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 :(


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"


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...