Saturday, 31 December 2011

A Ton up

Somewhat surprisingly this is my 100th posting. No personal activities to report but I was marshalling at the Auld Lang Syne fell race so a couple of photos. However I was at the highest point of the race and it was all I could do to keep as dry as possible and not let the camera get wet.

The Brownlees well in front at the trig point. Alistair went on to win.

Some of the following field appearing out of the mirk.
Just time to dry out in time for tonight's festivities.

All the best for the new year.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

A Christmas Close Shave

Phew! With Xmas done and dusted (and blown away in the wind) it's time to start shedding those extra kilogrammes that mysteriously appeared. I managed to go for a short (very short) run yesterday through the fields round the house though everything was very boggy and I felt like I'd put on weight by the end!

Xmas was a bit of a panic as midday on Xmas Eve I thought I'd check the heating oil tank. It was virtually empty with the level of oil being halfway down the feed pipe! Probably only half a day's worth left. Of course being Xmas Eve all the local suppliers were shut. Our neighbours were also low on oil so no borrowing off them. In the end I managed to borrow some red diesel off one of the local farmers which should last us until we get a delivery early next week, that'll be 1000 litres then. For someone who wants to get some winter climbing done I'm now wanting the weather to stay warm to conserve fuel :-(

Time to start planning a training regime ...

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Stoop

After everyone cried off to go winter climbing at the weekend, I ended up taking photos at The Stoop fell race on the Sunday. Photos here on Picasa. It looked like a good turn out but it was a bit hard figuring out who was who as Dave Woodhead had handed out free Santa hats!

It ended up being a nice day so I decided to walk back home via Slippery Ford. It wasn't so much slippery as icy and would have been interesting to say the least on a bike. Along with walking around on the course of the race I must have walked about ten miles in total so a reasonable day.

It now looks like mild weather is around for the christmas period. I just hope things get cooler before too long.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Belgium Bicycles

Well a week in Ghent, Belgium resulted in starting with a cold on the journey home on Friday night. Saturday wasn't too bad - I managed a short walk to test out a new pair of winter boots (not bought in Belgium!) but Sunday was a washout - I only got out of bed for a total of four hours.

An interesting point of note was the number of cyclists in Ghent. They weren't your lycra clad, turbo-charged style commuters but people dressed in their work day clothes going to and from work; mothers on converted tandems with babies or toddlers in a covered cot in place of one of the seats; old and young there was no typical cyclist, everyone was doing it.

The infrastructure helps - not just a couple of bike racks at the station and maybe a shop or two but storage for fifty or more bikes every couple of hundred metres. The main train station had bike racks covering an area around at least 100 metres by 200 metres and was packed! See the photos in the post "My Bike is Lost!" and this shot on flickr to see what I mean.

The bikes themselves were nothing out of the ordinary, being the old "sit up and beg" style, in fact I saw only a couple of mountain bikes and no road bikes at all. The bikes at the racks were all locked up but with pretty basic locks compared to what we'd consider acceptable in this country, but then we'd only consider commuting on a bike that cost £1000 or more. If any of the bikes in use cost more than €200 I would be surprised so much less attractive to steal but since virtually everyone seemed to have one there is probably not much point in stealing them. Something like this was probably top end of the range.

The one downside was that cyclists appeared to be allowed to ride anywhere in any direction even against traffic on one-way streets. Given the lack of tooting of horns or shouts about "not being allowed on the road!" I'd say that it was accepted, you did have to watch out when walking though! The speeds most were moving at were less than 10MPH, 6MPH being a much more realistic value, a collision would have hurt only pride, motor vehicles were limited to 30KPH. The only real downside I could see was having to avoid the slots formed by the tram rails.

Why can't we do this in our city centres? The cost of installing regular blocks of bike racks, a decent number not just a couple at each location, is minimal compared to the costs of traffic congestion and the future costs of poor health. Add in a few bye-laws allowing cyclists low speed access to the pedestrianised areas of city centres and the only thing stopping it is the selfish nature of some sections of the populace.

It'll never happen of course :-(

Friday, 2 December 2011

In Defence of the Bowline

There has been some criticism of the Bowline as a tie-in knot recently prompted by the sad death of a climber at a climbing wall where what currently seems to be just speculation suggesting that a mistied or partially completed Bowline was to blame.

One climbing wall is now banning use of the Bowline as a tie-in knot, no doubt more will follow. Many walls seem to regard the Bowline as a black art, their employees will look askance at you if you use anything but the "recommended" (by whom?) rethreaded figure of eight. (I've had odd looks for not using a Gri-Gri!!) The main excuse seems to be that the figure of eight is easier to check for correctness by the staff. The argument is that if you mistie the Bowline then it's not easy to spot however if you do mistie the knot then it simply comes undone when you pull the rope leading away from you. A simple check.

I began climbing using the figure of eight as my tie-in knot but after my first leader fall switched to the Bowline and have used it for over thirty years with no issues whatsoever. If I was forced to tie in with the figure of eight I'd probably get it wrong, perhaps even more worrying is that I wouldn't trust it even if I did get it right. I can't remember the last time I tied a rethreaded figure of eight, maybe it was that time in 1981 when I lobbed off a route in Water-cum-Jolly and struggled to undo the welded mass of rope that the knot had become. I may have used a figure of eight on the bight once or twice a couple of years ago but I really can't be sure.

Above and beyond this is a slightly more pernicious creep of there being "one true way" to do things. Climbing just isn't like that, there's too many variables but climbing walls seem increasingly intent on avoiding this variability. Obviously they have a business to run and injuries or worse aren't exactly selling points but promoting the idea that there's only one way to do things is counter-productive. Climbing is about adaptability and if you don't have a variety of techniques to hand then you are severely limiting yourself. Often the "one true way" is so convoluted and time consuming that it just gets in the way of the climbing itself.

I'm more worried that climbing walls are employing staff who aren't able to recognise valid tie-in knots than any risk that I or any one else might tie-in incorrectly.

Phew! On an activity note I enjoyed a very windy day last Sunday walking over the fells to the north of Whinlatter Pass, apart from Whinlatter itself all were on a single walk though with a couple of real outliers in Sale and Ling Fells. I managed to avoid most of the showers and got back to the car about five minutes before a real downpour.

