Sunday, 31 July 2011

Croeso y Cymru and other stuff

A little while since the last post, oops!

The weeks have consisted of riding in to work with ever quicker times in both directions, I've managed to get the return home time down to 18mins30 but still can't seem to trim much time off the main climb up out of the village which is stuck at c. 4mins between the two marker points. Will have to do some work on climbing - gulp!

Climbing wise, just a couple of days out: one with Simon to Robin Proctor's Scar and Gigg South where we did the usual litany of easier sport climb. I hadn't been out for a few weeks so wasn't sure how I'd be climbing but it turned out that I felt reasonably comfortable but obviously the stamina wasn't up to much. Yesterday was a bit different - went down to N. Wales with Mike. The plan had moved from Cloggy to Craig yr Ysfa to Ogwen where we ended up on Clogwyn y Tarw (the Gribin Facet). We started off with myself leading Diadem, a HVS which I hadn't done before, very pleasant it was as well. Mike then led Yob Route which I'd soloed back in the day, a fact we both expressed surprise at. Our final route on this crag was Hopkinson's Crack a surprisingly tough little crack pitch which needed  quite a bit of cam reuse as we didn't have a huge rack of 3.5 sized Friends.

We then slogged up in the humidity to Cwm Bochlwyd to Glyder Fach main cliff. Mike wanted to do Lot's Groove so after a quick run up a couple of introductory pitches I got ensconced on a suitable stance ready for the main event. Mike made steady but good progress on it in the increasingly humid conditions - all the vegetation was very wet and the cracks on the whole face felt pretty damp. After a dismal failure on the cracks on both the direct finishes we scuttled to the top via an easier corner. By the time we got back to our sacks it was 5pm so we called it a day - four good mountain HVSs in the bag though.

Today was the Sunday morning bike ride and I'd decided that I'd ride home from Pip's in Delph. Only problem is that there are at least three significant climbs along the way. As soon as I pulled out of Delph there were one or two spots of rain, uh oh - could be a long ride, fortunately they didn't amount to anything and in a few minutes I was at Denshaw at the start of the long climb up to Buckstones which is reckoned as one of the easier Pennine climbs, just 150m of ascent. Sure enough, 13 minutes later I was over the summit having not had to get out of the saddle. A blast along the plateau then down across the M62, getting passed by Cath in the car shortly afterwards, before the steep descent down to Rippenden and then in to Sowerby Bridge.

The next bit of road was a bit of a shock and I was out of the saddle all the way up to the main Calderdale road. A spin along this and I overtake a couple of cyclists just as we enter Hebden Bridge and I have to cut right and begin the climb to Cock Hill which has around 330m of ascent. The last time I'd done this I'd taken 30mins so had a target :-) Fortunately the lowest section is the steepest though the bit through Pecket Well is on rough tarmac and upsets your rhythm. Shortly after Pecket Well the view open out so you can see your target which though not the summit is the point at which the gradient eases significantly and you can speed up. The summit was reached in 26mins so good going.

As I was blasting down the other side I decided not to head via Ponden but to return via Keighley which meant more blast of a descent, plus the road surface was decidedly better. I got through Keighley and clocked two hours on the road as I was entering Steeton though now I had a head wind. Just the normal commute  route home and the final climb of 130m. Not surprisingly I was a little slower on this than normal taking 4:30 between the markers. I got home in 2hr22mins with an average speed of 26.2kph.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Fred's Run

Fred Rogerson was, with Harry Griffin, one of the founders of the Bob Graham 24hr Club. Somewhat ironically neither man had completed the round. Following Fred's death last October, his family came up with the idea of a relay taking his ashes around the route.

Selwyn Wright, the club chairman, organised things for this last weekend and as luck would have it the generally benign weather broke early on Saturday morning. A deluge of Cumbrian proportions. I'd offered to help from Rossett Pike onwards, hopefully as far as Great End.

A chance encounter in Langdale with another helper - after all who else would be jogging along the valley floor in a heavy rain shower at 7am? - saw two of us climb steadily up the new path up Rossett Gill. Surprisingly we met a couple heading down, we didn't realise it until later but they were actually a support party for an attempt that day, I think the contender got round so good effort on his part!

We stood around in the mirk close to the summit trying to see the relay arrive when a voice behind shouted "Are you anything to do with Fred's Round?" Somehow they'd run right past us. So after a quick chat we set off up Bowfell. Now Selwyn had warned me that the two on this leg were by far the fastest of those helping out - "they might have slowed down a bit by the time they get to you", they hadn't! Whilst they were busy chatting away I was in the red zone, as we approached the ramps leading to the plateau I caught them up - all right they had stopped to wait for me: "fancy carrying Fred's ashes?" Not a problem, except for the occasional stumble where the bag had to change hands quickly to avoid getting split.

Eventually the plateau was reached and we were now not just in a deluge but a bit of a hoolie as well. The summit rocks were slippery and not nice to try and move quickly over but a dab of the hand on the summit cairn and Fred had another one ticked off.

At some point I'd tweeked my groin again so I decided not to continue as I'd only hold the fell hounds up but to descend back to the car. This took as long as the ascent had done and I only saw three people until I was back in the valley.

A lot of effort maybe for such a short section but it was worth it.

Apparently the weather finally cleared up as the relay left Honister and a group of around fifty, including Alan Heaton and Bill Smith, walked the last mile to the Moot Hall in Keswick to complete Fred's round.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Show Time!

A couple of days' biking at the weekend, one day on the road and one off-road. The road ride was just a quick blast with Cath to Colne and back so nothing major. Sunday we headed up to Langstrothdale for a ride over to Bainbridge and back, however someone forgot their helmet so we had to borrow one before setting off which meant driving through a couple of very heavy showers and about 90mins delay.

