Sunday, 31 October 2010

Ooerr Missus!

The weather has gone totally bananas! Last week we had sub-zero temperatures, Monday morning getting in to work on the bike was an exercise in keeping the speed down and the cadence up. By Wednesday it was back to shorts!

Carrying a few niggles for some reason at the moment - a sprained thumb on left hand and a sore index finger, feels like a tweeked tendon, on the right. Still things like that don't stop activities.

After a bit of horse trading Mike and I ended up at Almsliffe on Saturday. Now Almscliffe isnt' my favourite crag, in fact it's probably my least favourite Yorkshire grit crag. No real reason for this, perhaps it's the "it's the greatest crag in the universe" plaudits that I'm reacting to, or maybe it's the fact that the decent jams in the cracks are so far back that you can't see your feet, whatever, I do try to avoid it if possible.

The wind of Friday night had died down so we started on the south face, the usual winter pool hadn't formed so it was quite pleasant. The starter for VS was Black Wall which I hadn't done before. The moves were all quite easy but the trusting of gear and the effort in getting it in, the wall leans quite a bit, meant it felt hard in the cool temperatures. Mike then wanted to do Blackpool Boulevard which is a counter diagonal to Bird Lime Traverse. Given E1, the moves are all straightforward, if a little pumpy due to poor footholds, but the final few feet are ungradeable being a stomach squirm along a break!

Then it was round to the NW face, a quick run up Central Route where I wish I'd brought a double set of big cams before Mike had a go at Z-Climb Eliminate. He spent a bit of effort getting the crucial wire in before lowering to the deck and pulling the ropes. Next go he cruised it into the wide crack above and climbed steadily to the top. Following I found the moves on Central Route harder than the supposed crux even though I'd led them just 15 minutes before!

By now it was getting windier and cold so we decided to finish on Great Western, supposedly the only four star route in Yorkshire, in reality it's the most overrated climb around, it isn't even the best HVS at Almscliffe! Fortunately the group of loud swearing youths had moved on so things were a bit quieter. By the time Mike had finished leading I was frozen. There probably isn't a move above 4b on the route if you get things right, getting the gear out was harder as a few of the cams had walked. Mike had taken the right hand finish and it has to be said that it's in a spectacular position for the grade, similar in exposure to the moves to the pedestal stance on Mur y Niwl.

No-one to climb with on Sunday so a bit of general housekeeping, plus it will give my fingers time to rest.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Pushing harder

Well the weekend forecast was wrong as usual, well around us anyway. Saturday was given as being slightly cloudy but mainly sunny - cue near constant light rain. Bizarrely just a couple of miles away it was hardly raining at all. Consequently not a lot got done round the garden, we did nip in to Skipton to stock up on whiskey though!

Sunday was quite different though, bright and wall to wall sunshine, it was pretty cold though. Mike turned up mid-morning, giving the rock time to warm up, and we headed to the Dales. Mike had a list of routes at Giggleswick North that he hadn't done and reckoned were new. Venue sorted then. We were the first at the crag and the sun had just hit the face.

It turned out that the "new" routes weren't quite as new as Mike had thought and I'd done them with Simon earlier in the year. Still, good for a warm up so Mike set off up a F6a+ and had a few flying lessons! Definitely a stiff route for the grade.

My turn next and there was a F6b+ next to Bad Genie that I hadn't done so I set off up that and came to a quick halt by the second bolt - there were no holds! After a couple of slumps and a rest, I got a hint from a newly arrived team, but it didn't make sense until I made the move. Having dogged around on the start the rest of the ascent was more of a working attempt, the top wall was just jug hauling though. Having seen the secret Mike got it first go and put the clips in on Bad Genie to have a go at that. After a rest I got the route easily on redpoint.

Mike got to the last move on Bad Genie before taking a fall, then we moved left for another batch of F6cs, the first of which was Resins to be Cheerful which I'd managed with one fall earlier in the year. Mike headed up and couldn't figure the move out but with a little hint or two he got to the lower-off. My turn and effectively my second red-point attempt. Halfway through the crux my fingers slid off the hold, aagh! Straight back on the rock and I get to the top. Mike gets the red-point on his first go, on my next attempt I get the hold past the crux at the wrong point and fall again. It's hard work on the fingers so I leave it for another day.

Next door was another F6c and by this time I'm tired and don't make it. The rock is a bit suspect and I was probably too tense. Further left again is an F6b that Mike leads and I'm happy just to second. By now we are fed up with the traffic noise from the A65 so head over to Robin Proctor's Scar. 

At the left end of the crag was a F6c that neither of us had done so I set off first. Pulling through the crux I was suddenly airborne and rock debris was hurtling towards Mike. He did well to avoid the falling flake and stop my fall. A foothold under the overlap had come away, fortunately there was still something that could be used. My fingers were tired and cold by now so I didn't get any further. Mike got to the same point. We decided to bail.