I'm off to Belgium for a week with work so unlikely to get much done this weekend.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Outriggers and Outliers

Following on from last week's short walk I was up for some more. A perusal of the map and the appropriate Wainright guide identified two possible circuits in the Eastern Fells suitable for ticking off some more minor fells. I'd a choice between a circuit based on Fairfield or one further north around Glencoyne, both would take in three tops. In the end I decided on the latter as it was an area I didn't know as well as that to the south.

A 6AM start in very thick fog got me to Ullswater for around 8AM with little let up in the fog. After a chat to the farmer at Glencoyne farm it was onward and upward, the initial ascent being interrupted by a fox running past, the first I've seen in the Lakes away from the family farm. Originally I was going to do the circuit anti-clockwise but as I was climbing I figured that the opposite direction might be better. So Glenridding Dodd became the first top, quite a nice top and I'm sure that the view is also very nice, except there wasn't one!

Getting on to Sheffield Pike was just a steady climb with the occasional rock step and boggy section. I pulled out of the fog about 200m before the summit and in to the sun. A runner appeared at the top just before I got there - the only person I saw on this walk. A quick chat and we went our separate ways. As I dropped down to the col and back in to the fog I noticed a Brocken Spectre with Glory (the rainbow).

Brocken Spectre and Glory on Sheffield Pike

Something I'd not seen before was a white ring much further out than the glory, I'm not sure if this is an artefact of the phenomenon or not. The post in the photo is an old boundary marker from the Marshall estate. Brocken Spectres are much more common than most people realise, basically it's your shadow cast on to clouds usually from the sun low in the sky. The rest is simple physics.

On the other side of the col was a short steep pull then it was just a grassy stroll round to the last top - Hart Side - all of 20 metres above the surrounding ground. Getting back to the car was done by the simple fell runner's tactic of straight down hill to join the outward path.

Looking south from Hart Side to Fairfield and Helvellyn. The cloudy col is where I saw the Brocken Spectre.

To the North West of Ullswater are three isolated fells: Gowbarrow, Little Mell and Great Mell, none of which I'd ever set foot on. Getting these done was a simple matter of driving to park the car somewhere suitable and a quick up and down. In the case of Little Mell Fell this took all of twenty minutes, possibly the easiest fell in all the books to achieve. There were quite a few walkers out on these tops also getting the ticks done.

With the day's objectives done it was time to head home.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Lakeland Fells

With the rather dull and damp weather we've been having lately climbing has taken a back seat so on Sunday I headed over to the Lakes to do a bit of fell walking.

I'd done some checking in my records and other than the three tops of Skiddaw, Great Calva and Blencathra done whilst recceing or doing the Bob Graham Round I'd only done two fells that I'd not done before 1990! (And one of those, Rosthwaite Fell, was done during the Borrowdale fell race).

An area that I'd only been to twice before was Martindale: once after work for a run on the northern end of the High Street ridge and once to climb at Thrang Crags (so good I never went nor wanted to go back). An early start saw me get to a parking spot at the end of the ridge of Beda Fell. 

Steady walking soon led to the summit and from there a long broad ridge led to Angletarn Pikes. Mostly uninteresting ground, only livened by a kestrel and coming across a stag - unfortunately he saw me as I was getting my camera out. A quick drop down to the tarn and then round to Brock Crags, which to be honest isn't the most prominent of tops. In fact a lot of the "tops" in this area are really little more than bumps and in somewhere like Scotland the whole range would only be considered as one or two tops.

After some lunch alone on the summit of Brock Crags I had a choice, either head east and pick up a couple of tops but this would mean leaving Place Fell as a lone top to come back for so I headed west and down to the col and then up the graded path towards its summit.

There were a few people round the summit but once I began heading back north along the ridge there were only a few walkers. The ridge had a steep drop down at the end but soon I was back at the car having another four tops in the bag.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Christmas Cracker Sportive 2011

It's been a while since I posted anything which is as much because I haven't really being doing a great deal. 

We had a rather greasy day at Giggleswick South a couple of weeks ago, even doing a route or two that I'd not done before. It's not a particularly good crag, though there are some good routes if you look around, so it's best treated as an outdoor climbing wall.

Most weekend activity has been biking in preparation for yesterday's Christmas Cracker Sportive in the Lakes, brought forward as the last two have been affected by severe weather. As it happened, the weather was glorious with not a cloud in the sky and little or no wind.

An early start saw us in Grasmere with me doing battle with the car park's telephone payment system - seven minutes of "press this button", "Did you mean ... ?" only to be told right at the end that my card type wasn't accepted! Coins in the slot worked. Registration done and once the safety info had been given out we were away.

The first mile or so is easy pedalling. This can't be said for the next half mile, also known as Red Bank. Whether it was the cold morning air or me just being out of condition I'm not sure, but there was some serious gasping going on. Fortunately that's the hardest climb on the whole route and I didn't feel too bad once I'd got warmed up. Going alongside Coniston Water I was grabbing an energy bar when I was passed by a couple of riders who were just that little bit faster than I was going so I got on to their back wheel and soon we were at the A590 crossing.

The next section is the fastest of the route and we got to the food stop at Cartmel just on the 2hr mark. I didn't stop too long as I was starting to chill so left them to enjoy the log fire and set off on the return leg. The start is actually the second big climb on the route but it's a series of short climbs of varying gradients and you don't really notice that you climb as much as you actually do, it's only the big descent back down to Haverthwaite that gives it away. Back across the A590 and then up through Rusland to Grizedale (via a short detour because of bridge repairs). I get to Grizedale in exactly three hours and grab an energy gel before the last of the big climbs over to Hawkshead.

A quick check of the cracking views of the eastern fells from the top of the climb before the steep descent down to Hawkshead (quite a few cyclists were heading the other way) then it was just rolling terrain to Ambleside, some of the climbs just seemed wrong and felt hard work whereas others felt OK. Finally there was just a busy (and semi submersed) Loughrigg Terrace where I got my only mechanical - my chain came off - then the main road back to Grasmere.