Once away it was a long pull up to Fleet Moss with the tarmac feeling very grippy on our MTB tyres, not the sort of thing you need on a climb. At the summit we were watching the paragliders when a stoat scurried across the track in front of us in their usual hyperactive manner. What followed was the longest (and probably straightest) descent in the Dales down the old Roman road to Bainbridge. A bit loose in places so some care needed. Then it was another steep climb to Carpley Green before heading off-road again. There was one section of the track that needed a push as it was both steep and loose, a few more steeper sections and then you are on the summit ridge with wide ranging views. Finally we descended to the road above Cray though a couple of sections needed to be walked as they are washed out and a bit technical. After a pint in The White Lion at Cray it was back to the car with the mewing of a buzzard overhead.

We went to the Great Yorkshire Show on Wednesday, Cath having got two free tickets through her work, so spent some time in queues getting to the ground. Mostly it's like a super large open air market and has little to do with its agricultural roots and a lot of the visitors seemed to be using it for retail therapy.

More interesting were the animals on show. Some of the breeds were new to me, "Lonk" for example (a sheep if you don't know), I thought they were Dalesbred from their facial markings until I caught sight of the breed sign. The rarer Scottish breeds like Boreray, Soay and Hebridean are close to the original wild sheep and compared to the modern commercial breeds are tiny, little larger than a sheepdog. On a walk around the Rare Breeds Trust tent I came across perhaps the rarest breed of all, the Vaynol Cow. Just 45 animals exist which I think can certainly be classed as rare. 

A Soay Sheep

A Blue Faced Leicester - they always look rather haughty.

A very docile Hereford bull.

With increasing commercialisation is there any place for these breeds? They take longer to grow and so get to market with all the associated costs of feed and care; they are generally smaller and so less profitable overall; their meat is less suited to the bland, homogenised palate that the modern consumer exhibits and is promoted by the supermarkets. However many of these breeds exhibit characteristics that have the potential to help modern agriculture: disease and drought resistance and the like, so allowing them to die out would be short-sighted in the extreme. Perhaps they are suited to the small-holder who has less reason to submit to commercial pressures with their choice of stock.

Our own retail therapy from the show amounted to a few specialist cheeses and very nice the first one we opened is too.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

British Summer and cycling!

Despite the poor weather recently I've managed to bike in to work every day this week again. In fact I only got wet coming home on Friday night, getting caught in a sharp shower for a few minutes. Unfortunately for Cath, she got caught in a rather sharper shower as she was heading home!

It's surprising just how few times it seems to rain during commuting hours even here on the Pennines. It makes excuses for not cycling in to work even feebler than they already are (and I include myself in that group). Of course it helps to have flexi-time (actually we have core hours so it isn't true flexi-time) so you can try and time your ride to happen between showers but even this isn't truly necessary.

One thing I have noticed is that biking to and from work is becoming much easier and I'm getting home in quick times but don't feel like I've bust a gut at the end of it - it's two miles of uphill to get home so never easy.

As you may have noticed, it's the Tour de France time and fortunately we have a lot of TVs at work so we can get to watch the live coverage - you have to have some perks! There are quite a few keen cyclists at work so we can assert some control :-) It was a bit of a shock to see the Wiggins crash and there's some discussion going on on various feeds about head injuries - there have been three so far in this year's Tour - despite the mandatory use of helmets.

I think most cyclists have conflicting thoughts about helmets with many lauding their use and some jurisdictions mandating their use while others, especially older riders it seems, avoid them. I suppose in the case of the older riders it's what you get used to. The studies on cycling helmets with regards to injuries, both head and elsewhere appear confusing with little robust evidence to support either side of the argument. There's a lot of anecdotal evidence supporting their use - the "I crashed and would have cracked my skull" type of thing - indeed I've had a crash myself where the helmet took the brunt of any impact my skull would have taken though in that case it was the rest of me that took the (big) hit.

Against this is the fact that most cyclists travel at relatively low speeds, < 12MPH, so simply falling off your bike isn't going to be all that traumatic and the main injuries are likely to be gravel rash and possibly lower arm/hand damage. Once you introduce another vehicle, invariably a car, then injuries are going to be similar to those of pedestrians and there is no call for pedestrians to wear helmets. Not an easy choice. For the record I do wear a helmet.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011


A bit of a slack couple of weeks mainly due to the increasing heat and humidity. Most activity has been on the bike and I've managed nine out of the last ten days to bike in to work so feeling quite smug about that.

It was our wedding anniversary last weekend so that took a day out, though Cath wasn't too well as it happened. We ended up having a drive round the Dales with lunch at the Tan Hill Inn in very strong wind which was blowing food around and off our plates! To be honest the food wasn't special and it felt that the inn was trading on its location rather than making any effort.

This weekend I got a long bike ride in - had a good average speed for the first 61Km then I picked the biggest hill to get home and things slowed down dramatically. Sunday was spent over in the Lakes climbing on some of the recently developed crags on Harter Fell. We'd originally intended to go to Stonestar Crag but on approaching it peregrines started crying out so even though we knew there wasn't a ban on the crag - the birds didn't nest there this year - we decided to go elsewhere.

The main problem was that we didn't have any descriptions to the routes! In general we got the grades about right though the line that we thought might be a steep E1 turned out to be E4 - we didn't actually try it though. The climbing was OK but it's fair to say that we won't be rushing back. We eventually ended up back at Stonestar to check out the birds. They were making lots of noise without us even leaving the car so we reckoned they were juveniles and there was no reason not to climb. Thus Simon got his third new crag of the day with an ascent of Columbia, E1. A quick pint in Broughton then a surprisingly quiet A65 back home.