Posts Tagged ‘climb’


OK from the headings below you can pretty much see where this is going. I’m trying to put together a guide of what you should do when you’re out enjoying the moors and you come across the various animals who make it their home, for their safety and yours. Please feel free to help me build this resource in the comments section.





Highland Cattle


Mountain Hares


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We’ve had a few Monday nights out, an unmemorable evening chez Den Lane midge pits and peat quarry, a more interesting time at Running Hill Pits which, with eight small quarries to go at and some bits and pieces in our grades will be somewhere to go back to, a lovely atmosphere atmosphere and setting as well. I think we snuck a quick Alderman’s in there as well. Dr Crowe and Steven Fraser managed a half day at Ravensdale reported on Farcebook. All these social media choices and instant web2.0 gratification, if only the quality of the climbing was as good as the reportage.

Knocking all that into a cocked hat was a plan hatched for Monday 9th August as Dr Crowe had an enforced change of work schedule and Steven was devoid of responsibility. In a blinding move master Jack Crowe made an 8.15 AM appearance at Marsden station (all the way from York where he’d been playing in the Anti-Racism World Cup) and the party was complete. Only deviating to the butchers for essential pies it was straight over Holme Moss and across the Woodhead Dam for the walk into Shining Clough. The weather was good the path was lousy but once up at the crag the full majesty of it became apparent. “Ahhh, cracks, ooooh chockstones – lovely!” Dr Crowe exclaimed.

The views were pretty cool too.

We started out on Atherton Brothers (S4a **) which was a delight for Dr Crowe to lead. With Fraser on only one pie there was a lot less hauling than at Ravensdale. Steven then took up the lead on Via Principia (S4a **). Making short work of an offwidth crack to a short ledge it began to rain, but he battled gamely on. An awkward moment above the second ledge as the rain came in more heavily and assorted alternatives were tried. Eventually he got a sling round a chockstone. The only problem was that it moved a bit under load. Confidence dented and clearly a bit pumped he carried on for a couple more moves but found the top out beyond his reach. Like any good dad Dr Crowe sent Jack up without any gear to finish off and Steven nobly popped round to the top to help him sort out the belay stance.  Seconding the route showed what a really great effort Steven put in to almost make the lead and it was clear that the weather and the feeling that a key bit of gear was a bit suspect made coming off the right thing to do.

Steven watches his own progress on Via Principia …

Steven ascends Via Principia

And comes back down again….

To round off we tried to up our game and have a go at Phoenix Climb (VS 4c***)

Phoenix Climb - the full length crack in the face

the fabulous vertical crack that stands out on the face. After the usual struggles Dr Crowe realised that with only one piece of gear that was big enough to hold in the crack below the hole there wasn’t much hope of getting further as the crack above the hole just got a bit wider and was unprotectable. So back to the hat trick: rain, downclimb and a bit of top roping. With the exuberance of youth Jack hauled himself up the climb forgetting that his feet would be of any use. But enjoying it nonetheless…

The grin says it all really – another quality Peak District day out, and back to the car before it really threw it down.

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A quick day off and down to Sheffield to Rivelin Edge with Andrew to celebrate his birthday. No longer able to do a route for every year he’s attained we managed approximately 10%.
Rivelin is neat little edge with a large needle and although blowy and overcast the rockface was well protected and friction was excellent.

Rivelin Needle in the snow (Nov 2004)
Started ambitiously and at the top of our leading grades on Left Edge (VS 4c) which as a delicate slab climb turned into a gear-free wandering epic with much tree hugging off piste. So we then settled down to a couple of V Diffs and a severe, taking comfort in the thought of it being early season and all the indoor climbing is no preparation for the real thing, we haven’t been out on Pule etc etc. I can’t remember the names but one I think was Temple Crack. Anyway this is what they looked like:

Left Edge:

Left Edge VS 4c

Temple Crack:

Temple Crack

Misc routes

On the way back I read my notes in my copy of “On Peak Rock” – I did Left Edge in August 2004 and followed my mate Graham up  the Needle on Croton Oil (HVS). sometimes its two steps forward and two back …

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Another Monday night, another bunch of feeble excuses (bellyaching, babysitting, birthday) the worst of all time being “I’ve been on a history walk. In Sheffield”. A history walk. In Sheffield. Just let that one sink in a moment. This left Dr Crowe and Mr Tuck a free hand to chance their arms at a little gulley number spotted by Dr Crowe as a possibility when once he was upon the Raven Stones. A plan previously hatched on the train home from work over a battered Ordnance Survey map named the object of their desire: Birchen Clough.

Birchen Clough

Birchen Clough

Usual time pressed departure, Mr Tuck hurling himself into Uppermill Spa en route for booze and chocolate – apparently not for us so what with the excuses and this most recent disappointment the evening wasn’t shaping up very well. Fortunately things changed when we got to Binn Green car park where we met with clear skies with a low, spectacularly delicate cloud formation. Several layers of waterproofs later we set off along the reservoir track towards Greenfield Reservoir. Headtorches dimming (all that early autumn activity on Pule Hill) we stopped and swapped batteries. Actually several sets of batteries as we tried to find enough that worked. Duly illuminated we struck off from the main path and found ourselves at the bottom of the water run off below Greenfield Reservoir. The only way was up, and then up beyond the dam onto the hillside towards the kind of place a path ought to be. Contouring round we dropped back down at the head of the res. All the dam rambling had taken a while and still dumped us on the wrong side of the intake. Scrabbling across a slippy escarpment in the dark wasn’t much fun with water of unknown depth but certainly low temperature on either side.

The path less taken but more bleedin’ obvious greeted us and took us to the bottom of Birchen Clough. The clough itself appeared as a gentle rise overlooked by the Raven Stones which were silhouetted in a shower of clichés. We got a good look at the clough. Too much water, too deep and too fast to go for a straight up the middle approach. This was after all a recce and we didn’t want to spoil the fun for a larger group outing. A modest start then, criss-crossing the gulley as it rose easily. At our early rest to check out the first obstacle Mr Tuck rightly observed that we had created the sport of extreme stepping-stones. Extreme stepping-stones is to gulley scrambling, what bouldering is to climbing. A cut down version of the real thing to be practised by those in need of a substitute. We confidently expect a BMC sub-committee to consider the ethics of stepping stoning and whether it is really the “done thing” giving as it might the “professional” stepping stoner an unfair advantage over amateur gentleman gulley scramblers. It might also spawn a whole range artificial aids (water wings?) and unseemly garments detrimental to the traditions of the sport (i.e. non-tweed).

Such musings powered us over the first of several narrowings in the flow and over the larger boulders on the cloughside. The gulley walls were gainfully employed as the flatter stones in the flow of the water proved extremely slippery. The first major waterfall was taken with due care and attention and our previous practices, developed on Oaken Clough, paid off. We emerged over the brow of the fall on the side of the Pool of Tranquility. In “The Land that Time Forgot” this would have been the bathing place of prehistoric nymphs. On this evening it would have been survivable only by a geordie hen party. We took coffee and a cheroot for the Doctor. The view up the clough looked fine, though the distances were foreshortened in the dark.

Circling the pool brought us to the next waterfall which posed the evening’s second biggest challenge (the first equal were Fingers’ excuse for not coming and Tuck’s battery management issues). Mr Tuck favoured a move to the right and headed across the flow. At the central point he was forced to assume a kneeling crawl below the main force. Steadily on unsteady ground he gained the gulley wall and a degree of security.

Meanwhile Dr Crowe trended left, working finger jams in the cracks of the side wall until the face of the fall was reached. The band of rocks and stones between the flow and the gulley wall arrowed towards a face above a couple of metres high. The wall on the left began to overhang and was covered in a thick layer of moss, a natural line for a green crack specialist. It was all looking a bit desperate but a traverse across the flow wasn’t really an option so it was a simple brutish mantel through spray and when the moss gave out a direct thrutch through the brim of the waterfall gave the traditional and inelegant conclusion to a fine night out.

Turning back to look down the clough we saw that it we couldn’t see anything – mist had sprung up in a ten minute interval to reduce  to a few metres. That and a check on the time meant heading down. We took the path on the left hand side of the clough picking our way through mist and boulders, following trails of sawdust (left from a weekend fell race?).  Took extreme stepping stoning to a new level – extreme stepping stoning in only a few metres of visibility – the opposite bank only vaguely outlined. Only a few more directional difficulties and then back on the big path back to the car park

Disorientation and dam rambling put the pub beyond reach and even the car park was devoid of intimate couples.

In truth, an evening of swing at the climbing wall was averted and more evidence provided for our grandchildren to truly marvel at the brutality of a recession which forced their forebears to seek entertainment in freezing waterfalls.

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Wet Wet Wet

this one’s a bit late too … Wednesday 3rd September 2009

Wet Wet Wet

Early start, up before six move quietly, don’t wake the boy, don’t disturb the wife’s sleep. Out of the house unshowered, walk the dog. Just before dawn, kids back to schools, everyone back to work. A few other early risers in the gloom signals summer’s over. Back in the house, out of the wind, breakfast, flask of coffee and final things in the bag and pockets. Stirrings in the house, child awakes, knock at the door, goodbyes said, in the car, go. A day, a day not bracketed by other responsibilities. A day in the mountains long planned and hard won. Having moved from the Vale to the high Pennine moors, I am driven harder to find more height, steeper rock and longer routes. To spend all day on one face steadily unpicking the line among ridge, groove, arete, rib and slab instead of endless up and downs trying to push grades.

Choice of location and route all up in the air because of the weather. Lakes ruled out because all the forecasts look appalling. This rules out Troutdale Pinnacle and Bridge’s Route on Eskdale Buttress (Dow Crag). Wales becomes the destination of desperation based on a lone optimistic forecast and a guide suggesting Glyder Fawr or even Lliwedd can be climbed in the wet. We head for Pen y Pass scoping the weather (actually optimising the breaks in the rain) as we go west. We parked up about 10 am and did some preliminary sorting of gear, checked the weather report in the cafe and waited for a break in the rain.

It’s one long Diff – Slanting Buttress Ridge Route on Lliwedd, “good except in the foulest conditions” – well it was only raining. It kept on raining as we made the walk up the Miner’s Track and round the lake. It kept raining more or less heavily as we skirted the bogs and streams crossing the path as best we could and headed switchbacking up the scree. The advice in the guidebook was to sort out your position from a distance – a bit tricky what with the visibility low and all the rain. Chevrons of quartz were finally distinguished, the base of the route established. More water was added to the ground when I wrung out my hat. Big boots and ‘sacks were going to be the order of the day. Andrew led off up the first pitch, easy climbing but care needed in the wet. I took the second only putting a couple a pieces of gear and setting up a belay on a small spike and very small wire. Water was getting into boots and penetrating through layers of clothing. As Andrew set off up pitch 3 it was a real struggle over some tricky blocks, then a hands and knees (“it’s the only friction!”) climb up a slab disguised as a waterfall. Weatherwise, things looked a little better. Inevitably, by the time he set up the belay I could barely see him for low cloud.

The absorption of water was matched by the absorption in the tasks in hand. This climb required focus on the job in hand, a re-experiencing of climbing technique (in some cases its complete abandonment) to re-learn everything in a watery environment. Friction, small toe holds – these things were useless now. Yet the climb wasn’t without delicacy, balance was much needed and sometimes sheer thuggery required to pull and mantel to the next hold.

