A Deeper Meaning To The Word Jumbles

Welcome to Jumbles! 

The first time I had ever heard of the word/crag called ‘Jumbles’ was around the same time I started climbing with a friend called Dave, about 6 years ago now. I remember the word so well because we kept talking about the place. He kept saying “we’re going to go to this crag outdoors that is called Jumbles, it’s supposed to be great for bouldering”. I’d never been outdoor climbing and was fascinated by the idea of climbing on actual rock instead of plastic! However, it wasn’t until yesterday that I finally got to the crag, i’ll go into more detail about that later on, but for now, what’s on offer here?

Well, the first picture of the Long Flat Wall captures the best wall of the crag, which has around 10 highballs / short trad routes to go at ranging from Font 4 to 6A+. I bouldered most of them, but I didn’t top them out as it gets pretty high and the tops are quite vegetated. Nevertheless, climbing half way up and down climbing gives some nice problems. If turned into trad routes they range from VS to E2, so plenty to go at on this wall.

I really liked the look of this arete route: Shwelibbert Arete HVS 5a 

 

More trad routes that looked very enticing to me were:

On the left with the z-shaped groove is Mitten Flecther E2 5c & on the arete is Muffly le Strange E3 5c

This isn’t the most appealing photo of the Clown’s Pocket area, but honestly trust me when me I say this: underneath that green moss will contain some absolute gems!

I stepped under the roof of this block in awe looking at that pocket, figuring out the moves and what lay ahead after it. I saw little crimps higher up, past the pocket and felt like I was already on the problem! So, it turns out that there are two classics on this rock called Clown’s Pocket 6C and Clown’s Pocket Direct 7A+ – can’t wait to get my mittens on them. Keep your eyes peeled, i’ll most likely been seen at the crag dangling around cleaning it up ready for action 😀

After rummaging the crag for inspiration and making a mental note for future routes to climb, myself and keen local Tim headed back to the Long Flat Wall to have a dabble on the long surviving ‘Jumbles Project’. The first half is very do-able and has holds, but higher up it looked desperate and quite blank! Also, at around 8metres high, it will get quite spicy! From what i’ve been told, the best of the best have been here to try it and it still hasn’t been sent. The grade is rumoured to be around 7C+ to a whopping 8A. So if you’ve been training hard in the gym over winter and are looking for a serious project to send, this could be it 🙂

After pasting my fingers and remaining energy on the Jumbles Project, I decided to follow the sun around the corner and have a play on some of the Short Flat Wall problems with grades ranging from mainly 5s to 6B.

Overall, Jumbles has plenty to offer for a keen Lancashire local or for someone who fancies trying out a new crag. Especially with a 2 minute walk in from the car park, you can’t grumble. Right now, conditions are perfect as the leaves are gone and it’s a sun trap. I am told that by summer the leaves will be back which won’t  allow as much sun onto the walls and most likely the midges too, so get stuck in now!

On a final note, the reason I never made it to Jumbles or any other crag with my friend Dave Evans all those years ago was because he actually died in France on an ice climbing trip a few weeks after we talked about going here. His enthusiasm for life, getting outdoors, climbing and adventures was so contagious. I know for a fact that I would have done a lot more outdoor climbing by now if I had Dave by my side over the last 6 years, but I’m happy that I can finally say that I went to Jumbles for him and me yesterday. I really believe we should all keep doing what we love, as much as we can whilst we’re here, whether we do it alone or with friends, just make it happen.

Thank you so much for inspiring me and introducing me to the world of climbing Dave, you are always missed.

Naf

 

 

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The Sandstone Monster Hidden Away In The Eden Valley

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A beach resort in the Lake District

When someone says to you “lets go to the Lake District for rock climbing”, one instantly pictures an epic mountainous adventure outing. However, head on down to the Eden Valley and you’ll be in for a surprise. A very pleasant surprise at that, which I am about to share with you.

First of all, get yourself to the humble town of Eden, gear up, then take a stroll down the scenic river footpath and you’ll eventually find a beach tucked away with a gnarly steep overhanging block of sandstone to conquer, if you dare! Welcome to Armathwaite.

I won’t have to ramble on too much about this incredible spot though, as this video that i’ve linked below will give it all the justice that it deserves! Thanks very much DMM. Trust me when I say this: you’ll watch this video, drop everything and start planning your own visit to Armathwaite – just like we did 🙂

Link to video: DMM climbing video in Eden

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Andy getting ready for a pump-fest on The Exorcist

In total there’s around 10 routes to venture up on this overhanging monster in the Sandy Bay area including one potential deep water solo. The easiest route up through the overhangs is an E1 6a, yes I did say: E1 6a!! Pretty much all the routes have tough boulder problem starts and protection higher up generally appears to be quite spacious. At least you have a nice soft sandy landing though right?

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Elliot sticking the crux on The Exorcist

This may all sound quite off putting at the moment if you’re not a confident E grade leader, but bare with me. I’ve got a handful of other options to present you with:

  1. Bring some mats and do some low level bouldering. Bouldering seems rather common here as the lower holds are heavily chalked. This is definitely a fun option, especially if you’re known for being a crimping machine.
  2. Throw a top-rope down and launch into full crank mode. Note to climber: a fall will result in a Tarzan-esque swing away from the wall!
  3. Lastly, you could hunt down the handful of easier quality routes that range from VDiff to VS, if you fancy bagging a few leads in.

We actually undertook all 3 options, but the majority of our time was spent working the moves for The Exorcist (E4 5C). I would genuinely put this route in my top 10 favourite routes of 2016. I’m not usually attracted to steep ens, as i’m a weak bean. Yet this route drew me in instantly on arrival, it just stands proud above the beach. It’s quite a technical route that has a very distinct crux; a really cool lock-off and cross over move (pictured above). My advice: keep moving and keep fighting the pump, it soon catchs up with you!

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The hidden gem of slabs!

Now this is what I wanted to see!! After watching the DMM video and seeing Scallop (E7 6b/6c), I was in absolute awe . My heart is set on slab climbing and this is surely one of the finest we have to offer in the UK?! The moves just look crazy and pure perfection for a mad slab head looking for a super challenge. E7 is certainly not my grade, but we were gonna top rope it for a bit of fun. I say top rope, because it’s about 15 metres high with no protection at all! Unfortunately though, as you can see above from the above picture, it was pretty darn soaked on this visit. Therefore no luck trying Scallop this time round.

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Going for a dip in the drink

Obviously a visit to Armathwaite wouldn’t quite be complete without jumping off the cliff to end the day. Here’s Matt taking the leap of faith.

In conclusion, when you’re next heading out to the Lake District this year, be sure not to forget to pack your sun screen and swimming trunks too. Just incase you fancy sun bathing and cannonballing after climbing the awesome routes at this hidden oasis.

Finally, i’d just like to add that it’s been a while since I last wrote, so it’s time to say goodbye to 2016 and hello to 2017! Here’s to another mad year of adventures and writing.

Happy climbing peeps 🙂

Naf

Bamford – Are You Ready To Have Your Picture Taken?

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Bamford, The Peak District

They say open with something that will catch the readers attention right? I feel that Mike, the swinging chap above, just caught yours and mine 😉

Before we dive right into what is probably the most photographed climbing route in England (for good reason), we’ll take a step back to find out where we are and what we got up to.

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In the heart of The Peak District overseeing the Derwent Valley

If you’ve never been here before, how can you not just be sitting there in awe right now? These views were to die for.

 In all honesty, i’d never really heard of Bamford until maybe a week or two ago when the club decided that they were going to have a meet there (cheers Geoff!). I reckon at some point I will have had a quick nosey in the guidebook and skimmed past Bamford, not really taking in the details of this crag, as it doesn’t seem to have a big reputation surrounding it or the routes – for any history buffs out there, I can add that this may be due to the fact that there has been restricted access here over the years. Whereas nowadays I can firmly say that it’s open for business and should receive your attention! Here’s why:

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Brown’s Crack (Top 50 HS 4b)
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Bilberry Crack (VS 5a)
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Quien Sabe? (VS 4c)

Simply put: it not only has wonderful views, but it turns out that the routes are of great quality too!

