Monday, 22 June 2015

Lakeland Spanking

Two days before I left the Highlands to visit the Lake District, I managed to campus 1 – 4 – 7 on the campus board at the Inverness Climbing Wall (very unimpressive in the world of climbing, but for a weak trad climber like me, it’s a personal highlight).  However, did this new raw power help the old school Lakes route?  No, I got spanked!

So, Blair and I packed our bags and went on a week long holiday to the Lake District.  To get us into the holiday vibe, Blair explained the theory of spontaneous road jams occurring on motor ways.  He also mentioned how mathematical modelling is now used in town planning to help make traffic flow more efficient .  We also listened to some shit poems.  However that got replaced pretty quickly by some Paul Oakenfold.

Anyway, arriving mid afternoon we did few routes at Reecastle to unwind.  This was my first proper visit to the Lakes.  We had it all in front of us.  Where do you go?   What do you do?  So many options.  We had high pressure forecast for the whole week which made the choice pretty much endless.  The turmoil in my head in choosing venues was painful.  I guess I relaxed during the middle of the week when I realised I can’t tick the Lakes in a week.  We settled with visiting a new crag each day and do a few classics. 

Blair starting us off with 'Guillotine'

So the first rude surprise was the cost of parking at Langdale.  £6 or something… Thankfully the machine was broken. 

Pavey Ark

 One of the routes we did was 'Fallen Angel' E4.  A route that 1-4-7 training had absolutely no use for.  I suspect this is more pleasant than climbing Unicorn in winter.   

Blair on 'Fallen Angel'

Next up was 'Sixpence' E6.  Well this was pretty cool. I was feeling pretty hesitant starting up the flake of Eclipse. I was shocked by how bold/committing the E4 start was.  But once committed, it was actually fine.  From the belay below, I ignored the wall below the groove and just assumed there would be crimps and gear all over it.  Not quite.  Very technical climbing with fiddly kit.  At least I could keep reversing the traverse to a rest.  The guide mentions a jug at the horizontal break.  So finally I committed up the wall and found myself ‘laying one on’ for the break.  I assumed my fingers would curl into a jug.  No they just hit a flat licheness ledge.  My body arced but I stayed on, and found a sort of jug…  Kit arranged I went up and down the groove trying to unlock the tricky sequence.  What naturally felt correct was wrong.  I fell, I failed.  Back on, changed my hand sequence which felt wrong but it worked.  I have made note for next time….and to pack a brush ;-).  The rest of the groove was not a path, but I got up it fine.

Recovering at the break on 'Sixpence'

Blair following 'Sixpence'

I was also educated about the American Civil War, Cold War and The Great War.  If you ask me a question on any of these wars, I won’t know the answer.  Apart from one fact I learned.  Blair explained why prostitutes are called hookers.  For some reason I still remember that.

Mirage E5 on Goat Crag in Borrowdale.  I still feel my fingers creak from that route.  I unfortunately messed up the crux low down and fell off.  Lowered down, ropes pulled, did it next go.  The rest of pitch one was pretty engaging.  I assumed it would be easy.  No.  Spaced small gear along with thin technical climbing.  I approached the belay.  A tip off from Iain and Tony was to link this into the next ‘6a’ pitch.  So on I went.  What a pitch!  A full 60m of pretty technical climbing with a pumpy finish.  I’m sure linking the two pitches together, one could award themselves a harder grade.  But since it’s the Lakes, we will keep it as E5 .

Dove Crag was high on the list as a ‘must visit’.  I felt slightly intimidated standing beneath this imposing buttress of rock.  We found ourselves warming up on the ‘bold and strenuous’ E4 called 'Explosion'.  I can confirm is was bold and strenuous. 

Nice weather.  Dove Crag in the distance.

Bucket City E6.  Yes, there are buckets everywhere except the crux.  I was spat off this one.  Again, mid crux I was hesitant on where to go. Up to the flake? Or continue up the crack?  I hung around faffing then fell. I had a look to see then lowered off. Ropes pulled and despatched next go.  Despite the climbing after the crux being pretty steady and positive, I still found it quite intimidating.  You look up and can’t see any holds.  But then these wonderful in cuts just appear.

Relived to have passed the crux.  

Dove was that good, we were back up the next day.  Tony had recommended not to warm up on ‘Fast and Furious’ with ‘The Fissure Finish’ E5.  Whatever I thought.  Blair had done ‘Fast and Furious’ the previous day so it will be easy then just move right I thought.  So up I went.  At the junction I shaked out.  Glancing up at the groove there was no thread in sight.  Then my eyes caught an obvious little slot where a nice thread would be… Ballocks!  No thread.  Oh well, I’ll give it a shot and run it out or something.  So off I went, peg clipped then up to the slot.  ‘Fuck!’  My elbows were touching the skye.  Somehow I managed to hang on the shit holds, get a rock 7 off my harness, thread that, get a quick draw, clip it onto the wire, clip my rope in, hung on, hung on, then sagged onto the rope. Pumped, screaming in a rage about dirty rock and no threads, I got what I deserve.  My ass kicked.  (Note to self:  Next time, rap down, put a thread in place and give it a quick brush).  'Fear and Fascination' E5/6 went fine.  About time I got up something.

Blair on 'Fast and Furious'  A more appropriate grade would be E5/VII 7.  The top chimney was pretty filthy.

Fear and Fascination 

Kilnsey.  My first visit.  I wish I could pack this crag in my suitecase and take it home with me.  I was seriously impressed by it.  I’m not sure the conditions were primo for our visit.  It had just stopped raining on arrival with the air remaining fairly warm and humid for the rest of the day.  However, it was superb.  Again, my agenda was to ‘tick the crag’ (you know what I mean, do all the routes I can do) but that never quite happened.  'Dominatrix' F7c was the highlight whilst we both provided the locals with a pantomime on ‘Pantomime’ F7b+.  We finished out 9hour day there with me starting up ‘one last route’.  Some 7b on the left hand side.  I was fighting to even get to the first bolt, let alone move past it.  Quoting Dave Douglas ‘I was gone’.  Time to go home.

Blair not sure if Ski Touring was ideal prep for this route.

No slabs

There are many more cool routes to mention but I’ll leave it there.  Our trip was a success mainly due to the fact we had a great place to hang out.  Blair’s friends, Alan and Amanda very kindly offered to let us stay at their house for the week.  I was slightly worried prior to our arrival.  They are both mathematicians.  With Blair being a Dr of snow, I felt my Exercise Physiology background wouldn’t make the make the standard at the dinner table.  However, I was made very welcome and had a great laugh every day.  Thank you!

The Lake District is a wonderful venue.  I can’t wait for my next visit.  I’m keen for some long weekends down there, especially if this crap weather continues here in Scotland.  So get in touch if you are keen.  I’m aware we never even scratched the surface of what’s on offer.  However, this trip was a great introduction and now I have a proper ticklist. 

Yesterday I went for a scramble up Stac Pollaidh with Mhairi.  Skipping along the ridge soaking up the view of Assynt did remind why I live up in the Highlands.

Mhairi on Stac Polliadh

Although the midges are hanging about and it seems to keep raining.  But this crap weather has allowed me to work my weakness. QED is coming along nicely ;-)

Another rain shower whilst fighting with Ivy at Duntelchaig.  (Photo: Gaz Marshall)