Monday, 29 July 2013

Waiting For Conditions

I love the table top hill at Danby. Fairy Cross Plane is a strange detached bit of moor, surrounded by craglets and boulders. There's a wild feel to it, wild moor horses, lonely trees and spectacular views. You've got to get a feel for where the project lies in relation to the area you're trying to develop and at Danby this is really easy.

I walked over there tother day with my Dad, mainly for a summer's evening stroll, but I managed to get 15 mins on the Mono Wall. The stone walls are really well built, lots of them and they pen the paths in. The bracken is cleared where the horses have walked and the path is the perfect gradient.

The Mono Wall itself is crisp-enough, dry completely and looking beautiful. I'd had worries that my fingers were starting to hurt, with a lot of time pulling on the crux monos without proper warming up. You can warm up on the exit E8ish bit, as that's mainly balancey and on largish holds, but there isn't a great way to warm into the mono cruxes. Today was important to see how they were feeling. I've had two rest days just bouldering at other venues, with the idea to let my skin repair on the mono fingers. This seems to have worked.

The last thing I was unsure about - the foot sequence at the bottom - is nearly perfected. So it's nearly time!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

George Gap Rocks - A New Bouldering Venue In Fryup

Fryup Dale is a right barer of gifts when it comes to bouldering. There's Mark Nab, Raven Hill Clemmitt's in, Clemmitt's North, Freyr's Nab, The Fairy Cross Boulders,  The Finklestones and Danby Crag.  There are a fair few different styles of climbing across these venues, with block-based powerful stuff at the Finklestones, Danby and Clemmitt's and buttress-based stuff at Freyr's and Fairy Cross.

Everyone knows that there are new things to be done in Fryup, perhaps even new venues, but these are starting to dry up. One last gift is a crag hidden by one of the largest waterfalls in the moors- right at the head of Fryupdale itself.

On the old 19th century maps this place is called George Gap Spa or Chalybeate. There's a large dirty buttress that we left untouched, probably with some highly esoteric trad on them and a couple of sit-down style blocks that Fryup Dale certainly already has enough of!

What was a bit new and good quality were a couple of vertical and clean buttresses that rose about 5 metres up. After a light brushing a decent few problems in the font 6s appeared, which all come highly recommended.

Perhaps this is to be the future of Moors bouldering, with small pockets of high quality still out there for the skillful explorer!

Video: The Breaking Wheel FA

Danby Dyno from Dave Warburton on Vimeo.

Another comic route...

Monday, 22 July 2013

Nearly There.... And the FA of 'The Breaking Wheel' (E5 6c)

Marks on 'The Chocolate Moose' font 6c**
We're getting into the dangerous part of prospecting at the moment- the period just before the lead. The Mono Wall is clean, it's wild and it's wired. More than two years of cleaning and perfecting: two years of bad weather, other commitments, physical and mental weakness. But now, we're almost there. I've spent a lot of time on the moves over the last few weeks and at last it's started to feel inviting and beautiful, albeit still bloody lethal!

The whole junior section of Moors activism was at the crag yesterday, with a few unclimbed things in mind. Samuel 'Karl' Marks and Matthew Ferrier had their eye on an interesting highball slab in the ravine, which was rumoured to be around E5 6b. It turned out to still be a bit damp after the cleaning though, so that one wasn't to be. It could have probably still been climbed, but it wasn't going to be enjoyable. Spirits were still high however, with Matt and Sam then quickly dispatching the established 'The Chocolate Moose' (E4 6b).

This whole time, Dave had been cleaning a  repulsive - looking hairline crack. It's an obvious line and after most of the filth was removed it looked to be most inviting. Sam reckoned it looked about E1, which most of the rest of us thought was a wild underestimation of the difficulties. It turned out that we were right and Sam was wrong (for a change) and it was actually a real bastard of a crack. We all had some goes and we all failed to finger-lock our way up to the big ledge.

With desperation kicking in, eventually someone had the idea to jump off some lower holds for the ledge - which was to be a large dyno. This also proved unfruitful, with effort after effort resulting in a hilarious belayer-smashing fall.  After a particularly painful fall that resulted in some whiplash, a more determined air took over and the ledge was latched ground-up. A fine team success at a grade of English 6c. The whole team thought the route was deserved of E4 6c - Even the better part of my own judgement thought thus, but as we all know, E4 6c doesn't exist, so it had to be E5. Could be E3 6c I suppose!

So after an unexpected new E5 6c addition to Danby crag, later called 'The Breaking Wheel', we set about rather tired, on trying to top rope the Mono Wall. Whilst having shunted it a lot, we're yet to try it on top rope, which is a huge benefit for the lower wall which overhangs quite a lot. It felt easy, disturbingly easy. Bottom to top, bottom to top, over and over, link after link. I felt ready for the solo, steady on most of the moves, strong. All agreed that the crux is hard, how hard we don't quite know - perhaps a couple of boulder grades harder than 'the finger' at the Wainstones, which puts it anywhere above font 7c+.

It was really useful to get the chaps' opinions on the danger of it however. I've been on it so much I'd started to convince myself that a fall could potentially be rolled out and then the rocks and trees at the bottom could form a kind of brake. This was debated a little, with the upshot being that when the time for the solo comes, it's best not to fall off. It's really starting to sound quite hard in my head. This is quite important to me I think. I climb best and boldest when I really believe that what I'm doing is hard, when I pull the moves and feel invincible.  If I'm just going through the motions of 'another mid-difficulty sequence', I get complacent and absent. On the Mono Wall there's no place for absence: you have to be there and you have to look at the tip of your finger dragging your body through some of the most ridiculous moves anyone's ever tried at height. There's competition and spirituality all mangled together in some awful cocktail of self-doubt.

It's tough being away from the crag at the moment, doing a bit of DIY and hearing reports of others' successes around the UK. It makes me feel a little hasty, like I should go to Danby right now and solo it, but the right time has to be chosen. Perhaps this is the hardest part of headpointing? It's meant to rain tomorrow, so tonight will probably be the last session for a few days. Hopefully I'll stay fit and everything with align just nicely for an ascent.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Rock Bottom - Onsight

There are many routes in the Moors that, despite fairly low grades, offer a decidedly tricky outing. One such route is the Shorter and Redhead route Rock Bottom. It looks like a bit of an eliminate, climbing the surprisingly steep wall a few metres left of Ahab. It was rumoured not to have seen an onsight ascent, and so we got on it.

There were a fair few people at the crag, with a party of well-weathered climbers gently knocking off the classics of the crag, ourselves, the Middlesborough contingent and eventually even Marks and Ferrier putting in an appearance. There was a good atmosphere and after a bit of up and down soloing to have a look at the crux, we went for it.

It turned out to be a great little number. The start is a bit of a dyno, or an awkward reach into a pod, a move that takes a bit of faith to down climb. Here some poorish cams can be placed to protect the crux. We used a boulder mat here, with the idea that if the cams ripped they'd slow you down enough to deposit you gently onto the mat. I think this would work.

The crux move itself is top notch. A really good crimp is taken with the right hand and then an outside edge smear enables a left foot to be placed in the pocket. The sequence was obvious from the ground, but looked really hard. Luckily though it turned out not to be that bad and on lead the whole thing felt very secure.

We'd been in contact with Chris Shorter who reckoned it may well be E5. The crux is certainly 6b and the fall is not ideal without a mat. With a mat though, the whole thing feels a lot fluffier and E4 6b seemed about right. It's a fab route whatever the grade, with some really absorbing climbing. There's certainly this strange genre of mid-extreme 70s and 80s routes that are largely ignored in the moors. As with this one, they often turn out to be really rather good.