Monday, 19 October 2009

Kern Knotts and the Napes

Now we know why the Americans call this time of the year The Fall.

A report from RichC on more of his recent adventures with Jonah:

Saturday morning saw a clear forecast so myself and Jonah decided to head up to the lakes to get a last mountain day in before the winter. A cold and dark start saw us up in Keswick for a hearty breakfast before heading down to Borrowdale. Arriving at Seathwaite the parking was unexpectedly rammed full - we ended up roughly half a mile from the farm at the end of the road.

A brisk walk in lead us up past Styhead Tarn and round the climber's traverse to Kern Knotts crag. By this stage the sun was well up and with a cloudless sky and little wind it was pleasantly warm for October - we were comfortable in t-shirts.

Jonah kicked off the day's business by climbing the classic Innominate Crack (VS 4b **). A fine line, showing a lot of polish from countless ascents, but still pleasant and not desperate.

I then decided to tackle the other classic crack of the crag, Kern Knotts Crack (VS 4c **). This features a polished off-width "sentry box" feature as its crux. Upon reaching it I decided to see if my off-width technique was up to scratch. It wasn't. I fell about 5 metres out of the crack and came to rest just above the floor. In the process Jonah's hand was dashed against the rocks at the base of the climb resulting in some gashed fingers - lots of blood but not too serious thankfully. I had nothing much injured except my pride. Not to be discouraged, after Jonah had applied some first aid to his fingers (and a passer by had commented, "nice whipper mate"), I got back on to it. Avoiding the crack this time by the alternative route using the wall to the side I reached the top without further incident.

Noon was long since passed by this stage, so without further ado we packed up and walked round to Nape's Needle. With no one else in sight we got straight on it, Jonah leading the first pitch of The Arete (HS 4b **). At the shoulder we switched over and I lead up the top block to set up possibly the most complex belay for a climb of this grade I've ever done. Ropes were lashed all over the block with me anchored in a spider's web at the centre. Jonah followed and after a moment to bask in the lowering sun on the top it was time to move on.

With evening soon drawing in we had time for just one more route, the classic but glossy Needle Ridge (VD **), lead in two long pitches (and a scrambly pitch at the top). A fine end to a day on the mountains.

[Editor's Note: It's good to hear that Jonah was not seriously injured saving Rich's neck yet again! It is also heartening to see that despite a damp summer it is still possible to get stuff done up on the high crags. The photo below is myself and "Pope" Paul on a previous occasion.]

Wednesday, 14 October 2009


Anglesey Camping Meet 9th - 11th October 2009

Despite some rain during the journey to Anglesey on Friday evening, most memebers eventually arrived at Rhoscolyn to find the rain had stopped and they were able to keep their tents dry as they pitched at Outdoor Alternative. Then a short walk down dark footpaths and past Borthwen beach led to the The White Eagle at Rhoscolyn where plans were made for the morning.

Saturday was slightly overcast but bright and dry. Despite the breeze, it was warm for the time of year and, after Mark and Ste had departed for Gogarth, the rest of the team set out on foot to explore the sea cliffs of Rhoscolyn. Arriving at the pinnacle near the old Coastguard lookout, Andy and Jess attempted to decipher the guidebook description for Sunset Slab 130m V.Diff. Eventually they found worthwhile climbing by traversing the slabs which formed either side of the narrow zawn to the south-east of the pinnacle.

A little further westwards along the coast is the magnificent red wall of Llawder(that's a Welsh joke), home to Icarus 40m 1* HVS(4c, 5a) and the much more serious undertakings of The Sun 44m 3* E3(4b, 5c) and Warpath 38m 3* E5 6a.

Further round again, at the side of Fallen Block Zawn, Andy and Jess descended to the base of Truant Slab. This gave excellent views of the huge fallen blocks that give the area it's name. The abseil required great care, to find an alternative line, as the descent gulley described in the guidebook was choked with loose rock. An abseil stake nearby was also found to be completly rusted through.

Ascent back to the cliff top was via Shit Hawk Alley 36m Diff. Despite it's name this proved to be a pleasant climb in an interesting place and was easily accomplished in big boots.

More exploration also revealed views of Sea Cave Zawn where Electric Blue 37m 3* E4 5c traverses across the headwall above the large cave. Meanwhile, several members of the party had already wandered off to persue their own projects and a great deal of rambling, scrambling and solo climbing occurred, especially around the area of "Crag X."

Finally, it was time for the long anticipated Symphony Crack 15m 3* Diff. Described in the guidebook as "a sea-cliff classic and hard to beat at the grade." After scrambling down the headland, the route traverses into a bottomless right-angled corner which is then ascended whilst waves crash on the cliff below your feet. An easy but stunning route in a spectacular position with a great sea-cliff ambiance.

Congratulations to GrahamC for producing the best picture from the weekend with his excellent photo of Maurice seconding Symphony Crack.

After that there was just enough time for some fun and games before starting the walk back to the campsite.

On the way back, we met Mark and Ste who had had a good day at Gogarth having climbed both Britomartis 58m 3* HVS(4c, 4c) and The Concrete Chimney 70m 3* HVS(5a, 5a). A good selection of routes for Mark's first time on a sea-cliff.

We returned to the The White Eagle at Rhoscolyn for dinner. The food was tasty and well presented and the bar had a good selection of ale. It was also very busy which isn't bad for a quiet weekend in October.

Sunday started damp, cold and windy. It had rained in the night and some drizzle persisted through the morning and especially when we packed our tents. We went to South Stack where we pointed out some of the climbs to those members who had not been there before. Unfortunately, the café was shut despite the surprisingly large numbers of visitors who braved the weather that morning.

We went to Trearddur in search of food and hot drinks. Eventually, a little after lunchtime, the weather did improve and a few keen souls returned to South Stack where they ascended Tension 25m 2* VS 4b, Black and Tan 28m 1* VS 4c, and New Boots and Panties 22m S 4a on Holyhead Mountain. The rest succumbed to post prandial lethargy and set off on the drive home.

All in all, the meet was well attended with ten people camping and several others joining us on the Saturday. The campsite at Outdoor Alternative was reasonably priced and the facilities spot on including hot water and hot showers at no extra cost. Although not a lot of hard routes got climbed, it was a worthwhile exploration of a new area and several members have been inspired to return.


While everyone else was getting ready for the Anglesey Camping Weekend, Jonah and RichC slipped away down south for a long weekend on the South Coast. Here is a brief report from RichC:

Myself and Jonah having retreated down to Swanage in search of sun were greeted with showers on Friday. We squeezed in Freda (VS 5a ***) led by myself in a break in the weather. Unbelievably greasy low down it got better as you got higher.

Saturday brought the much sought after sunshine - an unseasonably warm day with clear blue skies saw Lightning Wall (HVS 4c ***) led by Jonah, and Finale Groove (HVS 4c ***) led by myself. Both routes are long single pitches (38m and 35m respectively) on very steep ground - looking down from halfway up Finale Groove, I found I'd actually climbed right over Jonah's head.

Sunday brought more miserable weather, with cold winds to boot. We drove up to the Wye valley to have a look at Wyndcliffe - a fine venue by the looks of things, unfortunately the heavens opened literally as we touched the rock. It seems climbing on Sunday was not to be.