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Showing posts from 2011

The Verdant Tube (III), Dover

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With a free day but no partner I headed to Dover to solo one of the easier routes called the Verdant Tube. The start of the routes appears to have collapsed, therefore I started further left from the original line. I climbed a short slab to a ledge between some large roofs near a rusty drive-in ice screw. A committing tricky (tech 5) move out left over one of the roofs, and then up onto easier ground. 


After this exhilarating start the route quickly descended into bashing through bushes and dirt. The top tube section was a good finale though as it wasn't stepped out like similar routes at Dover such as the Tube and The Real White Cliffs Experience, although the tube section was a little less dramatic and short in comparison.

Auricle (VI,7) - My first Scottish VI

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Ryan was having problems with his shoulder so I climbed Auricle with Dan Moore and Robert Durran. Dan put in a good lead on the crux second pitch and I was more than happy with my lead contribution on the third pitch. Excellent conditions in Coire an Lochain today. A perfect day to score my first Scottish VI.

Waiting for Winter

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With still no sign of winter arriving in Scotland Mike and me headed to Saltdean for a third Sunday in succession. Having climbed all the bolted routes in the Western half of the cliffs over the last two weeks our focus today moved to the Eastern half, which is generally steeper.

We warmed up on Slab Route. This gets C2 in the CC guide but it is now harder due to the bottom of the route having fallen off since grading. Since climbing it last year even more of the lower slab has fallen off with a 5m wall needing to be climbed in order to gain the slab proper.

With the warm-up complete, we up'ed the anti and tried S Club 7 (C7)  on the Six of the Best wall. All the routes on this section of cliff are overhung by about 10 degrees and therefore test the grip strength a bit more. The routes on the Six of the Best wall are the oldest at the crag. The axe placements are deep pockets from many years of ascent and the bolts are more weathered. The low shingle made for some tricky first mov…

Winter Training Continues

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With still no sign of winter approaching Mike and me returned to Saltdean fore more bolted chalk. We met Steve Melvin and fellow LMC member Rob Marson at the cliffs. It may be warm in Scotland but at least the weather were perfect for chalk.

My confidence was improving with the medium. I onsighted a route with no name (C5) between Back in Time and Day Dreaming. I followed this up with Back to the Future (C6), and The Strangeness and the Charm of the Quark (C5). Having dogged Fulmar (C7) on my last attempt I was happy to second the route behind Mike, who looked pretty gripped on lead. Another productive day.

On a negative note, we watched a group break pretty much every rule in the bolted chalk book today. It's mandatory when climbing the bolted routes at Saltdean to use existing axe placements. Adding new placements will reduce the grade and undermine the original sequence of moves intended by the first ascensionist. It's also important not to swing axes too aggressively. The …

Winter Training Begins

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With the winter season fast approaching but with no sign of its imminent arrival it was time to forget about rock climbing and focus on bolted chalk in order to get strong. Mike and me headed to Saltdean. I put a message out to climbing partners and my London Mountaineering Club forum. To my surprise I managed to muster up enough interest for a total of nine climbers to park up at the Badgers Rest. To put this into purspective this is more people that I have persuaded to go climbing anywhere.

I warmed up on Day Dreaming (C5) again in order to get comfortable with the chalk medium. With confidence growing in both the protection and my climbing technique, I proceeded to lead Back Off Back On, Back in Time, and Back Up (all C5). Rick, another climbing pal of mine, further heightened my confidence in the protection my taking a decent whipper on a route further left called Back to the Future (C6). The route climbs through a short roof to gain a steep 10m wall. Rick was above the difficult…

The Real White Cliffs Experience (IV), Dover

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After our loose grassy slope climbing exploits on Loose Living Kirill was surprisingly keen for some more chalk. I wanted to climb a route called 'The Real White Cliffs Experience' which I had spotted a month ago whilst reconnoitring the cliffs. The route is only a short distance North of the St. Margaret's Bay car park and appears largely unchanged since its first ascent in 1992. It is one of the easiest to locate on the cliffs due to it's distinctive upper runnel which also forms the upper section to Better than the real thing.

We initially tried a new route between the start of the Real White Cliffs Experience and Better than the real thing. I gave up a short distance above the ground upon realising the section of chalk I was on was semi-detached. The moral of the stay was stay away from cracks as where there are cracks there is loose sections of rock.

