Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Allez oop

Wet to the skin and in up to the knee I lifts one leg after the other through the thicket of windblown reeds, to wade queasily amongst the piss stenching, flyblown swamp is my task. Five fold five is the term of our days and none but the best will see us out. I take the reins again and rear up over the harrowed fen. “Forth lithe wanderer, we have heights to scale!” The bay mare shudders a little and lurches into an exhausted half trot. It’s been a month now and nothing but rainwater and sand apples for these travellers. “Have heart, be hale, reluctant stead. ‘Tis nought but a molehill” Kershaw lifts his long sad face and casts a weary glance upwards at the vast obsidian fang jabbing skyward before him, his four vast, limpid eyes all blood red and rimmed with tiny biting creatures. Like a beckoning finger of blackened bone, a last defiant gesture of the primal giant, now corrupt and laid prone amidst these desolate acrid swamps. This is their fate, to answer the call, to push against the tide and venture to the rotten heart of it all. Now is the time.
Well actually that’s not strictly true, but I did go back to Gardom’s on Saturday and out to Baslow last night. Met up with lots of folk on Sat and spent a lot of time failing to do Iain’s prob, nobody else faired any better. Went over to Plan D, Adam managed it using a right hand slap sequence, which looked steadier than my oddball crossover, but gnarlier as falling from this move lands you on the tree. He also did the obvious line up the right arête at 7a+, this is now called Forward Thinking Sound Engineer. I repeated this eventually, quite a good addition. Adam also did the sitter to Plan D and the static start to Business As Usual and is therefore king of the block. Wandered back past Barry Sheene and did this again, funny how some stuff you find hard suddenly feel easy once you’ve done it the once.
Sunday was wet. Went for a walk up to Gun Rock. Saw where Al’s fabled 7b must have gone. Shame about the flake coming off, it looks like it would have been mega. There look to be a couple of ok-ish up lines on the block and a brick hard low traverse to do, but not sure they are worth the walk.
Last night was very warm on Baslow edge. Nige came along for the heck. Bumped into Tetler in the carpark, he’d just put up a new route at Curbar E5 6a Triple Bum Drop. Felt like the grit season might be over. Warmed up on some nice random stuff, then had a go at the Ripper. Soon decided to sack it off as the hard move involved pulling on a small skin trashing edge, not good for warm rock and sweaty skin. Went up to the Eagle Stone where there was a nice cooling breeze and no puddles (for a change). Kim turned up. Did the 7a+ one that uses the tiny egg-shell crimps. This is the last of the old classics on the block I hadn’t done and it was real good. Did the mantelly one on the other side and goofed about on an eliminate trav Nige invented in his mind farm. Then did the Welford 7b one just right of the prow. This was excellent and surprisingly ok, steady 7a+ perhaps. The Dave K one to the left looks brilliant, I’ll certainly come back with an able bodied spotter for that one.
Think the next evening out will be on the lime unless we have another cold snap.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Late season grit

Some north easterly winds have been bringing unseasonably good grit temps. Unfortunately it seems to have also brought showers just in time to ruin my attempts at evening sessions.
Had heard via dense that Iain F had succeeded on a new line at Gardom’s South so I got in touch and arranged to meet him there last night to see what it looked like. The idea was to have a look at this and then take him over to have a crack at Plan D, my new 7c arête thing further along the crag.
Headed out with Si and warmed up on G Thang etc. Iain arrived with his HUGE airpad ordered via It packs down small and is a touch heavier than an extra large pad. It pumps up into a vast airbed. A bit weird to land feet first onto (feels nicer with normal pad on top), but very good for stuff where you fall onto your back.
Ended up trying Barry Sheene, a problem I have tried a lot before but not managed to crack. Conditions felt good (despite one sharp shower), but was still feeling unable to move when I got the edge off the left heel-toe. Decided to try it without the heel-toe, which is more burly but leaves you better set up for the next move. Was surprised to get matched up on the crimp after a few tries like this. Then fluffed it going for the sloper out right. Next time up, no mistakes, it felt fine and the nemesis was slain.
Nipped over and clean a better start to a nice little highball I did earlier in the year, while Si had a few more goes at BS. We all did the new line (slopey ridge finish to prob 12 in Ru’s book) once the mats were free and a lovely little prob it was too. Lots of climbing, interesting moves, never desperate, nice holds and a spicy finish. About 6b/+.
Then tried Iain’s new line. A very fine prow/arête, with steep sloper moves requiring a bit of fancy leg/footwork. Me and Si managed all but one move, a long throw off slopers to a good edge. It seemed likely that we would have to figure some alternative beta to Iain who could reach the hold off a reasonable heel-toe. Might come back for another look at the weekend. By now it was getting a bit dark so we headed off.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Belated weekend roundup