A couple of easy routes later and we were definitely fading so it was time to head home.

An early post this week as the computer is off to the repair centre to get its network card sorted out, things are all a bit weird, sometimes I get full connectivity, other times it either finds the access point but won't let me connect or won't see the access point at all. Fortunately it's still under warranty.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Autumn Colours

You forget just how hard digging over a patch of ground is! Under orders from Cath, getting the final vegetable patch dug over took quite a bit of work - just need a few frosts now to break things up - I was unable to do it last year because of a little accident on Stanage. Then it was on to cleaning out one of the borders, it seemed as if half the border was weeds and brambles!

Sunday and half the team were looking at going to the Peak again but given the driving to climbing ratio from last week I wasn't keen so Simon and I headed in to the Dales for something a bit more local. Contrary to the forecast, things were getting cloudy plus it was quite windy. The initial intent was to get some trad limestone done but the time spent standing around belaying in the cold wind wouldn't have been pleasant so we ended up at Robin Proctor's Scar. The parking area was nearly full so it looked as if the crag would be busy. And so it proved.

A large number of those at the crag were the Leeds Mafia who have been responsible for most of the (retro) bolting of the Yorkshire crags. A good natured banter session was assured!

A couple of warm up routes proved anything but - it was positively Baltic in the wind blowing across the crag - and by the third route, the admittedly excellent Wheels on Fire, we were only just getting going. One reason for going back to RPS was that I'd a couple of routes that I needed to redpoint so I now looked towards "The Marshall Plan" which is borderline F6b+/F6c on which I'd had to take a couple of rests earlier in the year. First I thought of avoiding it due to the cold but then decided to give it a go.

Setting off I had to wait a few minutes while someone on Yellow Edge got out of the way. Immediately you are on the crux, I only managed to get one finger in the target flake - it would have to do - bolt clipped I carried on and realised that I'd forgotten that it wasn't a one move wonder style of route. Getting to the ledge at two thirds height is quite sustained. At the next bolt I wasn't correctly in balance to make the clip and began debating whether to grab it or not but resisted and got to the ledge with increasingly cold fingers. Five minutes on the ledge trying to get warm then it was time for the finishing moves which aren't as bad as they seem. Belay reached it was time to lower, with a quick play on the crux wall of Forever Young, definitely pleased with my hardest clean lead of the year and on such a cold day.

After a couple more routes, we'd had enough of the cold, we could hardly keep warm so headed to the pub. I don't think the other teams stayed much longer, it was becoming just too unpleasant.

A lot of biking to and from work this week, a bit windy on the way home but not as bad as it has been. Definitely cold in the mornings, I had to wear my winter gloves for the first time this year on Wednesday and still had cold hands when I got to work. Somewhat bizarrely I noticed a large bruise on the back of my left thigh the other night - a bit awkward to spot really - now the only incident that has happened to that leg in recent times is the hamstring strain from the other Sunday on Froggatt. I'd noticed some slight discomfort when sitting down but had assumed that it was the strain itself as it was somewhat lower down the leg than the initial pull. It looks as if I've been set on with a baseball bat!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Fun in the Sun

With both days last weekend being warm and sunny - at least the further west you went - it was looking like the last throws of summer.

Saturday saw Simon and myself head west, stopping en-route in Settle to pick up Lionel. After a bit of umming and ahhing we decided to go to Trowbarrow Quarry as none of us had been there for a while, in my case about five years. Plus it would be a bit different to just clipping bolts.

The further west we went so the weather brightened - looked like a good choice and by the time we arrived at the quarry it was bright sunshine though with a strong easterly wind. This wouldn't matter as most of the climbs face to the west so would be sheltered. Things looked good. So good in fact that after the first route I had to nip back to the car to grab some more chalk.

When I got back Lionel was preparing to lead Assegai, one of the classic Lancashire HVSs. By now it was so warm that we were all in t-shirts and it was distinctly sweat raising when climbing. Once Lionel had got to the top, both Simon and myself took the first half of Sleeping Sickness to avoid the easy corner on the right. I had forgotten how awkward this section is, it's not the crux but I've always felt it to be at least as hard. Further up and left and it was surprising just how polished the route has become.

Next up was Sour Milk Groove, I'd only done this once before, sometime in 1981 shortly after I had started climbing! A quick blast up the Severe to get to the start of the traverse then shuffle out right along the break trying to find footholds - there's plenty of handholds, just get a hand jam anywhere you want. Crux move up in to the groove itself then it's just a matter of reaching between good breaks to the top. Simon and Lionel both suss out the E1 that bisects the route but none of use fancy leading it so it's back to the quarry floor.

