Friday, 28 February 2014

The Whiplash Of Difficulty - Piles More To Do

Having passed my car test, I thought I'd celebrate with a trip to the seaside. The cliffs at Goldsborough don't have any recorded climbing on them, but they're a fairly obvious target with the monstrous sweep that cascades down into the ocean. Matt Ferrier was the first of our little group to check them out and took a few snaps. As with many of the sea cliffs in yorkshire, you have quite a bit of variation in rock quality. At the lower end of acceptable you have stuff like this:
It's not as bad as it looks and it is plausible to climb this. The best line climbs up the wall just right of the arete and then after the roof steps up and left. It's fairly difficult climbing and extremely bold. The only gear that I was able to find was by the roof and I think I'd prefer not to have it. A fall is likely to just rip a massive block out, which would result  in a 12 metre groundfall being followed by a large rock. Soloing it also seems insane. The holds are not beyond suspicion and there are moves of certain English 6c, perhaps even 7a.  To be honest, this could be the start of the new wave, but it'll be a while before I start working this I think.

Of far more interest for the medium term is this!
At around 9 metres high and with about 7 lines on it, this is a fantastic find for the moment. I've seen some fabulous sandstone features in my time, but this one has to be the best. It's a single whiplash of style, which provides a load of slab climbing at varying angles. It's obviously been quarried at some point, as there are tiny historic chisel marks. It's so regular that it looks almost like cross-bedding.

 Matt thought that it might lend itself to some delicate E5-style climbing on the small dimples, but somehow this doesn't quite work. I'm not sure why, but somehow all these features are just too rubbish and small to use. The resultant style of climbing is unlike anything else in the Moors. You use almost exclusively natural features for hand holds and then make lots of little foot movements up the indents.
I shunted two lines for about an hour each, one was about H7 7a and the other was harder. The only slightly soft rock was on the left-hand line, which I didn't try, but I don't think you even need to climb on this. The rest of the stone is good, having seen a fair bit of weathering. It takes a while to get the holds in good order, as they need to be free from sand and other bits and bobs.

Style-wise, the two routes are fairly similar. They have very intricate starts that lead into marginally easier climbing, before an utterly desperate final move, which is dynamic in both cases. The easier one steps up high on a rare good crimp, with hands on some shocking gastons and slopers. From here it's an intermediate and then the break with the same hand - I love those 'go again' moves.

I was deliberately going after the hardest-looking bits of walls, which obviously meant high and blank. The harder one is (perhaps predictably) more bonkers. It climbs 2 metres to the right of the top break, which means it has an extra metre of hard climbing. It too is remarkably sustained, but with a markedly harder move at the top. This time it's a sloping crimp and a nothing hold with the left before a jump for a rather small pocket.

With mats all of this wall may well be reasonably safe. It's not bouldering, but it might take the routes into the 'hard and safe(r)' category. Quite keen for this wall at the moment - there seemed to be hard moves all over the place.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Eating Fish And Chips And A New E7 7a***

Cars are pretty useful I reckon. I spend a lot of time walking around at the moment, which can be really pleasant, but is also pretty hard work. So, I'm learning to drive! Tootling about in my mother's car today and we were nearly in a crash (nothing to do with us, just someone going a bit sideways on the moors road). Luckily we weren't involved and managed to make our way to Whitby to test out some fish and chips at a new restaurant that won the national frying awards. I probably still prefer the magpie to be honest. Anyway, it was a pretty massive meal and I sort of wrote the day off for climbing. Unfortunately, as we were driving back over the Moor, the weather was stonking, so I decided I really had to go climbing. 4 O'clock - 2 hours of daylight left. The choice was obvious - Hillhouse Nab. And so I got out at Blakey.

Hillhouse was one of the little buttresses that Dooge and co found in Farndale at the back end of last year. It was unrecorded and he climbed a sole line up the arete at E4 (video above). At the time, he shunted the centre of the wall and reckoned it might go at E7 7a, making quite a bit of noise about the quality of the climbing. Naturally, with Hillhouse being only 20 minutes from Blakey, which is in turn only 10 minutes drive from Castleton, I thought it might be a good bet with only a couple of hours to spare.

