Thursday, 29 July 2010

Keep on Truckin'

Another trip to Blue Scar! Well, even though there has been rain through the week it hasn't been enough to significantly affect things so it was always worth trying. There were a few more damp patches compared to last week but they didn't get in the way of the climbing.

A F6a warm-up (had done this last week anyway) then it was on to harder stuff. A very unbalanced F6a+ then a long sustained F6b+ which I failed to read correctly but I hung in there until the last bolt when I had to rest as I couldn't see any more holds. Needless to say as soon as I'd slumped I saw a jug off to the right!

We then headed over to a buttress that was developed (read - retro-bolted and more routes packed in) last year. One steep F6b later and I'm pumped and have to top-rope the last route of the day, another F6b.

Sunday I went for a slow run round the same loop as I'd done last week. No real niggles this time though my knee still hurts. The appointment for the MRI scan has come through - along with a mass of questions about insertions, implants and piercings! So we'll see what comes about once the results come back.

A bit of midweek climbing on Tuesday with a trip to Wilton Three. Gaz had designs on Brastium which I'd led with Mike a few weeks ago while I wanted to lead Canine Crucifiction which I'd followed on the same occasion. The forecast was for showers passing through and clearing in the afternoon, but no rain actually fell. Unfortunately the previous week of showers meant that when we got in to the quarry the wall containing both routes was decidedly wet. Rather than worry about it we did a batch of HVS and VS routes that either we hadn't done before or done a long time ago.

Last week's post about sorting out our water supply was a little premature. We checked again last night after the feed to our header tank failed again. The cattle trough was half full so it looked like there was no water going there either. A look in the field tank showed why - the tank was empty and the input was a mere dribble. It would take a day to fill a bucket at that rate! It looks like it could be several weeks before any significant water makes it way into the tank. So mixed feelings really - I'd like more fine weather to keep climbing but need rain to get water back into the tank.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Normal Service Resumed

Back to climbing last Saturday - several weeks since I'd been out - destination Blue Scar now that the bird ban was over. Of course the weather wasn't having any of it and despite a bright start to the morning it soon turned to heavy showers, so it was lunchtime by the time we headed up Wharfedale.

Kilnsey was packed as we drove by, though there wasn't much actual climbing going on, just the usual hanging on ropes and resting between attempts. Though this being Kilnsey you need those rests. There were a couple of cars parked by the farm buildings below Blue and despite the morning's heavy rain the crag looked dry and there were people climbing.

We hadn't brought the supplement with all the new lines in so it was a case of asking what grade things were and setting off. There was chalk on the first line, 6a+ we were told though it felt a bit hard for that on one section (later found out it was 6b). Then it was my turn to get the clips in on the neighbouring line, again meant to be 6a+, though this time the chalk stopped around halfway. It took several goes to get past the end of the chalk as the line obviously hadn't had an ascent this year and footholds needed cleaning. It didn't give up either and by the time I got to the lower-off I was rather pumped. Simon managed it OK with the clips in. Looking at the supplement later, the route was given 6b+ which is nearing my limit at the moment, no wonder I struggled!

Next up was a retrobolted E3, now give 6a+ , again with just one hard move but otherwise straightforward. Simon then fancied a 6c at the right end which he flashed. I decided just to top-rope it as I was slightly weary, just as well as I needed a tight rope. Despite struggling a bit, I have to say I like Blue Scar, it's just a pity that the season is so short.

Finally after over three weeks we have our water supply back - the mixed weather of the last week has helped replenish the feed. After several attempts to charge the system from our neighbours' borehole we seem to have our normal low pressure flow back - the tank in the field is only around 2 metres above the header tank in the loft. We had charged the system last weekend prior to heading off for a wedding so to find that we were without water again just a couple of days later was perplexing especially when the field tank wasn't empty. I then figured that it must be the cattle trough in the field. Sure enough, the ball on the stop cock wasn't set low enough so it was always running and promptly emptying the tank! A little bit of judicious bending and we are now OK.