After a bit of messing around on Yellow Wall where we get absolutely nothing done, I'm put on the sharp end again for Jean Jeanie, one of the best VS routes in the UK. The last time I had done this was with Cath goodness knows how many years ago. Let's just say that it is even more polished.

Myself on Jean Jeanie - VS. The crux is the wide section about 6 metres above me. (Photo - Simon Harry)
It's all good climbing though and if you were a VS leader then there aren't many pitches of this grade around that can match it for sustainedness and quality. The crux is probably the wide section at about half-height though it is only slightly harder than the rest of the route, this was one time that my bent arm came to the fore as the bend is just right for an arm lock in this section! The main issue for me was that the only large gear we had were cams which aren't the best of gear in polished limestone!

By the time the other two were following me, the shadows were climbing up the wall and temperatures were beginning to drop. Time to go.

Sunday and it was down to the Peak District with Steve and Mike. As ever it took forever to get there, though by the time we got to the car park near Froggatt the sun was coming out from behind the mist. Cath was heading off to do some biking but with only one key for Steve's car we'd have to hope that we all finished around the same time.

Mike on Downes Crack, VS at Froggatt

We started off on an area none of us had been to: the buttresses hidden in the woods below the path. First route was a fine flake crack - Downes Crack, VS. Mike led it then Steve and I just followed. Both Mike and Steve did the top move via a lurch but I thought I'd do it as a rock-over, and promptly strained my hamstring! Ouch!!

The rest of the buttresses looked a little damp having been hidden by the trees so we moved on to the main edge and Strapiombante. After a couple of goes getting to the last move Steve handed the lead to Mike who got to the last move and handed the lead back! Steve got it next go so we had to do it. Most of the route is VS on really good jams, it's just the last move which you can either head left for a mantleshelf or direct for more of a rock-over move.

Mike on Strapiombante, E1 at Froggatt

Steve had gone for the latter so that was what Mike and I also did, except that the rock-over was on to the leg that I'd just injured! The term "beached whale" comes to mind!

Moving along the edge, Mike and Steve had a play on Avalanche at a technical E2, though again it involved left leg shenanigins so I declined to have a go. Then it was on to Sunset Slab at HVS. The gear on this is too low to be of any use for most of the upper part of the route so leading it is just a head game but it's just a walk to second.

Mike now reckoned that he needed just one more route to get his 100th extreme of the year so we headed to the far end of the crag and Big Crack (E1 or E2 depending on who you talk to). Mike had a go but tired before the upper section so Steve went up next. At this point Cath rang - she was back at the car and getting cold so I headed back with the key to sort her out while Steve and Mike finished off. By the time they got back we were in the pub!

The rest of the week has been much better weather wise than the initial forecast. This weekend I'll finally get round to digging up the last of the vegetable patches. I should have done it last year but my accident got in the way.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

A quiet week

After the full weekend two weeks ago, last weekend was a bit different.

With my regular climbing partners on family duty on Saturday and Cath's biking partners likewise we ended up going for a bike ride from Hetton up to Bordley and Weets Top. To say it was wet is a bit of an understatement, I was surprised that things had turned so quickly as there hasn't been that much rain. Winterburn reservoir was full, it was less than 50% just two weeks ago according to Cath. this is the reservoir that feeds the Leeds-Liverpool canal and the low level is what caused the canal to be shut during the summer.

I was getting serious chain suck when in the granny ring so even the short steep climbs had to be in the middle ring, quite hard work! Once back home, a good clean of the bike and it was in to the LBS for a full service.

The weather forecast was giving rain moving north overnight as far as Sheffield or thereabouts. 6am on Sunday morning and we are woken by a deluge on the roof of the house. This continued most of the day so no chance of getting out climbing. The beck in the bottom of the valley had risen so much we could hear it from in the house - it's around 400m away! I've only seen it higher a couple of times in the eight years we've been here.

Annoyingly the rest of the week has been generally fine so I've been biking in to work. I tend to take it easy on the way in so that I don't raise a sweat then push it coming home, this is helped by the fact that it is nearly all downhill on the way in to work so is obviously uphill when coming home. On Thursday there wasn't a head wind for once and I got the various traffic lights and queues just right. It's always amusing to be overtaken by an aggressive driver who then has to pull up by the queue just 50 or 100m ahead and you just cruise past. Going in to the village I was overtaken by a Range Rover but solid traffic in the centre meant that I was nearly at the top of the hill a mile on the other side (the hill itself is a mile long) before they overtook me again. In the end I got home in just over 20 minutes, my second ever fastest time - I've been under 20mins just the once.

It seems like the knee has settled down now. Whether that is due to weight loss or simply that the body has readjusted to me not doing any running I'm not sure. Just hope it continues.