Thursday, 25 September 2008

More early season gritting

After last week’s new routing at Turning Stone I was keen to get back for a couple more plum lines this weekend. So for the second week in a row I spent both days in the Amber Valley, Saturday at Cocking Tor and Sunday at Turning Stone. Both days with a very longsuffering Fiona.
The objective at Cocking Tor was to climb the left side of the arete taken by the classic ’76 Bancroft route Jelly Ache. Rather hot weather meant the steep rounded upper arete felt harder and scarier than it would have been otherwise, but still very enjoyable. It went without incident and is every bit as good as Jelly Ache and a touch harder, but still probably only E3 6a. I’ve called it Both Sides Now, for the obvious reason and after the Joni Mitchell song. Then tried to force a new line between Jelly Ache and Cyclops’ Eye, but ended up wimping out at the top and finishing up CE. This line will go and will be E3/4 6a/6b, but lacks the line and independence of it’s neighbours.
Sunday I did the left wall coming out of Vee Chimney. I'd cleaned and worked this line about a year ago whilst on a bouldering mission. This turned out to be easily the best of my additions to Turning Stone. After placing ok but worryingly low runners, the climbing goes up a short rib to a thin break, makes a big pull past a roof to an eye, does a strenuous shuffle on the eye to get hands set, then rocks way over ‘right between the eyes’ to a small crimp in a second eye, up to a very slopey edge, right to a good edge, left to a sidepull, then a big slightly scary reach to a juggy break and easier climbing. I called the route Right Between the Eyes and reckon it’s just about safe but scary at E5 6b. After this I had a go at the direct start to Happy Landing, a big roof line just left of last year’s highball 7a+ Finger Bang. Low poor gear in crumbly rock and hard moves on snappy flakes saw a swift retreat and a couple of cams placed in the break above so that I could work the roof on a rope. Managed to do it in a oner eventually but it’s hard (font 7b), the holds are rather brittle and the gear is very suspect. I’d wager it’ll be E7 6c as a lead, but might be better suited to a highball approach, with lots of pads and spotters, though a fall from the crux last slap would be very wild indeed. The moves are great, any takers??

Calling the Grit

Right Between the Eyes

Both Sides Now

Said 7b-ish project roof

Monday was a drizzly trip to the Tor with Andy C and the Bee-keeper. A lot of the crag was a bit wet but we had an ok session and it was good to catch up with the chaps.

Tuesday the forecast looked better for Yorkshire, which was good as I had arranged to meet Toby in Leeds and go out tradding. After flicking through the grit guide looking for which crag had the biggest number of three star routes not yet tried I fancied a visit to Almscliff. Too often the bouldering crag of last resort, when all else is wet, I had barely done any of the routes, which is madness as they look better than the bouldering. Talked Toby into the plan and headed out fairly early to find perfect sunny but cool conditions. Warmed up soloing three HS/VS routes on Demon Wall and then Demon Wall itself, all of which were excellent if a little polished. We then decided to do the big three, three star E3s on the West Face, all Extreme Rock ticks no less. We both led each route, abseiling for the gear in between. What can I say, these routes are totally stunning, Western Front, Wall of Horrors and Big Greeny, awesome stuff, I’m mad keen to come back soon for the likes of Grand Illusion. Even dropping a lense out my glasses halfway up Wall of Horrors didn’t spoil the fun, just had to throw them down and push on blindly up the top half. After this we opted to escape the bitter wind which had been building and move over to Black Wall. Followed Toby with a solo of Black Wall Eliminate E2 and then seconded up a rather pokey E4 ‘Arrie’s ‘Ook. Topping this out I spotted a ring of Shaggy Parasol Mushrooms. It turned out to be a circle of 40 caps! Most where sadly a bit old and withered but there were enough fresh young ones for us to both take home a good amount.
Long live dry autumns and classic bagging on grit!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Turning Stone

From lime to grit.