No running for over a week now. I went for a short run round home last Wednesday and it wasn't pleasant. My quads had just about recovered but my knees were somewhat painful. They were still sore, enough to cause a limp when walking, four days later. The pain was very similar to that when I tore the meniscus a couple of years ago. A trip to the doctor, the appointment was quick as there'd been a cancellation, and an MRI scan is going to be arranged to check them out. So we'll just have to see what the results indicate. I may try a gentle run this weekend to see if it is going to happen after every run.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Up and Down

Well Andy's BGR didn't go quite as planned.

Heading over to the Lakes to support leg one over Skiddaw and Blencathra the clouds descended and it was quite heavy rain by the time I arrived in Threlkeld to leave the car at the end of leg. One lift later by another member of the support team. Rather worryingly there was a distinct lack of anyone else, well there were a lot of tourists, in Keswick. Even Andy wasn't to be seen.

As the magic hour approach though more and more appeared, including Andy. Still worrying was the fact that I was the only support runner for leg1! With about ten minutes to go the others turned up, traffic jams on the M6 being the excuse. There will be four pacers on this section.

Andy, Frazer and Dave avoiding the rain before the start.

As if to herald good times the clouds began to lift. With a slight delay for photos we were off. No mistakes through the ginnels and back roads of Keswick and into Fitz Park. Then it was a case of stripping off the layers as the uphill work began. A good pace (read - no talking cause we couldn't!) saw us at Skiddaw summit in the clag around 3 minutes up on schedule. Down to the fence then the long pull over to Great Calva.

 Heading to Great Calva

Much wetter underfoot than the last times I'd been over this ground but no point in worrying, just get on with it. Just 40 minutes and we were on the summit then a blast down through the heather to the River Caldew which was fortunately low. Then the long drag up on to Mungrisedale Common. Light rain was now blowing across but it was so warm that there was little point in putting waterproofs on as you'd get as wet or wetter.

It was nearly dark by the time we got to the top of Blencathra and distinctly chilly in the breeze that the fell had been protecting us from. Headtorches on then it's down Doddick Fell. This is distinctly slippy with occasional wet slate slabs covered in pebbles! Most of us slip at some point on the descent but eventually we hit level ground and trog through the bracken to the fell gate. We've lost five minutes on the descent but are about fifteen minutes up overall.

The next support team are ready in the rain and within a few minutes they, and Andy, are off into the night.

After dropping off a couple of the pacers in Keswick I head home, getting into bed at around 1:30AM! Unfortunately during the night the weather deteriorated and despite keeping up with the schedule on leg 2 it began to slip on leg 3 and by Great End Andy was 90mins down so with no break in the weather due he decided to call it a day. A good effort given the conditions.

Unusually it took several days for my quads to recover. I'm not sure what I've being doing different to cause this. Of greater concern is my right knee as it feels like the cartilage problem I suffered two years ago has returned. It's OK going uphill but downhill is painful even just walking.  Hopefully it won't affect my climbing just yet.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Wet and Wild

A long intense day at the weekend. Headed up to Glencoe around Saturday lunchtime via taxi, train and lift (with Chris Armour) to help out with Bill Williamson's Ramsay Round attempt. Despite the forecast being for reasonable weather until the early hours of Sunday morning we got low cloud then heavy rain around Loch Lomond and then most of the way to Glencoe. Things weren’t looking good.

Nothing had been heard of how Bill was going until the support team arrived back from Fersit: “Fifteen minutes down but feeling strong and going well”. So after generous helpings of cake from Wynne, four of us headed out to the ruins at the eastern end of Loch Eilde Mor. The rain had eased but even so it was still full waterproofs as we walked up the track. Surprisingly the wind was very light to non-existant, not good for midges, well good for midges, not good for their supper – us!

An hour and forty minutes later and the ruins were in sight. More clothes on to try and keep warm then it was just a matter of waiting, he was due to arrive at 0210. Several pacings up and down the track later and a set of lights appears. By the time they get to the ruins it is 0245 so he has lost more time. Bill’s quite bright though – there’s slack in the times for the Mamores section.