I clocked 3:49 of actual cycling time but there's the added time of the food stop which took it just over the four hour mark at 4:06. (Results here ) Even so, my time for last year's event, held in Feb this year(!) was 4:47 so much quicker. A quick change and some food later I sat in the sun waiting for Cath. She was also an hour quicker than her previous time so obviously some of the LEJOG fitness is still there.

A quick look at some bike porn in Staveley on the way home and the day was complete. Definitely tired when we got in to the house. This morning was quite frosty so a gentle ride in was in order, I took nearly as long as going home can do! I think it's time to swap to the old bike for the winter commutes.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


A sunny day's climbing in the Peak District at Curbar Edge on Saturday. This is another of those crags that I visited a few times in the early 1980s but have  not been to since.

Despite delaying getting on to the crag by having a cup of tea in Haversage the sun still hadn't got on to all the crag when we arrived. A few easy warm ups then Mike had a go at Green Crack. I struggled on this but inverted laybacks aren't my forte!

My jamming skills seem to have deserted me and I struggled on the next route, Inch Crack, which is nearer to four inches wide. Another couple of routes and the "Cloggy of the Peak" was getting the better of me. Mike and Gaz did another route before we called it a day and headed home. We didn't do anything hard but it was nice to be out on the rock on such a lovely day.

Sunday we'd decided to get the garden in to shape for winter as there's unlikely to be another opportunity to work with dry soil.

Today was the first day of autumn when I've had to wear long leggins when biking in to work. In fact it was cool enough to need them on the way home as well. I've not biked much this week as the weather has been decidedly autumnal and wild. There's the Christmas Cracker sportive coming up in a few weeks so  I need to get some miles in on the bike before then.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

BGR Club Dinner

Last night it was the biennial Bob Graham Club dinner and certificate presentation at the Shap Wells Hotel. The hotel is an old coaching inn located off the A6 which before the M6 was built was the main western road route in to Scotland. It's still used by coach parties but last night it was essentially taken over by around 360 club members, partners and guests.

Normally the dinner is a celebration but this year was the first following Fred Rogerson's death and the first at which he had never been present. An additional sad point was the recent news of the death of Bill Smith who had been out on the Bowland Fells and become stuck in a peat bog and died. It is believed that he had been there for three weeks before his body was discovered. It is perhaps a sad reflection on our times that if he had died at home or in an old people's home only the fell-running community would have taken note but the circumstances of his death led to the spotlight being cast on the somewhat out of sight world of fell-running and Bill's magnificent but understated contribution to it. Sizeable articles in national newspapers and mentions on national media are not something that Bill would have sought but decent men deserve recognition and Bill was definitely that.

The last two years have seen a lot of successes on the BGR and there were nearly 180 certificates to hand out. This meant that a bit of logistical jiggery-pokery and Selwyn Wright had Fred's three daughters along with the new ladies 24hr record holder, Nicky Spinks, to do the hand shaking. And so, two by two we managed to get through the presentations without taking too much time away from the evening's dancing and Ceilidh. Also noteworthy was the presentation, only the 17th ever, of an associate membership to Ian Roberts who has been supporting long distance rounds throughout the UK for many years. He didn't actually know it was him being talked about until perhaps a minute before his name was actually announced!

One of the reasons I was there was to see a couple of mates receive their certificates having been successful earlier this year -  Andy Kitts  and Steve Brock - both of whom had not long ago stated that they weren't interested in the BG along with Simon Cox who did a very quick time around the 19hr20 mark! I'm not sure of the figures but there did seem to be quite a few women among the recipients, certainly higher than the 6% or so of the existing membership, one of these was Nicky Jaquiery who I'd helped on leg three on a very hot day last year. By a quirk of chance the guy sat next to me, Andy Nicoll, was one of the contenders who went round on the same wild, wet day as Fred's Run and whose support team we'd met coming down Rossett Gill.

Formalities out of the way, copious amounts of beer was drunk(!) with Andy K providing me with suitably embarrassing introductions to various people - "This is Bob, you've used his website."! There were a few suggestions for extra content not all of which are feasible, someone suggested commercialising it with adverts which I have absolutely no intention of doing, my hosting costs aren't huge so there is no pressing need to recover them. Eventually after a lot of chat I dossed down in the car at about 2:30am. A good night!

The weather this morning was absolutely yukk, so just had a steady drive back through the Dales. It's yukk down here as well :-(

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Water is one of those utilities you take for granted unless, that is, your house is on a private supply as is ours. Three weeks ago we ran out of water - "but it's been horrible and wet" might be the response, yes it has but it hasn't actually put that much rain down, the wetness was usually a damp drizzle. Things weren't helped by the fact that the storage tank in the field is also the source for the water trough used by around twenty cows and you can't ask them to drink less.

We were helped to some extent by being away on holiday for one week which should have allowed the tank in the field to fill up which it did but we still had no water. It's no fun when you have to fetch all the water you need: every litre weighs one kilogram (they are SI units after all) so you really know just how much water you are using. Nipping out to the garden water butt to get a bucket of water every time you want to use the loo makes you think about each flush. Washing clothes meant nipping down to the nearest  lauderette, a bit of a cheat but you can't subject others to too much smell!

This last weekend was spent digging up the feed pipe trying to locate a joint where one of the neighbours had cut it with his spade when sorting out some drainage. I'd misremembered where this was so it took a bit of finding (read as more digging)

New stop valves and access sleeves on our water feed.

With the joint found we split the pipe and tried pushing water back through it - the neighbours are on a bore hole and can pump water around. With all sections clear we replaced the joint with stop valves so that we could access and push water up or down the pipe in either section independently. Except it didn't work! Water would get to our header tank if fed via the bore hole with its extra pressure but not if fed from the field tank. It seemed like there was an air lock that the pressure of the tank couldn't get past.

Got home this evening to find that the system seems to have corrected itself and the header tank is now filling from the field tank. Phew!!

On a slightly different note, one of our cats proudly brought in a fully grown rabbit on Sunday morning. Fortunately I managed to grab him before he got under the bed to begin dismembering it!

Mine! Give me back my rabbit!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Scottish sunshine and showers

I got back last night from a week's mountain biking in Scotland. The weather wasn't as bad as first predicted (booking holiday time off from work two months in advance has its disadvantages) but certainly wasn't wall to wall sunshine.

