18 January 2015

Onward


A snow plastered Glen, well the bits that aren't seeping. Pete twists arms we head through a gathering blizzard to Halifax, snow piled as high as cars in places. We park up by somebody's drive on a street in town. There is a crag hidden on the other side of the road, how convenient. 

It's a belter, highball territory with some smaller bits knocking about. Most all is minging today alas.

We find a cave, it's dry to the lip. We throw some shapes, Callum the closet to finishing one thing.

Clingen bay is weatherproof, some locals tip us off. When they have done gracefully easing up it we get on it too. It is good, sharp holds on steep rock to a jump off break. We play a few tunes and finish a few things. Smiles return as skin is shed and feet freeze. Good call, worth the trip worth another, there is plenty to do.
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11 January 2015

Ours and hours

photo Pete Jackson


And you shall have a rock garden.

I hadn't really noticed, it just crept up on me. I was doing less and less at Caley below the track as the problems were reclaimed by the forest. Those fillers in, the easy ones you knock off on your way to to the classics or your projects, were going feral all moss, and loss.

What should be the best lower grade circuit in Yorkshire was becoming somewhere with more walking than climbing.

Yesterday after Pete Jackson and a few locals got involved we rebuilt a circuit that will amuse the lower and middle grade climber for a few more years.

The wind was keen as I parked up on the road, I was worried I would be too hot as I got out the car, it was not a problem. Maybe a dozen fronted up at the Horn and armed like a communist collective farm. We got going, we scraped and brushed and pruned and even dug a little. As the tree canopy was trimmed back and the moss and vegetation on top and on the faces was removed you could watch the boulders dry and start to come back into condition even in the middle of winter.

The Yule Log's slab is once more a beginners playground, Luna is drying out, the Flpapjack Scoop has a few more holds exposed from the green. So you have an even greater choice of holds on that finest of problems and the traverse should seep less as you flail round the corner.

On the Roadside, Will Hunt has tried to help Terry dry out, that whole wall probably needs a little more love yet.

Three or four other boulders, over towards the Scone and the Creme Eggs, that I have never climbed as they were always too vegetated, are available. They have been de-mossed and allowed some air. Thanks to Paul Clarke for knowing that they were ever climbable, some of them looked like non-starters. Nothing too hard but if you operate around V0 - V4 you now have a circuit once more. It might be the spring before it is really back in condition. If you are going soon I would take a stiff brush for a few bits and pieces, but if you are wanting somewhere for families or beginners you could do worse.

Thanks to Pete for doing the hard work negotiating with the BMC and the Landowners and then doing his share of hardwork on a rope in the trees. Thanks to everyone else who turned out from HBC and Leeds Wall and other locals who wielded a trowel or a pruning saw, we did good, we should have an opening meet up when the sun gets back on it in the spring.





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5 January 2015

Stop Motion - Roundhill, 04.01.2015

Bryn spotted grit weather good and early in the year, and lined up Roundhill for an examination. He and I met at Masham and made for the reservoir. Two steps into our walk-in, Dave pulled up with his boys, and we all made the walk-in together. Dave had said it was longer than we would have though, and since he took us on a dubious shortcut he managed to prove himself right.

Gritty
A decent slab - 'The Slab', apparently - gave us our first taste of grit, with a good selection of crimpy delicate problems. Mantles and other top-out moves felt somewhat rusty, but that only illustrated how good it was to be out there again. Dave's son, however, didn't necessarily agree, and started to feel pangs for home. At this stage, Bryn nobly took one for the team - for Dave, mainly - and entertained the boys with hat stealing antics and the like. This let Dave have a decent crack at the right rib, and then let me finish off the problem just to the rib's right.

Bryn noodled it up for a while, I took my turn entertaining the boys by dropping them off a rock that was around their height, then I vanished to go and look at the nearby... monument? Folly? Actually - it turns out, thanks to my Mum's research later - a sighting tower, used during the construction of the dam. I elected not to ascend, the downclimb would have been a killer.

