Monday, 8 August 2011

GREAT British Cragging: Part I

No sooner was I back from Squamish but I was off to sunny West Penwith, Cornwall, with Jess, Mark, Tom and Flo (Not her again!). A quick overnight stop at mine and we arrived at Sennen!

Some brilliant routes were done; Monday Face VS 4c, Hayloft VS 4c - brilliant varied climbing finished by a good ol' thrutch, and The Arete VS 4b and oh-so-juggy. Next up after a rainy start was Carn Barra, a crag that had caught my eye a while ago with the sustained Glass Arete. Keen to test my fitness and climbing ability were up to scratch on the opposite style to crack climbing, I abbed down and jumped on! The greasy start immediately turned the pump on as did the fact I couldn't reach a good wire placement... I made do with what I could and got onto the arete proper. After a few moves up I was still feeling a bit up-tight and intimidated. All of a sudden a double-slap move up the arete smacked me in the face and a smile spread from cheek to cheek! What a move! Feeling a bit more in the groove I moved up between good rests and gear. Eventually I found myself at the wide break below the final arete section... after placing a load of kit I set about trying to work out the moves eventually just managing a stiff pull out and into a beautiful layback... I still had it E3!! Looking back it was soft for E3 but fairly sustained, more so than I would expect to get on an E2 without being able to slot in gear whenever I wanted, whereas on Glass Arete although there was plenty of gear, you had to leave it behind on some sections and forge on to the next piece. A low in the grade E3 but what does it matter, the climbing is superb! The rest of the day was spent seconding mark on a VS and HS.

Next up was Bosigran, me and Jess headed down to do Ding a VS carving straight up through an overhang and grooves in 2 pitches. I completely lose sight of where I am going once I finish the first pitch and end up belaying two thirds through the second! Still a nice little bit of climbing and totally possible to do in a one-er if you look after your ropes. After lazing around on a ledge in the sun by the sea we headed up to Anvil Chorus another VS 4c with a meaty 3rd pitch up a layback corner followed by an awesome traverse and grovel onto a ledge! Anvil Chorus is a brilliant top-end VS that has a good amount of variation between its pitches... a must do! On our final day, we headed to Chair Ladder and South Face Direct, yet another VS 4c. A team ascent was made by Mark, Jess and myself. SFD is a brilliant route and had some lovely jams ;-)

Heading back to Devon, Jess and I spent much of the rest of the week and a half lazing around eating chocolate, though two trips to the beach were made, and I managed to get a couple of cheeky wall sessions in! Eventually it was time for Jess to go home, so selflessly, I escorted her home and jumped onto a train for North Wales!!

The first day of the trip was designed to break me down and fully prevent me from climbing anything hard for the rest of the trip... A crack team of Yorkshire crushers (Steve Ramsden and Billy Lawrence) recruited me for a boulder sesh at Angel Bay on the Little Orme. Having never been there the offer was snapped up and a late start was planned! First we got lost, then we arrived... HEAVILY dissapointed, however dear reader this is a lesson for you: never judge a bouldering area by its cover and first few problems. We decided that warming up on a slightly highball set of V2s would be agreeable, and adding to this a V3 we found the problems were alright but nothing to rave about... Aha Letterbox Wall, Al said this was good and he only likes good problems! However it turned out to be either rediculously easy using the block to start on with hands or desperate if you sat on it! We moved on to Ren-Arete the V5 next to it, Steve crushed it, but me and Billy found it a little bit more tricky... I found that to do one of the moves my feet had to leave the block and I wasn't strong enough to do it footless and not good enough to get a heel on... Balls! Steve turned his attention to The Limpet, a highball V6 around the corner while Billy rested... this looked more my style! Crimpy wall climbing! Or not... being a midget thwarted me once again, however this is not an excuse but not only was I too midget-ey, I was also too weak! Billy managed to get Ren-Arete and then almost The Limpet too... The boy is strong!

After laughing at some sea kayakers stacking it onto the beach, we moved on to Chaos Emerald Crack the thrutchiest boulder problem I have ever undertaken. The perfectly smooth rock was formed into an overhanging layback flake with a high top-out. Every muscle was required to keep the pressure from your feet constant as you moved your hands higher and higher. Every one seemed to have a different method each time, I almost got up it before the other two but slapped to nothing and plummeted back to earth! However I knew the sequence now and after Billy and Steve dispatched it I went for glory and tussled my way upwards! After failing miserably on a V4 arete with no feet, that was flashed by Billy and Steve, I was all but ready to go. Steve did a nice looking problem called Pocket Wall, V4 again, but this one had feet and small crimpy, pockety holds! Having seen Steve do all the moves I managed to pull a flash out the bag! We were all feeling it by now, and wanting to remain (relatively) fresh for the rest of the week, I took my boots off and chilled whilst Billy and Steve had a last couple of goes.

Once again, the day dawned bright and warm, after another chilled start Max, Chris, Mason and I headed off to Cwm Idwal, and up to the Suicide Walls area. Mason had a new line cleaned and chalked and was hungry for the send, despite not feeling overly psyched for anything up there, I still hadn't done Suicide Wall Route 1 yet, which is a fairly historic line as it was climbed in 1945!! This was an incredible achievement at the time as at E2 5c it has technical moves on it, and is bold even with modern protection, but to climb it in '45 would have been exceptionally bold.... RESPECT! The ascent went without too much drama, I didn't place any gear up to the mid-height ledge to allow Mason a top-rope on the crux of his new route. Then the top section wasn't too bad and there were runners here and there. I abbed down and Mason began cleaning the rest of the line and practising the crux a few more times. Once on the ground he racked up, tied on and set off, placing the first runner he committed to the crux and floated his way up to the mid-height ledge. Suddenly, it began to rain, luckily it never got too heavy and then stopped after a while, allowing Mason to climb the top half of his route, having seen the holds but not practised the moves, he was surprised at the amenity of this climbing. Boom! A new route, Decomposed E6 6b, it really is excellent on second I found the bottom crux tricky but do-able with some info from Alex. The top wall fully blew me away, absolutely amazing climbing, with technical moves but regular good holds and feet to allow you to chill out and savour the movement.

Abbing back down we had time for one route, and my lead, with Chris and Max going for Suicide Groove, E1 I was left with Capital Punishment E3 5c or nothing... but, I was scared knowing full well that everyone on UKC had voted E4 for this one, coupled with Suicide Wall's lack of good gear. I got on with it and soon found myself with a good micro-wire and the first run-out beckoning. All I could think about was getting too far and falling off, but with Mason's encouragement I moved up the first slab with an irreversible move to get stood on a good finger-ledge. After a few more tricky moves, I was at a good hold and fiddling in 2 RPs. Not 100% confident they would hold I moved up into the crux, finding it difficult I stepped back down and tried to re-assess the moves. "Nope, only one way to do it matey, you've gotta stretch and pray that hold is good", 'OK, right come on then Dunc turn it on' going for it I went for the hold, heart in mouth, "Phew it's good enough!" As the world rushes back, I quickly clip the threads and take a deep breath. Next up was the best part of the route lovely juggy pockets up a vertical wall. The rest of the route went without drama and I topped out with a woop of joy! Without a doubt my hardest route this year, and probably harder than the two E4s I did last year, certainly more dangerous on the hard bits...

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