We started with a ride near Sanquhar which was very boggy and very windy, in fact we cut the ride short because of the wind and struggled to pedal down a 20% road from Wanlockhead (the highest village in Scotland) as it was that strong.

On the Sunday we watched the Tour of Britain bike race go over the Devil's Beeftub pass - I was surprised just how much noise 100 cycles on the road make - louder than the support vehicles though perhaps our ears are accustomed to that. We then headed north to Aviemore. This was fortunate since the main path of the remnants of hurricane Katia actually passed over southern Scotland and northern England and the weather further north wasn't too bad.

Our first ride was an easy one up Glen Einich. Mostly vehicle track with a short section of singletrack and a couple of fords.

We may not have been rained on but we still got wet feet! Glen Einich

The next day we rode around in Glen Feshie on some excellent singletrack.
Some of the lovely singletrack in Glen Feshie.

Riding through some rather deep heather above Glen Feshie

After some man-made attractions at Laggan Wolftrax we began heading south and did a great ride up Glen Tilt and round the Beinn a Ghlo massif - this ride but in reverse as the singletrack is better that way. For once the sun was out and we saw a huge herd of deer, maybe 100 animals, and a red squirrel - definitely a red letter day.

Nearing the head of Glen Tilt

Some remote path to the east of the Beinn a Ghlo massive.

Pretty well every day we got back to the car about ten minutes before a cloud burst. However pretty well every ride had a river crossing of some sort that meant wading! But then that's the nature of biking out in the wilds.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Skipton Sportive 2011

So the day finally dawned ( a dull grey as it happens) and I dutifully headed off to Aireville school in Skipton. It looked like I was going to be on my own as the two Andrews had decided to only do the short version even though they'd entered the longer ride.

Once registered and set up with the timing kit I was ready to go. The route was a bit different from that initially promoted with a teasing set of warm-up climbs on a loop through Stirton then it's a convoluted route to get to Malham and the first big climb of the day, the Cove Road. I've been down this but only gone up on a mountain bike. Fortunately the difficulties are short lived and soon I'm passing the photographers to hit the rolling section over to Arncliffe. Well it's rolling as far as Darnwood House, then there's a steep bit, a very steep bit that's about 800m long. (The OS map has the steep bit at the top but it's actually the bottom bend) Lungs bursting I head over to Arncliffe and down Littondale, getting to the food stop at Kettlewell four minutes later than my 2hr target.

Refreshed and restocked it was time for the big 'un - Fleet Moss. I'd done this a couple of months ago with Cath again on a mountain bike. Time to see what it was like on a roadster. Hard is the answer! It was  the first time I've used the lowest gear on this bike, even so it was just fifteen minutes from Oughtershaw to the summit. The descent was a blast, even holding back I got past 70Kph which is a bit scary on a road you haven't ridden before.

I was looking forward to a nice ride down Wensleydale but the organisers had other ideas taking us up to Semer Water via some nasty climbs. Then down to Bainbridge and across to the other side of the valley. I got caught by a couple of riders who asked if I wanted to join them. Cue a 3 man chain gang blast at between 45 & 48Kph down to Redmire and the second food stop. Time to here was just over 4 hours.

The other two soon left me behind on the next section and I just managed to catch them at the start of the climb over to Coverdale but at this point a general lack of biking fitness kicked in and I got left behind, this time for good. After a nasty little loop that seemed to serve no purpose other than to put more climbs in to the route it was time for the long drag up Coverdale. Not my finest hour! I ended up having to walk the two steepest sections on the final climb to the col. Then it was just the headlong rush down Park Rash to the final food stop in Kettlewell.

The final section down through Grassington and Burnsall then over Halton Heights is best characterised by my attempts, not always successful, to avoid cramp. Embarrassingly, I had to stop just 300m from the finish. A few stretches and I crossed the line in 7hrs20mins (though the official time will be a bit longer since that doesn't take in to account the stops).

Some food then the bike home. I managed the first hill but the big one I just got off and walked (thanks to the biker who stopped because he thought I was in trouble!!). The cramps nearly returned on the final slight incline.

Unfortunately rehydrating is going to be slightly hampered by the fact that our water ran out yesterday morning - bottled water and beer then!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Bank Holiday Biking

Not much to report for a while - last weekend was very lazy as I just felt very jaded so no real activity of note at all.

After a noise began to emanate from the bottom bracket of my new bike it was time to book it in to the LBS for a check and revert to my old bike. I'd forgotten just how harsh it is to ride, it clatters over bumps rather than glides. Got my bike back on Thursday - it was a slightly loose cup on the bottom bracket. Also got a lecture about looking after it! :-(

With nothing really planned for the Bank Holiday weekend, Saturday saw Cath heading off for some mountain biking around Bingley so with the forecast rain not appearing I headed off for a quick spin up to Rylstone, Airton, Otterburn, Gargrave and back. I have to say that the road leading to Rylestone is in pretty poor shape and I just don't seem able to keep a good pace on that sort of surface. Got home in 1hr47 so not too bad.

Sunday I'd been invited on a ride with Andy and Andrew Herbert, just a mere 65 miles. We set off from Gargrave and immediately were heading in to a strong wind. At Airton we headed up over the fell road to Settle, some big showers were passing over the next part of our route but we stayed dry if a little cool. We'd planned a tea stop at Slaidburn and just got caught by a shower as we pulled up to the tea room - with another shower just after Slaidburn this was the only wet weather we had on the ride. The bridge out of Slaidburn was being repaired but there was a footbridge to let us past.

The climb up to The Cross o Greet is one of the main climbs of the day and the wind was again full in our face and made even the few flat sections hard work. It wasn't any easier on the descent as it was now a full on gale blowing from the side which made bike handling a little tricky. Fortunately things eased once we dropped off the moor and headed to Keasden. Then it was uphill again on a road I'd never been on before as we headed over to Gisburn Forest. This time the wind was from our side but it didn't make the climb any easier. Again the descent was interesting with the side wind but we were soon in the forest and heading to Bolton by Bowland for our second food stop.