And so I managed to find the crag, with the sun beginning its descent and the naturally golden wall looking even more golden. I can't over emphasise how good the route is. I shunted it of course, as I was without pads, alone and it was meant to be an English 7a solo. I quickly found the moves.

It starts on a vertical wall, which looks like it's been cauterised. Utterly featureless apart from one small pocket. Gaining this pocket is easy and it leads to a nice line of crimps and seams. Because it's the only feature on the wall, you inevitably have to get a really high foot to use it. This is of course the crux and a really nice bit of climbing. The top of the route is then incredibly balancey, with flagging and smearing and moving your hips. This style of climbing is where it's at for me, feeling like you're performing some weird kind of Moorland yoga: martial arts on the heights.

The project grade was E7 7a, which is probably about right. I've been giving some serious thought to the grades 6c, 7a and 7b at the moment, as their uselessness in other areas is something I want to avoid in the Moors. I think from now on, I'm going to use 7a as something slightly easier than typical 7a, with the upper end of 6c being incorporated in this. 7b is going to be the new really wild grade, taking in turn a bit of the harder English 7a moves. This way 6c is only those moves that are easy to mid 6c at the moment and all three of these grades actually become something useful for aspirant ascentionists! Roughly... 6c = font 6c -  font 7a+, 7a = font 7a+ - font 7c+ and 7b = font 7c+ onwards. See how this works out.

The eliminate between the two routes at Hillhouse looks like it's going to be a really fun E7 7b.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

New E6s And E7s At Glaisdale Rigg

Glaisdale Rigg is turning out to be a most splendid venue. We had a pretty good few days on the boulder problems a few weeks ago, but I wasn't convinced that the routes were going to be pleasant, as they looked quite bold! Dave convinced me to have a look though and, armed with a few pads, we went to see what was what.

The rigg is a series of quarries; a few minutes apart and 5 minutes from the road. The first one is mainly bouldering, with some good stuff in the font 6s and font 7s and home to a couple of low E grade routes that we did today. The next quarry along is taller and has some good blank buttresses and then after this is another quarry, with even harder lines.

Last week we climbed the plum line of the second quarry, which goes first through a roof and then trends left. Some very small crimps, balance and a bit of exposure. Top route! I hope this get some repeats and should do at low E5.

Finishing off this day, we tried to climb the scoop to the left, which looked harder and indeed was. It started off with sidepulls around a rib, which climb higher and higher until a good crimp. More moves lead to a sloper and then an excellent move trying to reach crimps much higher, with very high feet. We chickened out of this move a lot and then gave up. It's not too high, but with only a couple of mats, it's a fairly serious drop.

Back today, with this scoop in mind, which we had down as font 7c/ E7 7a. This ended up getting done first go, which was top notch. One of those amazing experiences where the moves just flow and everything feels easy. It's a brill piece of rock. We also managed to get an extraordinarily reachy line done in the far quarry. I'd had a shunt of this, as the move was fairly on-off. I thought this sequence was top badger really, with a crimp that was pretty hard to hold and then some nice foot beta and a pop for a ledge. You start at the arete (which is unclimbed), climb higher for a few moves and then get a poor gaston and an undercut. left foot out on a good hold, stab your right foot as a smear and then span for your life to the sidepully tiny crimps. Another pleasant sequence.

It was already shaping up as a pretty good day at this point, with much more than I thought we'd get done already climbed, but there was still time to headpoint some twin cracks, with a really pokey 6a/b move at the top. We gave this E6 6a.  This one had quite a high feel to it, with some strange mantel-shelving lower down and then a scary finish that required a good bit of bridging.

All of the routes were two or three stars, which was perhaps the best news. Good to have these kind of days out. Good rest days between working routes. There's a distinct lack of photos and videos at the moment, but not to worry, I'm sure these will be repeated fairly soon.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Black Knight

Black Knight takes the chin from the other side
The Wainstones are one of the most well known and well-worked out crags on the Moors. Whilst most of the routes aren't particularly great, the rock is a great mix of iron and quartz that makes the climbing really cool.