It seems the remainder of my motivation for the lime is tied to the Cornice routes. With these wet and looking unlikely to dry out this year, evenings getting too short to go out after work and few exciting short term objectives left for me at the main dry limestone venues, my mind has been turning to the grit and tradding.
Being involved in the production of the forthcoming BMC Froggat to Black Rocks guide has got me interested in some of the less well frequented crags again. This weekend I got around to checking out some potential new lines I’d spotted ages ago at Turning Stone Edge. Turning Stone is an oddball crag and has never been popular, which is a shame as the climbing is good and a bit more popularity would go a long way to solving its biggest problem – rhododendrons. The upside of this neglect is a bunch of good new routes at amenable grades, ripe for the pickin’.
I had been over one evening in the week and abbed a couple of lines and was keen to try them ground up. Saturday I went there with Fi who had decided to rest her sore elbows and take on belay duty.
New route one was a fairly trivial filler in up the upper left arete of Amber Buttress, called Amber Gascoigne, safe but exciting E2 6a.
Number two is probably the best of the new finds. Calling the Grit E4 6b** crosses the left side of the roof between Second Chance and Happy Landing. Strenuous to place, but ok gear are placed and undercuts and edges lead to a very slopey horizontal pinch, this is used to make the crux move through the steepness to a good slot on the lip, a good cam and nice locky climbing to finish. I was quite pleased with this route as it’s the hardest ground-up new route I’ve done. There is potential for a good looking second pitch up the frontal roof of the upper tier.
The rest of Saturday was spent scoping other lines and cutting back rhodies on a new buttress.
Sunday was Turning Stone again to meet Feind, Cofe and Grimer. Started with a bunch of solos on the easier lines and then a solo of a new HVS 5b * - Tree Dimensional (vintage Cofield route naming). This route is essentially a very logical alternative start to an existing route. I think it improves on the other route, swapping a dull scrappy start for some lovely locking up a steep arete and then a nerve testing stride over the void. The finish is weird horizontal chimneying between menacing chock stones and a lot of fresh air. Feind and Grimer repeated the route and seemed to enjoy.
After more rhodie bashing the last new route of the weekend was added. Ballnut Whip (another Cofield gem) E3 6c * takes the line of least resistance up the front of the newly exposed buttress. The first moves from the lip of a roof are the crux and involve a deep committing heeltoe in a wide break whilst making a huge move off an edge to a pair of poor horizontal slopers, from which a good finger jug can be gained. Gear is low and a fall might leave you hanging upside down of a broken ankle. After repeatedly backing off this move (which I hadn’t practiced while cleaning) I opted to use a nearby tree to climb up and place the runners above the crux, then climb down and try with these in place thereby reducing the chances of injury. With these in place the route was very enjoyable and went first go. The top section is a beautiful fluted rib which looks like something you’d find on the lower tier at the Roaches. I think without the tree based skull-duggery the route would be E5 6c, but arguably less enjoyable.
All in all a good day and a good weekend’s pottering.

Some pics of Cofe's from Sunday:

Fiend on Baker's Groove

Grimer on Amber Arete

Me on Tree Dimensional

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Crossing the Rubicon

Last night I managed to finish off what was becoming something of a mini-nemesis – The Sissy. I’m not sure why it took so long, longer than Caviar infact. I don’t think it’s harder than Caviar, I just seemed to get a bit bogged down on it. Anyway, cheers and good luck/speedy recovery to Jules and Stu for the beta and belays.
There was still a bit of daylight left after the redpoint so I switched to belaying Kristian on a redpoint attempt on Beluga. He set off not expecting much, having struggled in awful conditions on Sunday, but surprised himself by cruising to the top first go. A fine effort. This is the fifth ascent now but the first I’ve got to watch.
I think that’s it now for my Rubicon year. Summer 2008 has been all about this place, which is something I would never have predicted, given that up till then it has been one of my least favourite crags. Not sure when I’ll be back having now done Caviar, Dangerous Brothers, Hot Fun Closing, Beluga and The Sissy, so don’t have many things left to go at. It has been surprisingly fun though.

2008 Rubicon highlights (other than routes bagged):
• Fi doing To Old to be Bold, her first 7c
• Belaying Ted flashing Dangerous Brother
• Text from Dan telling me he’d succeeded on A Bigger Belly
• Belaying Kris on successful Beluga ascent
• Watching Stu’s video of my Sissy success
• Chatting with Martin Atkinson at crag about FA of Dangerous Brothers

• Belaying Andy on Barracuda first ascent
• Bransby flashing HFC in full midday sun
• Adam highballing Piranha and subsequent epic descent of spindly tree
• Belaying bouldering Andy Banks getting up Caviar, his first sport route in years
• Tidying up the shit gear on DB and HFC

And the lows:
• The sound of Stu’s finger going pop on the Caviar start
• Floods, floods, floods and trying to climb/belay off palletes inches deep in water
• Getting called a ‘choad’ for cutting the tree down under Kudos (actually I found this more funny than distressing)
• Dave falling off the last bulge on Caviar three times! You’ll get it next go yoot

What next? Hmmmm. Get back on Cornice project if it dries or get stuck into a bunch of new grit routes I’ve spied while guide checking new Froggatt book and then there’s those great sounding sport routes that Kris was talking about on Beeston Tor….