28 March 2012

Four Days of Mountain Adventures.

I've just returned to work after a short, five day holiday, in which I managed to get out into the mountains for four of those days. That in itself is impressive, but what is even more impressive was the Cumbrian weather; it was perfect.

Phoebe stood above Great Langdale Beck with the Langdale Pikes in the background.

On the first day we went for a walk around the Langdales with my mum (Phoebe's Nanna) and my brother (Phoebe's Uncle Dan). We started out from Elterwater and headed up the valley, and returned along the banks of Great Langdale Beck. Once back at Elterwater we continued on down to Skelwith Bridge before retracing our steps.

The tent pitched and Phoebe exploring.

The following day was a late start, but that was because we had a lot to pack; we were going to spend the night under canvas in the Eskdale Valley. The Eskdale Valley, in my opinion, is too far to drive in one day, from Carlisle, meaning I have never visited the valley. However, an overnight stay makes the long drive around the west coast of Cumbria more worthwhile.

Sat enjoying the spray being blown from Stanley Force.

We arrived at the Fisherground Campsite at mid-day, and after pitching the tent and lunching we headed out for a walk, which took in Stanley Ghyll, and ended at Dalegarth. This meant we could return to the campsite by the narrow gauge train, which runs up and down the valley. In the evening, I went for a boulder at Eskdale Fisherground's Diamond Area, which was twenty minutes from the tent.

Trying to get established on the slab of Problem 7 (V2, 6a), Animal Boulder.

The following day, after a cold start, we headed up to the Animal Boulder, which was only ten minutes walk from the tent, for an early morning boulder before packing up and headed further up the valley for a short walk around Hardknott Fort.

Phoebe having a walk around Hardknott Fort with the Scafell Range behind.

The final day of the four day mountain adventure saw me having an early start; the plan was to tick off a couple of routes on Esk Buttress. We walked in to the crag, which lies on the flanks of Scafell Pike and sits high up in Eskdale, from Seathwaite Farm in Borrowdale so we had a fair few miles and meters of ascent to cover. We managed to get it done in two, long, tiring and sweaty hours and were climbing the first pitches of Square Chimney by 10am.

Seconding the first pitch of Square Chimney (VS).

After ticking the first four pitches of Square Chimney we stepped across onto Medusa Wall and finished up that route's final two pitches. This gave us six pitches of stunning climbing, on some perfect Borrowdale Volcanics, on what has to be one of the remotest, and most beautiful crags in the Lake District.

Upper Eskdale as the sun sinks behind the Scafell Range.

More pictures of the four days can be found here.

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

19 March 2012

A Day at the Crag.

Looking out across the Langdale Valley to Pike o'Blisco.

I had a day off today, so headed out into the Langdale Valley with my rack in my bag, and a partner for the day. We headed to White Ghyll, which is close to the road, but still far enough away to get some solitude, peace and quiet.

Looking down on Stickle Barn.

We started out on Slip Knot (VS, 4b), before moving on to Laugh Not (HVS, 5b), which is an unrelenting climb that just keeps going. It's been a while since I've been on a rope, let alone on a rope outside, and to be honest you could tell. I didn't move across the rock with any elegance and climbing with double ropes added to the confusion.

Starting out on Slip Knot (VS, 4b).

However, it was nice to be out on the Lake District rock and it would be nice to be out with the rack and ropes more often. It's just a shame that it is so hard to do that, with everything else that has to be done, in order to live from day to day.

Nearly at the end of Laugh Not (HVS, 5b).

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

14 March 2012

Heading East

Phoebe climbing for the guidebook.

It's unusual for me to have a Wednesday off, but I did, and thank god I did. Firstly Starbucks were giving away free Latte's all morning so I was able to get one of those, but more importantly, the sun was shining. We therefore headed east into The County (Northumberland) for a spot of bouldering at Shaftoe.

About to be spat off Mini Power (Font 6c).

Shaftoe is an amazing bouldering venue with well over 300 problems graded from Font 3 through to Font 8b and is also perfect for my entourage and their accompanying vehicles. We headed over to the Pudding Stone and then worked our way south down to Arete Land, which isn't far at all, but still, there are twenty four problems in this section and I ticked just under 50% of them.

Starting out on Slapper (Font 7a).

I feel that I should have ticked more, but I seem to struggle on The County's sandstone and have to make a real effort just to get up the low graded problems. However, I did tick a Font 7a today, the first time I have done this in The County, and despite this, I still got spat off a couple of easier problems.

On reflection I think the height of the problems subconsciously discourages me in trying really hard; instead of using momentum to get me through moves I try them statically, and at times, this approach does not work. The County top-outs also put me off some of the higher problems, as one wrong slip means gravity will take effect, resulting in some degree of pain; it is inevitable that I would land on my back, which is something I do not cherish, especially as I tend to boulder with out any spotters.

Phoebe exploring her cave.

This may seem strange as I tend to visit crags these days with my two girls in tow. I suppose one of them is eleven months old (tomorrow) and the other is too busy entertaining the former. However, we struck lucky today. We found a friendly cave at Arete Land, where we could attach some of Phoebe's toys and what followed was something to behold; Phoebe clambered up, down and around the cave so she could get at her toys.

Topping out on Classic Arete (Font 6a).

Back to work tomorrow.

More pcitures can be found here.

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

10 March 2012

Unusual Items at the Crag and a Personal Best

We've just got back from an afternoon at the Bowderstone. I've been slightly apprehensive about returning to The Stone; my last visit was back in early June 2011, and I've not been climbing much since then. However, I have been racking up the hours on the Beastmaker so I had some confidence in my finger strength, but was still concerned; The Stone isn't the friendliest of venues for someone out of climbing shape.

Phoebe exploring the Bowderstone and it's surroundings.

Phoebe came with us, so the walk-in from the small lay-by, off the Borrowdale road, was fairly brutal. The Mountain Buggy doesn't cope that well with bedrock steps and microwave size boulders so we had to carry Phoebe (in her pushchair), Phoebe's accessories, my rock shoes and bouldering mats the five hundred meters or so to the base of The Stone. I suppose we were lucky that we could also carry the V-Tech so Phoebe could be kept entertained for the two hour session, by exploring the base of The Stone, whilst pushing it along.

Phoebe is looking at the ladder to the top of The Stone whilst Daddy climbs Statstick (V6). She's probably thinking the ladder would be an easier way to get to the top.

At the start and on the second to last move of Picnic Sarcastic Sit Start Right Hand (V8).

I did however surprise myself, despite all my apprehensions. I ticked, what were my five warm-up problems a year ago, on my first attempts and then got Statstick (V6) on the third or fourth go. This problem had previously taken me countless attempts over several sessions to tick. I then moved onto Picnic Sarcastic (V7), which I got on the first go, again, a problem that took me several sessions to get, and then the tour de force was ticking Picnic Sarcastic Sit Start Right Hand (V8) on my first go. I did get on this problem during my last couple of visits, and probably only had ten attempts at the line, but had little success.

I certainly surprised myself, and perhaps I should have a bit more confidence in my abilities. I suppose the countless sessions on the fingerboard, has been the key to maintaining a base level of strength, so I can make the most of those small windows of opportunity to try something that requires you to pull hard on small holds.

Tomorrow I'm back to work and who knows when I'll be back out on the rock.

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