Not so natural.
Once I returned, Dave and the boys - no longer concerned that I might have fallen down a mine - departed, leaving Bryn and me to scout for new play. And it was all aretes from there on in, first a kind of multi-pitch of a boulder, with a big jug on its mid-level ledge and a hold made from pure erosion at the top.

Bryn is actually off the ground here.

Then, the best of the bunch...


Reminiscent of a levelled up version of a classy little arete near Brimham's pommel area, the photos don't do it justice. But here's what was so good about it - Bryn and I chipping away at it, one us of us getting it started, the other suggesting a move, repeat and elaborate, encourage and seek feedback. Brilliant. A real collaborative effort, lots of small moves coming together to make something more than the sum of its parts. I don't think it could have worked out fairer, and we both topped it out and agreed that it was the highlight. I know that I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much if I'd been alone and done much the same without Bryn's turns punctuating it.

As an ineffectual coda, we threw ourselves at Top Pocket and its friends, but the wind was strong by that point, and we felt that the true narrative had been concluded. We were near the true path anyway by this point, and so we elected not to tromp through the heather for some reason, and headed off into the sunset...

Sunset-ish.

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11 December 2014

A mountain not made of rock

No crag in this blog post. No routes, no problems. No bouldering mats, no belays. Plenty of climbers though - a very lucky 13 or so, so dramatis personae...

Ellen, Cosmo, Bryn, Giovanni, Rob, Dave, James (+Laura), Kirsty, Pete, Louis (+Liz). And me.

So, where the heck were we? What was our challenge?

The Cheeful Chilli, on The Chevin. Their banquet meal. Halloumi cheese, nachos, goats cheese tartlets, pizzas, enchiladas, curry, cheesecakes, ice cream. Mountains of food.

As we do when we take on the crags, we went at it with gusto, and as a team. As we share spotting duties and beta, so we shared stories - of how we started climbing, of how we met - and of course the food. Wonderful to see everyone catch up with each other. And that's the beauty of it. We're all in it together, helping each other through, bringing each other along. We use what we share on the rock and we turn it to cementing friendships and camaraderie. We might be a bit leaden - weighed down by so much vegetaria - the next time we hit the rock (or plastic), but there will be springs in our steps that only climbing kinsmanship can bring.




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6 December 2014

Deer Gallows - might as well be hung for a sheep than behave like a lamb

I knew it would be mint, the forecast was bluebirds, cold and clear. A grit day. Pete said Deer Gallows, I fronted up but the weather barely showed. Everywhere frozen at the sailing club. A muddle headed Kirsty talking of too many cocktails and being pulled from her bed. We start the trudge up to the ridge. You could see the crag a way off, a stiff little guidebook "20 minutes".

I'm soon sweating up my down jacket, too hot. The occasional burst of sunlight making me overheat even more. We get to the crag and the noose is round our necks. Any thoughts of being too warm evaporate in a bitter winter wind that is chilling to the core. Nice crag, but harsh day for these games. Pete won't be beaten, he racks up for a VS, as the cold seeps in it becomes a V Diff and finally a Diff on to the pinnacle's top is what he sets off up, in all the clothes he has brought.

In big boots gloves hats and jackets we follow Pete. Up the sombre frozen grit as the weather changes from icy cold to a light driving rain.  The view goes from the other side of the valley to fifty feet in fifty seconds. We manage a few quick summit pics and then we are climbing back down as fast as we can. Pete abs off.  Then we are throwing gear in bags and making a swift exit as the rain gathers pace, laughing at what we will do for fun. A beer makes everything right and we are soon warming through. At home I am exhausted, good clean fun.
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30 November 2014

Taking a chance.

Planning a climbing trip in advance always seems like a rash decision given that it rains pretty much half of the year in the UK. When you figure in that the higher up you go, the higher the chance of it raining gets, then picking a date out of the air is probably even worse than flipping a coin. And so it was that I found myself last week sitting at home constantly checking the Metoffice forecast, whilst outside a seemingly neverending mix of mist, drizzle, and full-on rain set in. Planning to get my annual trip to Northumberland in November might have seemed a bit optimistic, but previous experience had taught me that you never knew what to expect up there no matter the time of year. As it was the Gods looked like they might be throwing me the crumbs from their plates- the mist looked like it might be breaking this weekend!

