Tuesday, 19 December 2017

The Magic Of The Moors - E8 7a ***


The big three this winter are putting up quite a fight! Conditions are very up and down, but mostly on our side. Cold! There have been some very cold and exciting days out - more exciting in retrospect than at the time that is..

Of the three Moors routes I had on my list this winter, one has given itself up and agreed to join this world. The Magic Scoop at Highcliffe Nab is one of those routes that I've been trying for years and years. The actual scoop part and the upper arete quickly presented itself as a superb off-balance challenge. When I first unpicked that sequence several years ago, I had no idea that it would take so long to be able to start the thing.

One always seems to think that it is going to be improved strength and boulder ability that makes these "next step" problems possible, but in the end it was using my brain a bit more and unpicking a very devious line around the left arete.

The last year has seen a dawn of a new kind of highballing for me: immensely pre-practised, sketchy, high, and difficult. The Futuristic Herring Gull Project and The Magic Scoop both have goey climbing in a position where you have to be very conscious of your height. Things like MYXOMOP may be higher, but in reality you're soloing from about the halfway point on that - if you don't have the top of that dialled, you're knackered.

As always, the void created from ticking a line off is quickly filled with other interests. A couple of new contenders in Northumberland have shown their face. Leonardo direct at Sandy Crag I've been trying for a little over a year, on and off. I've been in the position where I thought I "had it" a couple of times, but the beast seems to keep changing its faces with snapped holds, exploded gear etc. I still haven't linked the whole thing, but I'm getting a bit more convinced about the gear and I know on the sharp end, the climbing will come together. It's just a matter of time.. As always..

More recently we've rediscovered the Land of Milk And Honey (AKA The Real Sandy Crag). The direct finish to Steve Blake's boulder problem looks like it's going to provide some great slab movement at a not-too-outrageous-a-grade. There are a handful of other highballs and short routes there that are well on the radar too. So things are looking up after worrying that Northumberland was getting a bit boring.

At the moment it's all about quick-drying crags that take no drainage. Pippi Longstocking Direct at Round Crag is on a windy pinnacle - so that fits the bill. Much of The Real Sandy Crag is on a pinnacle as well, so that's ideal.

The big one - and by that I mean the hard one - is The Holy Grail Wall. This too is quick-drying, but mega hard. In the recent cold spell I convinced myself it was too cold for it. Previously it had been too warm. Then too humid. etc. etc. The bottom line is it's probably still too hard for me. I thought the key point was turning the arete. I've now managed to do this above pads, but pull on the horrendously spanned sidepull? Nope.. It feels astronomically harder than anything I've done. I'd love to know what font grade it would get.. Keep hammering home with the big days and we'll hopefully see our reward soon.

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