Apart from the direct start to little bow peep, which is a pretty futuristic very highball, the only line that hasn't been done in its current condition is that of Black Knight. Put up in the 80s by Steve Brown, it tackles the chin of the sphinx via a class bit of compression and pinching.

Steve climbed it with some pegs in right by the crux (that went at about English 6c), which were later taken out. The resulting challenge is now not only fairly hard, but pretty bold. A lone small tricam in a distant pocket seems to be the only gear.

We popped up on Sunday, which turned out to be a brilliant sunny day. A cold start morphed into good conditions and I figured out the sequence. I'm not sure where the original line began, but the best climbing follows the groove of Terrorist to the pocket, where the tricam can be had, before traversing the lip of the roof on finger pockets to a fab sequence, with a top notch pinch or two and an apposing sidepull. Some high feet take the weight and then its a real launch up with the smears to allow the juggy break to be reached.

I would say that this sequence of moves certainly deserves three stars and it's going to be massively photogenic. Arguably seeking difficulty(?). Not sure of the grade, about H8 - a fall could be nasty.  It's a good thing to get on at the moment, when other stuff is a bit damp.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Unclimbed Lines At Danby

So here we go. This is my dream - to see all these climbed!

The Wangledoodle Wall H10/E10? 7a
Class line, up a hairline crack and then out onto a perfect square arete. 2 R.P. lowish down protect the moves to the arete. The hard climbing starts on the hairline crack, before another hard move out to the arete. Controlling the swing onto this is then really hard and then every move from here to the top just gets harder. The last move hasn't really been done in a way that would be replicatable on lead.

The Jesus Project H9/E9? 7b
Gear at half height will protect sort of and it's not that tall. Certainly not a safe fall, but would only really be H9 for the difficulty of the move (which hasn't even been done on top rope).

Rump de Stump H9/E10? 7a
Looks eliminate, but isn't really. Good climbing on a nice feature. Short and very serious (solo above very steep ground and rocks). Comes down to 3 moves on a very positive arete, with some powerful, balancey compression.

Frowning Buttress H8 7b
The wall of the alcove is protectable with bouldering mats low down. Pretty tough I reckon!

Osiris Groove E6 6a
Steady away, interesting climbing up the bold groove. Some small wires. Gets a bit close to a tree at one point. 

Death Arete H5/E7? 6a
Not massively taxing, but extremely bold. A very small cam may hold a fall, but you want to be doing it first time! Nice pure line though.

Vulcan Arete E7 6c
Very nice feature with some holds low down that are pretty gruesome. Some nice moves at the top though. Basically 3 font 7a boulder problems in a row.

Eastern Slab E6 6b?
Space for a few routes up here.

Guillotine Project E7 6c
Bold. Hard last move. 

Alcove Alter E6 6c
 A big fat slab, with two small flakes. This should be very good and more or less protectable with mats.

And then totally futuristic:

The Impossible Arete H12? 7b?
Crazy. Perhaps worth thinking about when someone does the Wangledoodle Wall. Effectively soloing its hardest moves and with a ludicrous start.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Spring is a-coming in, Lhude sing cuccu!

Some dry rock today. Back on the Wangledoodle and trying a project that we found last week. The weather is not poor! Whilst the last week has been quite wet, it has been less wet than the week before. This means that things are drying and good sequences can be linked between the wet streaks. The wind also took a dive at about 4pm, meaning that the walk back over the moor was actually quite enjoyable!

Sideways on Rump de Stump. This is the new project that takes the left-winding arete with very little to oppose the barndoor. It's an ode to obsession, looking like it's going to be eliminate (although it's not) and moves that are going to take ages to get solid-feeling! It comes down to three moves on a very positive arete, with some very powerful and balancey sequences. There are currently two moves that feel utterly wild.