We headed up to our base for the weekend- the delightful and luxurious Tillmouth Cottages (disclaimer: I'm one of the owners and might be slightly biased)- on a Friday afternoon, hugging the A697 as the sun went down and the mist closed further in. Wooler appeared to be keeping some of the mist at bay, however, looking as quaint as ever when we stopped off for supplies and a curry. Boardgames and beer carried us gently off to bed, and I rose eager on the Saturday morning to draw back the curtains and see... more mist. At least it meant we were in no rush and I spent some time sawing up wood and doing some chores, before we eventually headed out into the gloom.

The sun appears, sort of. Bowden Doors
One of fantastic things about Northumberland as a climbing venue is that each year I get to check out new crags, and I'm still only halfway through the list. I'd been to Bowden Doors, and Back Bowden on previous years, and this time thought we should have a look at their neighbour Ravens Crag. As we set off it properly started to rain, but by some magic things were looking a bit clearer by the time we got to Bowden. Well, clear enough to see anyhow. The rock, however, was persisting in remaining damp. Luckily, Ravens Crag itself is a roof, and so a large part of it was dry. Dry enough to sit under and picnic anyhow and look out across the misty hills. The atmosphere was heightened by the distant baning of hounds and the horn of a hunt- we weren't the only ones out searching. The roof itself proved too powerful and the holds too painful, and so we moved along the crag to look for a problem called Juggler. Given that Stu and I had met through juggling, and that juggling continues to compete with climbing as our main hobby, it seemed like we had to give it a pop. Despite the minging nature of the conditions, the positive holds and the nice wide ledge were positive enough for us to get up onto the problem, and whilst the damp/slimy/sandy top was too much for me Stu powered on through and ticked it off. Not much else looked safe enough to try, however, and so we walked along further. At this point the hounds and their followers charged across the fields below us. Whether they were chasing a fox or just a scent we'll never know- it was hard enough seeing the dogs as it was! This brought us up to the end of Bowden Doors, and we walked back under the imposing wave of sandstone as the mist turned pink with the setting sun, reminiscing about our trip there in 2012.



Fine views above Oxen Wood.
Sunday morning brought hope in the shape of a sunrise. Things had indeed turned a corner, though only a small one it turned out. The first part of the plan was to hit up some crags near Alnwick, in particular Oxen Wood in the hope that its elevation would help it dry. It turned that it had indeed helped, though only 2 boulders and only one of those partially. It was enough to give us 6 problems and we savoured every one of them. It was also a fine spot for a tromp around, with fine views across to Wooler and the Cheviots. Definitely not a crag to visit in the summer though, we seemed to pass through a lot of dead bracken. But I would happily return in better conditions and work the other boulders, there looked like some good low to moderate grade problems. Part 2 of the plan was to drive a few minutes down the road and check out Corby's Crag. Photos of this on a fine summer's evening look idyllic and I seemed to had forgotten this when I was dreaming away on ukclimbing's crag map. This was seeping like I had never seen a crag seep before, complete with waterfalls and slime. It also didn't help that some people seem to think the car park at the top is a great place to park up, have a drink whilst admiring the view, then chuck their can or Mcdonald's cup over the edge. Classy. Then it started raining. Still, I'm sure if I was up there in the Summer and passing then it would be worth giving another shot as there was plenty of good looking rock. I guess the main problem is that there are so many other crags I want to see, like Callerhues, or Ravensheugh.
Stu enjoying Summit Block, Oxen Wood.

So was it worth driving all that way to climb 6 and a half problems? Of course! As it was we actually did pretty well to get any climbing at all done given how shite the weather has been for the last 2 weeks. It helped break up my overuse of indoor bouldering, where all the holds are kindly coloured and there are no scary top outs. Yes, some of those holds were sandy or slimy, but the views were great, the company sublime, and we got curry and boardgames. And herbal schnapps in test tube shot glasses (not part of the plan). We'll be back next year, flipping a coin and seeing what we get.
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22 November 2014

Yorkshire Gritstone guide volume 2 verus Yorkshire Grit 2.0



"Ladies and Gentlemen meet the Champion. Representing the YMC and old School guide writers. In The White Corner the undisputed champion of guide books everywhere. It's the Yorkshire Gritstone Guide Volume 2  - Ilkley to Widdop"

I was going climbing today, the kids were at their Nans, but the weather had other plans, it was damp out, proper minging grease, then through the letterbox popped the new guide, what was a boy to do? I put the kettle on a sat down to have a look.

