|Getting to grips with a different style of unclimbed line|
With the Moors now being well on it's way, I've been thinking about where to draw my semi-nomadic life to a close. It was always going to be either the Lakes or Northumberland and due to various factors, Northumberland was decided upon. I'm still near enough to the Moors for a quick hit and reasonably well located for the Lakes and Scotland, but more importantly have access to an enormous pile of partially explored crags within an hour.
I'm already well into the groove, with several things now cleaned and shunted and a fair grasp of the area (well at least the Simonside range). I wanted to move somewhere with a magical feel to it, where the crags and lines meant more to me than just numbers. Part of the reason I haven't felt inclined to set out on any of the things I've shunted in other places is that I've felt no affinity with the area. How can you risk injuring yourself in a place that means so little to you?
Northumberland does mean something to me though. It's the same region as the Moors, with not dissimilar rock and that same high moorland feel. I've been up at Sandy Crag a lot recently and when you look out across to the Cheviots and beyond, there's a warmth of beauty I've rarely experienced away from the Moors. It's quiet and it inspires.
Once you get down to the nitty gritty of lines on rock, the Simonside range is up there with the Moors I'd say. There are quite a few unclimbed gems highlighted by the guidebook and some of these are flabbergastingly class. I've had 3 sessions on the arête at Sandy Crag now and it's up there as one of the best lines on sandstone. After 6 metres of easy climbing you're hit by a 10 metre crux section where basically each of the 8 moves are 7a. Move number 4, at about 10 metres, is fantastic - insecure and wild and probably the hardest move. This may turn out to be my lifetime project as there is definitely no gear and I'm starting to link bits of climbing together now. There will be some serious hours put in before this is linked, never mind ready for the solo.
These really hard lines (well, bold and hard) seem fairly rare however. The majority of the class seems to lie in the E6-E8 kind of grades, with a lot of hard-looking stuff being plainly impossible and a lot of the nicely featured stuff turning out to be quite hard.
I was fortunate enough to be taken out by Si Litchfield yesterday, to explore the other end of the Simonside range. Despite this being the most popular bit, there is still a fair amount of potential. I'm finding it very hard to climb the sandstone in the county, as it's everything that I'm not very good it - a lot of slopers and steepness. I never was any good at this kind of thing, but since I deliberately lost a lot of muscle for Divine Moments Of Truth, I've become even worse. It was class to have a feel of different things, get to know the area, talk to Si about what was what and pencil some things in to try in the future. This is the summer of chilling and getting to know the area - very keen not to rush this. New routes will certainly come, but for now it's time to enjoy the sun!