We headed straight down to the far end of the crag: Great Tor – Lower Tier. What a spot! Loads of great lines to get stuck into, as you can see from the pictures above. It’s not often I get so many photos taken of me, but Andy was on hand snapping away all day – cheers Andy! Nothing beats a good action shot to compliment my rambling 😉

First off was Brown’s Crack. I assumed Joe Brown did the FA, but it turns out that Brown had a predecessor: Dick Brown. A great route if you want to hone in on your jamming skills, which is something i’m always keen to do! Some corking hand-jams up this crack with a crux that you might not expect, I certainly didn’t. Second up: Bilberry Crack – a really nice exercise in bridging up a slabby and a vertical wall that has all the protection and holds in the right places for a nice VS lead. The last route I lead in this area was Quien Sabe? As you may have seen in the photo above, it has quite the buldge! It enticed me because it scared me. Buldges and cracks don’t usually rank high up on my go-to route, but the only way to get better is to face your fears right? There’s no doubt about it, it felt committing under that buldge, but once I figured out a sequence that would work for me and I went for it, it didn’t actually feel too bad.

For anyone who’s feeling really psyched up for something a bit more spicy and like dancing across pebbles, there’s always the Johnny Dawes test pieces to try out here: The Salmon and Smoked Salmon, both going at bold E7s…

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Cruising my way up Gargoyle Flake (VS 4c)

Following on with the hunt to climb the classics of the crag, this had to be THEE classic. It could look quite intimidating this route if you was just breaking into VS, but it’s most definitely all there: the moves are quality, the gear is spot-on and the exposure is just plain perfection.

Once you head up the last section of rock, you plug in some bomber nuts and head up on jugs to a top out that I was expecting to be quite bad and here’s why: a member of the club decided to kindly inform me just before I set off that I should be very careful on the top section as it’s very rounded. This naturally would be quite believable in most circumstances as (1) climbers are nice people (2) tend to give each other sound advice (most of the time) and (3) gritstone tends to always have those well known rounded edges that we all love so much. Turns out that he was having me on! There was friggin’ jugs big enough to lose your arm in! I did wonder if he was like the master of slopers before I set off as he did manage to swing out and pose for photos on one hand (seen below).

Nought like a good sandbagging eh! 😀

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Mike the crag sandbagger!

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Gary embarking on Neb Buttress (HVS 5a)

We headed on over to Neb Buttress to find some more routes to get stuck into as Wrinkled Wall Area was a tad bit crowded – an area well worth checking out if it’s quiet I bet. There’s a great looking VS called Wrinkled Wall that would make for another airy climb up an arete on rounded edges with potentially spaced gear.

I couldn’t help but chuckle when Gary said I can’t go doing Neb Buttress too, as i’d almost be ticking off most of the classics in one day. It would of been pretty cool if I did manage to sneak that Neb Buttress and Wrinkled Wall, but I didn’t. I’ll definitely be back for them though! Neb Buttress looks like an amazing line that weaves it’s way into some committing crack territory and would certainly test your rope management skills no doubt! Have a look at the route in the guidebook, it wonders a wee bit.

Unfortunately my hands were having some weird reaction to the chalk I was using though and my finger tips started splitting quite badly, so I decided to have a bit fun and jumped on Bamford Wall with no chalk and no cams – old school! Turns out the chap climbing next to me hadn’t used chalk since the 90s, so I had no excuses not get it done now!

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The zig-zagging Bamford Wall (S 4a) that finishes up the crack

So there you have it, if you’ve ever wanted an awesome looking climbing photo to share with all your friends to show them how rad you are, this is the place to do it.

For you E graded climbers, there’s most definitely E graded routes to be done here too, but there seem to be no real classics or anything that really caught my eye around the range of E1-E2, which is something i’m usually trying to hunt down.

Anyhow, it’s officially summer now in the UK and it’s time to fully seize every possible moment to get outdoors because it’ll soon be winter! 😮

Oh and one last piece of advice: don’t go believing that there’s hidden sandwiches deep in caves…

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There never is!

Happy climbing peeps.

Naf

 

Burbage North – From Hand Jams To Fist Jams To Crotch Jams

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Welcome to Burbage North

I love days spent in The Peak. It’s always such a refreshing place to be away from all that man-made stuff! As with most crags in The Peak, Burbage North wasn’t going to disappoint at all and here’s why:

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Heading through the jungle
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A cloudy day in The Peak
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Welcome to Long Tall Sally Area

We decided the day before heading to Burbage North that we’d like a ‘crack training’ day and this area seemed spot on for our needs. Barrie woulda been crowded crack champion of the day, if we had a crown to hand and you’ll see why later on 😉

 

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Amazon Crack (HS 4b)
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Andy cruising up on second

I’m not renowned for my crack climbing abilities, but i’m hella keen to learn and get scared in the process, it will only make me better right? 😀

To get the day started I jumped on Amazon Crack. It begins with perfect fist jams, but then soon shallowed to the point were jams were in-between hand and fist. These sorta jams ’cause me to feel quite insecure, so I ended up reaching out for one of those lovely gritstone slopers for a move or two. After sneaking my way through that section and I went back into the crack for sinker hand jams all the to top. As weird as it sounds, i’m happy on jams when they’re sinker, but those not so sinker ones definitely need some practice! 🙂

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Andy on Green Crack (VS 4b) – adequately named don’t you think?
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Barrie going for top points on Obscenity (VS 4c)

I wasn’t actually sure if Barrie meant it went he said he was keen for Obscenity, but i’m well glad he did mean it! As much as I like delicate slabs, i’ll give it all a try and this little wide number is no freebie. It wants to be a chimney, but can be climbed more like an off-width if your willing to go deep, like I did 😉

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Getting a solid crotch jam on Obscenity

It’s a weird style of climbing that I’d say is mostly avoided at all costs nowadays and I can understand why, but it certainly teaches you a thing or two 😉 As crazy as it might sound, generally moving up a few inches at a time is great progress on an off-width and as you may imagine, can take some time! I found the full body approach felt pretty secure on this route and at one point me and Barrie had super solid knee bars that didn’t feel like they were gonna come out!

 

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A wet Long Tall Sally (Top 50 E1 5b)

After getting brutalised on the jams and topping up on mosquito repellent for the 19th time, I still had my sights set on giving Long Tall Sally a whirl. It most certainly wasn’t super inviting with the extremely wet boulder problem start, but I was too enticed to say no!

After gearing up, I worked out a sequence in my head that I thought would work for me to get the boulder problem done and whipped down the required footholds with a good ol’ rag. This gave me about 10 seconds at most to get the starting sequence done before they were soaked again.

Now stood below the buldge of the route my head went into a weird place: It was telling me that I shouldn’t be on the route or that I wasn’t ready for it. I think this was because I felt pretty insecure after the wet start and still didn’t have anything in to stop me hitting the deck. I knew I wasn’t high up though. After getting in some solid gear placements, I took a moment with myself to get back into a good place and then felt much better to move up.

Sometimes you’ve just gotta take a moment on-route to remind yourself that your in control and that you need to relax, which is definitely easier said then done and will most likely depend on the circumstances your in. It takes practice and doesn’t always work, but it is a good tool to have in the back of your mind. I generally find these moments quite memorable when your able to ‘take back control’ 🙂

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High up on Sally

This is supposedly most peoples first E1 and gives many aspiring E1 leaders their first fall too! I can totally see why it would, but the protection is all there so long as you have some micro gear. I don’t think many peoples have them on their racks, but I found a corker of a Peenut placement. I felt pretty confident to do the crux with one of those beauties placed. The crux itself is very precarious and requires a good head, balance and faith in friction – everything I like from a route!  Well chuffed with this one and my first E1 on natural grit too 😀 Highly recommended!

