25 June 2010

Have you noticed...

one of the quotes that always appears at the bottom of the page:
"I have no sympathy with the ever increasing number who look on the tramp to the foot of the crags as a 'beastly grind.' It will be disastrous to the sport of climbing if its devotees cease to love the mountains as a whole, as the older men did, and wish only for the crags."
Traversing the screes of Birkness Combe on the approach to Grey Crag.

I first read those few short sentences written by Lehmann J. Oppenheimer in his 1908 book, The Heart of Lakeland, in the introduction to the Fell and Rock Climbing Club's guide to Buttermere and St Bees and they mirrored my original rationale for climbing. However, it is only of late that I have returned to this rationale; instead of chasing the grades I have started to explore the mountains once again and it is by climbing on the high mountain crags that I am achieving this.

An unknown climber heading up Slabs Ordinary (VD-).

Take today for example, we parked at the base of Honister Pass, just uphill from Gatesgarth Farm, and walked around the shore of Buttermere before striking uphill into Birkness Combe. Once in the combe, which is the traditional home of climbing in the Buttermere Valley, we made our way to the base of Grey Crag's Harrow Buttress, where we soloed the route, which shares the same name. From here we made our way to the next, slightly higher buttress, known as the Chockstone Buttress, to climb Slabs West Route (HS). This brought us out at the base of the Oxford and Cambridge Buttress where we climbed both Dexter Wall (VS+) and Oxford and Cambridge Direct Route (MS).

Great Gable, Scarfell Pike and Scarfell from High Crag.

This brought us out at the summit of High Stile and from here we were rewarded with some of the finest views on offer in the whole of the Lake District. We tracked east along the ridge that runs from Red Pike in the west to Hay Stacks in the east, and just before we reached Seat we dropped down to Scarth Gap Pass so that we could return to the valley floor and the awaiting van.

Looking up Warnscale Beck with Hay Stacks to the right and Fleetwith Pike to the left.

This must have been what Lehmann J. Oppenheimer was on about. The 'beastly grind' to the crag may have been hard work in the humid conditions experienced today, but it makes the experience that bit more rewarding. However, without that 'beastly grind' the mountains could not truly be appreciated for what they are. The activity of climbing was just a way in which one travels through these beautiful, majestic and omnipotent environments.

More pictures of today, along with the evening at Quayfoot Buttress and the day at Dow Crag, can be found here.

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

22 June 2010

William Wordsworth...

once said:
"in the combinations which they [mountains] make, towering above each other, or lifting themselves in ridges like the waves of a tumultuous sea, and in the beauty and variety of their surfaces and colours, they are surpassed by none."
Looking across Goat's Water to Goat's Hawse and The Old Man of Coniston.

He certainly got it right. Today I was down in the South Lakes climbing on Dow Crag, which is high up above Goat's Water behind The Old Man of Coniston. The day didn't start out that great with cloud swirling around the base of the crag, but it eventually lifted, leaving us with views of Coniston and beyond, and when we left the crag it was setting itself up for a beautiful evening.

Soloing past some blue bells on Giant's Crawl (D).

Unknown climbers on Pink Panther (E2, 5c).

Looking out from The Amphitheatre, in Easter Gully, down to Goat's Water.

Making moves across the slab on the first pitch of Murray's Route (S).

It was a fantastic day, and hopefully I'll be heading out tomorrow, for a day that will be just as spectacular. The Lake District is certainly the place to be during this amazing spell of weather we've been having; it shows it at its best.

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

20 June 2010

Saturday Shenanigans

Looking out across Borrowdale, towards Keswick, from the base of Quayfoot Buttress.

Back in work this weekend and after a quite day on Saturday and an early finish (4pm) it was a mad dash into the Borrowdale Valley in the hope of getting two routes in, in just two hours, before heading out for the night in Keswick town.

Pulling over the overhang on Irony (HVS-).

The crag of choice was Quayfoot Buttress because of it's close proximity to the road. I have visited the crag on one previous occasion and was impressed by not only the routes, but also the quality of the rock and the setting of the buttress.

High up on The Go Between (E2).