The last section was known territory back through Halton West, no loose heifers this time, and Bank Newton to Gargrave. The two Andrews were finishing here but I had one more climb to get home, finally reached with 117Km and 5hrs30 on the clock. Rather tiring!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Lothersdale Alps

Just south of Skipton is a small area of hills with the village of Lothersdale nestled in its centre, leading over the hills sometimes dropping in to the village are over a dozen paved roads. Time for some hill action!

The first hill, Cowling Hill Lane, is probably the longest at around 3km of continuous uphill and with the steepest section close to the top but with fresh legs it wasn't too bad though the next section up to the pub at Black Lane Ends was a bit steeper. A long blast down to Colne then along to Earby and one of the roads that I'd not ridden before - Coolham Lane. Unfortunately the lower section of the lane is complete with speed bumps, quite annoying at 12KmPH! A short effort and the first of the steep sections is done with but there was a long way to go and another couple of steep sections before things eased off.

Then it was down in to Lothersdale itself and another blast up Side Gate Lane that I'd done the other day. A couple of minutes quicker this time even with meeting a couple of SUVs on the narrow lane. Not much time to recover as my route cut down to the dale again and the only bit of the road I'll do twice to get to Mitton Lane. I hadn't biked this one before and it's hard work from the start but it's the middle section that's hardest. Fortunately it's short and then it's down to Earby and immediately back up one of the longer hills of the route on Moor Lane.

Steady away sees me at the summit crossroads. One more hill to do so down to Carleton via a fast blast before knuckling down and setting off up Park Rd. I've done this a few times, it's never easy but this time I was in a gear lower than normal - the previous hills having had some effect. Finally the top and just a downhill and blast home in a time of 2hrs14.

With just over two weeks to the Skipton Sportive, I reckon I need a bit more distance and hill work to make it feel comfortable.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Competitive Male Instinct

What is is with blokes? This morning I was cycling in to work and just pulling away from a set of traffic lights when I heard the sound of changing gears on another bike. A quick glance showed a rider in light blue-green. Slowly I began to up the pace and then in to the upper chainring and soon I was tearing along at 40kph with my shadow close behind. All this wouldn't have been so bad if there wasn't the one uphill section of my commute ahead, not a steep slope but an uneven surface in places and just long enough to catch you out if you don't pace yourself.

True to form I tore at it, barely dropping below 38kph, by the time I reached the crest I was in severe oxygen debt but no time to stop and we hurtled on to the next set of lights which turned green just in time - I was turning left and my shadow went by with a cheery "see ya!" I looked across at a beanstalk and managed a croak in return. And I was meant to be taking it easy!

Most of this week's activities have been biking related. Saturday I went for a ride over to Bolton by Bowland and back via Gargrave. I set off early in the hope of avoiding the heavy rain forecast for later in the day. I just caught the edge of a shower when leaving Gisburn, not enough to worry about putting a waterproof on for, then it was all clear back to Gargrave (except for the two groups of heifers that had escaped on to the road and calling in on the farmer to let him know). Gargrave to home meant the big hill of the day and I was nearing the summit when I heard the first rumble of thunder, then the first spots of rain. By the time I reached the summit a minute later it was chucking it down, since I was already wet the last couple of Km didn't really matter so I got home soaked. Five minutes earlier and I'd have been home and dry :-(

Sitting at home drying out and the thunderstorm zapped our phone line so our internet connection has been somewhat flakey for the past few days. I rang the ISP who tested the line and couldn't see anything wrong with it (they aren't BT so there's often a finger pointing exercise between the two companies) but after getting passed around a couple of departments I was informed I was on the wrong tariff and that our monthly bill would now be £10 less! Result!! (When I got home this evening the line has been fine all along- strange)

Following Andy's assertion that Eller's Bank above Sutton is the meanest, gnarliest road climb in the area I had to test it, so after work last night I came up with a circuit that also included Side Gate Lane out of Lothersdale which I reckoned could be just as tough. As it turned out the toughest part of the ride was along the tops to Earl Crag right in to the face of the strong westerly. Both climbs felt about equal in difficulty taking 13 minutes a piece to climb.

There's one other road locally that is a steep and reasonably long climb, also climbing out of Sutton: West Lane. So given the strong wind again I decided to try it on the way home from work. It's quite a bit harder than either Eller's Bank or Side Gate Lane and I was glad there was no traffic coming down the zig-zags on the steepest part near the top. Not sure how long I took to climb this one but I was certainly in a lower gear.

All this hill training should help with the Skipton Sportive in a couple of weeks.

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.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Doldrums

Well it took all week to recover from whatever I'd picked up last weekend, though I'm still a bit wheezy. The weather forecast for the weekend was pants so didn't arrange anything - bad move! The weather was mostly fine and would have been OK for climbing, oh well.

Somewhat strangely I went for a run up Pinhaw Beacon on Saturday, no idea what made me do it! I was fine on the uphills but ended up walking some of the downhills. My knees were fine so maybe a few more gentle runs might be in order. Went for a mountain bike ride above Wycoller with Cath on Sunday and basically I was crap :-( so I've quite a few cuts and bruises from 1KmPH unintentional dismounts!

Andy Kitts has written up his BGR report here , most of the individual parts were on his blog but here's the full gory details. Yet to see Steve Brock's report.

I've always been surprised at the number of Curlews that we get around the house. On the family farm in the South Lakes I only remember one or two pairs in the area, here though there must be at least ten pairs just in our little area. It's quite odd to sit having a bath and have a Curlew sail past the window less than 20m away! They were mobbing a Buzzard the other day which has a different distribution: lots in the Lakes and fewer the further east you go though I believe their range is extending.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Going downhill?

A good commuting week last week - biked in four days out of five. OK, it's only five miles each way but it's almost as quick as driving. Got wet on Friday going home, actually got very wet, if I'd left it for another half hour it would have almost been dry.

Saturday saw Gaz and myself at Standing Stones in the Chew Valley, a crag I'd never been to before. In fact I've done very little climbing in the Chew Valley even though Cath is from Saddleworth and I've spent a lot of time in the area. Despite the good forecast it began to drizzle as we got to the crag so we decided to stick to lower grade routes and see how the day went. Gaz had been before and had a couple of routes in mind, however by the time he got to the top of our first route, a VS, it was raining pretty persistently so seconding was "fun". Another couple of teams turned up but decided to head elsewhere so we had the crag to ourselves for the rest of the day.

