine. A steep cranky session without a previous walking-pole-induced re-tweak might have been okay. Combining both has been a fucking cock-up. What do I always say to people about looking after injuries??   
 
"Be diligent - always keep aware and keep careful or you'll re-injure it"

Again, CUNTFLAPS.

Ice, rest, wrist-guard, very gentle training, vitamin I blah blah fucking blah.


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Opening the NW account.


3rd year in a row getting to the North West in a fortuitously dry if cool spell in March?? Yes please. If there's a guaranteed way to liven the heart and alleviate the aches and pains, it's cruising along the A832 or A835 on a sunny morning with a rucsack full of chalk, a bag full of guidebooks and a car full of drum and bass. I'll let the pictures do the talking for this one, the only things they don't show is that my wrist is still recovering okay, it coped fine with more, and diverse, climbing, and that my head and confidence and passion are coming back pretty well, and that my plans to get to Glutton and Tynrich were spot on so those two crags are off the list but many more remain...




 








Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Tweaky Wrist Tweaklist...


Some ideas for recuperative cragging during the early spring, in rough order of preference:

Mull - Kintyre, Erraid - I've been before but the new guide has shown so much more, loads of little granite crags and sweet looking slabs.

Mid-Wales - Rhinnogs - Off piste for many climbers but a genuinely wonderful place with perfect exploratory cragging on great rock.

Glutton Crag, Ullapool - The latest and currently fashionable bolted Torridonian sandstone crag and looks spot-on for plentiful F5-6c mileage. - done :)

Tynrich Slab, Inverness - Just a neat slab in the tranquil Ruthven valley. A good mid-grade choice and I've heard good reports from an ex-local. - done :)

Glen Shian Slab, Glenfinnan -  Just a slab en-route to Mallaig, with a typically rapidly-downgraded Dave Mac E10 of course. Slightly harder route choice but a lovely bit of rock.

Beinn Ceanabeinne, North Coast - A great sounding slab that has been heartily recommended by a local. Throw in some good options at the Skerrary sea-cliffs and apparently there is a classic Simon Nadin bolted F6c slab up here too. Intrigued?

Callerhues, Northumberland - A bit burly but plenty of choice to go at. 

All Doire Beith, Glen Coe - One of the roadside crags in the Glen, an accessible slabby wall.

Yorkshire gritstone - Rylstone etc - some good slabby trad here.

Yorkshire limestone - Giggleswick etc - some good slabby trad here too.

Canna - Another gem in the new guide, looks perfect for mid-grade cracks and grooves, all in an idyllic location.

Aberdeen sea-cliffs - Rob's Butt, Perdonlie Inlet, Seal's Caves - still some places I haven't been to that I can hopefully sneak in before the birds come back.

Cumbria - various crags - A reasonable choice at varied and accessible locations like Armathwaite, Carrock, Bramcrag, South Lakes Limestone etc.

Eagle-eyed readers will notice that most of these have good mid-grades slabby stuff, and/or are pretty accessible, and/or are sunny and amenable - for good reason. I don't have the fitness, confidence nor moral fortitude to be thrashing around at Creag Dubh nor Earnsheugh nor The Leaning Block nor Super-Crag etc....I need areas with plenty of easier choice and a welcoming "get on with it" feel. I'm interested in similar ideas / crags, I think I'm aware of most of them in Scotland but I might have missed something?? And of course I'm always interested in more people who are keen to explore with me in such places....


A potter here, a potter there.


I've decided that a good rule of thumb while I am doing recovery mileage is to only go to crags that are new to me, or that I haven't been to in a decade. This narrows the choice of crags considerably, but ensure when I find the right crags, it gives a good choice of routes to potter around on. I've put this into action recently:

Drab Crag in Aberdeen, which I'd never been to, although I had been working down the coast south of Newtonhill in that direction: Dykes Cliff, then Boltsheugh, the Johnsheugh, then Brown Crag. I got plenty of mileage there and even got pumped a bit, which was nice.

Then it was down to Cumbria to King's Meaburn, which I'd been to a decade ago, and Coudy Rocks, the trendy new sport crag which hadn't even been climbed a decade ago - although Simmy, who I went to KM with, had spotted it and was telling me about these blank sandstone walls he wanted to develop. Well the bolters got there and with good reason as it's pretty much a sport only venue, of course that means all the numpties flock there to get their convenience McTicks and so King's Meaburn seems a bit neglected despite it being obviously the better craglet - although to be fair, the climbing at Coudy is genuinely fun for short quarried sandstone, less reachy and cranky and more technical than the Angus quarry morpho lankfest horrors. I did a few routes at each crag and actually started cranking a bit harder than usual which was a bit more satisfying, a bit more reassuring, and definitely more fun.

I also got to The Mighty R for an afternoon, and found that despite being so despairingly obese I was struggling to get my harness on (like my fucking legs need any more constrictions to the blood "flow"), I was climbing considerably better this time, and getting within 1-1½ grades of my usual limit. Again both reassuring and fun. My wrist is coping okay, it tends to be generally and consistently tender after climbing and/or in cold damp weather (woohoo!), BUT is definitely less tweaky, less sharp pains, and feels stronger. I haven't yet tested it swirling a wok around though....

