27 December 2012

Yorkshire Gritstone Vol 1 God's own guidebook

This time last  year I was reviewing the excellent Boulder Britain. This year past I gave it some hammer but not as much as it deserved. What I really needed was a decent comprehensive guide to the grit crags round Yorkshire even the esoteric stuff. Until now the details were out there, but you had to dig and be flexible. Some info was on yorkshire grit some on the leeds wall site, some via ukc, a bit of word of mouth and carry two guides too, one trad, one bouldering and then you where sorted.

Well in Santa's sack this year was something that fixes all  those problems in one encyclopaedic volume and pulls a master stroke in one go. The clever bit is to put bouldering and trad in the same book so whether your a mattress back or you camalot you're catered for. Font grades are in, no V grades which seems to be what most of us have settled for given the finer graduations it allows. The trad grades are well, trad, but if something falls into highball territory it gets a trad grade and a font grade. So Matterhorn Arete gets font 5 and HVS 5b which seems about right and gives you a better idea of how deep in your getting or at least how high to pile the pads if there is no gear. Figure one extra layer of pads per E grade.

Its nice to see James Ibbotson getting cover star status a local boy, quiet but determined and Wall of Horrors is a cracking choice, one of the routes, on the Crag, even after decades of development.

Its up to date, but dating daily as all paper books do. All the honeypots and all the esoterica are in that I need to go and visit one day. You get Caley, Brimham Almscliff and Slipstones, the big beasts in the North. You get Great Wolfrey,  Simon's and Lord's Seat and Sypeland amongst the moorland crags for summer days when its  grease central in the valley. Then you get Eavestone and Roundhill as well as Birk Crag and Whitehouses amongst the esoterica for when you need to be alone. That's amazing coverage maybe nearly total and I have missed out a lot of good stuff too.

This is volume one - the Northern Eastern stuff, with Caley being the southern extent of what's covered. Volume 2 will be Shipley Glen down to Widdop way in the South West.

They hired a plane to take pictures of the crags and I have never seen the areas at Brimham look so easy to understand as when they are shot from the air. I might spend less time lost and muttering in the woods in the future. The climbing photos are top notch too with something for everyone and lots of classics getting a look in as well as some of the harder stuff.

The trad write-ups look spot on but I suppose most of this has been nailed down for the last 10 years or so, with only a few last great problems and recent additions needing including. But the route photos and the arrows showing the way are accurate and easy to follow its all good.

Where the guide goes the extra mile is the history. You get some great background, some edited highlights and bouldering gets a proper written history at last. If most of the bouldering Wads are still to be found on the crags grunting and swearing along with us punters, its nice to see their efforts getting the credit they deserve. I knew Al Manson's name but nothing about him, I'm not from round here. There are interviews, magazine stylee with a few people Al included and this helps you understand the efforts involved and the scene at the time.

I knew a bit about Andy Swann he's burned me off a few times without him breaking sweat, but I didn't know for example that the Pommel was his work. We are given a fuller, rounder more complete picture. If your a climbing nerd like me this helps breathe life into the stones your pulling on. Oh and  bouldering and route graded lists are included to argue about whilst drink is taken.

We lucky people also get bouldering circuits at the major venues, pitched at around the 5 to 7 level where most of us mortals operate. I thought I knew every bit of 6a and 6b at Almscliff but it turns out there are a few I've missed. Oh and the problems all get names, some had them and we never new, some must have been christened, but its got to be better than talking about problem 1, boulder 9 or "unnamed problem" or "that thing" as I called them.

This guide unlike Grimer's massive long term solo'ish effort on Boulder Britain looks like real team work and its nice to see the local climbing community produce a guide this good. Robin Nicholson's name is on it, I know nothing about him but to co-ordinate and design a guide this good is a major achievement if I run into him I owe him a drink, we all do.

I hope in a year or two this guide will look as tattered and dog eared as my Graham Desroy guide from the early '90's. I hope it will have the same ticks, scrawls and comments about good days out and I hope I have a tick and a date next to pebble wall.

Twenty Four odd quid might seem  a lot of money for a guide but if you climb here regularly that's money well spent for all the hours of love that went into it get yours here. Can't wait to get my hands on Volume two.
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16 December 2012

The year that was 2012

John said "how was your climbing year". Hard one to answer it was a bit of a curate's egg.

Splashdown at Widdop, in fact everything about Widdop, the location, the quality of the problems, the wildness of the place and the empty barren solitude. Endless leaping off an undercut, for a rough sloper that took a layer of epidermis and then turned you away on every attempt, before it stuck and I floated above the water.

Watching Rob fight the fear, before powerfully rocking into balance on Flying Arete, heart in mouth, his anxiety in our ears and his ten year quest at an end. Good lad, strong.

News of Dean filtering through on the bush telegraph. Him taking a nasty tumble off Red Baron a season ending ankle fracture, shattering ambition and nearly ending a majestic career. Now healed and back on the rocks in 2013, I will be stealing all the beta I can.

A day on the Cliff in early January with the boys, sun-kissed and glowing. South Cave Arete falling to a few sessions of attention,  promising much for the rest of the year. If I had known what was coming maybe I would have stopped then.

Carrying Jenny off Pebble wall, her knee shot and broken, before heading back up to finish off crucifix traverse. Glad it was done, relief mainly it had been in my head for too long, but sombre and reflective at the downside of the games we play.

News flying in over the ether. Stu sorting out Matterhorn Arete and Bryn's crucifixion being made flesh. both now fully fledged Almscliffe disciples their trials by fire endured, dues paid.

A first trip to the County, to a chilly Bowden Doors. All the crowd and the vibe and the bonhomie condensed down to the briefest moment at the limit on the Lightbulb. When I rocked and rolled into balance and belief seemed to triumph over gravity and lack of friction just for an instant. To be followed by an epic, euphoric hangover of immense proportions.

Floods and floods of biblical rain that knew no end and drowned many an outing before it took shape, that thwarted ambition and tried your patience. The sound of rain on my flat roof drumming into my head, running into my soul, drowning hope of a better day tomorrow. It left my ticklist, merely a list, ideas and possibility but little outcome.

Horn Torture at Caley, endless trudges up the track from the gate in all weathers to lunge for a pocket and then peel away, fended off. Benchmark V4 apparently  not for me, not yet.

Glen Arete a punter's problem for sure, but one I wouldn't have had the neck for last year, rare moments of composure and some space beneath my feet.

A change of job, the fear of failure at something other than climbing. Where the consequences of mistakes could effect other's lives just like this most selfish pastime of ours.

James Ibbotson highballing The great Flake for the camera, me "spotting" slackjawed, him a monkey up a stick all intent and action, real class, real commitment.

Louis flying like a grit god to hold onto the jug on the John Dunne Slap. We froze in the shade whilst the valley languished in the sun. His easy charm hiding some quiet determination, this years most improved, much more to come I'm sure.

Looming just over the horizon casting a long shadow, Pebble Wall, all our tomorrow's. On everyone's list if you haven't done it, a test of respectability if you harbour dreams of middle grade competence.  Who will stick it first, one of us will?

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