 

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Knight’s Move (Top 50 HVS 5a)

 

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The Sentinel (E2 5b) stands tall overseeing all who come to Burbage North

There’s loads to go at in Burbage North with around 100-150 routes between VDiff-HVS, then maybe around 50 routes that are E1-E4 and above. Two more routes that caught my attention for the next visit were: Knight’s Move and The Sentinel.

I was very tempted to jump on The Sentinel, but the protection above the overhang isn’t obvious and i’ve only done a couple of E2s. I think it’s good to work up the ranks before jumping in the deep end too soon. Therefore, I took a step back and added it to the ‘wish-list’. Not a bad thing though, I always like scouting out a crag and storing some routes in the memory bank for another visit.

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Andy the vampire crack climber

Crackin’ day out, quite literally. Suppose it’s time to rest up, get some skin built back up, restore the blood flow and get ready for the next crack training day!

In the meantime, I have now developed Tennis Elbow from overuse! Should of seen that coming really – D’oh. I’m trying to look at it positively though, it’s giving me time to catch up on reading, writing, yoga and most importantly: gathering some some inspiration for my next adventures to come and appreciate them all the more 😀

Happy climbing peeps. Stay safe and don’t over-do it like a numpty (like me!) 🙂

N.

 

Trowbarrow – The Black And White Photo That Inspired Me

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Copyright BMC – Lancashire Rock Guidebook

I remember the moment last year when I opened the Lancashire Rock guidebook for the very first time, I was in absolute awe after folding over the front cover! Don’t just take my word for it, look at that beautiful image above: perfect looking ginormous cracks that run from top to bottom. Ginormous for the UK at least…

It didn’t take long for Trowbarrow to head it’s way high up on my ‘to go to crags’ list. However, the biggest hurdle that has stood in my way until this day one was the simple fact that it’s pretty far north: Near Silverdale, which is just south of the Lake District.

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First sight of the crag

10 months later and I get an offer from Ian or more like Mr.”Classic Route” (approach a route with caution if he uses these words!), that he’d like to head on up to Trowbarrow for the day. I was over the moon with this idea and jumped straight onboard!

Even though we had a day of climbing planned, the weather forecast looked pretty abysmal in most directions. Nevertheless, we threw together some optimism and still headed for Trowbarrow. Strangely enough, it seemed to work on it’s own weather system. It didn’t get affected at all by the incoming rain, at least not to begin with 🙂

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Main Wall Area

Whatever type of climber you are, big whopping cracks up any rock are just plain and simply so inviting!

The thing I love the most about these cracks is that there weren’t actually there when the first group of explorers arrived to start developing the crag in the late 60s. The cracks became alive after the quarry owners undertook some blasting around 1970 and then the climbers of course ran back to the crag to inspect rumours of new lines! Pretty cool eh?

As you can see, the main wall stands tall and proud. Most of the routes are given plenty of stars and for good reason. Aladdinsane (E1 5a) being the biggest crack, which is actually an off-width! Something I wasn’t expecting. From the guidebook picture it looked like a perfect fist jamming crack. Then there’s Cracked Actor (Top 50 E2 5c) to the left, which looks like a splendid line: thin crack, thin moves and pumpy I bet, as most routes are about 26 metres long up this wall! Pretty much all the other routes on this range between VS-E2, so plenty to go at.

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Left Crack – Aladdinsane (E1 5a) & right crack Jean Jeanie (Top 50 VS 4c)

Ahhhh Jean Jeanie. One of those classics i’d heard quite a bit about from people, but not a sandbag from Mr. Classic this time (that made for a nice change!). I must admit though, kinda tough for VS, but yet feels right for the grade. I say this because all the moves and protection is there, but it just keeps coming at 26 metres long. Oh and if your fortunate enough, you might even make a new friend mid-route like I did: I was greeted by a bird inside the crack on my arrival of the off-width section about 15 metres up. I assumed that it’s squawking was to inform me that it was pleased to see me? Saying that, I was kinda expecting it to dart straight at me so I didn’t hang around too long!

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Red Wall

After finishing off Jean Jeanie we decided to go for a little wonder around the crag to see what else was on offer and I present to you Red Wall.

Some tough looking routes here (at least according to the guidebook). I canne wait to have a bash on some of these on my next visit. Most routes are around the E3 grade with a handful of higher and lower Es too. It’s slightly overhanging, but all the holds looked pretty positive, well chalked and the protection seemed to look good too. I guess it could get pretty pumpy if your hanging around to place it though 🙂

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Lunchtime had arrived and so had the rain clouds – Assagi Wall

I’ll be honest, I had somehow dismissed this area most probably because I was so transfixed on seeing and climbing the Main Wall, but i’m so glad we did jump on here too. We ended up having an awesome little multi-pitch adventure that i’d definitely recommend.

So we initially snuck our way up the VDiff to position ourselves ready for the start of Rumal (HVS 5a), which tackles the horizontal crack that crosses across the crag at about 20 metres height. Ian hadn’t done this before and I was keen too, especially considering that it would set us up nicely to jump on Assagi (Top 50 HVS 5a) afterwards.

Ian smoothly crossed the slabby Rumal and I followed with increasing forearm pump. I started to think to myself “something isn’t right, why am I getting pumped on a slab!?”. After finishing the route, we had a chat and I soon realised that I had been climbing for 4 days straight without really realising. D’oh! No wonder my arms were pretty much giving up on me.

After Rumal, this then sparked the idea of scrambling out and leaving Assagi for another day. However, the other side of my mind was weighing up that the fact this could be my first and last visit to Trowbarrow and I know i’d regret not doing it, especially since it was staring at us! Moments later: “sod it, i’m going for it”. As always, full of great ideas 🙂

Turns out the route is super pleasant, extremely well protected and doesn’t really require much upper body strength as there’s plenty of big foot holds, which was much needed for my weak arms! Haha. So after the initial slab traverse, you then have to head up and take on the crux. However, just before you commit to the crux, take a moment to appreciate the WORLDS MOST POLISHED FOOT-LEDGE. Literally, this thing is slipper then running naked across a frozen lake! I don’t think it’s due to over use though, it’s a different colour to the rock around it and is probably some rare fossil waiting to be taken away. Saying all this, you don’t actually need to use it, it would make the crux easier, but give it a touch or slide, if you dare 😉 The finish of the route is great, you yard up on jugs through the fluted columns to the top. Much needed after the drama of the foot-ledge! Quality route.

Overall, plenty of stuff to go at. Loads of higher E graded routes too with pegs popping out of blank looking walls, if that’s your cup of tea. I do genuinely get quite inspired by seeing that kinda stuff, but I ain’t at the level to be climbing on them just yet.

Most importantly, if your still not feeling like you haven’t had enough of a work out yet, then why not jump on this boulder on your way out 😉

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Some steep boulder problems on a fine looking boulder

Happy adventures and climbing everyone!

Naf

New Mills Tor – Is There Really A Safe Haven From The Dreaded Rain?

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Photo Copyright The Weekend Outdoors

I would usually take most my own snaps, but my phone decided to die after one or two snapshots, so i’ll be improvising a wee bit on this one! I could wait until my next visit to New Mills to get more photos, but i’m too eager to not share this little gem with you right away 🙂

My initial introduction to New Mills Tor was being told dream like statements: “a crag that can be climbed in the rain”. How could a statement like that not play on ones mind? I’ve been eager to head on down and find out first hand what it’s really like whilst it’s whizzing it down. Fortunately for us Manchester dwellers, we don’t have to wait long for the rain to splash on down, it’s been whizzing it down all week!

So, i’m here to answer the burning question you all want answering: is New Mills Tor really a safe haven from the dreaded rain?