The first thing I like to do with an unclimbed line is to categorise it; figure out whether it's going to be figured out in a couple of sessions or a ridiculous futuristic line. With Rump de Stump there are a few things to consider. The climbing is fairly interesting as it's steady away 6b type stuff until a very smeary section with crap handholds. Really high feet mean you end up sideways. I think the crux just scrapes in at English 7a, but fairly low in the grade. This positions it in the "mid-difficulty" projects of the Moors, which is about the difficulty that I'm currently looking for. It's also very bold, which is great, because it means that the overall difficulty of the line is going to be increased. Balancey, short and dangerous... Basically what I'm looking for.

It's still too early to say whether it's going to be new wave or not - really on the edge and long-term. Once conditions and sequences improve it might turn out to be H9 or something, which is a little easier than I'm really looking for, but still certainly worth doing. It's hard to say at the moment, but getting out on these days is what is going to make spring a treasure trove.

The Wangledoodle on the other hand is still an enigma. I played around with the entire crux sequence for around an hour and everything was feeling alright apart from the last move. I count 6 English 7a moves on this now, which makes it quite sustained! It's a bit too hard for me to be honest and a bit safe (still not a sport route like, with only a couple of R.Ps for protection), but it certainly does me some good to get on it.

Comparing these two routes is particularly interesting, as they are so opposite. Sustained vs. bouldery. A great line vs. a gap filler. Bold vs. safish. Hard vs. easier. The Wangledoodle always seemed like a complete dream; a route that was almost perfect, but just way too hard for me. Like the Mono Wall, like The Hypocrisy of Moose, I always assumed I'd never do it. I still think I might never manage it, but it is an inspiring line and I'd really like to see it get done.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Finding The Right Project

Not too hard and not too easy... A cracking line on good rock... You might know hundreds of unclimbed routes in an area and still struggle to find a line that fits your needs. It's currently all about trying to find projects with English 7a moves and little or no gear. The days usually follow the same template..

Abseil down a route, excited by the top moves - obviously hard and an independent line, brilliant! Only then do you discover that there's a good cam a couple of metres below the crux, or a section that is just too hard or scrappy. Or maybe the dyno you're getting excited about is actually harder than just doing a simple 6c move off route and hence the line is not pure.

The harder you're aiming at, the more incredibly impenetrable the rock has to be. Regardless of grade, any good route is like a long thin island of holds. They start at the bottom and climb to the top, with no hope of escaping left or right. It blisters up the wall and locks you in.

I'm not having much luck at the moment. Dave's discovery in Eskdale of a new crag promised some incredibly bold and difficult climbing. Alas, the blank section ends a little too close to the ground, meaning the climbing actually never gets that dangerous. A top notch E8 it may be, but with hopes of something really hard, you can't help but get a little disappointed.Similarly, the Magic Scoop at highcliffe is going to also be just about boulderable. The beauty of the line sort of makes up for the lack of big numbers though and I might still not be able to climb it! There are then routes that are too safe due to good gear - Time Captain Direct, the Wangle Doodle Wall, The Landslip Arete. Still inspiring lines, but not quite bold enough for my liking.

At the other end of the spectrum you have the routes that aren't hard enough climbing - The direct start to the tormented sole, Roseberry Direct, Death Arete, Kay Nest Aid Route etc..

Then there are the lines that are just too hard. For me, these are generally roofs. I climb really badly on steep rock and a lot of the very hardest projects in the Moors are through roofs- high crag, Cringle Moors, Ingleby. The Ingleby Roof in particular is an utterly spectacular pitch. I abed it for the first time the other day and I was blown away. If anything has ever made me want to climb font 8b roofs, then it's that! Unlike a lot of the impossible-looking roofs (like at High Crag), this has holds and looks like a great set of moves. The hold on the lip of the overhang is a lovely little finger jug that looks like it knowns it's going to be climbed one day. Maybe if Mike Adams buys a harness then it will get done.

So there's lots to go at and lots I can do, but I haven't found that perfect project yet. The weather is also pretty appalling. Things will also get a little easier when I learn to drive, which I hope to do soon.