28 December 2009


The Petzle Shunt all set up ready to go.

I hadn't planned on going climbing today, but because of the freezing fog in the morning and the poor road conditions, plans were changed as my guests for the day felt it unwise to make the 100mile journey north with the current road conditions. I mopped around the house for a while, my eyes kept looking out to the clear blue skies and my brain kept telling me that I should be outside enjoying the beautiful day.

A beautiful day: looking west towards the Northern Lakes.

However, I didn't fancy walking; it was a bit late in the day to get anywhere of interest. Boating isn't really on the cards at the moment; not only are the rivers empty and the water cold, but I just feel like I need a break from it all so I can get some of my motivation back for the sport. I was therefore left with climbing, but then that could be tricky; the snow would be a problem on all but the steepest pieces of Cumbrian rock. This obviously limits your options; your either left with the Bowderstone or Armathwaite's Sandy Bay area for bouldering or some of the steeper Lakeland routes. I didn't fancy either option, and the lack of a partner would obviously prove problematic for any roped climbing.

Some of the locals checking me out on the walk-in.

I eventually decided upon an afternoon session at Cumrew Crag, but the lack of a belayer was still a problem. However, I had my Shunt so it was possible to do some soloing, or shunting as some call it, but I like to think of it as more roped-bouldering; once the rope's fixed down a line and your clipped in you can work the moves to your heart's content and enjoy the simplicity of moving on the rock.

A slightly damp and frozen, in places, Main Wall at Cumrew Crag.

However, this simplicity comes at a price; to get to this point there is a fair bit of faffing needed in order to fix the rope down the required line. Luckily I enjoy this kind of thing: playing with ropes, knots and such like, so I soon had the rope fastened off to three anchors and trailing down the required line. The crag in some ways lent itself to shunting as the routes are fairly straight up and down and once you've fixed the rope you don't need to worry about re-belays and such like to prevent rope wear; just a simple rope protector was needed.

An equalised and tensioned three point anchor for the fixed rope.

I started out on The Croglin Vampire (VS, 4c), a route I have onsighted before, but I found it hard as the snow at the top of the crag was melting down parts of the route meaning some of the vital footholds were a bit damp and others were frozen, but I soldiered on and eventually topped out. I walked back around to the bottom and had another quick blast before moving the rope over to the left, down Black Cat (E1, 5b).

The Croglin Vampire (VS, 4c) ready to go on a Shunt.

Black Cat was probably the driest route at the crag, however the light began to fade as I started up the final third of the route where the crux was. I had no choice other than to abandon ship. I prussiked to the top of the crag and began stripping the fixed rope. This, however, did mean I got to see a lovely sunset over the top of Blencathra from the top and on the walk back down to the van.

The sun setting in the west with Blencathra just to the right of the glowing aubade.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

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