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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