The usual standard of the first excellent volume  is definitely maintained, the photos are top notch. Mike Hutton can drive a camera and there are loads of pics of the the big beasts on the big beasts.
There are  plenty of us mere mortals punting up the classics. Somewhere along the way Adi Gill got me on a rope in Ilkley quarry and you can see the evidence of very cold morning in there somewhere. At least I was shot from above you can't seem my chins.

The novel mix of bouldering and trad routes is maintained and best of all for this lover of the esoteric there are to me "new" crags to go and have a look at.

Why haven't I been to Crookstones it looks mint? Why have  I never bouldered at Ilkley?  I need to go and do more trad at Rhylstone. I still haven't been to Eastby. What is the knack to Trick Arete?

Next years list of places to go and things to try, just filled up, all this I like.

A good guide gets you thinking beyond my usual "I will just go to the Cliff and try the Belly Slap once more. It makes you want to go climbing. I want to go climbing, nice work people.

You get bouldering circuits if that is your thing and interviews with a few of the super wads. John Dunne is as modest as ever, but then the routes still stand up 30 years later, perhaps modesty wouldn't have got him off the ground? Lord Fawcett of Embsay and Bamford tells a nice tale, all quiet understatement about things I still dream about when they aren't giving me nightmares. Ron probably fits the term legend as well as anyone I have ever seen climb.

All the routes are described well, the lines on the photos are clear, if there is stuff missing it is beyond me to comment. You can't get all the boulder problems in, there are simply to many, but they have the overwhelming majority and the grading seems fair.

As paper guides go this one is a winner, when I have finished greedily reading it. I will try and get a few more ticks in it, I just need some decent conditions and I reckon I can pull those crimps on Manson's Wall.

"Now meet the challenger representing crowd sourced, online route databases and rising from the ashes phoenix like, to build an online record of climbing on small Yorkshire stones it is.... 

Yorkshire grit on Peakbouldering.Info or Yorkshire Grit 2.0, if like me you still bemoan the loss of version 1.0




Good news indeed. A version of Yorkshire Grit is back online and this time it is a community project. If Jon Pearson's last version dwindled and died because it was too much for one man. This one looks likely to be built by more souls, so should have more longevity. At the moment there is not much there. Just the main crags and a few hundred problems, but it is open source, you can contribute, it will grow. Good as a paper guide is an online database can crowd source it's content and so maybe in exchange for the occasional inaccuracy and omission you get a different view of the climbing we do.

For now the project needs pictures, if you have pics of any of Gods own bouldering however obscure, you can drop them here. I have put my crap ones on, the elves will put them where they need to be, what is not to like. That should give it a good quick start. Well done everyone who has made this happen.

"And the winner is.."

Well it is a bit like comparing apples and Orang Utans, I am glad we have both. Good on the YMC for all the effort that has gone into producing an excellent set of guides. Well done the online climbing community for getting Yorkshire Grit back in the world. I will be doing my own small bit no doubt, recording some small esoteric crag that few people care about. Because if we share the fun we have climbing, maybe more people will go to more places and have nice days out.




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19 October 2014

Dam Fools

Every climber gets to have an 'epic' now and again. They generally involve heading off with good intentions, making one or two bad choices, then ending up on a hairy but ultimately successful adventure. Sometimes bad beta plays a role, sometimes people pull through for you, but you always end up smiling. When we were invited over the border to taste some Lancashire gritstone with the author of the new Lancashire Bouldering Guide, little did I expect that the journey itself would be an epic.