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Jim cruising across Viaduct Wall Traverse (V1)

Yaaa-wee! The bold statements of climbing in the rain are true! We’re all saved from the indoors! To some degree, yes – time to explain.

Firstly, we started off our little session by trying out a few of the easier problems, but they soon jump up a grade or two! There’s a couple of V0-V1 problems on the Viaduct Wall and Bionics Wall, but then the grades jump up to V3-V7 in no time at all. Therefore, unless your a beasty boulder crusher, you’ll soon be finding yourself on your next project!

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Photo Copyright The Weekend Outdoors

There’s also the Alcove Area and the Grim Reaper sector pictured above, they both have a few more boulder problems ranging from V0+-V9 to chuck yourself at and I think they were mostly dry – an extra word on these though: some of these problems are quite high, so make sure you pack your bold cap. Either that, or you can turn them into trad routes, as seen above for the arete that is The Steeple (HVS 5a / V1).

As for route climbing, there’s quite a bit of trad to be done and sport climbing (yes, sport climbing! more on that later). Unfortunately I didn’t pack my rack, but i’ll most certainly be taking it next time on my next wet visit. A few of the routes that stood out to me and looked like they were still on the dry side of life were: Alcoved Crack (HVS 5a), The Arete (E2 5b), Mather Crack (E2 5b) and one last route that doesn’t give it’s style away with it’s name: Electric Circus (E3 5c).

On the trad front, grades range from VDiff-E5. Most routes are around the VS and the E2-E3 mark though.

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Copyright UKC – JamesGodwin

A climber zooming his way up Bionic’s Low Left Right Hand Finish (7a+) – that was a mouthful!

If your eagle eyed, you may be asking, is this chap climbing a viaduct? He most certainly is!

My first reaction was “cool!” and swiftly followed by “I wonder if this is legal?”. Turns out that way back in 2011 some climbing dudes went and got permission from their local council to bolt 7 lines on their local viaduct. How flippin’ cool, eh? Feeling pretty inspired to get my local viaduct bolted too. I’ve actually traversed mine in the past, but would love to do routes up it 😀

 

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Copyright Andy Turner

Here’s one of those dudes that are responsible for the sport climbs that is on offer at New Mills.

Which route to start on? Well, both routes on the outside of the Viaduct pillar seemed to be getting a bit splashed by the rain, so we opted to jump on one of the two bolted lines inside the north face of the viaduct pillar. All I knew was that the hardest sport route here is Evolution or Outrage (7a) and it was lurking somewhere, but I didn’t know exactly where. In the end, it turned out that we jumped on Welcome To Portland (Orgeon) 6c, which is next to the Evolution or Outrage – it was a close shave, as we almost jumped straight on EoO!

Welcome To Portland didn’t look like a 6c route from the bottom looking up, but after you hit about half height, you’ll soon find out why it’s getting 6c. I did all the moves, but didn’t get it clean. It would need a bit of work getting used to the feeling of the interesting sandy blocks and working the moves for the route for a redpoint attempt.

As for the rest of the routes: the sport grades run between 6a-7a and are all very well bolted – we both took a few falls on the bolts and none of them or the blocks popped out, so that was a relief! Oh and they’re all about 15 metres in height.

Overall, would I recommend New Mills? Most definitely! I’d probably save it for a rainy day though, unless your local, working on your new found boulder project or fancy just checking out a new crag. Also, it’s super convenient to get to! It’s literally right next to New Mills train station, which is pretty handy for any climber that doesn’t have any wheels to hand.

So there you have it, no more excuses now about the rain and not being able to climb outside – unless you fancy a cosy indoors session!

PS if anyone else knows anywhere else worth checking out in Lancashire or further afield that stays dry in the rain, please feel free to tell me – I’m always on the hunt for new gems!

Happy climbing peeps

Naf

 

Gogarth – Plenty Of Pissing And Queuing To Fulfil A Dream

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Hey look, a no-hands rest

This is THE ROUTE that pretty much is or should be at the top of ones “dream-list”. However, before we dive into the main event that is A Dream Of White Horses, we’ll take a step back to find out exactly how does one end up hanging around on this wonderful route.

This was to be my first ever sea cliff climbing adventure and with my standard naive hat pulled tight, I was perplexed by these squiggly lines that were informing me that you can’t just abseil into the cliffs whenever you fancied. Turns out that the tide goes high and low throughout the day – who’d of thought it eh? So be prepared to get your homework done and don’t go dunking into the sea ropes first!

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First sight of Holyhead mountain

We ended up setting up base camp at Valley On The Rocks for a shiny cost of £6 a night, which gets you: a great location that is only about 10-15 minutes drive away from The North and South sea stacks, several water taps that are dotted around the place, a bit of camping space and some well maintained bogs. Also, 20p for a shower – cheapest yet! Make sure you book ahead though, seems like the owner doesn’t like to flood the place with people, which is good. Nothing worse then a crowded campsite.

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South Stack – Castell Helen

Eager and ready to get stuck in, we headed on down to Castell Helen at about 10am on Saturday to get our provisional license in sea cliff climbing.

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The masses of climbers all waiting to abseil in

We soon realised that we weren’t the only eager beavers, turns out that there was 8 people on top of the cliff all wanting to abseil in and numerous parties already below working their way up. Considering there is only one abseil point, which is also the anchor for most of the routes below, we probably would have queued for about 2 hours before getting on a route. Therefore, it was time for a new plan!

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Holyhead Mountain

The swift change in plan saw us do a full u-turn to head for the almighty Holyhead Mountain that oversees the local dwellers and travellers whom come to island of Anglesey. I was in two minds about plan B; I was excited about the prospect of climbing on a new crag and rock type, but on the other hand, a tad bit upset that it wasn’t involving any sea.

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Katie and Steve cruising up Birthday Passage (VS 4c)
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Lawrence getting to grips with the arete of Cursing (VS 4c)

I have no doubt in my mind that plan B was the best idea to salvage the day and was a good way to help us get introduced to quartzite. It’s a rock type i’ve never climbed on before and  heading to Holyhead Mountain definitely helped me gain some confidence as to what to expect and get a feel for the rock.

Holyhead Mountain has plenty of low to mid range grades to go at; mostly from Diff to VS and some HVSs – E4 and are generally about 30-40 metres long. Oh and it’s pretty much an oven on a nice sunny day, so make sure your creamed up! Overall, a wonderful spot and is only about a 20 minutes march from the car – winner.

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Attempt two at Castell Helen

We decided that we would try and sneak in our first Gogarth sea cliff experience before the end of our first day of climbing and strolled over to Castell Helen again, in the late afternoon. However, to our amazement, we once again spotted another group of people sitting at the top of the cliff. Undeterred by this fact, we decided to go on down and scout out the situation and assess how long it would take us before we could get stuck in. Things seemed promising this time round: a few people were just topping out, one party waiting to go down and they weren’t doing the route we wanted to do.

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Lawrence and Rob getting ready to abseil down to the ledge of Lighthouse Arete
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Getting intimate on the ledge: 4 of us huddled up on the belay ledge for Lighthouse Arete (VS 4b) and Pel (VS 4c)

Initially it seemed we would be down in no time at all to climb Lighthouse Arete, but an hour later we were starting to be a bit concerned about the party infront of us. They were still hanging on the abseil rope and their partner was still waiting at the top…

During this time a few more climbers gathered at the top of the abseil looking to get down too. These dudes were getting a reet grump on with the hold up and was leaving me feeling a bit sour listening to them moan on. However, once I got to abseil down and landed on the belay ledge, all these feelings faded away: the sound of crashing waves against the ledge was majestic. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it in the climbing world and was in love straight away.

