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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