Saturday night was my sisters 40th birthday party up in Ilkley, so we decided to drive up Friday night and have a leisurely start Sat. Parked up on an obscure dead-end road high on the moors opposite Rylstone. Awoke to find the van surrounded by snow, being pelted by thick sleet. Eventually the weather cleared and we drove over for a session at Ilkley. The crag was remarkably dry and we went over to the quarry behind the Lost Boot area to warm up on some south facing probs in the new guide. These turned out to be chipped, tough at the grade, but really very good. Ilkley Bar Kid 6b+ climbed a series of slanting ramps up a vaguely scooped wall, very technical and precarious. Chuck Norris 6c+ took ages to do (felt at least 7a to me) and I suspect might be graded for jump starting. It’s all about the first move to a strange slopey diamond shaped blob of rock sticking out of flat rock. In the end after trying various methods it went to a basic but tricky right hand slap. Both of these should be on everyone’s Ilkley circuit. Tried a desperate thing called Steven Seagal, but soon realized it was very very hard for 7b!
Then went over to First Arete. Only given 7a+ this problem has shut me down on at least two previous sessions, I was determined to finish it this time. Kept getting to top pinch before a dog ran up and stole my lunch, I then got very pissed off and aggressively scrabbled up it in bad style. To me it seems like a problem that looks better than it climbs and having a nasty block in the landing felt generally unpleasant.
Fi wanted to try Ringpiece so I thought I’d have a go at Superset, a John Dunne problem on the Calf first done in 1987. After a few goes I decided I wasn’t going to do it using the sequence Sam is trying in the old guide photo. Eventually sussed a better way for me using the chipped J instead of the A, smearing with left foot and toeing into another chipped letter with right foot. From here I could throw into the crack but couldn’t latch it. In the end it took many attempts before I finally managed to hit it just right and bagged the prob. Very satisfying move in the end, the easier top bit is great too. Used to get V10 in old guide, now given 7b+, it felt 7c to me, but I can imagine the move being much easier to stick if you are a bit taller.

Sunday I was a bit worse for wear after the party, but ended up having a short sesh at Curbar. Did lots of the usual 7a/+ stuff plus Dan’s Wall and Jihad which I hadn’t done before. Tried r-man’s new thing on the bad landing block. Did all the moves but didn’t manage a link, it seemed quite good and I’d agree with the grade of 7b+.

Was going to go out tonight but it’s now lashing down….

Monday, 14 April 2008


I love mushroom picking, but mostly I have to wait till autumn to go out a huntin’. There are a few exceptions to this rule, certainly the finest yet most elusive of these is the Morel. Highly prized (and priced!)by chefs the morel has a unique flavour and texture unlike anything else. They are unfortunately extremely difficult to find and grow for only a two or three weeks a year. That time is upon us and as is my custom of the last five years I made the annual pilgrimage to my secret location to see what this year had to offer. It was actually my dad who found the morel patch and brought home a fine collect way back in 1993. It was maybe ten years later that I got around to visiting this spot at the right time of the year after having very little success finding them elsewhere in the intervening years. Since then I’ve collected a modest crop for four years out of the last five. Last year there was nothing due to an exceptionally dry spell, but this Wednesday the patch came good. Five fine black morels where collected and within hours we were dining of a very tasty gratin of morels, cream, potatoes and pancetta. I’ll have my eye out where ever I go for the next couple of weeks, but I suspect that it’ll be another year before fresh Morels come my way again

