Thursday, 12 December 2013

Peak Practice.

It's taken me a good 4 years to get over the horror of gritstone climbing and get some syke back for it. Living in Sheffield for many years, doing over a thousand routes on grit, continuously battling the slopey, rounded, frictional, reachy, pumpy and utterly committing climbing than plays exactly to my weaknesses, ensured that I didn't miss it one bit. Until this winter when I haven't shaken off my trad syke - bored of bouldering and still utterly revolted by the very idea of ""Scottish Winter Climbing"", the prospect of coming back down to play on the optimal winter rock suddenly became appealing. Plus I'd missed the slabs and aretes and technical delicacies that are very sparsely spread in Scotland, and well-established, well-climbed routes with clean holds and clear lines that are also often a rarity in the barren wastelands up here. Finally I had a card up my sleeve - the confidence I'd gained from falling practice was still lingering and I felt inspired to try to put into action of some committing but hopefully not dangerous grit routes.

As it happened, we had to battle the weather as much as the climbing. Chasing the "panic about tidal surge" hurricane down, we left Glasgow on a glorious crisp pre-dawn morning, hit gloomy cloud by Preston and swirling hill fog and sleet leaving Glossop. In the ensuing days, the weather slowly perked up through mizzle, clart, murk, haze and finally crisp sunshine, all driven across the edges by punishing breezes, meaning our crag visits went something like this:

Shining Cliff - great nick when it was sleeting at Stanage and showering at Curbar.
Curbar day 1 - damp in the morning, then okay nick....until it rained.
Curbar/Froggatt day 2 - bone dry at Moon area but too strong gales to climb. Froggatt not as crisp but dry enough and at least survivable.
Roaches - glorious sun, decent breeze, and almost entirely green and sodden. Only bits of the Skyline and HD were in decent nick.
Stanage High Neb - almost perfect nick on the rock but again a howling wind limited feasible route options.
Stanage Popular / Plantation - absolutely perfect nick with a cold morning and evening, glorious sun and cool breeze in between.

...restricting both crag and route options, meaning my mini tick-list was downsized to this:

Flyaway E1 5b * - steep, steady, and fun
Marathon Man E2 5c ** - good fun safe cruxy climbing
Lazy Day F6b+ *** - great line and good climbing but an odd experience with the old aid bolts
Four Pebble Slab E3 5c * - a bit eliminate but a nice run-out with pure friction moves
Shortcomings E1 6a * - an unexpected pleasure that I never thought I'd bother trying, I was tall enough to place the gear but short enough to have to reach the flake the hard way
Hunky Dory E3 5c *** - excellent route, the perfect blend of powerful bits and committing bits
The Beautician E3 5c ** - with the blindingly obvious en-route runner that's 18" left of the hand-holds you start the crux slab with, safe and steady but good proper slab moves
Pig's Ear V3 ** - a rare occasion for me to keep the pads down, worth it for a fine wee highball
Fate E2 5c * - another unexpected pleasure which I had tried but backed off, I'm not sure how as this time I did it at dusk in about 3 minutes
Stanleyville E4 5c ** - perfect morning just as the fog lifted, good committing crux
Constipation E4 6a ** - took quite a bit of up-and-downing to find the sequence, proper grit trickiness
DIY E3 6a *** - onsight no pads, amazing conditions with just enough skin left, great committing moves and really rewarding

Ones that got away: The Bear Hunter (hurricane conditions), King Kong (too cold and unbouncy for the mantle), Wolf Solent (escaped off the super-safe crux with cold hands and the easy chimney 2' away), Comus (brutally hard and reachy, backed off).

The last day at Stanage showed just how much cool stuff we could have done if the weather had been more amenable - but then again I'd have probably run out of fingertips in a couple of days!! So not so many spectacularly challenging routes, but a nice blend of fairly classic and fairly tricky routes done fairly confidently, and minorly tricky routelets done with a surprising minimum of fuss. Slabs felt very steady, bulges felt bloody awful (maybe due to the relatively humidity on open rounded holds?), and I certainly need more hospitable weather, more warming up, and more beefing up to tackle anything steep down there. At any rate it was mighty good fun when we got on dry rock and my next return visit might be in 4 weeks rather than 4 years...

Grit sport climbing at it's best on Lazy Day

Enjoying a tasty mini-runout on good ripples on Hunky Dory. 

No comments: