Monday, 27 May 2013

Roof Route at Rivelin

Headed out to Rivelin for the second time in as many weeks, the target: Roof Route.

Despite an almighty struggle I was unable to pull up on the heel hook and paid the price by being spitted off a number of times and shredding my left hand!

This is still high on the list of climbs to do but first I need to work on my indoor roofs!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Jamming at Bamford: Success and Failure

With it being bank holiday John and I had cooked up plans to get out to Wales for two days with the intention of getting in some classic climbs on Idwal slabs and maybe even for John to have a crack at Cemetry Gates. However a last minute offer of a place to Gogarth was too good for Brannock to turn down and I turned to UKC for search of a last minute partner. With much trepidation I sent out a couple of messages to people and also started my own thread. Luckily for me I got a message back from someone living not to far from me who was keen for getting out and being a sport climber have his first taste of trad on grit.

I have been checking out my log book pretty intensely recently and have spotted some serious gaps in my jamming ticklist, mainly at Bamford, so come Sunday morning Tom and I set off for Bamford via a petrol station for some power juice (tropical fruit juice). With a number of routes in mind we made quick work of Bamford Wall as a warm up, a route I have wanted to do for a long time since reading about Haydn’s attempt at it. With this in the bag we moved further down the crag and ticked off Browns Crack, Quien Sabe and Curved crack in about as quick and efficient manner as I think I am capable off. At this point Tom decided to have a shot at leading a route and with Cam’s and Hex still in place he shot up Curved Crack with only a small fall due to trending too high and being unable to reverse the move.

Up next was Bilberry Crack a VS 5a which I eyed up dubiously my confidence not helped by watching the previous climber rest on gear then retreat into the adjoining VDiff. With this in mind I started from the large block and found a number of pleasant bridging positions which really took the sting out of the thin crack which took nearly every small nut I could through at it.

With all of the tick list climbs on this side of the crag done we wandered back along the crag passing under Gargoyle Flake, a route which everyone seems to have done and been photographed on in the process. Thankfully no one was around to capture me wobbling and cursing up the route: struggling first to keep my head on the bold slab at the bottom,  freaking out at the start of the layback flake (this is where the swearing began) before trending left and missing the finale finish in all its glory due to my lack of faith in my size 1 and 2 nuts.

This started the general decline in my confidence for the rest of the day and despite numerous attempts on Gunpower Crack, which eventually succumbed to Tom’s strength and technique (his first trad lead), beat me off leaving me one final tick at Bamford ensuring a return journey.

Tom then capped off his brilliant and “stylish” lead of Gunpowder Crack with a brave lead of Shadow Wall underneath the prow. This route consisted of a edging up a couple of rounded breaks before a huge reach to break (Size 0 cam) before coming up around onto the top of the “Gun”. My attempt at this on second was pathetic and I couldn’t step up high enough to even attempt the high reach and ended up having to be lowered off for top to abseil and clear the gear of his second ever lead!

Despite the last two climbs getting the better of me I left Bamford very happy with what we had achieved that day and a good number of jamming routes under my belt!

 (Photo's will hopefully follow)

Sunday, 28 April 2013


Today was my first visit to Millstone, a place I have been avoiding for a long time now. The reason for my reluctance to go there has been mainly influenced by a number of comments made by the Captain back in 2nd year about how all the climbs were steep, intimidating and downright painful compounded by the fact that if you couldn't lead VS then you would have nothing to climb (this was back when I aspired to lead Severe). What I discovered about Millstone is this description is indeed true of some of the climbs there but cannot be applied to all of the climbs.

The Captain at Millstone

We started the day with John leading Embankment 1 (pitch 1) with a very hung-over me seconding. In hindsight I felt that both of us made this climb look a lot harder than it should have been. I decided to jump straight onto a VS, Embankment 2, as true to the previous description if you want to lead something good you need to be climbing at VS. I cannot describe how much of a pleasure it was to lead this climb. Twin cracks provide abundant foot holds and jams whilst the right hand crack is perfect for protection throughout (tactical nuts at the start before cams towards the end). I honestly think that I can call the lead of this climb my best lead ever! Unfortunately to get the full tick I lead the top pitch as well which I found a right struggle and felt pretty shaky on throughout. However this did not take away from the overall sense of achievement of the lead of the first pitch.

Embankment 2, VS 4c
Following this John decided to up his game and jumped on Embankment 3 (pitch 1). A shaky start with his first nut popping out he approached the crux centre and after about 2 rests on gear he powered through to the top of a very stiff route. Sadly my seconding of the route left a lot to be desired with a lots of assisted stand ups and a very tight rope!