Robin had supplied us with the postcode for Cow's Mouth quarry, and so Louis and I typed it into Google Maps and headed up onto the rather blustery Pennines. Things were looking good as we left the M62 and began winding our way down the delightfully Lancastrian road Back of th'Height towards a reservoir. Little did we (or Google Maps) know but a team of engineers were in the middle of Rebuilding th'Bridge, and we hit a dead end. Gutted at facing a huge round trip, we headed back up the road only to see a Diversion sign facing down a farm track. In retrospect it was too good to be true, or rather the track was too bad to be a diversion, but it seemed to lead to what looked like a road across the dam. Our suspicions should have been further raised when we had to open a gate and head down a muddy track, but I guess we were getting a bit giddy by now. Things looked even more dodgy as the road across the dam turned out to be just wide enough for a car, and even Google Maps got worried when it thought we were underwater. But we could see a car park at the end, and the A58 just beyond. Our rational voices were being drowned out by cheers right up to the point where we came to the locked gate at the end of the dam, and stopped. Further inspection showed the final metres of our epic journey were barred by a single padlock. It was then that the rational voice "What are you doing driving across a dam!" started to get a bit clearer in my head. There was only one thing for it, a tricky reverse back from whence we came, though the comeuppance for our escapade was just getting started. It turned out the muddy track worked better with Land Rovers than Clios, and after a few frantic wheel spins we realised the awful truth- we were stuck in a field in the middle of nowhere. What was even worse was that the local farmer was heading our way and I braced myself for a well-justified tirade of abuse. Instead what we got was a smiling old boy who thought this was the funniest thing in a long time. I'm sure my orange climbing pants just added to the ridiculousness of the scenario. We tried backing up, getting Louis to weigh down the wheels by sitting on the bonnet, but all to no avail. "Ah'll go get machine", and 10 minutes later we were being pulled up the track by our saviour in tweed trousers in his trusty tractor. Miraculously we found ourselves back on Back of th'Height and heading off towards our destination. A thank you card is in the post, and anything negative I've ever said about farmers is revoked.
Louis getting poetic

Amd so it was that a bit later than planned we finally ended up at Cow's Mouth. Memories of our epic journey faded as we met Robin and his crew and got to work on the Rainstone. We even had to time to follow them off across the moor to the aptly named Hidden Boulders. If you want to find them, buy his guidebook. Just don't follow Google Maps...

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12 October 2014

Into the light


Called the grit, had no choice cold and clear Saturday morning, hat was on doing more than just hiding my bald patch.

The Glen again Craig and Kate it's been a while with "The Barn rejects'. It's greasy maybe I called it early? But it dries as it warms and then it is good. A few bits are done, some easy some harder depending where you where starting from. Some of the rejects I would keep in my team, they moved well. Nice session, mellow vibe.

Sunday clear and bright in HG2 so to Caley, but I hit a fog bank as high as the Chevin as I zoom in with breakfast not yet digested. West Chevin is nearly out of the murk, the sun burning through the clag. It's like that Gieger alien space ship in the woods, etherial and brooding.
 
James finds me, a gorilla in the mist. He talks and climbs, we try Eat the Light but we lack a little grace and power. We dig a problem out the choss, hold by hold, it nearly goes but sticky rubber will not quite float on this sea of green. I have to go now, on on. 

With my boy in tow and his mate and his dad we hit Brimham. The hoardes are here, freshers with fresh mats, new hats and high hopes. We get involved and a few newbies make the grade. We take the full safari tour and end up beyond the tea shed where the quiet lives. It's a nice amble out and back as we head toward a cooling and setting sun. Quite a weekend, thanks if you made the journey, It's grit season get out there.
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21 September 2014

High Nab


A stroll form the overpriced, over packaged theme park of the Cavendish Pavillion at Bolton Abbey is High Nab and if you want it, real micro adventure. Some real family friendly entertainment for the more discerning punter. 25 minutes up the Valley of Desolation and then a steep 10 minutes out the valley floor on the righthand side. We skirt the herd of cows, Rachael loves all other animals more than cows The youngest threatening rebellion as we near the lip and the late season sun sweating us all through.

The grouse boulder delivers fun for all, nothing to taxing, but fun never the less and maybe we could claim second ascents, not many had passed this way for sure. Lunch is eaten and the view over the whole of Barden Moor warms your soul.