After waiting a while for the rain to pass we ended up doing another four routes, nothing hard but good climbing nonetheless and jamming uses different muscle groups to face climbing so it all felt a bit different.

Sunday could have been the Roses Round but I got laid low by a cold on Saturday night and spent most of the day (and Monday) in bed feeling sorry for myself. No idea where I picked it up from but it didn't follow my usual "cold sequence" and came on very suddenly. Slowly getting back to normal.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Get the Goat

After a few weeks (well a month) of no climbing it was time to get back on rock but true to form the fine weather mid-week was forecast to head downhill for the weekend. With a threat of the Peak (yuk!) I had a ring round and Simon was up for a trip over to the Lakes and Goat Crag especially now that it's had a recent clean up. A check in the guide shows that the last time I climbed there was to do Footless Crow with Ed Cleasby, just 24 years ago! Some time after this a rumour began circulating that I'd soloed it - definitely not true!!

Heading over we passed through a series of heavy showers along with some interesting cloud formations near Kirkby Lonsdale.

Weird clouds above Kirkby Lonsdale

As we neared Keswick however the skies were definitely lighter so down to Grange and head through the campsite and flog up the steep slope that I don't remember to the foot of the crag. I was surprised to see the biggest prize in Lakeland trundling still in place.

Having not climbed for ages I was happy to let Simon lead the first, crux, pitch. There was a bit of drizzle on and off through the climb but it didn't affect the climbing too much.

Simon at the start of the steep section of the first pitch

My turn to follow and the steep crack doesn't feel like the crux, the moves on to the ramp feel far harder. My lead next and the guide talks of a blank wall but it isn't too bad, neither is the groove leading to the stance. The stance I'm not happy with: two pegs, two Friends and two wires - all between the crag and a large hollow sounding block!

A team on the third pitch of Preying Mantis

I suggest to Simon that the next two pitches could be combined but he decides to stick to the script so I get the top pitch which is pretty good climbing though I'm glad it's not raining. Then it's time to abseil off - I've never walked off from this crag and don't know anyone who has.

Lethargy took hold and rather than do another route at the crag we decided to head over to Quayfoot Buttress, unfortunately by the time we got there it had begun to rain in earnest so we decided to call it a day and head home. Still I'd finally managed to tick off the Lakeland section of Hard Rock - only took 29 years.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Wild Scotland

Got back last night from supporting Cath on her LEJOG.

The strong winds of last Sunday grew in to Monday's storm, this was too much for Claire who doesn't like riding in wind at the best of times (which this certainly wasn't) so decided to call it a day at Carlisle. In fact it was at Carlisle that Cath had her only real mechanical of the ride when her rear tyre went all wobbly - it looked like she'd hit a pothole and tore the sidewall so the tyre wasn't running true. Cue find a bike shop and replace tyre.

Give Cath was now on her own, plus the fact that 100MPH+ winds were forecast for the highlands I decided that it would be best to keep fairly close throughout the day. By the time we got to Abingdon services just standing up was difficult so the planned route in to the wind wasn't on so we went downwind and round to Lanark.

Fortunately the winds eased (in the lowlands) on the Tuesday so I headed off to tick some Munros above Glen Lyon where the wind definitely hadn't eased, I had to crawl to and from the first summit where I had my lunch in a snowstorm! I didn't see anything from the other three summits either as I was engulfed by hail showers on them!

Cath's next day was from Stirling to Glencoe over Rannoch Moor which she wasn't looking forward to. Fortunately the wind had changed direction and things weren't as bad as she feared. I, on the other hand had a numpty navigation day on Ben Vorlich and Stuic a Chroin where I failed to find the latter!

Thursday was Great Glen day for Cath and the two Munros of Beinn a Bheither for me, again no views but interesting walking on quite narrow ridges. I got to Drumnadrochit at the same time as Cath having met Ali Welsh in the supermarket car park in Fort William by pure chance.

Friday was reasonable and I took my chance to climb Ben Hope, the most Northerly Munro, for once I got a view from the summit, then it was back to Altnaharra where I was hoping to meet Cath. Her original target for the day was Lairg 20 miles south but it would be good if she could get them out of the way for the final day. It was cold, wet and windy by the time she arrived and she was glad of a warm duvet and the car heating system.

Our overnight stay was thirty miles back at Rogart so there was an hour's drive on Saturday morning back to Altnaharra and then there was just 74 miles to go. I had Ben Klibreck to look forward to - no point in not doing the Munros that are this far north, it's just so far to drive to get to them. However I really didn't enjoy Klibreck, all bogs and not very pleasant walking at all.

A couple of minutes after I got back to the car I got a text from Cath to say she was in a cafe in Thurso so only had 20 miles to go - I had to get a move on if I was going to see her finish! I caught her up with less than a mile to go so had time to get to the finishing post to take the obligatory photos.

Just two metres to go!!
Good effort from Cath in some pretty awful weather for most of the Scottish part of the ride.

Then it was a two hour drive back to our digs for the night in Rogart and a 400 mile drive back home. Both rather tired today!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Wild Wet Westerly Winds

Well after a year or two of pestering, Steve Brock finally decided to try the Bob Graham this year. With Andy Kitts getting round last week the pressure was on, the forecast however wasn't looking too good with high winds for the whole day and rain promised for the late afternoon.

He tried to move his midnight start time forward so as to avoid the worst of the weather but he couldn't get hold of all the pacers so it had to be the original plan. After seeing him off from the Moot Hall (along with Gavin Pattison) I decided to head up on to Mungrisedale Common to try and get some long exposure shots of them in the back O' Skiddaw. I was there in time but the wind was so strong that I had to hold the tripod down! As a result I didn't get the shots I wanted. Need to sort the technique out I think.

At Threlkeld Gavin was about 15mins up on Steve who was on schedule. A quick changeover then he was off on the Helvellyn leg with Toby, only to reappear a couple of minutes later to get a map for the following leg?! By Dunmail Gavin was about 20mins up on Steve but Steve was still on schedule as they headed up in to the clag.

I go a Text once I'd got home to say he'd finished in 21:59 so well done to Steve.