With my new found buzz, myself and Rob skipped up the Lighthouse Arete swapping leads. It’s steady climbing all the way, but probably gets VS to ensure that the uninitiated sea cliff climbers, such as myself, are accommodating for (1) there’s some exposure to sea cliff climbing and (2) to give you a slight warning that you wanna be climbing at said grade confidently, as there’s only really one way off the route and that is up! To retreat off this crag would either involve you turning around and diving into the sea or a massive effort which would involve you ascending up the abseil rope!

Castell Helen is definitely a great introduction into the world of sea cliff climbing and gives you a taste of what to expect at Gogarth. The crag itself has plenty of VSs-E2s to wept your appetite on, so long as your willing to get your queue on, but it’s worth the wait!

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A dreamy path

With our new found learner plates for sea cliff climbing at hand, we both headed to bed with one objective in mind: to wake up the next day to try and fulfil a dream.

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Paths in all directions, but which one to choose?

Considering this was both our first time to Gogarth and everything was completely new to us both, finding Dream wasn’t too hard. Well, it wasn’t all plain sailing, we did take a wrong path or two. I ended up taking us down to Easter Gully before realising we were too far over and had missed Wen Zawn – Wen Slab!

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After spotting someones helmet bobbing along, we knew they were bound to be heading towards Dream

There’s a well warn path heading towards the Dream, but it does have you thinking carefully about each step as it is quite an exposed path and the drop over the edge is probably about 80 metres.

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Finding ourselves on the queuing frontier again!

The all too familiar feelings of having to queue for an abseil came shooting back. Not being the most patient person and liking my space, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to do the route anymore. There was one party below us on the first pitch already and two parties waiting to abseil into Dream too, so we were going to be the fourth party that morning looking to get involved and we knew that it would mean a hefty wait of a around 1-2 hours before we could even get stuck into the route ourselves.

So far the experience was as if we were all on Blackpool pleasure beach; it kinda felt like we had all just bought a ticket for the Pepsi Max and were all queuing to one-by-one get the thrill and fear of the in-famous roller coaster ride that was to come. Being behind so many parties would also mean that some of the adventure of the route would be diminished, as we would be able to clearly see where the belays were and where we were going to climb before we’d even done each pitch. On the other hand, this was probably a bit of a blessing in disguise considering that we were still novice’s to Gogarth and that this route is still a massive undertaking even with visual route and belay beta!

One of the main things that spared me on was the fact that myself and Rob had decided quite early on that we would literally dedicate the whole day to the Dream. Therefore, the fact that we were queuing didn’t really matter that much and considering that it is said to be the best climb in the UK, if not the world, then I shouldn’t be so selfish, as it’s here for us all to enjoy! 🙂

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Some other climbers preparing for the 3rd pitch

After spending an hour or so peeing my way through the waiting game on the abseil ledge, I had my first sight of the super imposing final pitch – thought’s of queuing, following other climbers and the Pepsi Max had now all vanished! What the heck is that monster! How the heck are we gonna get through those roofs! Surely that’s not the final pitch?! I like delicate slabs, I can’t crank that hard over a 60 metre sea cliff?!? Too late, Rob had already headed down the abseil line and I couldn’t express my new found fear and curiosity.

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Sling and crusty karibiner heaven
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First sight of the abseil in – a long way down! Gulp!
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No surrender, no retreat! Our first belay ledge at sea level
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Mr.Seal came to say “howdy-do chaps”

By now it had been about 2-3 hours since we had left the car park (9:30am) to get to the bottom of the Dream. I’d say about 30-45 minutes was spent walking, gearing up, drinking some of water supply (that we left in our bags on top of the cliff) and finding the route, then about an hour and a bit was spent on top of the route waiting to abseil in. Now we had spent about another hour at the bottom of the route waiting for party number 3 to head on up pitch 1. After many more whizzes at the bottom of the route we were ready to head on up the first pitch at about 12:30am – What was with all the peeing? Could it be the sound of the sea crashing against the rocks? fear? excitement? campsite water? Whatever it was, I have never pee’d so much in my life. Also, I didn’t mention it earlier, but Castell Helen had the same effect on me, I was needing to pee all the time! This is pretty much why I left my water bottle at the top of Dream before abseiling in – I didn’t fancy needing a leak mid route on the Dream.

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Under the sea – pitch one

Missed by many I bet. As you might be able to see from the picture above, it spends quite a bit of time under the water this pitch. Ironically we weren’t initially intending on doing this pitch, but decided we may as well considering that all the other parties before us headed down to the sea level. Otherwise, we would have waiting for like 2 hours on the high-tide belay ledge above. At least this way we got to see plenty of kayakers, jet boats and seals down ‘ere.

First pitch is quite nice and the rock has an interesting gooey feeling to it, as may imagine. Thankfully Rob had his cool head on and swam his way up the first pitch with no troubles at all. 40 metres later and he was setting up the first belay. The sight of tides crashing against the small belay ledge that I stood on was quite spectacular, but I was a bit precarious as to when this small ledge was gonna be swallowed up by the sea and would I still be on it!?

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Pitch 2
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Getting closer to the dreaded roofs

After completing pitch one, we had to wait another hour or so on the belay on the next belay. I decided now would be a good opportunity to eat my only energy ball for the route. I think it was about 2:30pm before I started to sneak my way over pitch 2.

Rob denies it, but I think in fact he knew all along that he was gonna throw me on pitch 2, as it’s right up my street! Slightly bold slab climbing – what more could I ask for, he knows me all so well! 😀 It’s funny, you sit on the belay ledge after pitch one and think “the start of this next pitch looks nice and easy, but wow, it sure does look like it gets pretty blank after 10 metres or so!”. That’s because it kinda does; All the holds are there, but they begin to get pretty thin and I kinda almost felt like I was off route – that was until I found a rusty old peg, for some reason it helped reassure me that I was on route! Then I ran it out a tad bit to a lovely spike hanging belay.

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Can’t beat a good ol’ hanging belay to finish up pitch 2

After polishing up 2 pitches it was time for Rob to head up the 3rd pitch, which is a massive flake system leading all the way up the way up the wall trending left and then when the flakes run out, traverse on over to the chimneys to your left to set up the 3rd belay. A pleasant pitch with plenty of protection to be had and quality climbing all the way up.

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Mid-way through the remarkable 4 pitch

I don’t think i’ve mentioned this yet, but originally I wasn’t really fearing the route too much, as I thought Rob was going to tackle the final pitch. The thought of myself leading it didn’t even cross my mind! I don’t consider myself a specialist of anything in the overhanging territory, even on single pitch crags, never-mind being 60 metres above the sea on a 40 metre traverse pitch!!??

We both watched each of the 3 parties in front of us crossing the final pitch in awe and fear! Some of them made it look easy, others made it looks like a bit of a tuffle! This was somewhat helpful, intimidating and still intriguing. Also, some parties decided to climb higher and others climbed opted to go lower at certain points. There’s no doubt about it, the final pitch is a work of art: too high or too low and you’d be in dangerously hard terrain, but at the right level, you get steady but very exposed climbing all the way across.

In addition, the protection all the way across these roofs is bomber with plenty of cam, wire and threading opportunities for the eagle eye’d gear placer. Oh and massive slings will most certainly help see you through this pitch without any rope drag (until the end). I couldn’t believe it, I was well chuffed with myself, I had got all the way across the traverse without any rope drag at all. Then after I clipped the in-situ silver peg on the final chimney section with a massive sling and a big grin on my face, I was almost pulled off by outrageous drag that came out of nowhere on the next few moves! I’m not sure if we all get that nip in the tail to finish off the route or if it was just because I didn’t extend my last cam placement with another big sling just before the peg – I used a long quickdraw instead as I was on a wet sloping juggy handhold!

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Toes of victory!
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Rob hanging out in the chimney ready to second the final pitch of Dream

We eventually topped out at about 6pm and raced to our bags for food and water. Considering our journey started at 9:30am, we had pretty much spend the entire day on this wonderful wall: queuing, peeing, climbing, snacking, soaking up the wild exposure and admiring the incredible route that is A Dream Of White Horses.

