Wednesday, 31 December 2008

New Year's Eve in Lancashire

Mark has been putting on weight over Christmas, so with his usual keenness he dragged an injured AndyG(before you ask, I fell off my longboard) out in the freezing fog in search of some end of year climbing. As soon as we left Warrington along the M62 the fog thickened and the frost got heavier. After leaving the M61 at Horwich things started to look brighter but it didn't last. Heading out of Rivington towards Anglezarke the fog came down again and the recently gritted roads still held a lot of ice.

Turning back towards Horwich, we decided to try Brownstones Quarry in the hope that it's position higher up Winter Hill might keep it clear of the fog. This proved to be the case and we were soon driving past Bob's Smithy in bright sunshine.

We headed off to the Ash Pit Slab which caught the winter sunshine very nicely and was mostly dry except for some minor seepage out of a few of the cracks. After warming up on the slab, Mark spent a little while trying to remember how he made the Ash Pit Traverse go so easily last time. He followed up with an ascent of Digitation after some hard work with his towel.

Mark finished by climbing Parr's Crack before we went for a stroll around the rest of the quarry to see what we should be aspiring to climb next time. The pool was full and had come much closer up to the rock than is illustrated in the current Rockfax guide. It was also frozen solid and had encroached on the usual approach path rendering it impassable without winter gear.

The day summed up how our climbing has been for much of the year, a good day's climbing snatched in improbable conditions by an appropriate choice of venue.

Happy New Year to everyone, and let's see what 2009 brings.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Winter Hill

Ramble Sunday 7th December 2008

Roger has supplied us with a photograph taken on "Two Lads" near Winter Hill. Those of you who still use terrestrial broadcast services should be familiar with Winter Hill, it's where your telly signal comes from. The route and othe details can be found in Ken's original instructions.

I cannot help noticing that a certain member does not appear to be taking Ken's discourse entirely seriously.

Winter in The Lakes (Part 2)

Pinnacle Ridge 200m III 2*, Gable Crag.

While Graham and AndyC were over by Helvellyn, Mark, Ste, Jonah and Richard were on their way to Great Gable. It was Ste and Richard's first winter route and this is Ste's report on the day interspersed with a selection of his and Mark's photos of the trip:

A failed alpine start saw us leaving the hut around 7.30am and it wasn't long before we realised conditions were significantly better than expected. Swathes of white glistened both on the fells and again reflected in a perfectly still Derwent Water. We didn't stop for a picture, we were running late and keen to get going. As we approached Seathwaite Jonah pointed out some suitably snow choked looking gullies on Great End, it looked like we had picked a good day to be out.

So park up, rucksacks out, and big boots on. Now what do we do with all these sharp pointy bits of metal? A few pointers saw all potentially lethal spikes safely stowed and we're off. It doesn't take long to hit the snow line and encouraged by this we make good progress up to Styhead Tarn. Turning right up to Windy Gap things get steeper and the snow gets much deeper. Bloody hell its hard work, and before long I'm dripping in sweat and feel like my lungs are about to explode.

And so to the crag, looks mightily impressive and generously daubed with snow and frost. There's a bit of a queue which gives us more time to faff about gearing up. Gloves on, need to undo this krab, gloves off, hands cold arrghh gloves back on, bugger need to adjust ice axe leashes etc...

We move up to the route. Jonah leads the way and after 10m or so cries "Excellent!! I've got a runner!". Mark grimaces knowing he's got to lead after Richard ascends, I'm happy I'm on second.

One by one they disappear. Soon enough I'm left standing alone on the belay and as the ropes come tight I pick up my axes and step out into the unknown. It feels incredibly unnatural and insecure scratching around on crampons but some bomber turf for axe placements keeps me off the rope.

Pitch 2 has a few tasty moves off the belay and I'm beginning to find my feet. There's also a bold and strenuous last section which keeps Mark entertained for while. Pitch 3 is a bit of a snowy romp and we quickly blast up.

The crux Pitch 4 moves up a wide chimney onto a large chockstone (with gripping views across and down into the next gully) and then very thin moves across onto and then up a vertical wall before easing.