After a bit of breakfast I headed off to see various family members whom I hadn't seen for a while before heading homewards to meet up with Cath and Claire as they were going to spend the night at home before continuing on their LEJOG.

This morning it was an early start to drop them off where I had picked them up before I nipped up on to Leck Fell to have a look at The Three Men of Gragareth - three ancient cairns. Next agenda for the day was Wild Boar Fell which I've never been up before. I had to wait a while before the rain stopped and I could get out of the car to get changed! Eventually I set off in to the teeth of a gale, it was quite a struggle in the stronger gusts. A bit of lunch in the shelter around the trig point then back to the car and off to Temple Sowerby to meet up with the women.

Seems like the forecast is for more wind and rain but at least the wind will be on their backs rather than having to fight their way in to it.

Monday, 16 May 2011

BGR Success!!

Well done to Andy Kitts on completing his Bob Graham Round on Saturday! He'd kept his intentions quiet so most people thought he was only going to pace his girlfriend, Stef, on the first two legs in preparation for an attempt later in the summer but a few of us had been let in to the secret. As it happened Stef got hit by a stomach bug on leg 2 and had to drop out but she's already slated another attempt in June so good luck to her.

I had helped Andy on his first attempt last year, running leg one over Skiddaw and Blencathra. That attempt failed around Scafell. With the wonders of modern communication I knew that they had left Wasdale on schedule so headed over to Honister, just to go up to Dale Head or maybe Hindscarth with him, then back to Honister and drive to Keswick to see him in to the finish. As it happened there was someone available to drive my car round to the end of the fell section (no way was I going to run the road bit) so I did Robinson as well.

Andy trying to get some food and drink down at Honister.

Leaving Honister on the climb to Dale Head   

On the descent from Hindscarth with just one top to go.

One advantage of helping with the later legs is that the pace is a lot slower which meant that unfit me could keep up! Andy reached the summit of Robinson with 2hrs 10mins to go, so half an hour to spare to get back to Keswick. Disappointingly the clag was down so we didn't get any views until a good way down the north ridge. One of the support crew had come up to show the way round the rock steps which can be tricky in the damp and soon we were down out of the wind following the track down to Newlands Church. I bailed at this point and drove to Keswick.

We had an anxious wait at Keswick as unbeknown to us, Andy had decided to take things easy and use up some of his buffer on the road section. He pulled up to the Moot Hall to log a time of 23hrs 44mins.

The end of a very long road - Andy touches the doors of the Moot Hall to complete his BGR.

Annoyingly both the last two weekends I've done a hard day on the Saturday so have been knackered on the Sunday when I've gone out climbing. Last weekend we went to Trollers Gill and I struggled to stay awake though we did do four routes. Yesterday we went to Chee Dale and I just couldn't be bothered to do any climbing at all! Perhaps more interestingly, the tunnels on the old Monsal railway line have been reopened - they were closed for safety reasons around the time I started climbing so I've never been through them before.

Cath (Twitter: @cathonabike & #LEJOG) and Clair have started their LEJOG, nipping out to Land's End and back from Penzance on Saturday before riding to Galant on Sunday. Today's ride will take them over Dartmoor to Exeter.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Rough Rider

Phew! Well that was tougher than expected. Managed to get an entry on the day to the Rough Rider Sportive and elected to go for the 75 mile version.

After a bit of faffing about and realising that I'd got an odd pair of gloves(!) I managed to get away by 9am, about half an hour later than planned, and hoped to avoid the forecast heavy afternoon showers. My schedule was an hour to Dent; another hour to Stainforth; then about two hours to get to Settle and half an hour back to the finish. Perhaps a bit optimistic.

A steady spin over to Ingleton then the first big climb of the day up in to Kingsdale, I got to Valley Entrance in 32 mins and the summit of the climb in about 50 minutes before the really steep drop in to Dentdale with several gates to get through which all seem to be at the foot of the steepest bits. I got to Dent in 1hr 7mins so slightly down on schedule. Turning up the valley and there was an immediate head wind which would be present until Malham. The climb out of Dentdale is steady really until you get to pass under the Settle to Carlisle main line when it kicks up to around 16% in a couple of rises. Of course the wind was in your face as you neared the top of the climb. It was a bit of a struggle to get to the junction at Newby Head but it was then a blast down to Ribblehead though the wind was now a cross wind and made it a bit interesting. Back in to the head wind for the section down to Horton where I pulled in to the food stop in 2hrs 11mins.

So after some lovely (and quite spicy) soup, tea and cake it was back on the bike and down the valley to Stainforth ready for the next big climb. Except it was a struggle even on the flat. Eventually the climb started which isn't as bad as you think it is going to be, even though some riders ahead of me were pushing. At the top of the climb there was the option of turning right on the 60mile course but I decided against it and carried on over to Halton Gill and down Littondale (in to the wind of course) to Arncliff from where another big climb leads over to Malham. By now I was getting pretty tired and I only managed the first third of the climb before getting off and pushing. Perhaps more worryingly the weather had turned and was now driving rain, time to get the waterproof on.

Getting to Malham proved hard work and I hit four hours as I passed Malham Tarn. After a rather nervous descent in to Malham there remained the last big climb over to Settle where I had to push again for a short section. By the time I got to Settle I decided to  stop and grab an energy gel. This made a big difference as I was soon riding well again and the rolling lanes to the SW of the A65 soon went by and I was at the finish in a time of 5hrs44. My cycle computer had 5hrs28 of riding time.

Basically I don't think I ate or drank properly but the strong winds didn't help.

Hopefully the breeze will dry some crags out for cragging today.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Sunny Wales!

In an attempt to get away from some fancy do in London we headed over to Arthog on the Mawddach estuary for a weekend's camping.

Saturday saw Cath and Claire heading for the circuit of Cadair Idris in a pretty strong and gusty East wind. I decided to go for a walk up the same mountain having only been up it once before some seventeen or eighteen years ago. Part of my plan was to solo Cyfrwy Arete but the strength of the wind put paid to that so having cut across from the Pony Path I ended up on the screes of the Foxes' Path and up to the summit. I headed down the Pony Path with a bit of pain in my right knee - I'm not sure where that came from. Anyway I was back to the car in just under two and a half hours.