So there you have it! If you dream big, you can get achieve big! I had no idea that a year ago when I came back to the UK that i’d be undertaking the almighty Dream. I’d heard so much about it and just assumed that it would literally stay a dream for a very long time. I have no doubt in my mind as to how fortunate I am though! The weather, my climbing partner for the weekend (Rob), the wonderful Nick and Trish for organising the event and helping me get my dirtbag butt there and my ability to actually mentally and physically undertake this route had all aligned.

For some people, this route may currently remain a dream for maybe one or more reasons which could include: a lack of climbing partner, the right weather, lack of experience, lack of transport, commitments and/or injury. My advice: don’t give in! If you want it bad enough, it will happen. I’m a big believer in things aligning when they are right, you’ll end up appreciating it all the more too I reckon.

Anyhow, time to go re-assess my wishlist as a lot has been ticked off this year so far including this beauty, which was right at the top!

Need to start dreaming more and bigger I think!

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I wonder if the Old Man is calling my name yet 😀

Happy climbing peeps!

Sea ya later 😉

Naf

 

 

 

Llanberis Slate – Finding A Rainbow

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Love at first sight

I was completely blown away by the size of the slate quarry, as we came around a bend in Llanberis, on our way towards to our campsite for the weekend ahead. Dave kindly pulled over so that we could marvel at this incredible man-made site. I’ve been so excited about getting to the see and touch the slate first hand ever since watching videos of climbers such as Pete Robins, Johnny Dawes, Steve McClure and Hazel Findley tackling impossible looking routes that usually require a mixture of the following: incredible technique, ultimate balance, razor sharp crimping skills, mega rock-overs, weird moves and usually all wrapped up neatly with a bold cap pulled tight over ones head!

Before we get too stuck in, i’ll tell you right now that this write-up will only be a slice of the cake! There’s so much history seeping out of this crag and Llanberis, that I most certainly won’t be able to give it the justice it deserves at all, but i’ll most certainly give it my darn best shot to inspire at least one person to take a step onto the almighty Llanberis slate 😀

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Good morning world

Before we even start with the climbing, i’d like to point out that just the campsite alone was leaving me with my mouth wide open at every moment. Just look at that view! What is there not to like! I couldn’t have felt more at home that weekend with the mountains surrounding us in all directions with their tall standing pride. For anyone wondering where we stayed: Nant Peris, it’s a basic campsite, but it does the job at a very fine price of 5 golden coins a night.

After hours of guidebook noodling and planning the evening before, me and Will eventually settled on the idea of a Grand Day Out – This involves heading to the Australia sector and climbing up every tier until you eventually get to the Skyline. There’s many variations that can be done, but we were opting for some trad and some sport. In total we had a 5 pitch adventure planned out to get us from the bottom to the top.

However, before we got to Australia, a bit of exploring was in order – it’s essential protocol when arriving at any new crag right? Mysterious and dark tunnels were lurking around most corners and were all too inviting! I was having flashbacks of being a kid again on entering each tunnel, it was fun not having the foggiest of ideas as to what was lurking in or ahead of each mine! I’m sure if you found the right ones, you’d probably end up finding a secret crag or two. It’s like playing super mario or something 😀

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A Grand Day Out

Turns out our tunnel explorations decided to throw us a glimpse of what was to come! Here’s the almighty Australia sector with a tier system that gives you a 100 metre’ish climb up to the summit.

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The infamous tube! (Tier 1)

This could have been the first lead of the day for me, but I opted not to jump straight on it as i’d actually never climbed on slate before and didn’t mind the idea of some easier routes to warm up on and see if I even liked the rock type! Always a good idea right? Also, I wasn’t in too much of a rush for this route as it was my ‘main event’.

To get things rollin’, Will jumped on Just For Fun (E2 5c) for a warm up.E2 certainly isn’t something i’d usually climb and this was my second ever E2. I surprised myself loads in the fact that I had no real issues with the climbing and the moves for this route. I was seconding though, so I didn’t have to worry about the spicy run out from the first bolt to the second. Next up, I lead Sad Man Who’s Sane (VS 4c), steady climbing but only two bolts on this route too. I’d already began to see a bit of a trend here – spaced bolts. It’s something I had previously read about; that the slate is pretty renowned for having quite bold climbing, which is protected by spaced bolts. This isn’t to say that every route is like this. Some of the tiers above Looning The Tube are well equipped, with bolts every metre or so, making them a much safer proposition.

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Crimping hard on Goose Creature (E3 6a) Copyright Andrew Stelmach – UKC

As people started to pile in to queue up for the Tube, Will decided to jump on Goose Creature (E3 6a). I literally thought it looked almost impossible before he jumped on it, but in a weird way, I find those climbs so appealing! Most people around us mentioned that there is a hideous rock-over move that stumps most people in the middle of the route. Now I was even more fascinated to have a dabble on it! After Will finished the route after only having one fall on the crux, it was now my turn to second it!

I tied in for a seconding session and climbed as though I was leading. I managed to work my way up to the crux in the middle of the route and didn’t feel too confident that i’d actually be able to stick the rock over. A minute or so later, after trying to figure out a sequence, I began transferring weight into my left leg, and to my surprise, I was worming my hand up to the safety of the crimp above and grabbed it! Wow! I could do this clean, just maybe? Unfortunately not, my progress got halted just after the tough rock-over crux by an extremely crimpy section (pictured) that guards the ‘jugs’ to the the finish. After I gave it a good shot or two, I came down to rest my now sore fingers before my next lead. I was gutted but yet psyched for more crimpy and balancy good stuff 😀

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Looning The Tube (E1 5a)

More like A Loon Above A Tube. Here’s me embarking across the impeccable Looning The Tube. I’d heard so much about this route from Dave, he love’s it and I must admit it’s every bit as impressive as I wanted it to be. Delicate thin edges lead you across a superb traverse that begins to feel a tad bit run out just before you reach the chain, as the holds get smaller and smaller. Once you reach that big fat iron chain though, get it clipped, take a nice deep breath or two to soak in your traverse victory and then head up the well protected slanting crack above.

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Skipping our Grand Day Out

We only did two more routes on our Grand Day Out challenge, so a total of 3 out of the planned 5. After Looning The Tube, we headed up Orangutang Overhang (6a+). It’s described as a technical groove with an entertaining roof, that’s pretty much spot on! I think there’s a photo of me somewhere pretty much doing the splits on route! Wish I had the photo to share. Haha. I bet this route could be a right stumper for some people though, it’s not exactly like another other 6a+ i’ve done before. Get your funk on and give it a try.

Once we reached tier 3, we weren’t too inspired by another 10 metre sport route with all our trad gear and 120 metres worth of double ropes, so we opted to miss the next two tiers and head straight to the skyline to go tackle some 40 metre routes. I think we may have missed a potentially nice E1 arete climb on the fourth tier, but with it being such a massive crag, sometimes you just gotta pick and choose what you wanna do and go with your gut feeling.

To anyone contemplating doing the Grand Day Out, my suggestion would be to take a single rope, a lot of quickdraws (ready for the 40 metre routes at the top) and stick to the the sport routes all the way up – nice and simple that way 😉

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Tony high up on the Skyline Club (E1/E2 5c)

I didn’t take many photos of the skyline as it is huge and couldn’t capture it all up close and personal with my pansy camera phone. Nevertheless, the picture above gives you an idea of how airy these routes get – most of them are around 40 metres. There are two bolted routes at the end of the crag and I fancied jumping on Plastic Soldiers (f6a). It’s a well protected route with about 14 bolts, but it didn’t look like a 6a from the ground.

It’s very hard to read a route that is this big and there was some blank looking sections after about 20 metres or so. This made me a bit nervy, but I thought i’m well protected with all those bolts running up the wall, so I decided to head on up to go and inspect the route. It’s nice crimpy climbing all the way and has a crux exactly where you want it to be, at least for me it was. At about 30 metres up, I stepped out of the face into an alcove then had step back out onto the face where the soldiers await your presence to march to the top.