We stopped for a while at the next stance taking shelter in an overhung corner as the rain turned to hail. We took coffee and I rolled a cigarette. Unable to dry my hands the paper was damp but not quite at the point of disintegration. Was it quarter to three at this point? My guidebook, inside three layers of clothing was beyond reading. Later it would be a papier mache block. The valley bottom and the lake remained out of view as did anything to the left of Slanting Gulley. With little to see and only Andrew’s calling out of the route instructions to guide me I took off again. The pitches lost their distinctiveness from one another, after I stepped round a nose onto the ridge the route lost it’s distinctiveness from the rest of the mountain. Grassy ledges and ramps were employed, blocks swung over and spikes belayed from. More water, a bit more wind, more cloud. Another steep corner on my lead. I’m in the groove now, I’m thinking ahead looking for the holds,  trying to climb efficiently, so wet I no longer notice the rain. More gear required for this pitch. I’m faced by a slab four, five, six metres high, crack up the middle, a wrinkled wall on the right a more broken one on the left but only to about a third of the height. I tried moves all over these three walls, crossing the slab, holdless apart from a vertical hand crack. I go back and forth each time trying to keep my large boots planted on rock somehow. I offer it to Andrew – different folks and all that. He declines, modestly. I bob up and down looking for a sequence of holds that will get me up and over and out of this dead end. I swing on the rope, pull on slings and the rope. Finally I stand in a sling clipped to a nut placed as high as I can reach in the crack. Time’s passed again, three or more hours. It doesn’t go anywhere, we call it off. I downclimb as best I can leaving a nut in to be lowered off. We lose another at the belay which is just jammed.

Another (yet another) huddled dripping discussion debate. More attempted location finding, this time in relation to the descent gulley and just get on and abseil down. Andrew’s guidebook is protected by a state of the art sandwich bag. We go down reversing the previous pitch.  Then take a long abseil on the right of the ridge that uses up most of the ropes, this has taken out virtually all of the climb. Another short abseil drop and we’re on the descent route picking our way on the scree, round the toe of the buttress. All that abseiling has forced most of the water out of the ropes which we can repack into the sacks.

What light there is fading away as we regain the path to take us around the toe of the buttress. In the wet this is as tricky as anything else we’ve done today. Thankfully we’re too wet to take on much more water. As the literal and slightly metaphorical gloom descends we take the path that brought us here. Warming up as we move more quickly against the weather we say little.  A combination of weather and, on my part, relative inexperience on long mountain routes gave the trip a frontier feel. Andrew might have just felt wet through and pissed off. If so, he was too polite too mention it. In the dark every glimpse of artificial light seemed to me like the end of our trudge. But it wasn’t like that.  Eventually we got to the car at Pen y Pass, still raining. By 9.30 pm we were standing in our underpants wringing out our clothes and ready to hit the road back to the Pennines once we’d found the dry gear and got it on before it got wet as well.

Was it a failure, not finishing the route and striding manfully across the top of the mountain to the miners track? Was it a victory for common sense and tiredness to come down by whatever means possible? I think it was just fine to have had an idea and pursued it with all physical strength, technique and willpower available. After all these days routes are all but labelled on the rock and the experience of not actually completing a climb is pretty rare. End of the summer it certainly was. If we start earlier in the season next year we might get some better weather but we might never get a better challenge than Slanting Buttress Ridge Route in the wet.  It took a fortnight to dry the guidebook out. Andrew’s phone was never the same despite taking it apart to dry it out on the way back. All this, long planned and hard won, and life’s the richer for it.

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Climb rochdale

After much debate throughout the day as to whether we should chance another nocturnal gulley scamble or retreat indoors I wasn’t able to attend anyway due to a poorly Phoebe. As far as I know the chaps went indoors at Climb Rochdale before debriefing in the pub (which also turned out to be a non show by me).