There's 10 metres of easy snow to finish and so I romp up to the top. Woohoo! The sun is setting and the views are amazing but there's no time to dawdle and we pack our gear away and quickly begin our long descent.

What a day. I can't help feel I've been spoilt a little for a first
winter outing, I'm sure I'll remember this keenly when stuck in a gale
in some awful gully in Scotland.

Bring it on!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Winter in The Lakes

Brown Cove Crags near Helvellyn

Graham and AndyC were out taking advantage of the good weather this weekend and AndyC has sent this brief report and some pictures:

Graham will correct me if I'm wrong but I think it was Brown Cove Crags near Helvellyn. Left Buttress grade II, lots of snow about but very thin and dodgy last pitch on crumbly rock and unfrozen turf. Avoided by abseiling into a grade I gully which was excellent with very good snow and continued to the top.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Costa Blanca

Trip to Calpe, 22nd to 29th November 2008.

AndyC, AndyG and Richard flew out of Liverpool bound for Alicante on the morning of Saturday 22nd of November for a week of sun, sand, sport climbing and some adventurous trad.

Saturday 22nd, Toix Far Oeste.

After a short drive along the motorway in the hire car and a stop in Altea to buy some lunch, the team headed to the easy single pitch crag at Toix Far Oeste for a warm up in the pleasant afternoon sunshine. Route of the day was definitely Richard's ascent of Energico 18m 1* F6a+ (Bolted) up a slightly overhanging tufa groove, leading to very thin moves on the final slab.

Sunday 23rd, Olta.

Olta is on the side of a high plateau overlooking Calpe. It is the home of Tai Chi 26m 3* F6b+ (Bolted) which also lays claim to being the most photogenic route on the Costa Blanca. After a brave lead with just one rest from Richard, the rest gave it a go on top-rope and posed for photos.

Monday 24th, The Mascarat Gorge.

This is a big one, Llobet/Bertomeu(formerly known as Via UBSA) 276m 3* F5+ (HVS) (Trad with some bolts) up the Aguja Superior. The Mascarat Gorge cuts through the seaward end of the Bernia Ridge, separating it from the craggy ridge of Toix which leads right down to the sea. The motorway, the main coast road and the railway all cut through here using a variety of bridges and tunnels. Climbing the route requires special care not to dislodge any of the abundant loose rock on to any of the transport infrastructure below.

Tuesday 25th, Echo Valley.

This was an easy day with a trip to Finestrat to find the route to the Puig Campana ready for an early start the next morning. Since AndyC and Richard had not been before, they were given a tour of Echo Valley.

Due to the cold wind on the higher crags, it was decided to climb on the smaller crag of Echo Playa which was still in the sunshine. The most enjoyable route was undoubtedly Basilius 16m 1* F5+ (Bolted). An imposing and slightly improbable looking start, surmounting bulges above a cave leads to really nice climbing on strange crystaline protruberances up a steep slab.

Wednesday 26th, Puig Campana.

This was going to be a really big one. Espolon Central 450m 3* F4+ (HS) (Mostly trad, some fixed gear). However, after leaving Calpe at 6am, it rained on the approach and when the dawn broke it became apparent that it was much cloudier than the previous few days.

The first three pitches were soloed easily(120m F3). Then despite more persistent drizzle AndyG led the next three pitches(90m F3, some scrambling, F4). By this time the drizzle and turned to sleet and there were definitely snowflakes blowing in the wind.

Richard led the next pitch(supposedly 50m F4, but really only about 35m) to a belay near a well equipped abseil station. After three abseils and one jammed rope, eveyone was safely back down. Beaten by the weather on this occasion but a great route to go back for.

Thursday 27th, Dalle D'Ola and Toix Este.

Another rainy day. It started as soon as the bags were set down at the bottom of Dalle D'Ola, high in the Altea Hills housing estate, below the Bernia Ridge. After a trip to Toix Este in search of more sheltered conditions, which didn't work out because the wind was howling off the sea at Toix, climbing was abandoned in favour of exploring Calpe Old Town.

Friday 28th, Sella.