The Captain on Embankment 3, E1 5b

With the weather closing in I had a brave attempt at Bond Street, HVS 5a, which would have been my first of the grade, however despite good technique on the lower crack my strength began to fail me on entering the first niche and after two rests I decided to lower off and save the route for a more stylistic ascent on another day.

Bond Street . . . I'll be back!
Overall putting to one side frigging up an E1 and lowering off a HVS I have doubled my experience of E1 cracks, lead a quality jamming VS and summed up the courage to attempt a HVS. Who would have imagined!

Millstone gear rescue service (Bond Street)

Monday, 22 April 2013

Gritstone Jamming - First weekend of the revolution

So this is my first weekend getting out onto Gritstone and it was definitely a success. As desperation set in on Thursday night I turned to UKC to look for a partner for the Saturday and lucked out with it being the Mynydd Climbing Club's Turn up and Tie on meet.

With much trepidation I caught the train to Grindleford and walked up to Froggat Car Park where I sat look lost and confused until the Mynydd Club members began to arrive.

Upon getting to the crag we split into groups and I partnered up with Paul for my first lead of the season up Green Gut. This was followed by a number of other ascents of Gritstone Jamming cracks: Diamond Crack, Terrace Crack, Sunset Crack (seconded), Heather Crack (seconded) and finally some interesting udge-ing up Hawk's Nest Crack, undoubtably the best route of the day with an intense finish over the exposed flake!

Terrace Crack, HS 4b, (courtesy of Mynydd C.C.)

To follow up such a good first day of the season I had planned to meet with the Captain in Sheffield on the Sunday and after yet another pointless taxi ride to the station (I need to get up earlier) we were off to Rivelin Edge.

First route of the day was Root Route (S, 4a), another of the Gritstone jamming cracks, which felt pretty tough for the grade. John followed with up with a spectacular lead of Croton Oil, HVS 5a, which was at that point and probably still is my hardest second to date and one of the best belays I've been party to in the peak.

Due to the crowds and a burning desire to forge through my tick list we headed back right for Altar Crack a route which the guide book describes as a route from when "men were men". After a cheeky bit of bridging out and high gear placements I sprinted, though not very quickly up to the break and an awkward rest. Unfortunately my attempt to move from the rest did not go as smoothly as the rest of the route had and reversing the move to the rest was just too much for me and had to rest on the gear with much cursing and swearing. After a quick breather I jumped back onto the route again and turning my jam into more of a layback I unlocked the move got a high foot and gasped may way to the top. 

Altar Crack, VS 4c, on the left and Nonsuch, HVS 5b (E1 UKC), on the right

Having watched me struggle up Altar Crack the Captain decide to have a go at the thin crack to the right, Nonsuch, and lead it with a couple of rests due to the strenuous nature of the jams and the poor quality foot placements. Whereas the lead had been an education in grace and balance my attempt on the route was less than subtle due to combined pulling up whilst rope was taken in. Eventually I made it to the top though not with much claim to a true second!

All in all a great weekend, shame about the rest on Altar Crack as it doesn't count towards my tick list but it does give me a reason to come back to Rivelin.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Dreams, plinths and a new resolve

For a long time I have dreamed of doing Green and Comb Gullies on Ben Nevis. I have had both these climbs in mind every time I have headed up to Scotland for the last three years but never with realistic thoughts of being able to attempt them, let alone lead them successfully.

Fortunately though with the Winter Season lasting through until April I was gifted with the opportunity to travel to Scotland over the long bank holiday with 'Monkey Face' and the 'Captain' with the recurring dreams of Green and Comb Gullies. However with surprise I found myself walking into the Ben Nevis with the actual intention of climbing Green Gully and no less alternate leading.

What I realised on finishing this climb and on completing Comb gully two days later was that I had built a mental block towards climbs like this, putting them on a plinth which I thought I would never be able to stand upon myself.

Green Gully, IV 3

With these two climbs having gone some way towards expanding this narrowed view I found myself almost a week later standing at the foot of the Screen in Cwm Idwal (Devil's Kitchen) preparing to tackle the steep pillar on the first ice pitch.

The Screen, IV 4

Climbing these three climbs in such a short space of time has opened my mind to the possibilities out there if I seize the chances available to me and aim to achieve things that I once thought impossible. Sitting here now with the Winter Season drawing to a close for me I can only wait for the weather to roll back and for the opportunity to get out and test my new resolve on the Grit.

Here's to breaking boundaries!