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.

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