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.