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Revisitations, and reverting to punterdom...


I had a bit of an escape to the grit recently, well timed with perfectly dry and far too warm weather. I previous week I'd got back into training with 3 indoor wall sessions and 2 gym sessions, most of which had gone okay once I'd learnt my limits with my wrist. This trip I put that into action by being fairly crap on everything but easy slabs, although thankfully there were enough of those for it to be fun overall. This trip was mostly about Yorkshire Grit, which I used to visit regularly when I first moved up to Sheffield, in a contrary bid to avoid the Peaks. Thus I went to a lot of crags a dozen years ago, and mostly explored at a fairly punterly standard. This time....I mostly explored at a fairly punterly standard...

Crookrise...
A few months ago I'd have hopefully taken advantage of good crisp friction and played around on Walkover, before using Hovis as a mere warm-up for it's direct variants of Wholemeal and Mighty White and hopefully even Small Brown.

This time it was boiling hot and I was restricted to strictly mid-grade bumbling:
Walker's Wall - pleasant enough.
Winter Traverse - quite scary with an odd escape finish.
Premium White - soft-touch eliminate.
Family Matters - very good value with two top end cruxes.
Hovis - quite okay in the end but only possible at dusk when it had cooled down.

Hovis was a bit of a perculiar one, as recent discussion has shown that even usually sensible and intelligent friends have the ability to talk complete cobblers about their local crags with a plethora of lines, variations, and eliminates. Hovis you step off a flake around onto a face and into a groove. There's also a direct start off the ground, a direct variation linking that, and a super direct with it's own extra looping variation. One could say the line is not obvious, except using common sense it is obvious: It was done by Joe Brown over half a century ago and you can damn well bet he was climbing the natural line of least resistance around into the groove rather than pissing around with "if I start a metre lower will I get the tick". I will eventually come back to piss around on other versions, but on the day there was only enough time at dusk to do the actual route.

Hovis

Ilkley...
A few months ago I'd have definitely been up for giving Wellington Crack (gruesome pumpfest but I was trad fit last year) a go, after a retro-flash of Tufted Crack (failed on this 12 years ago) of course.

This time such shenanigans were clearly out of the question, so it was a mixed pottering session:
 Bald Pate - top end of the grade, tastily bold and smeary.
Old Spice - bottom end of the grade, tastily bold and smeary.
Short Circuit - good cranking low down but quite dangerous higher up.
Sinister Rib - bottom end of the grade, tastily bold and smeary, this was actually really enjoyable and I romped up it in a couple of minutes.

I also attempted Nordwand - this is a rather cool route but the type of E2 5b that involves a tricky 5c sequence with an irreversible foothop into a hard all out 5c slap for a ledge with the gear distinctly beneath your feet, uh HUH. After a lot of faffing and garment-shedding to combat the warmth even in the shade, I did 95% of that crux, the 5% I didn't do was the one more inch required to get my fingers over the ledge. 6m lower and I'd added some good falling practise into the mix and am still cultivating a massive bruise on my thigh. Strangely I'm not that pissed off as I'd actually done the committing bit (eventually!) and a proper trad fall is perhaps as valuable as actually doing the route.

Running Hill Pits...
A few months ago I'd have been warming up on a retro-correct-line-onsight of Spanner Wall (failed to do the much more serious left hand entry 8 years ago), hopefully then adding Harvest Moon into the mix before moving on to Mangled Digit if dry and hopefully Calamity Crack (again truly horrific pumpfests but a standard angle for Scottish Climbing).

This time I was too weak for even vertical stuff so it was all about slabs, which are thankfully rather good fun there:
Content - fun but entirely morpho, a grade harder for me as I could only just get my tips on.
Weaver's Wall - not a soft touch, even with the plentiful gear in the slot, the upper reachy crux is pretty damn committing.
Windbreaker - does exactly what it promises, very steady and very bold.
Cochybondhu - quite sketchy! but at least with the option of falling rightwards and thus only the length of the route rather than the extra 4m...

Windbreaker I'd actually wanted to do in recent years because I never got around to it when I was there and said hovis-eliminate-pedant-but-otherwise-sound-bloke friend had it as his Shitbook profile picture for ages. It sort of nagged me in a "look, this has crimps and stuff and even though you're a fat weak and fucking injured punter, you could still crawl up it". So I did. It was interesting to compare this to Weaver's Wall, the other classic bold slab around this grade. W is much more serious, it has +4m fall potential before you even start and is a pure solo. WW is often soloed but has good micro-cams in a break and a shorter fall overall. So why is WW graded harder? Errrr....because it is. W is very easy 5b with the trickiest moves off the ledge and everything is in control. WW is very hard 5b with a committing and reachy crux to a distant off-balance hold and I suspect if you have enough rope out to do the move you have enough out to hit the ground. So although it's apples and oranges, it makes a harmonious and tasty fruit salad overall.


Windbreaker

Despite being hampered a bit by my wrist and a huge amount by my weakness and thus lack of any physical confidence, I did okay and my wrist seemed to cope with almost everything apart from tugging nuts too hard and pulling up the rope in a funny way. It stiffened up after I returned but this trip showed promise that I can start pottering around again...