We find a route, we climb a route. The wind gains some strength and the summer turns to late autumn in a moment. Youngest bobs off and hangs around until he is re-attached, but he finishes with style. Everyone else has  grins as they finish and we are on our way out 3 hours after we started.

Esoteric crags like this are best discovered for yourself, don't try this one I made it all up. There are plenty more in the guide, check them out.


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16 September 2014

Moonlighting, Day-Outing

A couple of climbs to cover this week, greatly different in character.

Tuesday night, Almscliffe Crag. I was late to arrive, and spotted Bryn, Cosmo and Ellen at the warm-up wall from across the field. I made straight for them, and was pleasantly surprised to find Louis on site as well. He and Bryn had spotted a cheeky eliminate below the diagonal break - to eliminate the diagonal break - and were making good work of it. I joined them in the task, and brought up the rear in terms of its completion. A nice bit of variety, much needed. The sun was setting, and we made our way up the crag to bathe in the burgeoning moonlight. Not much more climbing was done - Louis and Bryn dabbled near the Crucifix, but the rock up above held greater sway. The light was thick across the landscape, making distant glades and hills seemed connected, and lighting up even the shadows. We skirted around the back of the crag, in order to make the most of the light, and then retreated for the evening.




Sunday was for Widdop. Myself, Bryn and Dave daisychained our transport, and met Pete, Kirsty and Paco having already warmed up, including Pete managing somehow to kick Kirsty in the head - such a lovely couple. Dave joined up with the adults group, while Bryn and I made up the junior session. Approaching Widdop, there don't appear to be all that many rocks to play on (though there are high edges looming atop the valley), but all of the rocks have so much on them, and just about all of that is so good.

We started just up from the reservoir edge, notably finding a pebbles and rail combo to stretch the core and get us going. Moving up a rock, we were briefly in sight of the adults, though we merely rattled off a few of the easier - but still challenging and satisfying - problems while they pulled hard on slugfest-style traverses and such. The groups overlapped at Pickpocket's Wall, a mono-fest on a rock reminiscent of Almscliffe's Matterhorn and Caley's Otley Wall. There were some top outs, but not from me - Bryn and I moved on to the adjacent Fagin's Ridge, like the Matterhorn without the nightmare start. Highball top, but solid enough rail-like handholds and a shout of "Keep your feet high!" from Pete were confidence inspiring. The down was a slab, with a special large back-of-flake handhold, that Bryn and I had dabbled on 18 months ago in the snow, and after the second top out moved into a swift descent I realised it would make for a decent circuit. Just two top-outs on the bounce though - fatigue way up there would have been an issue.



Pete and Paco Pondering Pickpocket

Slippy Arete (above, background), then lunch, and on to Red Edge Arete. Right side went easily enough, after a couple of goes, but left side became a big project, and one that put any overlap with the adults to bed, as they scarpered off up the hill. Bryn and I remained, along with three girls who had their own session ongoing. Red Edge Left was a sculpture of a problem - so much rock to (figuratively) chip away, but once the sculpture was revealed it was perfect. First nail the left hand crimp. Then hang the nose. Step up came next. Extra balance on those two moves made the top attainable, and then it was plain sailing. When it went once, duplicating it came easily. Well, smoothly. Blissfully. We dabbled at it a while longer, trying to get Bryn up it, and trying eliminates, but to no further progress.


Taller than it looks...


One last boulder, a monstrous looking slab with a huge green crack to the left, and a sharp, delicate, pinchy sequence to the right. The crack had lots to play with, distance between moves, height, and some awkward angles for the holds being the main issues, along with the aforementioned green. The problem to the right was pain incarnate on the already beaten fingers, and a slippy first foothold causing a fall didn't help. But I came back wiser, finding a less polished point right next to the foothold and weathering the fingertip tempests until I first stretched with my left hand for a half-decent hold near the top, then hooked a huge juggy pocket with my right hand once my feet were better established.



After my fall, Bryn contemplated the guidebook. Perhaps I should have contemplated it first!
Dave's imposing presence makes this rock look smaller in the photo than it did in real life.


