27 March 2010

Into the Wild

My life for the next week.

I'm off tomorrow into the deepest, darkest depth of Scotland to explore the last great wilderness of the UK, the Knoydart Peninsula. The funny thing is, I have to go to the Peninsula to satisfy the learning outcomes of one of my second year modules. Isn't my university course a tough one?

The plan of action is quite simple:
  • Drive to Scotland on Sunday
  • Paddle to an island half way down Loch Quoich on Monday
  • Paddle the remaining length of Loch Quoich on Tuesday
  • Walk to the highest point on the Peninsula, Sgurr na Ciche (1040m) on Wednesday
  • Paddle back to the island half way down Loch Quoich on Thursday
  • Paddle the remaining length of Loch Quoich on Friday
  • Return to Cumbria on Saturday.
Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

22 March 2010

Who turned out the lights?

The weather has definitely changed of late, meaning that much of the rock in the Lakes has taken on a damp, greasy feel, which has made climbing almost impossible. This has not really been a problem; I've been too busy to think about getting out on the rock. Instead I've been spending a lot of time on the fingerboard in between bouts at the laptop working on assignments or training for half a day at the climbing walls of Carlisle or Newton Rigg.

A shower coming in over Ullswater.

That was what happened this morning; a session at the Carlisle climbing wall. However, in the afternoon I headed down south to Newton Rigg, the university campus, for our final Practical Outdoor Activities session of the year. The activity was walking, but the idea behind such a late start was that we could get some night navigation practice in.

Looking down Ullswater to the Helvellyn Massif.

Obviously we were out on the fells, on the north-east shore of Ullswater, before it went dark so to occupy the time we practiced some group management skills for moving over steep ground until it went dark. What was nice about this was the ease in which you could watch the weather systems moving in from both the south and the west.

Looking to make a descent of Auderstone Crags on the western flank of Askham Fell.

It did eventually go dark and after strapping on a head torch we were off tacking back and forth across Askham Fell pacing out distances, whilst trying to religiously follow a bearing in the hope of finding a border post, or a disused reservoir, which turned out to be an old rusty iron pipe, or a cairn on a distinct mound.

Working out the direction and distance to our next point under the light of a head torch.

After we had exhausted the navigational possibilities on the fell we headed back to the shore of Ullswater, where we had begun. and headed for home.

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

17 March 2010

A change in plans

At the end of yesterday's post I mentioned that I would be off to Reecastle Crag today to have a look at what could be a new summer project, Penil Servitude (E5, 6b), however that didn't happen.

I woke at 8:30 with the intention of getting two hours of university work in before heading south for the Watendlath valley and the crag, but the weather had different plans. The pavements in front of the house were wet at 8:30, but by 11am they were dry, so I set out on the drive south. I hit Penrith and the roads were still wet, and it looked like they would be getting wetter; it had begun to rain. I turned tail, headed for home, and then onto the Sands Centre to pull on some plastic holds for a couple of hours instead.

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

16 March 2010

Carrying on a theme...

The second year of University is starting to come to an end, which is strange as we've only just passed the halfway point in March, but after this week there is only one more week of teaching, but still seven assignments to be researched, written and submitted. However, I've assessed the situation and have been able to justify, albeit loosely, that I can have a break this week and get some climbs in. By a break I don't mean I'm skipping lectures to get out climbing - that's just wrong - but lectures have been rearranged, which has meant I only need to be in University at the end of the week.

Today's plan was to head to Hodge Close Quarry and then it wasn't. We started out down the road to the Kirkstone Pass and then some rather dark clouds began to roll in. We ditched these plans, turned at Dockray and were soon on the A66 heading for the Borrowdale Valley once again. The venue of choice was the ever faithful Shepherd's Crag and the first route of the day was The Bludgeon (E1+, 5b).

Grabbing a much needed rest after surmounting the pinnacle on The Bludgeon (E1+, 5b).

I seconded the first pitch and headed out on the lead for the harder second pitch. I was making good progress and was feeling good on the route, however I got too settled in the first niche, where you were able to shake out, and this psyched me out a bit; I was able to think about the harder climbing still to come and the consequences of getting it wrong. I tried thrutching up onto the pinnacle, where another rest would have allowed me to get it back for the final two or three moves over the steep overhang, however I couldn't commit to the moves. Instead I lowered back down to the belay.

Pulling out onto the head wall of The Bludgeon (E1+, 5b).

To cut a long story short, the pitch was eventually led by one of my companions and almost immediately after I was left on my own, at the belay, whilst my other companion thrutched up onto the pinnacle and pulled out over the overhang. I was next. I was moving well and again the thrutching move up onto the pinnacle caught me out and I was off. Swinging into fresh air. I managed to get back onto the pinnacle and pull over into the second and final rest before the final overhangs, which I dismissed quickly.

