Sunday, 19 February 2012

Mid 'Winter' Training

With summer conditions prevalent in Scotland, I headed to Saltdean. Mike Stephenson and Mike Moss joined me. With plenty of chalk mileage under the belts in recent months we were keen to try some of the steeper routes. Tide was high in the morning so we were forced to climb on the West side to begin with. We led Back in Time (C5), then climbed the wall and arête to the right on top-rope. The latter has an obvious loose block at half height so take care if attempting this line. We then climbed Back Up (C5) before heading across to the East side where tide had now dropped.

Mike on Back in Time (C5)
Back Up (C5) - Below the overhang
Back Up (C5) - Above the overhang
From what we can fathom, our first route was a right-hand version of 7-UP (C7), which started at a bulldog and climbed up and slightly left to a belay.It proved to be a cracking route with tricky sequence of moves in the upper half. We then top-roped what I think was a left-hand version of the route (Also C7), which had little gear remaining. It was another A1 route which, although steeper than the route to the right, offered a simpler, more efficient sequence of moves. In fine form I felt the urge the seek revenge on S Club 7 (C7), which I had dogged on last attempt. Once again I pumped-out at the top and needed to retreat to the fourth belay. I tried to top-rope the route and found it much easier due to finding an intermediate hold that I had overlooked on previous attempts. Next time I will lead this clean!

Mike leading S Club 7 (C7)

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Direct Route (IV), Saltdean

With no partners free, I headed to Saltdean by myself for some training. I spent much of the day traversing the cliffs but had a look at Direct Route (IV) during the morning, which reasonable proposition to solo. The route lies at the far Western end of the cliffs, next to Saltdean Slab.

Direct Route (IV). Saltdean Slab (II) starts further left and traverses right to finish at the same location.

 I carefully surmounted the slippery black boulders that were strewn around this part of the shore and set about forming initial first axe placements. The start of the climb was steep but having gained a ledge a few metres above the boulders the cliff soon eased back. Climbing became much easier as I linked up with Saltdean Slab but the ground was equally unstable. The plan had been to down-climb Slab Route but given the instability I thought better of it. I would say this is a soft grade IV but worthwhile all the same.

Looking down the steep start

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Plaque Route (IV,4), Bowfell Buttress

With lots of fresh snow and cold temperatures in the Lakes it seemed unnecessary to drive all the way to Lochnagar this weekend, as had been the original plan. The high winds forecast in the Scotland also looked to be less of an issue in the Lakes. Mike and me made a late decision to switch plans to the Lakes and drove to Ambleside.

The plan had been the climb Bowfell Buttress (V,6) today but there were multiple teams queuing at the bottom of the route on our arrival with teams seemingly occupying every belay above. My friend Ryan was starting the second pitch. We waited but things weren't progressing quick enough. People were struggling on the first pitch. With the crux not being until the third pitch it was quite likely that even when we did get on the route there would be further delays higher up. We didn't fancy waiting around until mid-afternoon and then climbing half the route in the dark and therefore cut our losses and climbed Plaque Route (IV,4) further left. Not surprisingly Plaque Route had nobody on it.

The walk-in
A busy day on Bowfell Buttress
The guidebook mentioned that this route 'lacks any real line' which was more than evident on the first pitch. I climbed what I interpreted to be the route based on the guidebook topo but this led me to ground that was far beyond what you would expect for tech 4. With negligible neve or ice build-up I was forced to abseil from a small bush halfway back to Mike. I explored further left and found way that was more amiable (although it still felt tech 5), involving a short delicate rising traverse back right and then up a wide crack. Things eased after the first pitch with Mike's second pitch weighing in at around tech 4, and my third pitch tech 2/3.

Mike traversing left to the wide crack
Mike climbing the wide crack
My Skoda Fabia was buried under a foot of fresh snow by the time we arrived back at the car park at 8pm. We managed to wheel spin our way out of the car park and somehow made it all the way back to Ambleside. My friend Ryan meanwhile managed to climb Bowfell Buttress but did not arrive back at the car park until a couple of hours after us. By then any chance to escape the car park and make it back to Ambleside were gone. The hotel was full and so in biblical fashion they were forced to sleep in a nearby shed. At least our decision to decline Bowfell Buttress today had been vindicated! Next time I attempt this route it will be with an Alpine start to beat rush hour.

Heavy snows today