 Ian and Bill at the ruins at Loch Eilde Mor

Suitably refreshed and we (Bill, Ian Charters and myself) are off up the rough hillside of Sgurr Eilde Mor.  Bill’s line is a rising traverse to meet the path up the south ridge. When we get there I elect to skip this top and meet them at the stream crossing before Binnean Beag. The wind is picking up and by the time I see their lights on the summit the first signs of dawn allow me to see the clouds scudding past. Together again we make good time up the path to the col between the Binnean peaks. My turn to accompany Bill to the summit. The rain makes the quartzite rock very slippery and we both slide a few times. Before too long we are heading back down and heading for the higher Binnean Mor.

Bill prefers the direct approach which looks unlikely to say the least. It’s actually quite straightforward, slightly harder than something like Hall’s fell on Blencathra but not as exposed – well we can hardly see anything to make a call on the exposure! Halfway up Bill finds a camera – so we stuff it in a sack and carry on (later I turn it on, it works and still takes photos!). The ridge suddenly ends around 50m from the summit. No time for photos though as the storm is building. The traverse to the twin topped Na Gruagaichan is much faster than last year but the wind is building in strength.

As we drop into the gap between the two tops, the wind is so strong and gusty that I have to hold on to Bill to stop him getting blown away, Ian is on all fours. We head on over the west top and suddenly the pace drops. Bill has decided it isn’t fun anymore. Down at the col the support team reckon that he can just make it but it takes quite a bit of persuading to get Bill going. Ian and I now head down with half the support while Chris and Karl set off for the next peak to see if the wind is going to pick up or abate. After just a couple of minutes standing around and we are frozen due to our extremely damp state and the wind. Once back down at Mamore Lodge there is hardly any wind at all.

Back at the house being used as a base it is all we can do to wait for news. Eventually we get a call – he’d abandoned after another two peaks with too much running to do in the time left. Luck plays a large part in these rounds and Bill just didn't seem to have any - after weeks of dry fine weather, the weekend of his attempt turns out to be wet and windy. Very impressed with just how far he got in the conditions. With his current level of fitness and better luck with the weather he’ll get round in time.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

And the Heat Goes On

Having recovered from a full week of effort up in Scotland it was back to local stuff and splitting up the weekend into climbing and non-climbing days.

Sunday was the climbing day and we decided to go to Hoghton Quarry. This is only open for a couple of months each year so, on the basis of get to the crags with minimal access while you can we agreed to meet there. This being the day of the England - Germany football match the roads were rather quiet and it was just 45mins to the parking. Mike hadn't arrived so I walked in to the crag to find a couple just leaving. "Turn round and go elsewhere!" was their first advice. Looking at the crag it was obvious why - it was filthy and would have taken all day to clean a single route - and that was just the clean bits! Mike turned up and we decided to head down to Wilton. By the time we got there it was nearly 4pm! Last time I'd been in the quarries, I'd struggled. This time things were much easier so it seems as if I'm getting my trad head back leading an E1 OK and finding an E2 very easy when seconding. Half a dozen routes later, only one of which I'd done before and it was time to go. There seemed to be a strange lack of cars with cheap St George flags on display on the drive home.

I'd got my HRM back the other week but hadn't used it much on local runs so Saturday I headed up the local hill and sweltered in the heat. Still I got round in just over 56 minutes which isn't bad considering the lack of racing I've been doing. My PB on a slightly different route is just under 50mins - the reason for the route change is the prescence of a herd of cows with calves, one of which attacked me last year so I'm erring on the cautious side. I reckon that the new line is somewhere between 90secs and 2mins quicker. By the time I got back I was suffering, I really don't like running in hot weather. Monday night I went out again and logged under 52mins, the only difference I can think of to account for the speed up is that it was about 8C cooler.

Running from home might be a bit awkward for a week or two as the spring supplying the house water has dried up! In a way it's quite interesting to see just how little water you actually need. We are helped by the fact that we have a large bowser connected to one of our gutter downpipes that we normally use for the garden that we can use to flush the toilet.

Coming up are two weekends supporting on long distance rounds. This weekend is another trip to Scotland to help Bill Williamson out on his Ramsay Round attempt. I'm on the Mamores section again so more sitting around at Loch Eilde Mor in the early hours. Then the following weekend is Andy Kitts' Bob Graham round, I've got leg one (Skiddaw) which I've not paced/supported before. Might be quick as he's looking at either a 6pm or 7pm start so it will all be in daylight.