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.

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