By now the day was getting late and I was feeling slightly annoyed with myself. The moves were in my ability, but I just couldn't commit to them. In the hope of getting it back we headed over to the soft touch E1, Conclusion (E1-, 5b) where I racked up and headed off up the first of the two pitches.

Above the crux of Conclusion (E1-, 5b).

I organised some gear below the crux, organized my head and pulled up through the crux and was away up the pitch to the belay. It felt good to be able to move with confidence on the rock and make up for such a dismal earlier performance.

Approaching the traverse at the end of Conclusion's (E1-, 5b) first pitch.

The second pitch was quickly dispatched, and after a failed abseil descent we were soon stuffing the gear back into the rucksacks and walking back down to the car planning what to do tomorrow. It looks like it's going to be Reecastle, where I've got my eye on shunting Penil Servitude (E5, 6b), which could very well become my project route for the summer instead of Gillette Direct (E2, 5c); deep down I know I should be onsighting such a route. I just need to man-up a little bit.

There are a few more pictures of the day here.

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

15 March 2010

I'm crimping Moss!

The Carrock Fell locals.

I spent the morning at Carrock Fell checking out the problems on the Far North circuit and I can't think of a better way of spending an overcast morning in the English Lake District. The rock was perfectly dry and so was the ground, which is unusual. This isn't a common occurrence for Carrock Fell; on my previous visits I've come away with soaking shoes and extremely wet socks, but today this wasn't the case. Instead I came away with numerous grazes on my fingers, palms, forearms and shins as the Gabbro rock was not one for being nice on the old skin. There's nothing really left to say so here is a small selection of the morning's photos.

Working up the arete on the Canada Boulder's Problem 14 (V0-, 4c).

The bomber handholds on Cube (V1, 5c).

Pulling off the ground on The Sugarloaf's Problem 7 (V3).

The classic problem, Boardman's Arete (V2, 6a).

More can be seen here.

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

13 March 2010

MGC (E2-, 5c)

Taken yesterday on my headpoint of MGC (E2-, 5c) at Shepherds Crag in Borrowdale.

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

12 March 2010

When lectures are optional...

and the weather is rather favourable what would you do? I decided that I would go climbing instead of going to the optional lecture. To be fair the optional lecture was really a tutorial offering help for an assignment, which I feel I have sussed, so I wasn't missing anything of importance. Climbing in the English Lake District seemed the only sensible option to be honest. The venue of choice was the Borrowdale classic, Shepherds Crag, because it is so accessible, but also I had an ulterior motive: to tie into the lead on MGC (E2-, 5c), which I had worked a couple of weeks ago.

Approaching the Saddle Belay on Little Chamonix (VD).

Obviously it would be unwise to jump straight onto MGC so instead we headed up the classic multi-pitch VDiff, Little Chamonix before walking back around to the base of the crag and popping up Kransic Crack Direct (HVS, 5a) before abseiling back down to the ground. I felt suitably warm now and after setting up one of the cameras to make a photographic record of what would be, if I was successful, my hardest lead climb to date I tied in and started up the route.

The camera set up ready for the lead attempt on MGC (E2-, 5c).

Unfortunately the pictures of the ascent are not on the camera I have access to, but once I receive a copy of the pictures I'll pop them on here, but the ascent went well. The tactics I had for the route were spot on, which meant I could place the necessary gear and make the more important moves with little pump in my forearms, which made it all go a bit easier.

I've now got two days of work up in Whinlatter Forest for Go Ape, and then next week I am pretty free so hopefully I'll be able to get back out on the rock and continue working away on some of the Lake District classics.

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

09 March 2010

When lectures are cancelled

Setting out on the walk-in to Sergeant Crag Slabs.

Like I said yesterday, today's lectures had been cancelled and the weather was looking on the better side of good so the plan was to walk up the Langstrath Valley to take in some of the finest slab climbing in the Lake District. I'm not going to lie; the walk in was brutal and I suppose the main reason for this was our pack weights. The five person team were carrying between them: two sets of half ropes, two 60m single ropes, 80m of static rope and four-and-a-half racks. I suppose you could say: "overkill," but we wanted to be kitted out for all eventualities, which meant leading, shunting and top-roping.

Teams on Lakeland Cragsman (HVS-, 5a) and Terminator 2 (HVS, 5a).

Looking across to Lakeland Cragsman (HVS-, 5a) from Terminator 2 (HVS, 5a).

