Monday, 11 April 2011

Simply Gorgeous!

Another Friday off (I have to use up my holiday allowance before the end of April) and it was a cracker! Didn't start out too well though as I nipped in to Skipton to try out a new bike and like a fool forgot to take off my road shoes when going down the stairs in the bike shop and went a right clatter! A few bruises but mostly pride.

As a totally left-field suggestion to Mike I'd come up with Great Close Scar behind Malham Tarn. The last time I'd been to the crag was thirty years ago! I remembered it being somewhat loose and scrappy but that may have been due to us going on the easier stuff, the hope was that once you moved up the grades things would be better. A nice flat walk in and just a gentle breeze with not a cloud in the sky.

First up was a nice looking VS. Good holds and easy climbing but not much gear in the first five metres or so and some of the rock needed careful handling but once I got a couple of runners in I started to feel happier and the upper section though no easier was straightforward. Mike then fancied an E1 he'd done on his only previous visit (11 years ago) so armed with medium to big cams he set off up Gorm. Just one tricky move but quite easy for 5c, pumpy though.

In the middle of the crag is a three star E1, Black Death, that I fancied doing, with a description that talked of hard moves on the lower wall and a difficult overhang at the top. The hard wall at the bottom certainly was, plus it had the same lack of good gear as the VS, cams in limestone don't inspire confidence. After a rest on the gear (to check it would hold of course) I got the moves sorted and reached the jugs at 6 metres and after another move got good gear in. The groove above was steep but on good holds and led to a good rest beneath the top roof. I laced this with gear then went for it - it was hardly any harder than the groove. Following, Mike reckoned that the lower wall was pushing 5c, at least the guide put it towards the top of the E1s in the graded list. Not bad for my first E1 of the year.

To the left was an E2 that Mike fancied, again a lower wall that was awkward to protect then long reaches between good jugs led to the crux: a narrow wall between two cracklines. It was actually really contrived as whichever set of holds you used you got pushed into one of the routes on either side - you could span the pillar without much trouble. We finally finished off with Nomad, one of the routes that I'd done previously and is actually pretty good. All in all a good call and well worth another visit or two, the routes pack a lot in and they are a reasonable length (15 - 25 metres).

Saturday was another fine sunny day and I'd promised Cath that I'd go biking with her as part of her training for LEJOG. The plan was to ride up to Hawes and back. "We could park at Hetton and go from there", "no", "If we parked at Gargrave then we don't have the nasty hill back up to home at the end", "NO!". In the end I gave in and started from home, she was quite insistent :-)

The overall plan was to ride for about an hour and a half then have a café stop then ride another block, café stop, etc. as this is what she'd be doing on LEJOG. After an hour and forty we pulled in to Kettlewell and a cake stop before the first of the big climbs of the day past Cray to Bishopdale. Suitably fortified we pedalled along the valley bottom to Buckden and the start of the climb proper. The first part up to the pub at Cray is steady, typical alpine gradient, but it then steepens up for the last half mile with the last couple of hundred yards being the steepest. The reward was a long sweep down Bishopdale before a short sharp climb in to Aysgarth. The next bit was along the main road to Hawes which was mostly flat but with one or two short sharp climbs to throw you off your rhythm.

More tea and food in Hawes in a rather quirky café/restaurant then it was on to the second big climb of the day, Red Moss. This time the (light) wind was in our faces. The steepest part of the climb is immediately out of Hawes but it soon eases and even drops down again, probably losing all of the height already gained, before the long slog up to the summit. Even going down the other side was now hard work with the wind distinctly fresher. A sharp left turn at Ribblehead and we were soon passing through Horton. Just by Helwith Bridge Cath's chain came off, our only mechanical of the day, but we still made the café in Settle before it shut.

Then it was just a matter of working our way back through the various villages away from the A65 to get back to Gargrave before heading back home. Of course I totally messed up the gear changes at the start of the final steep hill. Final stats were 7:30hrs riding time for 90 miles which wasn't too bad. Definitely saddle sore though!

Sunday's plan was for an afternoon's climbing at Witches' Quarry near Clitheroe so some gardening in the morning in stifling heat. I'd visited the quarry some years ago in damp conditions and wasn't impressed, still it's a nice location. Cath and Pat were going to go biking whilst we climbed.

Gaz on the tricky groove of Crucible.

I was pretty well wiped from the previous two days so was happy just to second things while Mike and Gaz did the leading. I think we did most of the decent routes though another visit would mop up the remaining lines. A post climb visit to the local pub then head home for a rest after a pretty decent weekend of activity.

Gaz on the pleasant cracks of The Reeve.

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