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Lunchtime time and back into the guidebook
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Back on the hunt for more slate goodness
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This place is MASSIVE
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Will found exactly what he was looking for: Manatese (E4 6a) – Rainbow Walls Area

After fuelling our bodies back up, we decided that we’d go and try hunt down Manatese, which was to be Will’s ‘main event’ for the day. It was located miles away from the skyline, but the walk was just spectacular, as you may agree from the photos above 🙂

Manatese is a fierce little number and goes to show that it’s not all just crimpy climbing on offer at the slate quarry. Will did an excellent job at leading this monster crack and kept his cool all the way. It’s very well protected and damn pumpy! I was mega surprised that I ticked this one clean on second. I was in a world of pump just after the cruxy first slanting crack! My poor slab arms. Haha. There is a semi-rest just after the first crack though, which gave me enough juice back to crank a few more moves out to the second rest on route. Then you motor up the finale layback crack to the top section. I don’t want to spoil too much, but wait till you get to the top, just when you think your finished…

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This photo is from UKClimbing – German Schoolgirl (E2 5c)

I was really tired by this point now. After cranking really hard on Manetese to get in clean, I wasn’t sure if that was me completely done for the day. However, Will somehow convinced me that I should go and lead German Schoolgirl. He gave me a proposition that I couldn’t really refuse: if I couldn’t do it, he’d get the job done, as this was potentially going to be my second E2 lead. To top it all off, you abseil into the route, so your head pretty much instantly goes into sending mode straight away to ensure that your getting back out!

So I sup’d the last of my water, ate the last of my snacks and headed down to get to the base of the route. Fortunately we had plenty of micro wires! It’s a teeny crack pretty much all the way up, which widens a little with height. The crux pretty much slaps you in the face straight away! It’s one of the most unusual cruxs i’ve ever done too or at least how I did it was! I pretty much managed to mantel a good ledge on the right hand side of the wall with both hands and feet with a twist somehow. Supposedly this route is a bridging test piece, but I managed to climb most of the route in many weird shapes and forms. I think this was mainly because I was shattered though. Thankfully a bit of tenacity and stubborness dragged me up it. It’s an impressive line and i’m glad it, just about! 😀

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Time to go large at Pete’s Eats

That pretty much wraps up Saturday’s climbing antics with Will. I had an incredible day out and I pushed myself into a new world that is slate climbing. Not gonna lie, I absolutely adored it! It’s everything I wanted it to be and then it’s just topped off with the setting and scale of the place.

Sunday turned out to be a bit of a completely different proposition. I think my body and mind were trying it’s best to consciously tell me that I was pretty much juiced out, so that left us with the decision: what to do? Well, to start the day we all gobbled are faces full of the finest grease up at Pete’s Eat, an absolute must if your in Llanberis. We then headed back up to the slate quarry and settled on the idea of undertaking a big circuit walk around the quarry. I can assure you, this is quite a big undertaking, but it is well worth it!

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The rainbow that shines all year round.

This is what I was wanting to see up close and personal. The wonderful slate rainbow that can be crossed for those who dare! This has to be one of the most unique features i’ve ever seen on rock before and it’s so enchanting. I can only dream of crossing it at the moment though, as the remarkable Rainbow of Recalcitrance runs at a bold E6 6b. Of course you will have already watched this countless times before, but lets grab a brew, then watch it together: the fabulous Hazel Findlay crossing the second pitch of the rainbow at 19 years old…

Is that the easiest route on there you ask? Well, the easiest line on the Rainbow Slab wall is Pull My Daisy at E2 5c, which looks lovely to start with as it’s a crack and will most likely swallow plenty of runners, but from a distance, it looks like that crack fades out and may hold your last pieces of protection until you reach the top. Furthermore, the ‘entry-level’ route on the main section that involves the rainbow is Poetry Pink at E5 6a, which does not look easy. Overall, a very inspiring wall indeed, but not for the uninitiated! Gonna have to earn my merits before jumping on any of these beauties – one day!!

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Soaking in more of the slate vastness
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Gnarly big slate multi-pitches including the impeccable Quarryman (E8 7a)

Just incase you haven’t seen the Quarryman before, this is an absolute must watch! Some of the most bizarre climbing you may ever possibly see, an acquired taste and style no doubt.

How have we ended up at the un-thinkable grade of E8 7a? Well, not to worry! I used to think would I actually be able to climb anything at the slate quarry after watching all these incredible videos involving routes with high E’s next to there names. I’m wrapping up say that it isn’t just for the pros, us mere mortals can have a lot of fun too! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an introductory crag by any means and the slate is definitely an acquired taste for sure and it does definitely involve some boldness even in the lower grades. I think there’s loads to go at if your around the E1 mark with routes such as Looning The Tube, Gnat Attack, Fools Gold, Seams The Same and Bella Lugosu is Dead. Bumping it up to E3 and there are some absolutely remarkable looking routes such as: Colossus and Comes The Dervish.

As always though, do your own additional research. I’m only giving you a glimpse of the slate from my first-hand experience and hours of shuffling through the guidebook. Nevertheless, i’m hoping i’ve given you a snapshot at what it’s like, what to expect and best of all, some inspiration to go there for yourself so you can tell me how amazing it is 😉

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Oh and be prepared for your fingers to take a right trashing from those beautiful sharp and fragile edges 😉

Happy climbing future slateheads 😀

Naf.

 

All Aboard To Set Sail To Birchen Edge

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A snapshot of Birchen

It’s been a pretty busy week in the climbing world. The sun has pretty much pop’d it’s face out everyday to provide us climbers with an unmissable window of opportunity to trash ourselves, I say trash because that’s exactly what happens when you try to climb pretty much everyday! But hey, it’d be rude not to when the sun comes out to say hiya! 🙂

Moreover, Birchen is said to be one of the most popular venues in The Peak and I can see why, especially if you’re a beginner to the world of trad. Fortunately for us, it never really got that busy, but that’s either because most people didn’t want to risk getting soaked by the potential downpour that was heading in our direction or that they’ve already mopped up everything on Trafalgar Wall (more on that later).

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Copenhagen Wall

Initially I wondered along the crag to find some bouldering in a quiet spot. I knew there wasn’t much left in my tank by now after a few days of climbing and I just wanted to be outdoors and potter around. Eventually I came across Copenhagen Wall, which definitely drew me in for my above needs. It did entertain me for a little while. There’s some nice problems on slopers across the entire boulder with the starts usually being the hardest bit. It did feel a little airy higher up though without a spotter and a lonely mat that only stayed in one position protecting my fall from some of the scattered floory chokestones. Grades range from mostly lower stuff: f3-5+ and a couple of harder problems.

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Trafalgar Wall / Camperdown Crawl (HS 4c)
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Adam cruising his way up Campderdown Crawl

After having a noodle around on the Copenhagen boulder problems I asked the chaps if I could join in on their trad adventures. First lead of the day was Camperdown Crawl. It grabbed my attention for the interesting buldgy start to a finger crack then a slab finish. All seemed good to me! It’s not a bad little climb to get the day started. Speaking of little climbs, most of the crag routes are about 10-12 metres long, so they’re over pretty quickly. Nevertheless, it does mean you can get quite a few routes bagged in one session, which is what we did – a total of 8!

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Andy polishing off Promenade Direct (HVD 4a) – a short lived slabby number, cool though
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Adam beating the dilemma that Emma had

 

Considering it was Adam’s second ever day trad leading, it was very impressive to see him tackle Emma’s Dilemma (S 4a). I wouldn’t say it’s the easiest Severe. It has an interesting off-width crack start that can be lay-backed to the good sloper, but it does feel a bit balancy and could throw you off. Also, the crux section getting over the buldge higher up has a good finger-lock sequence which could perplex someone who hasn’t done many/if any crack climbs, but he collected himself and got through the crux – good stuff!