I made my way around the back of the rock, where I found the adults changing shoes and packing up, and so the session was called. It had been a great trip out, an intrepid piece of travel to a crag that's more distant than you realise, but just makes you feel like you've earned it. In addition to the geography, this was the biggest group we'd been out with in some time, and it was great to catch up and collaborate. A swift pint (and some cake...) at the local inn, The Packhorse, put a fine cap on the day. Even better, there's plenty to go back for, and plenty more of our fellow climbers who we'd be glad to have along with us.
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8 September 2014

Down by the river

Work had cause to be taking up and down the A1, and I figured I could make the most of my lunch break by getting a sneaky climb in. Thanks to further examination of my car-boot sale guidebook, I had found out there was a crag that claimed to be 5 minutes walk from a car park just off the A1/A690 Durham junction- Kepier Wall.

It sounded to good to be true, but I turned off the A690 to find, sure enough, a tidy little parking area, with a path leading off it. A quick change of shoes and I ventured off down into the woods, past creeping roots and a rising hillside of old quarries and streams. 

The noise of the traffic quickly faded away to be replaced by the babbling of the river and soon found myself at the crag, slap bang on the path. It felt nice and sheltered down in the valley with pleasant views out across the Wear, and I soon found the thoughts of speeding cars and work fading away. And the crag itself? Well, in its defence I only had 30 minutes to get to know it, kind of a speed date, so it might be unfair to cast judgement. It didn't look like it gets much traffic, but it clearly does get a lot of dust and dirt. The smooth sandstone is a slippery customer at the best of times, and this definitely didn't inspire my faith in smearing on it. Add to that a top that seemed to be largely soil and tree, and I found myself struggling to get much done above head height on the main wall. A good brush and it looks there are some good problems to get to grips with. The left hand end, however, was a bit more gentle, and had bonus gnarly root holds to swing off, so I at least managed to tick something.


Time was also ticking unfortunately, and so it was that within about 10 minutes I found myself back in a stream of 70 mph traffic, heading south. Kepier's certainly somewhere I'd return to, largely due to it's convenience, but also for being a beautiful, quiet little spot.



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30 August 2014

Smugdale

As we all know by now, when the media get all in a tither about 'the weather' they really mean the weather down South. So when warnings of the August Bank Holiday being a complete wash out hit the News then I thought it would be worth checking the forecast a bit more closely. Sure enough, heavy rain was spreading in from the South but it looked like it might only get as far as the A1. This would mean travelling a bit further afield than or usual gritstone haunts around Harrogate but I'd been eyeing up a few crags in a guidebook I'd got from a car boot sale. Scugdale seemed a good spot, and the addition of a few photos to the descriptions in climbonline got me even more excited.
Purple ripples of the North Yorks Moors.
Driving up the A19 the skies looked grey and foreboding, and I even passed through a few small showers. However, as I pulled into the quaint village of Swainsby to meet Stu things seemed to be cheering up. As we drove up out of the plains into the moorland valley of Scugdale the skies seem to clear and the temperature rose, and pulling into the empty parking bay we knew we had made the right choice. A short hike later we arrived at the crag, and our decision seemed even wiser. For some reason I had imagined Scugdale would be a bit more urban, I guess it's the name, but in reality it is a pleasant and remote valley coloured in swathes of purple heather.
Grade 4 Highball Heaven!
The path arrives at the centre of two separate crags- Scot Crag to the left, and Barker's Crag to the right. From what I could gather Scot is more of an edge, and its height in the guide had suggested route climbing, whereas Barker's is more broken up, and the lower height suggested bouldering. Whether this is the case or not I'll have to go back and check- our original plans of bouldering Barker's got put on one side as we warmed up on the first bit of rock we met and gradually got pulled further and further left. Curtain Slab offered the tempting runnels, pockets, and side pulls that sandstone seems to excel at, and all at a height that seemed to offer just enough adrenaline to excite without scaring you silly.


