Thursday, 21 February 2013

Finally some Peak District grit stone in 2013

Leigh-Anne after a brilliant and long weekend's climbing in the Peak Disitrct
Just a quick one, but it has been a while since I wrote about my own climbing... and this blog is called Sam's Rock Climbing Life after all. There's good reason for this lack of personal rock climbing writing, however, as the weather in the Peak District has been truly awful for us office dwellers. The weekends are our refuge, to get outside and climb during the winter months, as mid-week the sun descends below the horizon before we even leave the computer behind and lock the office door. Every single weekend, since as long as I can remember 2013, has been wet, with either a deluge of rain, a blanket of snow or the melting of said snow, causing roads to turn to rivers and fields to bogs. Delightful.

This drought of rock climbing (certainly not water!) was finally broken, with a glorious weekend of sunshine and cold. It was definitely time to take advantage. I had missed the grit stone so much - climbing on plastic is good for training, but not good for psyche. I was getting bored of climbing inside and longed for the great outdoors. Previously, a cursory glance at the weather report earlier in the week revealed that it could be dry on the weekend, but I didn't get my hopes up, not wanting to be disappointed once again. When it actually rolled around to Friday, however, and the weather report had improved further, saying we were going to get sunshine instead of cloud cover, I allowed myself to get excited.

A rest day on Friday would ensure I was in fighting fit shape for Saturday. I hadn't actually climbed all week (that aforementioned lost psyche for climbing inside had taken its toll) but instead chose to focus on conditioning work and deadhanging off the Beastmaker at home. I felt fresh, strong and ready.

I had had my eye on a potential new project for weeks, since before Christmas, when I had sent The Terrace. I wanted something hard, that would take more than a couple of sessions, but that was also an awesome feature, great climbing in my style (steep) and inspiring. I found that line at the far left of Stanage. When I say far left, I mean FAR left. It takes 20-30 minutes to walk from the car park, up a steep-ish incline and then along a boggy pathway, that was strewn with deep trenches filled with snow when we made our way across. The day was Saturday and it was relatively quiet in this part of the world - the odd pair of walkers and a couple with a rope ready to try the area's trad climbs.

Mini Beak, 7A, Rivelin - one of the weekend ticks

After we arrived, I immediately got excited. I started touching the holds and, although a couple were a tad wet, I thought with a little chalk they would be fine. The friction on the not wet holds was amazing, with a biting wind whipping in and keeping sweaty finger tips at bay. A short while later, I pulled on for the first go, no expectations, and fell about three moves in, trying to establish the first toe hook. I began a sequence of working each of the moves individually and quickly found the crux, a sequence of four or five moves that involves two slopers, two decent crimps and a lot of toe hooking - even a nifty heel hook at one point - followed by a nasty swing.

An hour later, my hands were starting to hurt. While the friction was amazing, it wasn't particularly dermatologically friendly, and I was quickly losing skin on the slopers. It was time to give up for the day. Having done all the moves and linked sections, I was pretty pleased with myself. Set for next time, when hopefully more progress would be made. It was time to head to Curbar...

My girlfriend had wanted to get on a few projects of her own and Curbar has some of the Peak's best boulder problems, so I was happy to repeat things I'd done before. After a few hours jostling for places in the queues to get on problems (it was SO busy), I had done Trackside (7A), Trackside Left (6B+/C IMO), Gorilla Warfare (7A) and fallen off the topout of Early Doors (7A+) a few times due to exhaustion. A good day of climbing.

The next day the weather was once again immense. I was so psyched, despite being totally knackered from the previous day's exertion. I awoke early, despite a short night out in Sheffield Town Centre the day before, and immediately began getting ready for another long day in the Peak District. Rivelin was the destination of choice for the Sunday - a crag I'd never been to before. I had been told of a number of good 7th grade problems worth a try, however, and this got me excited about the place. It is made up of several outcrops of rock and the occasional independent boulder strewn along a steep embankment covered in trees, bushes and other foliage. Navigating your way around is not so hard if you stick to the paths, but becomes a little trickier when you have to veer off to find certain problems.

The brilliant Purple Haze (7A+), Rivelin

One of those we all had in mind to climb was Mini Beak (7A), which is directly up the hill from the road, almost at the top, near a dry stone wall. As you approach from below, the problem looks rather tall but you quickly realise, on approach, that it is actually a short roof climb, taken as a traverse along the lip. The holds are all pretty big and, using a sequence of heel hooks, you quickly gain a small arete and then throw or lock out for the top. Before we even arrived, I thought this problem was on for the Flash and I wasn't to disappoint myself. After doing some windmills and few measly stretches to break the soreness in my arms from yesterday, I pulled on and quickly found myself topping out. A good start to the day.

After this, I had wanted to try a dyno problem called Green Beard (7B) but we soon discovered why it gets the name. Thick green moss covered the whole wall, water streaming down into the cracks and crevasses. It looked like it hadn't been climbed for a while and I wasn't in the mood for a spring clean so went off to find another of those on the list for the day.

Purple Haze (7A+) is similar to Mini Beak in that it traverses the edge of a roof, but it is much bigger, longer and harder. It definitely warrants the step up in grade. You start on several juggy holds of varying angles, throwing some heel hooks on to keep your body from touching the ground, but as this slopes away, so the jugs run out and you find yourself pulling on a strange guppy hold, a sloper and using a heel hook knee bar to keep you in place. This is the start of the crux sequence, which took me a little while to figure out. I'm not going to describe it in detail because it's more fun for you to figure it out yourself, but suffice it to say it's a brilliant sequence and I thoroughly enjoyed the climb - and was hugely relieved to top it out, as my skin and energy had started to fail already.

Acid Reign (6C), Rivelin - it's taller than it looks!

After Purple Haze, I needed something less steep and burly and we found that in an impressive looking arete / slab called Acid Reign (6C). Being a slab, I had no illusions of gliding up it gracefully or quickly. Truth be told, I wasn't that fussed if I didn't get it done at all! Slabs are not my cup of tea at the best of times - I'm sure many feel the same way - but my tips and arms didn't have another steep climb in them. I needed to use technique, poise and footwork to climb from here on out... or I needed to lank through reachy moves and scrape my way up the wall. Eventually, after several stifled attempts and a little beta figuring out, I settled on what I tried the first time, high stepping and reaching to a shallow pocket a mere two feet from the summit. Pull up and then throw for the top - with a really scary swing that would hurt so much if you dropped it. The only reason I actually finished Acid Reign was because I saw a friend ascend it first - and I'm far too competitive to just stop there. I had even taken my climbing shoes off and was ready to leave when he did it.

The sun was beginning its slow decline into the horizon by this point in the day, and I was ready to go home, but by way of Mini Beak, as a couple of people in our party wanted to give it one final blast. There is a 7A+ variation that I thought I might try to finish off the day, but the walk there was enough of a mission and I resigned myself to spotting duties. 

What a superb weekend of sending and finding new projects! I hope the weather improves before the temperature starts rising because I'd like a few more of those... if possible... please?

All photos courtesy of Mike Etchells