The two routes for the two hour challenge were the three pitch classic Irony (HVS-) and The Go Between (E2), a two pitch route up some spectacular rock and in order to cut down on time we eliminated the belays at the ends of each pitch, and instead, climbed on through to the top. This meant that some thought had to be paid to the ropes and the placing of gear to eliminate the dreaded rope drag, but we managed it on both occasions, and we also nearly managed to get both of the routes done in two hours.

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

17 June 2010

A couple of days in Scotland

I've just spent a couple of days, north of the border, visiting family and friends and during this time I managed to get out climbing. Two days were spent exploring the Red Craigs in Glen Clova and then on the way south I managed to get a session in at Dumbarton.

Glen Clova from the top of Central Crack (HS, 4b).

Scouting out another route on the lower north-west crag.

Trying to get it back on Cauldron Crack (HVS, 5a).

The first day of my Red Craigs exploration was spent on a rope ticking off some of the classic lower grade routes and then the following day, I was back, with pads on my back, to check out the circuit documented in the Bouldering in Scotland book.

Heading, once again, for the Red Craigs for a bouldering session.

Looking out of the cave at Weems Arete (Font 6a+) at the Hole of Weems boulders.

Glen Clova: Bouldering Sessions.

I managed to get 50% of the circuit completed before the weather began to turn, but motivation was also starting to dwindle and the energy levels were starting to fade so the session came to an undignified end.

Central Slab Direct (Font 5) on Dumbarton's Eagle Boulder.

Setting out on Erewhon (Font 5) on Dumbarton's Sea Boulder.

Fighting to stay on The Railings (Font 6a+) as my feet cut loose on the Sucker's Boulder.

After resting over night and wanting to make use of the excellent weather, but also at the same time making in-roads on our journey south, we planned on visiting the historic boulder's of Dumbarton. It was a brief sessions, but still enjoyable to say the least, however what was not enjoyable was the rush hour traffic in Glasgow as we made our way back to the M74 and Carlisle.

More pictures of the short break can be found here.

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

13 June 2010

Bouldering and Climbing

Looking over Low Boulder, Mushroom Boulder and Boardman's Boulder in December.

I've just had two days of work at Whinlatter Forest Park for Go Ape, but before that I had a short afternoon session on the Gabbro blocks of Carrock Fell. It wasn't the most productive of sessions, but it was nice to be out on the fell side and in the sunshine once again after an annoyingly damp week.

Bleak How from Langstrath Beck.

Even though I was at work on both Saturday and Sunday it did not thwart my climbing adventures. After finishing work surprisingly early on Saturday (probably something to do with the football) one of my work colleagues and myself made the short drive into the Borrowdale Valley, and after a brisk walk up the side of Langstrath Beck we were at the base of Bleak How.

An unknown climber making moves on Bleak How Buttress (E2-, 5c).

I tied into the sharp end as soon as we had regained our breath and set off up The Reiver (HVS, 5a), whilst another team worked away on Bleak How Buttress. I was feeling happy on the climb; I was reading the moves well, but more importantly was making them with ease. However when I took a brief rest, about two thirds of the way up the route, I had the chance to look down and realise that there were only three pieces of marginal protection in place to save me from hitting the floor and that was it. I was back at that metaphorical wall. That wall that I need to be able to climb over in my minds eye in order to succeed at this game I insist on playing. Needless to say tonight was not that night and instead I made a hasty abseil retreat down the ropes left in place by the team who had successfully made an ascent of Bleak How Buttress.

The evening's climbing session was not all negative however; my work colleague dispatched Bleak How Buttress with ease and I followed them up it.

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

10 June 2010

Familiarity breeds frustration

I have just got back from a short bouldering session at Armathwaite's Sandy Bay and this has put me in a foul mood. This should not be the case; climbing should make you feel happy, but I have come to the conclusion that the familiarity with the problems at Armathwaite, and at any venue for that matter, breeds frustration when things don't go your way. This would not be the case if the venue was unfamiliar to you as you could justify, no matter how ridiculous the excuse, why you didn't make that move or send that problem, but when the venue is familiar to you and you can't make a move or send a problem, which you have done in the past, you have no real justification for your failing. It just leaves you frustrated and I suppose this hypothesis can help support the 'yes' response to the question posed in the previous post.

Problem 7 (V6), Sandy Bay Area, Armathwaite taken in February.