Up a chimney.
Climbing down we kept spotting new ways up, and all at grades within our grasp, tempting us up again and again. Even seemingly tricky starts, such as Pingers (VS 5a), led to comforting breaks and solid top outs that were a joy to climb. There seemed to be a great mix of pocketed slabs, chimneys, bouldering problems, all waiting to be discovered. It wasn't all plain sailing, however, and on occasion fear (or sanity) gripped us leading to retreat, such as on Pisa Buttress. After a while our bodies began to suffer as well- strenuous moves on Drunken Buttress led Stu to take a controlled fall, and I really began to feel it in my arms. The weather stayed on course, however, and it was running out of time and energy that put paid to the session. Definitely a venue for future trips- so much more to climb, and we didn't even make it over the fence to Barker's!

Peahen and Peachicks.
The apparent end of summer had recently got Stu to thinking of heading back indoors, and we had reflected on the full body workout that you only really get at a bouldering wall. But here we were- outdoors, under the sun, and cream crackered. Plus, we had something no indoor wall can ever give you- big skies, moorland, and peace. It's also pretty unlikely you would have to slow down for families of grouse, peacocks, and kittens on the drive back from the Depot. Dropping Stu back in Swainby, I headed back West and into the Bank Holiday showers. Knowing that we had dodged the wash out I couldn't help feeling just a little bit smug.


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20 August 2014

Ready?

So, we went to Font - go and read the last post, from Bryn, it hasn't had nearly enough hits. Go on, I'll wait.

...

Okay, all Font-ed up? I hope so. So we went to Font, and then I had about a month off with my dodgy shoulder. That sucked. I've started climbing again (though I haven't gone back to see Charlotte, my physiotherapist, since the month off, and the shoulder still twinges. And this all still sucks. That I haven't seen Charlotte sucks, that the shoulder still twinges sucks, and oddly, somehow, the climbing kind of sucks. Why is that? Well, following Font is a toughie - it's a place of wonder, and under Bryn's new-to-Font enthusiastic guidance, we made good sport of it. Also, a month off does indeed take the wind out of your sails - climbing breeds climbing, it seems. And a lot of the gang seem to be away for the summer, or moving house, so while it can be a solitary experience if you want it to be, a thriving social scene doesn't hurt.

All that said, the last couple of sessions have been good for me. Both at Almscliffe, both inspired by recent Communal Climber Mike, in that I've followed him up ticks that I probably wouldn't have thought to do otherwise. I believe Mike got them both in one night, when I was there but doing nothing more than documenting the experience on Twitter. I followed up over two occasions. First, the Postman. Postman Plus, or Postman High, I suppose. I'd found myself up about the Postman for some scrambly reason, and I looked down on the extra few moves and thought it doable (well, Mike had done it, so...). And it was. And it was pretty much fine, possibly just one precarious moment in which a transition was balanced as if on a pommel. But a pleasing tick all the same. Next up was Flying Arete. Wait, no, sorry - it was a rock near Flying Arete, which was just the landmark. Opposite side of the path. Delicate start for all limbs, reachy moves in order to get established, but then some nice meaty holds to progress and polish it off. Both of these climbs were pretty much highballs rather than overtly technical, but very satisfying all the same.

Tonight we're due at Hunter's Stones and Norwood, where I need to revisit a problem that was bread and butter for everyone else last year, but managed to consistently defeat me. I owe it, big time. That I'm wearing the wrong trousers, well, I'll have to do what I can.

But here's the thing - I think I'm ready to go back inside. I know Mr Prince will make a show of misliking this (and I'll be keeping an archive of this post in case he gets delete-happy), but I need to be able to throw myself at problem after problem after problem. I need tunes blaring in the background. I need free pizza. I need bouldering leagues. I need gangs of climbers to banter and engage with. I need that to get my head back in the game. I need to go back inside so that I can relish getting back outside. This is ever the cycle for me, accentuated by the long shadow cast by Font - and I need something that has a little more distance in the comparison to help me reset.

Hopefully Hunter's tonight will do some good - a slightly bigger crowd than recent weeks, a good sunset with any luck, and revenge on that problem. Beyond that, over the coming weeks and months, I'll see you inside. And once I'm reset, I'll be looking to drag you back out on the rock with me.

From Hetchell, last week, where I didn't do any climbing.

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