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Jonny two hols

Week (five days actually) one was snow blown grit up in Yorkshire, week two was sun kissed pockets in Buoux.
Not feeling very wordy at the moment so will make this brief.
Yorkshire: Generally windy with snow showers meant Brimham was a good sheltered option. I love Brimham too so going there twice was good. Also had a day at Caley where the rock was in remarkably great nick, a snowy walk up to Simon’s + Lord’s Seat and a cold damp day at Malham. Did a bunch of good new-to-me probs at Brimham up to 7b including The Green Nose, The Governor, Black Chipper Arete, Arthur, Hole In The World, Joker’s wall flake SS and Murky Rib SS. At Caley I finally did Ben’s Groove after bottling the top bit on previous visits, need to go back for the amazing looking sitter now. Also did a cool arête mauling 7c called the Drey, which felt a bit soft with cunning beta. Repeated Blockbuster again, which felt harder than usual, cold fingers I reckon. Malham was a bit too cold for my tastes but it was raining so the best of a rum deal. Did Free And Even Easier, Consenting Adults and Bongo Fury, all of which I’ve done before. Fi led Consenting Adults which was something of a milestone for her. Although not too hard for her it has always been a bit of a nemesis route since she took a nasty upside down fall from the third clip a couple of years ago.
After a couple of days rest it was Buoux time (see Dob’s blog for fuller write up). The occasion was Kranken Arthur Harribo’s stag do. Fun was had, cheese was eaten, Arthur was dressed as a gay bear, pockets were pulled on. Routes of the week for me would have to be No Man’s Land 7b and Devers Pervers 7b+, both totally stunning routes. Least favourite was Reve De Papillon, nasty sharp pocket traversing with polished bugger-all for feet. Goes to show fame doesn’t always equal quality. In general I thought Buoux was a brilliant crag with perfect rock and many varied routes, far from the homogenous pocket hauling you might imagine. I did think however that based on my admittedly limited experience that it was a better crag in the 6s and 7s than in the low 8s. The 6s and 7s I did there where as good as any I’ve been on, the 8a-8bs seemed few and far between, very small pocket orientated (great if like Harribo you love the pockets), often unsubtly manufactured and for me not as interesting/varied as the harder routes at other big name euro crags such as Gorges Du Tarn, Ceuse, Rodellar, Terradets. We also had a day at Volx. Fun polished steepness, not bad for a knackered old crag but this style of climbing is done a whole lot better at numerous other places. Did a couple of 7bs there and redpointed a 7c+ (with unfortunate rope dabbage). The last day of the trip was a belter, ten routes on ten sectors. A great way to get a flavour of what Buoux has to offer. Will hopefully get round to posting some pics soon.
Sunday back in the peak and a snowy day on Burbage N. Nothing of note to report. Did a pleasant new low start to Little Brown Thug, starting on the left arête of Wednesday Climb. Little Brown Wednesday(?) – 7a, Nige being first up the “line”, getting his last session in before a shoulder op. Nige and Andy B both did Blind Drunk the heel way. One said 7c+ at most, one said deffo 8a. It’s hard putting numbers on lists! Tried Submergence but got snowed off.
Went back last night with Si to try Submergence again. Didn’t manage to do, although I did get the move to get the high layaway sorted (it’s all about turning the right heel outwards). Met Iain then went over and did Giza, which had up till then been a minor nemesis. It felt 7c to me and took quite a bit of effort, but I know lots of folk piss it (especially the lank) so it’ll get listed at 7b+ (for now) based on a range of opinions.