We started further left at what we presumed the normal starting point for the Real White Cliffs Experience. I surmo…

Loose Living (III), Dover

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Today was Kirill's first day climbing chalk so I thought we could try the Great Escape, a grade III climb described as 'straightforward and safe - for chalk' in the CC guide. We walked a long way North from the St Margaret's Bay car park before we located it. It turned out that the bottom of the route appeared to have fallen off.
It was already 5pm and we needed a quick replacement. We opted for another grade III called 'Loose Living' that was close to the car park. The clue was in the title with regards what sort of climbing conditions were to be expected. The few patches of decent chalk near the start of the route quickly turned to choss chalk on the lower half of the climb. Higher up there were small bushes to clamber over and the top half of the route largely involved climbing loose turf and dirt rather than chalk. We disturbed a fox near the first belay, which gives some indication of the quality of the terrain. There was at least the stunning scenery of …

Alpinism in Kent - The Tube (IV)

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It wasn't until 7pm that we arrived in St Margaret’s Bay car park following delays (on my part) leaving work and escaping London. My natural first route at Dover was the Tube, a classic grade IV man-made gully descending from the top of the cliff to half height. It was first climbed by Mick Fowler and Pete Thornhill in 1983. By the time we had reached the bottom of the route it was nearly 8pm. Still, the route was only 95m so the remaining couple of hours of daylight I felt would be sufficient.

This was Chris’s first time on chalk and he was more than happy to second the route. Five metres of slightly overhung chalk marked the route's low crux only a short distance above the ground (but high enough to cause injury). Having banged in a warthog at head height, I rehearsed the first few moves, composed myself, and then committed to the steep wall. A line of bucket holds reduced the difficulty and allowed swift ascent, however the section was still certainly capable of providing a…

Chèré Couloir (D / II 4, 350m)

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Mike and me climbed Chèré Couloir today which was in excellent condition, although stepped out. Surprisingly there was very little traffic. We opted to abseil from the top of the couloir but needed about ten abseils in order to reach the ground as we were foolishly climbing with a single rope.

Saltdean: Round Two

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With an apparent premature end to the Scottish winter climbing season I was keen to get some more climbing done with axes. I headed down to Saltdean with Mike Moss and Kane Chandler. We all led Day Dreaming (C5) to warm-up and familiarise ourselves with chalk climbing. After this I was happy to second some routes after my exciting finale to my last trip to Saltdean. We climbed Back in Time (C5), The Strangeness and the Charm of the Quark (C5), and Fulmar (C6/7). On the latter I broke away from a small hold at half height. I got back on and finished the route without problems and with a bit more attention I could have cleaned the route. I rounded the day off with a short trad route called St Jerome (III) which finished at the lower-off to Day Dreaming. The climb was easy but it gave me a chance to practice placing some warthogs with my lump hammer in preparation for more committing routes.

Waterfall Gully (IV,4), Ben Nevis

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Temperatures were above freezing today and generally looked uninspiring for winter climbing. Not a day to push the boat out. Florian and me had a look at the Curtain this morning but it was far too thin for climbing. We dipped down to Waterfall Gully, which we knew to still be in condition. The initial ice pitch was sketchy. My axes ripped through the soft ice, and poor screw protection in these conditions offered little reassurance. A tricky break right on the icefall at half height felt far too gripping for grade IV in these conditions. With no more freezing temperatures forecast, it was safe to safe we would probably be the last to climb the route this season.
The difficulties were largely over once up the initial ice pitch. Some people abseil off the route once this pitch is completed but we chose to continue up the gully to the top. The climbing was now much easier although snow conditions soft. Climbing was grade II but interesting nonetheless with good views to the ice of Gemi…

Indicator Wall (V,4), Ben Nevis

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Temperatures were warming up but there was still good freeze-thaw conditions reported high on the Ben. Florian and me headed for Indicator Wall. White-out conditions prevailed as we blindly bashed up Observatory Gully. We couldn't see any crag features and even Tower Scoop went unnoticed. High in the gully we spotted some climbers to our left where we anticipated Indicator Wall to be. We shouted out what route they were on. Satanic Versus came the reply so we were in the right area. We bore left from their stance and soon found our route.

Both the regular and right-hand versions of Indicator wall looked in good nick. We opted for the classic regular line. We swung leads up the ice with me leading pitches two and four. The first pitch felt steady for V. Difficulty increased during the second pitch, which involved a short traverse right in order to gain a weakness through steep ground. The ice was brittle but easy to protect. The difficulties eased back on the third and fourth pitch…

Hadrian's Wall Direct

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Plan A had been to climb Point Five Gully but there was too much congestion. The lead climber ahead of us patiently waited for the first belay to be vacated so that he could make himself safe and bring his partner up. The gully looked like a motorway of concertinaing traffic in rush hour.

We made our way across to Hadrian's Wall, which was now free of traffic after busy start. I led the first pitch up the broad, bulging ice flow. It was typical Ben Nevis snowy ice. Easy axe placements but I wouldn't have wanted to test my screws placements. I placed three screws for the belay and sunk my axes for good measure as well. Time to bring Ryan and Mike up.

A yell emanated from Point Five Gully. The lead climber from the group that would have been immediately ahead of us clattered down the full height of the Rogue pitch landing back beside his belayer. Then there was silence. Ryan called up to them. A response came in a low voice. The leader was ok but had broken his leg. We asked if…