Sunday was just as windy so Simon and I headed for a nice sounding (and west facing) crag on the other side of the estuary. Craig y Merched is one of the outlying Rhinog crags and is composed of Barmouth Grit which is a lovely fine grained rock. We decided to start on the upper crag, once we could find it, with a couple of pleasant E1s. I got the first and Simon was quite surprised at the speed at which I climbed it - more out of seeing the moves and trusting that gear would arrive than anything else. We were a little puzzled by the E1 to the right until we realised that the peg in the description had fallen out. Simon's lead and he managed to get good gear where the peg had been plus a small wire at full stretch above before committing to the crux wall. The top overhang wasn't as bad as it looked.

Back down on the main part of the crag was a fine looking E1 - Magic Mushroom. My lead and the first section wasn't over endowed with gear, in fact none of it would have held and I was now at the crux! A bit of searching and stretching rightwards  and I managed to get a good wire which I backed up with a cam. The crux wall reaching the groove was all on side holds for the hands and smears for the feet and not easy to read. Once in the groove there was a good nut protecting the final moves. Definitely hard for the grade.

To the right was an E2 that looked very good but the heat and a lack of water meant that neither of us felt up to it so Simon chose an E1 on the next buttress up and right that was essentially a VS with a 5c move to reach easy ground.  Then it was time to go. A nice crag but a pity that there's only route we need to go back for - the E2, yes there are others but equally there are plenty of other crags in the area to sample.

Monday was spent reccying the route Cath and Claire need to take on their LEJOG from Chester to Slaidburn. Mind you we were tired from being up most of the night with the wind threatening to wreck our cheap family style tent!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Spring Sunshine

For once a bank holiday that had decent weather! A couple of days of it were spent sorting out the garden then on Sunday we were heading over to the Lakes, initially to Gimmer, then it was decided on Dow before we eventually settled on Pavey Ark. Nice, south facing and wonderful bubbly rock.

Surprisingly even on an Easter Sunday the NT car park at Stickle Barn was only half full - we parked in the field in front of the New Dungeon Gill hotel, cheaper for one thing and not a stupid, don't have the right money and we ain't giving change sort of price that the NT car park does. Then it was the steady slog up to Stickle Tarn.

There were a few teams on the crag but it turned out that no-one was heading for our intended routes, at least not yet, so Alex and I set off up Capella, a surprisingly recent find at E1 and a very good sustained route in to the bargain. Steve and Mike were doing Arcturus to our right, the two routes share the same first belay. I was a bit nervous leading at times but soon got going and found the top bit of the first pitch easier than I'd remembered, having struggled previously. Alex didn't want to lead the second pitch (also 5b) so I headed off again and got myself all wrong on the start before wandering up the final slabby walls and grooves.

Once on Jack's Rake we wandered up to the start of Golden Slipper, one of the classic Lakeland HVSs, simply brilliant climbing on lovely rock. The main pitch is a bit bold though so not one for a nervous leader. Having done this several times, including soloing it, before I reckoned that Alex would enjoy it more on the lead than simply following. A couple of friends had turned up to do Aardvark - an E1 with a stiff crux move then delicate rib climbing so I had a bit of a chat whilst Alex dispatched the first pitch. A quick changeover on the commodious ledge, she took her time on the main slab but figured it out without too much fuss. By now Mike was leading Poker Face, another good route. The top pitch is an anticlimax and it would have been better to abseil off but we took the long walk round in rock shoes - ouch!

After a bit of (late) lunch and recuperation and we headed over to do Rake End Wall. I'd only done this once before, solo, and couldn't remember anything about it. Suffice to say, the first pitch is bold and the belay is behind a large loose flake with strenuous moves just above at the start of the second pitch. I think we were both a bit jaded in the heat and although only VS it felt just as hard as Capella.

By now it was getting on so we headed down to the Stickle Barn for a pint and then home.

Wednesday afternoon saw Simon and myself heading up to Great Close Scar hoping to get out of the cold northerly breeze. As it turned out it was a good choice, in fact it was almost too warm! After four routes of variable and debatable quality we'd had enough. Still need to go back though.

Now we just have to find somewhere quiet for the coming weekend to get away from all the Royal Wedding awfulness - I simply can't stand all the toadyism - the papers and TV channels seem to be trying to outdo one another in how obsequious they can be. OBNs to the lot of them!

Friday, 22 April 2011

Somewhere New

Didn't think I was going to get any climbing done last weekend, with it being Easter school hols, regular partners were away with family. However Simon wanted to get out on Sunday, it being his birthday and all that. We'd only have the afternoon as our wives were out biking in the morning.

After the usual, "where shall we go then?" we settled on Hawkswick Crag which lies opposite Blue Scar in Littondale. Neither of us had ever been so off we went. The approach is a bit brutal: 20m of easy tarmac followed by a blast straight up the hillside to the crag. Then it was a case of find the routes - the crag is quite long, maybe a kilometre, but the routes aren't exactly close together so there are a lot of features that aren't climbed. Eventually we ended up at the right-hand end of the crag where there were some starred routes in the guide.

Simon led the first route, a VS, which was pleasant enough - not polished but not overgrown either. My turn next and the last route on the crag was a HVS but it looked a little bold in the lower half, and so it proved with good gear only coming after you'd done the hard climbing. I was quite pleased that I'm now concentrating on my footwork rather than my hands, usually a sign that things are coming along.

Next up was the three star E1, Simon's lead again and after a bit of dithering getting in the inital gear for the crux wall he did it with no problems. Limestone is really awkward to protect - what look like good cracks for wires turn out to be anything but and it can take some time to sort things out. Don't know why it gets 3 stars as it's only the middle third (about four moves) that's any good.

Final route of the day was a VS crack - Flash Harry (had to do this because of the name) which we both led. Looking at the other routes we've probably done the best of the crag. All followed by a quick visit to the pub in Cracoe on the way home for a celebratory pint.

Saturday saw us at the bike shop in Skipton where Cath bought me a very nice new road bike for my upcoming birthday, she wouldn't let me ride it until the actual day though! When I did get to ride it it was very nice and have done some quick times to and from work. New bike syndrome?

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.