Wednesday, 20 November 2013

NOT backing off at Back Bowden.

Back this, Bowden that, whatever. Suffice to say I've redeemed myself from my previous punterage and shoddy strategies, and went back and did a couple of fine routes:

On The Verge has inspired me for 10 years or so. It just looked cool. Very much a grit-style bold slabby arete, but I've never been routing there in grit-style weather. Well the other day was a perfect grit-style winter's day: Below zero at dusk, snow on the roads, frozen ground, searingly crisp air and soothingly warm sunshine. Gentle slabby bouldering got my feet warmed up and faffing with gear got my mind warmed up. Stepping into the slab was a bit of a child-bearing-hip manouvre, above that it just flowed smoothly to the top.

The Tube has inspired me for 10 days or so - from the last visit. It just looked so weird and sketchy previously - crabwise shuffling along a break that's bound to be alarmingly shallow and inconvenient, otherwise it would be an HVS shuffle, which it isn't. But closer inspection on the last visit showed a lone foothold partway along and a very obvious slit to aim for that the finish. Suddenly I had to do it! Taking advantage of the low sunlight caressing the break, I was able to pump my way along without getting too cold or scared and ended up in a fit of giggles using knees, elbows, chin and tongue to grovel over the lip. I can now see why it is such a classic County experience :).

Now, on to the grade geekery. Yay! The Tube is spot on. A bit bold, a bit pumpy, a few quite tricky moves. On The Verge seems to be following the bizarre trend in the latest definitive guide, along with Outward Bound, by going up a grade when it's one of the few County routes that should go down a grade. E2 5c move to get stood in the crescent + E3 5b move to place the cam by the good hold + E1 5b/c to finish, all on a restful slab = E3 5c. It's science, motherfuckers. In fact it's such obvious, clear-cut science that it makes me wonder if the blindingly obvious cam placement you go for "isn't in". Except:

1. The guidebook says "bold and committing moves lead up the arete until a crack is gained which provides an easy finish". There is only one crack to gain and although you don't actually use it to climb (the arete slants away so it would be harder to fall into it than to keep laybacking the arete!), it's a crack that can be used for gear.

2. The crack is right next to a crucial arete hand-hold:
This is not off-route, the route is climbing the left arete of that crack when you reach this point. I'm a short wee stunty and while it felt precarious to stretch the cam in, if I can manage it it's hardly an obscure manouvre. Ignoring the gear 6" from your hand would be like climbing The Executioner at Reiff but not placing any gear in the crack the arete forms part of! (Conversely, the side-runner on Auto Da Fe at Berrymuir requires traversing a metre or so away from good holds and into another route to place...).

So what does it all mean?? Either OTV follows the true line and is a steady E3 5c **, or it's an inferior eliminate at E4 5c *. The way I did it was very nice anyway :).

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