Despite Rockfax claiming that most of the crags are well sheltered, it was very windy around Sector Marion at Sella. After trying to warm up on a couple of routes, AndyC and Richard did the first two pitches of Marion 3* (P1.24m F5, P2.22m F4) (Bolted), whilst AndyG kept warm by going exploring with his camera.

Saturday 29th, Alicante Airport.

After a well deserved lie-in and a leisurely start to the day, the chaps arrived at the airport just before noon, only to be told that the flight was delayed. It eventually left nearly five hours late, apparently due to disrupted schedules caused by fog in Liverpool.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Ecuador 2008

Here is Mike's report on his trip to Ecuador – Oct/Nov 2008

I recently returned from a trip to Ecuador organised by Jagged globe and led by Dave Walsh, who has, among many other things, climbed the 7-summits, ie highest peaks on every continent.

After and to aid acclimatisation, the first couple of days were centred in Quito and these two days included a trip to the equator and a city tour. We observed such wonders as the “plughole experiment” where locals tried to convince us that the Earth’s rotation influences direction of rotation of a stream of water as it exits a plughole at and on each side of the equator!. We also saw changing of the guard with the president of Ecuador looking on and visited various churches, one of which required climbing some steep and rickety steel ladders to get up the clock-tower – I have done easier via ferrata routes!! Who said that there is no cultural interest on my trips?

Following these two rest/recovery days, we then attempted to climb Pichincha Rucu (4,698m, PD). However, an electrical storm necessitated a retreat about 100m from the summit, followed by a long descent along a step, muddy and very wet path with the odd waterfall crossing as the teleferique was not operating.

Next few days saw us in Cotopaxi National Park where we spent some time acclimatising and also training on Cotopaxi up to just below 5000m.

We then headed for Virgen Camp (around 3900m) prior to ascending Illiniza North (5,126m, PD). Frustratingly, we were again forced to retreat about 10 or 20m from summit because of an electrical storm and static build-up on summit. Two of our team were zapped by a static discharge from rocky summit, but were fortunately unscathed. Our local guides considered that there was too high a risk of lightning strike to hang around!

The remaining days of the trip also required a change of plan. Our original objective, Antisana was deemed to be unclimbable because of deep snow and potential avalanche risks so we headed for Cayambe (third highest mt in Ecuador, 5790m, PD) as this was our best chance to reach a summit. We spent the first day ice climbing on the glacier (three routes, estimated to be around Grade IV), with some challenging bulges and overhangs to negotiate.

The following day, an alpine start saw us on our way at 0100hrs on a bright, clear night. The thin crust of snow supported our weights well and we were hopeful when we reached about 5,300m. However, examination of snow pits revealed non-cohesively bound snow layers higher on the mountain. Yet again, we forced to descend due to the high risk of avalanches once the sun rose.

Also of interest were some bird and mammal sightings – Andean condor, llamas, paramo wolf (sort of mid-way between a fox and wolf, as we know them), carunculated caracara and turkey vulture.

All in all it was a good trip, despite zero summits achieved out of several attempts on high mts.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Snow in the Lakes

A little photo-reportage from the weekend.

While some of us were enjoying the snow at Trevor Rocks, Graham was out enjoying lots more of the stuff in the Lakes.

Looks like winter has come early this year.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Snow at Trevor Rocks

On Sunday Richard met Mark and AndyG at Trevor Rocks for a bit of late season sport climbing.

Much to everyone's surprise there was still snow on the ground despite the relatively lowly elevation and pleasant southerly aspect.

However, the rock was mostly dry and this encouraged Mark to try some hard stuff.

Conditions were generally bright and surprisingly warm except when the sun was behind the ocasional cloud.

Equally surprising was the lack of many other climbers. In the summer Trevor can be very overcrowded but we were joined by just one other pair of climbers and a soloist.

After warming up on Over the Wall 16m F6a+ 1* which continues to be a little problematic at the last move, they moved on to Checkpoint Charlie 12m F6b 1*.

Mark was determined to lead Margin of Error 12m F6c 2* but was unable to work out the crux sequence quickly enough to avoid getting pumped. Finally, they finished with an ascent of Borderline 12m F6a+ 2* which has a nice combination of sharp holds on a steep wall followed by delicate climbing up a blank slabby groove.