It is worth driving 3000 miles to experience Switzerland's rivers when at times they are similar to their British counterparts. This is because they are unfamiliar and thus every paddle stroke can be seen as an education, every rapid can be seen as a thrill and every meander can cause apprehension and thus heightens the experiences gained from the trip.

I also mentioned in the previous post that their was a simplicity to the trip and by this I meant that there were only four key elements: eat, sleep, paddle and drive. This meant that we were flexible throughout the adventure and this allowed us to experience a larger geographical spread of rivers because we were not based in one location. This again heightens the experiences gained from the trip as you have a better impression of Switzerland's rivers.


At the start of the Dranse.

On the first day of the trip we obviously drove down to Dover, caught the ferry to Calais, and then made our way south to the Alps. This continued into the second day and we eventually pitched our tents at Thonon-les-Bains, on the shores of Lake Geneva, on the Swiss-French border. This meant that when we awoke the following day we could get a couple of cheeky runs in on the Dranse before carrying on over the border into Switzerland, where we based ourselves for three nights at Chateau-d'Oex.

Back on the Sense after portaging a log jam.

Floating along the Simme.

This allowed us to get on two more rivers, the Sense and the Simme, and we also inspected a third, the Saane, which was littered with fallen trees and this forced us to move on to a different area of Switzerland.

Paddling through the Ruinaulta Canyon on the Vorderrhein.

The first point of interest, a 60m long man made weir, on the Hinterrhein.

We settled for the night in Thusis, which is near the confluence of the Vorderrhein and the Hinterrhein, and it took us two days to paddle sections on each of these rivers and then we started on the long journey home.

More pictures from Switzerland can be found here.

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

07 June 2010

Random Waffling

Motivation seems to be lacking at the moment, not only for writing the blog, but also for getting up and out of the house. I am unsure why this is, but I can probably put it down to being tired, both mentally and physically, from a hectic two months spent climbing. I suppose Switzerland capped it all off and now I need to think about recharging the batteries properly before starting back at Go Ape for the busy summer period.


This is harder said than done; I don't like sitting around the house and so today, after I dragged myself out of bed, I slumped into the van and drove down to the Borrowdale Valley. The name of the game was bolt clipping at Dalt Quarry, but the weather thwarted my plans. I had to retire to the Bowderstone instead where the holds were only just dry enough to crank on. It was a short lived session: I ticked both The Crack Direct (V5) and Super Direct (V6) before eventually getting On the Rebound (V7) after a couple of false starts, but still The Bowderiser (V6) thwarted my attempts.

The Crack Direct (V5).

And now for my thoughts on Switzerland:
  • It's a very long way from the UK.
  • It's a very nice country.
  • There is a lot of neatly piled fire wood in the strangest of places.
  • They have a lot of quaint, wooden houses.
  • Was it really worth it?

Moving into The Crack Super Direct (V6).

I'm not too sure on the answer to that question, I would probably say "yes" four times out of five, because of the sheer simplicity of the trip, but I don't feel like I experienced enough of the rivers, culture and scenery for the amount of time spent couped up in a minibus. I suppose the strangest thing about the trip was the way in which everyone kept trying to make comparisons to things that were familiar to them. A classic one being: "this [Swiss river] is very like [insert name of local river]" and this makes me really think hard about the answer to the question posed previously; is it really worth driving 3000 miles to experience something that is very similar to something closer to home?

Back on The Crack Direct (V5) after adding the sit start to make On the Rebound (V7).

I suppose many could argue that the rapids and rivers alone do not make up an experience, but I found myself longing for the Lake District whilst I was away and this makes me think about what Dave MacLeod wrote a couple of weeks ago:
"In 17 years I’ve never once felt bored or short of new things to go and climb within three hours drive of my house. What more could you ask for?"
The answer could be more time and money to explore those things close to your home, so that when you do make enough money, and find enough time to travel farther afield, the experience will seem more worthwhile, as you won't be longing to explore those areas that are close to home.

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

05 June 2010

Boating for a change...

I've just got back from a week long excursion with Arthog Outdoor Education Centre to Switzerland, where I floated down some of their rivers in my kayak. I've got lots of thoughts about the trip, and I need to get them in some sort of order before blogging about them, but in the meantime, in order to keep you occupied, here is a photo montage of the trip, which has been livened up by Ralph Stanley's Cinch Mountain Backstep.

video

If you prefer to take your time viewing the photo's you can check them out here.

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