Thursday, 5 July 2012

Thor's Axe E3 5c**

The Piercing Thorgill Arete- the Direct Start. - Photo: Sophie R
In the land of rain, it was back to shower dodging today. The showers were intermittent (as always) and the odd blast from the sun, when clouds a-parted, made for odd conditions. Sam Marks had done a fine job of sending us some pictures of Thorgill when he went to check out the place last month, with some of the pictures hinting at a real bag of potential.

So it was with excitement that we tootled along along the railway from blakey: full pace and accompanied by Miss Sophie from Germany.

Poorly dressed for the occasion, with flip-flops and no stick, we soon cursed having parked so far away, but the walk was still pleasant.

After passing an impressive hole (a 19th century iron mine apparently), we happened upon the crag. A bit tired, we feasted upon a sandwich before marveling at the wonders of Thorgill. I had previously slagged off the place, which makes me wonder if I had indeed been to the correct bit of crag. Who knows? But it looked quite nice anyway.

With surprising dryness, we had free choice of all the crag's outings. There were a large number of obvious new routes, with one axe-shaped arete looking extremely promising. Dave got to work cleaning that, whilst I fought with a holly bush to try and find a belay above a hard-looking wall. After first abing off Dave, then climbing a gully of reeds, I eventually managed to half-abseil down the line. It looked alright, but I couldn't really shunt it- even with some daft aid tactics.

Dave leading his left-hand start- more sustained and serious. Photo: Sophie R
So I retreated and looked at a wall to the right. That looked like it would offer a just-about highballable route of about E2 5c/6a- E5 6b if you ignore the arete on the right. With ignoring the arete it would have a real great final move. All rather eliminate and average though.

Dave was ready for his lead now anyway. He racked up and set off, placing a thread round a suspect block. The upper arete is plagued by a choss band at the bottom. It's not proper choss, but this sort of band of square sandstone blocks that look like they could fall off. Most seemed pretty solid, but the odd one did break off. This will get better with a bit of traffic, but it's not a massive deal anyway, with only the first move being affected and very easy anyway.
Third Crux
Dave hadn't practiced the moves and seemed to have a bit of a battle with the crux, looking rather confused on the topout. With that done, it was on with the right-hand start. I'd had a look across at it when seconding Dave, feeling the holds that I thought I'd use, but on lead I ended up just reaching straight into Dave's line and onto the arete.

This was better-protected than Dave's left-hand start, but perhaps with less pleasant climbing. Very similar lines anyway, with mine being easier because you get better gear earlier on. I fear that the Left-hand will one day become obsolete, with a serious move in from the left that is seemingly unnecessary. I tried to persuade Dave that it would be better to have two separate routes, so the interesting start sequence on his was not lost into the dark depths of forgotten variations. He rightfully said it was all hog-wash and they were both the same route. Fair enough like... So there we have it- one fine line with variation possible at the start- have a look at Dave's too if you go to do it, they're both nice.
We thought it better even that the Jungle Drum, with a long pitch and two or three sequences of difficult climbing- depending on which line you choose. My grading is well out at the moment, with the moves feeling very easy, but getting utterly terrified. Dave seems a lot more steady and happy leading above dubious threads, so his grade of E3 5c might be about right. He's on good form though. Certainly 2 stars though, only the poor band at the start detracting. If you turn up with a positive attitude and experience-enough to not be put off by the start, it will feel utterly brilliant. Certainly worth the long drive from the north for anyone in the area. There'll be a few more things here soon too me thinks.

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