We eventually reached the crag, an hour later, and it was amazing. The rock was perfectly dry and the setting was one of the best I've experienced of late. We split into two teams and set about climbing two of the classic HVS routes: Lakeland Cragsman and Terminator 2. After abseiling back to the ground we swapped over and set to on the other HVS we had previously watched our compatriots ascend.

Strapping on a pair or rather squashing into a pair of Evolv Bandits before attempting Aphasia (E2, 5b).

One further abseil to the ground and I was left with a predicament: do I get on with what I had originally set out to do, which I mentioned yesterday, or set to on the walk-out. There was much umming and arring and a decision was finally made once one of the other climbers made the first moves on Aphasia (E2, 5b). I swapped shoes, tied into the lead and set out on the route I had planned on onsighting over a month ago.

Starting out on Aphasia (E2, 5b).

It was going well. I was reading the moves well, I was feeling impeccably strong and the change in shoes was helping no end. I had some good gear (one DMM 4CU), some marginal gear and then it dried up. This sketched me out a little bit. I ummed and arred once again, tried working in some gear and eventually bailed after glancing up at the next couple of moves; they were well within my capabilities, but I wasn't happy running it out in the hope of finding some bomber gear to prevent a ground fall.

After quickly packing up the gearing-up ledge, which resembled a very disorganised and untidy climbing shop, we skipped on down to the valley floor and followed Langstrath Beck back down to the car.

More pictures of the day can be found

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

08 March 2010

Some walking for a change...

It's been a while since I've just been walking in the fells of the Lake District, but today that is what I did. In some instances I would not have chosen to do this; I would have much preferred to be out climbing on the rock especially as we've had four days of absolutely awesome weather meaning that most of the crags in Cumbria are in perfect nick. However, the day's activities were governed by the University as it was the penultimate day of our Practical Outdoor Activities module.

Navigating in what could be classed as the best conditions for such a task.

Our walk started out at the southern end of Haweswater and quickly made an ascent to Blea Water before getting onto the ridge, which makes the western coire wall, and takes you to the summit of High Street. There was still plenty of snow around and there were formidable cornices forming on the back wall of Blea Water, however axes and crampons were not really needed.

A frozen Blea Water.

Once on High Street, which wasn't as busy as some metropolitan high streets, but still there were enough people to spoil the solitude, we admired the views over what must have been 90% of the Lake District and we were able to name over 50% of those peaks.

Looking across to the Langdale Pikes and Coniston Old Man.

From here we continued on our walk through the frozen neve to Mardale Ill Bell and down to the Nan Bield Pass. Some of the group left us here, but the majority carried on up over Harter Fell where a descent of the Gatescarth Pass could be made back down to Haweswater.

Heading up Harter Fell.

Looking at the weather forecasts this spell of exceptionally good weather is looking like it will hold for a few more days and as it happens all of tomorrow's lectures are cancelled meaning I'm off to Sergeant Crag Slab's to see about onsighting an E2.

More pictures of the day can be found here.

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

01 March 2010

What a day...

I religiously study the weather forecasts, on a regular basis, in the hope of spotting when it will come good so that I can get out on the rock. Many of the forecasts I use were unanimous in what they said and that was that Monday was going to be a really nice day and they were not far wrong.

Looking out from the road into the Watendlath Valley.

We headed out in the morning in the hope of taking in Reecastle Crag where I had spotted a couple of lines that were ideal for shunting and thus be good for my training regime. However, when arriving at the crag, and jogging ten minutes up the hill to the foot of the routes, I could see that climbing wasn't really viable as the rock was not only wet, but also greasy.

About to pull up into the first crux of MGC (E2-, 5c).

Not to be put off by this minuscule fact, and with the knowledge that the Borrowdale Valley is home to so many climbs it could occupy a lifetime to get them all done, we returned to the van and headed further into the valley to the exceptionally popular Shepherds Crag. I had one objective now and that was to work the classic MGC (E2-, 5c) on the shunt in preparation for leading the route in the near future.

Looking down after the hard climbing of MGC (E2-, 5c).

The route went well. I onsighted it clean on my first go, once I had rigged the rope at the top of the crag, and then I repeated the climb on four more occasions perfecting the moves and seeking out the protection that would save me from hitting the deck in the result of a fall.

On the easier slabs of MGC (E2-, 5c).

I now feel ready for the lead and I now just await another perfect day to get back to the crag and tie into the sharp end to scale the route. We packed up early and left the crag around 2pm for tea/coffee and medals in Keswick and a bit of retail therapy in the usual suspects content with what we had achieved.

Coffee and medals in Pillar Cafe, Keswick.

More pictures can be found here.

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