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Always on the hunt for a slab climb!
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Moi leading The Crow’s Nest (VS 4c)

There’s always a smile on my face if I find me a slab to jump on. You won’t ever expect to hear me say this, but these two words don’t usually ever go in the same sentence, so take a deep breath and prepare yourself: this is a ‘well protected’ ‘slab’! It really is. It’s got all the slab goodness that we all truly want and is protected every few moves by generous breaks for cams. It would be a great introduction for anyone fancying a dabble in the art of slab.

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All aboard the deck for the main event: Sail Buttress

Even though there are no Top 50 climbs in the Eastern Grit guidebook for Birchen, I think Topsail and Sail Buttress on the Sail Buttress are classic’s in the Classic Rock book – that was a mouth full, wasn’t it!

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Andy Sailing his way through the buldge of Topsail

Somehow I missed this route on my initial scouting mission of the crag, not sure how though, as it does sport a pretty well chalked up section under that overhang. I reckon this could be a pretty intimidating first lead for a VS leader, but it would be a great one to tick! There’s nothing nicer then being greeted by a big flake to grab after worming your body out of an overhang. Saying that, you don’t really have to crank at all on the flake, so long as you use your feet well. Also, the moves are protected by one the best threads i’ve ever seen on grit, so it’s definitely well worth getting on your hit list 🙂

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Adam Sailing his way up Sail Buttress (HS 4b)

Overall, i’d say Birchen is a really good place if you wanna come and have a fun day out and get plenty of short but enjoyable routes in. Additionally, it would also be a very good place to bring someone who is new to the world of trad, as there’s plenty of easier routes to be done here that are pretty well protected. Likewise, you could always set up a top-rope on Trafalgar Wall to introduce someone into the world of the outdoors, which I pretty much saw happening all day long from various groups of people.

On the other hand, is there anything else on offer for you dudes or dudettes  that are looking for something a bit more challenging? Well, the answer would be yep, here’s a few things i’d suggest:

First up, we have a Joe Brown special: Orpheus Wall (HVS 5c). It looks like a sweet climb that involves a thought provoking / bouldery crux that could spit you off if you don’t position yourself properly – by the sounds of it, it does that quite often and the placements are becoming quite warn due to this and it’s on it’s way to becoming E1. I’m sure i’ll be back for you at some point when i’m ready to crank again 😀

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Midshipman (E2 6a)

Second up: Midship man is definitely an attractive line – it starts in the middle and works it’s way leftwards. A well protected E2? It sure didn’t seem half tempting to have a try at this, but I still don’t think i’m in a position to just jump on E2 grit route yet, but i’ve added this to my memory bank for a later date. Not gonna lie, i’m already nervous of the day that I get to that top section – take your pick for the best green sloper and go for it!

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Some gems hidden away at the top of the crag

Lastly, it wasn’t until I finished my first lead of the day that I spotted these hidden gems! Three boulders with numerous problems just plonked right on top of the crag!

I didn’t try any of the problems on these boulders this time round, but I think it’ll make for a great warm up the next time I climb at Birchen. From what i can tell, most of the problems appear to be quite low in grade, but you’d most certainly get some milage in if you wanted to working your way around these boulders.

Happy climbing peeps! Here’s hoping for more sunny weeks ahead in the UK 🙂

N.

Horsehoe Quarry – Some Crags Are Worth A Second Chance

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Maf loves everyone and everything, especially when he’s deprived of his sleep

This is actually my second time to this crag – sneaky me eh? My first visit to Horseshoe Quarry was June 2015, just after I had arrived home, so it’s been a while! Not gonna lie, my first impressions of the crag weren’t great and those feelings have stuck with me for some time now. I really wasn’t sure if it was the crag, the routes we did that day, the type of rock or the fact that I had been completely spoilt on all of the marvellous sandstone sport routes that are scattered all over Australia. Basically, i’ve been keen to get back here as soon as possible to answer some lingering questions at the back of my mind!

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Far back wall – Chocolate Blancmange Wall

When we arrived at the crag, the main wall (which I had my eyes set on) was still in the shade and the rock was pretty cold, so we opted to head up to the slabby wall that is Chocolate Blancmange Wall. It has some ok slab routes on here, but even though it sees quite a bit of traffic, it’s still pretty overgrown and pebbles are on a few of the holds, so be ready to get up and get dirty on this wall.

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Jimbob trying not to slide down the hill before heading up Sago Slab (4)

This most certainly didn’t feel like a 4. When you add in the bushy ledges and loose pebbles, we happily agreed on adding at least a + on top of that. It was all too sudden that I was having flashbacks of why I wasn’t 100% sure on this crag at this moment in time – that’d soon change however 😉

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This is what I had wanted to have a dabble on! The Main Wall (the arete and rightwards)

Sometimes it’s all a bit too tempting to not climb in a section that is getting the most traffic, but i’ll admit, there’s usually one good reason why people are flocking to one area. That reason is usually the simple one: it hosts the best routes at the crag.

The main wall hosts plenty of 6a-7a routes; mostly around the 6b mark and onwards. It certainly doesn’t feel like a beginners wall, but if your a confident leader and enjoy the limestone goodness, then this has tones for you to go at and most of the lines look like they ooze quality. I’m well keen to get back here for more of these lines and collect some stars in the near future 🙂

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Jim preparing power mode for the School’s Out instant crux (6a+)

I remember looking at Pale Rider the first time I came to the crag and literally thought ‘why the heck are we not climbing that!’. It’s quite a striking line that is calling any passer-byers – instead we ended up in The Toilet area, doesn’t sound all that appealing does it with a name like that!

So yeah, it was a great feeling to come back here and finally get it done. Pale Rider is the arete climbed on it’s right side. This is the most ‘ticked’ climb at the crag, it’s a steady 6a that has got plenty of spots for rest, yet feels a bit airy at 20 metres high. Most importantly, I think it’s a good route to see how much you like Limestone. I’ll be honest, I still feel like a right noob on Limestone! I think that’s mainly because I really haven’t climbed that much on this rock type. I find that whenever you climb on a rock type that your unfamiliar with or not 100% comfortable with, everything feels a bit harder! You tend not trust the friction as much, the holds, probably begin to over-grip and generally it requires a different mental and physical approach, but as with anything, if you keep at it, it’ll probably become alright (eventually!).

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Hunting for holds on School’s Out (6a+)

I’ve added another photo of School’s Out as I thought it was a pretty satisfying route that I had been wanting from Horseshoe Quarry to revive my faith in the crag. I’ll admit it, it did! I’m very keen to try Rotund Rooley (6b) now, this route is right next to School’s Out and looks like an exceptional and engaging route with a tough crux that might require some finesse or power a small hold, but that’ll be left until the next time – always good to have something to come back for eh?

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Horseshoe Quarry

There is literally loads to go at in this quarry, as you can see from the picture above, it’s pretty big and has two tiers to get stuck into! Furthermore, this sure does seem like a great place to come if you wanna teach someone or begin leading outdoors yourself too because there is loads of lower grade stuff around the 4-5 mark. I would add to that though – just be-careful about the lower grade stuff, it’s generally pretty blocky and if you take a fall on blocky stuff, it might not be the most pleasant experience you’ll have!

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The (dreaded) Toilet

To end the rad day out, above was Jim preparing to take on Thomas Crapper (6a) and it’s little rooflet that guards the final moves to end the route.

On a final note, i’ve answered one of my questions that stood the test of time: After a second bash, have I become more fond of this Toilet buttress? I think the guidebook sums it up pretty well how I feel about this area: it “proves that if you stick bolts in a bit of rock it will become popular, whatever it’s quality or intrinsic value of the routes”.

Happy climbing peeps!

N.