Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Hen Cloud (Part Two)

Jeff and AndyC weren't the only ones out at Hen Cloud on Saturday(Read Jeff's Report). They were also accompanied by Graham and Ste, Julie and Kevin, Malcolm, Alison, Richard and AndyG. Enough for a game of five-a-side footy.

AndyG started the show by leading The Arete 26m VDiff 2*. According to Rockfax, a "gritstone classic" and it turned out to be every bit as interesting as an experienced climber learns to expect after hearing such an apparently innocent phrase. A tricky, gearless and insecure start leading shortly afterwards to the first belay on a comfortable ledge. Then a few steps up to a steep wall and the opportunity to place a nut for protection. Next comes the good bit, grope around at full stretch until three finger tips sink into a little slot in an otherwise inhospitable seam in the rock. Hang off those three fingers, smear high with the feet and swing elegantly around the arete into a position of gob-smacking exposure.

Reach left and jam a hand into a horizontal crack and stretch your left leg wide for a little triangular foothold, while all the time admiring the view down between your feet, past the bottom of the crag and all the way to the bottom of the hill. When you have done that for long enough to realise that you are not going to fall off, at least not straightaway, it's time to consider moving up, and that takes some thinking about. Eventually, careful shuffling of the right foot, into the same cleft where your left hand is, allows the intrepid leader to raise himself on to the hold-less slab and tread carefully on the wavy ripples leading back to the arete and easy ground.

Not bad for a VDiff as Malcolm will testify. Despite checking the guide book, he refused to believe that it was proper VDiff. However, upon returning home and consulting his own guide book he was forced to admit that in the 1950's it was only considered Diff.

While all this was going on Graham and Ste, and Jeff and AndyC, went off further along the crag to do proper hard stuff. Then Julie and Kevin decided to lead Richard astray on K2 30m Severe 4b 1*. This turned out to be quite testing for them, especially as they were subject to scrutiny and heckling from the party above them on The Arete.

After a brief break for lunch, AndyG set out on Modern 20m Severe 4a 1*. To begin with, it proved to be a test of almost every possible type of jamming; fingers, toes, fists, feet and finally arms and legs. However, it finished with a strenuous layback in a rapidly disappearing crack, leading to delicate tip-toeing up a steep wall whilst trying to keep it all under control with the most tenuous of finger holds.

Unfortunately, this proved to be too strenuous for Malcolm but Alison had a good go at it and she has the grit rash to prove it. Kevin, Julie and Richard all followed on top-rope and clearly benefited from having seen how everyone else had done it.

Finally, Julie, Kevin and Richard decided to have a go at The Arete, and the rest opted for Ancient 16m VDiff 1* which weaves a slightly easier way up the tower than it's companion climb, Modern. It started easily with nice secure hand jams leading onto a slab and eventually a big ledge below the same headwall surmounted by Modern. This time the way was a little further to the left but it still proved to be surprisingly strenuous.

After descending and returning to our bags it became apparent that not much progress was being made by our other party on The Arete. After advice, encouragement and even ridicule failed to move the party upward, a top-rope was very graciously offered and gratefully received.

By this time the rest of the chaps had returned from their adventures and it became apparent that the consensus of opinion was in favour of retiring to a nearby hostelry for some well earned refreshment. Which we did.