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2 August 2009

East Face of Tryfan

We made an early start to get down to the Ogwen Valley and try and beat the crowds – it was a Sunday in high summer. A head full of Wilfred Noyce’s descriptions of Tryfan (from a book of British mountains my father had mailed to him in ’51 whilst serving in the Korean War) made the East Face sound like just the sort of expedition that would nicely fill a day with great position and a feel of climbing something really substantial – as Noyce calls it “above all things, a rock mountain”. The North Wales dash by the major routes saw us in the car park at Llyn Ogwen in good time. The weather was a bit neither nowt nor summat so Andy and I sorted out gear, made provision for both big boots and rock boots and began the plod up the boulder field towards the Heather Terrace. We soon warmed up and the weather brightened for a spell. Apart from a couple of individuals scrambling over Milestone Buttress, we only saw a couple of walkers en route. About an hour later we are at the foot of Grooved Arete (HV Diff *** 244 metres 8 pitches) on our own. Mixed weather led us to choose to take a sack with boots and heavier waterproofs whilst wearing rock boots. The early start meant that, like good Hobbits, we were due a second breakfast. This allowed some pushy student to get on the route first (you know who you are University of London Mountaineering Club). Having bigged up her leader’s credentials she proceeded to whinge at him all the way up the first two pitches. We gave them a generous couple of pitches more to get out of earshot, secretly wishing the leader was armed, Yates-like, with both intent and a pen knife.

We stashed one sack in the gulley to the right of the climb and Andrew led off in to the groove and over the slab. We alternated pitches following a well trod path among grooves, ridges, slabs, and aretes. This was really beautiful climbing, not hard at any stage or unprotected, but simply rhythmical movement and balance. A series of linked moves that required a some working out to put them together, bit of caution required as the rain briefly became more persistent and finally we were on a gentle grassy terrace below the crux slab – a steep slab crossed with delicate cracks which I led through and belayed on the edge of the arete. I brought Andy up and as he climbed through and up the ridge I chatted with the leader of the following pair of climbers who’d made short work of the pitch. Then I was following the rope up and climbing through over the final jumble of steps and boulders and it was done. As I belayed Andy up the last pitch I watched as the cloud seemed to flow around the top of our little bit of Tryfan leaving us with a view over Little Tryfan and the Ogwen Valley.

We headed off towards the summit and the descent down North Gulley. It was still fairly early so we took some time to try and find the start of Belle Vue Bastion (VS *** 48 metres) part way down. The guide describes it as “the best route on Terrace Wall with some fine situations” so we thought it worth a look. The weather was still in our favour and I set off from the grass ledge through the large blocks. The climbing became harder than Grooved Arete and the route less well used. The grooves were more exposed with less gear but the holds were sound and the friction good. Moving over the ridge and back again was less daunting than it might have been thanks to the practice on Grooved Arete and I belayed Andy up to a smnall stance. The next pitch was perhaps the nicest I’ve ever climbed: a tricky traverse on to and round an exposed nose; right, into a corner and back left over tricky groove that required some work to unlock the moves. But it felt fantastic. I sat and belayed Andy, watching ravens wheeling in the late afternoon sun. It felt like we belonged in the place, having spent such a good time in the company of Tryfan and it’s notoriously fickle weather. As Noyce says of it “I would greet the mountain as a friend, not an idol”.

Back down again we retrieved the sack, and made a swift descent to the car park a little later than planned but having had a fuller day than we could have hoped for.

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Thought I’d retrieve this for posterity, and changed the date so it’s not way out of order chronologically.
Ravensdale – an atmospheric setting for a day’s climbing we walk along the valley with a view through the trees to catch a glimpse of an imposing limestone buttress (Raven Buttress) up to about 50 metres or so. Drop down by some splendidly isolated cottages to cross the river bed and climb through woods to come up at the foot of the buttress. Round to the left is Flying Buttress, although this one is twice the height of our beloved Pule Crag version. The position at the base of Flying Buttress already feels quite elevated and very secluded. This impression is only re-inforced when you get to the top of the climbs (even if it feels like you might never make it), great views along the sheer sided valley, across the tops of the tree cover and over the rolling moors above. Absolutely fantastic on a fine day. A few of the routes on the Raven Buttress are off limits due to nesting kestrels which we hear but don’t see. The flying buttress forms a cave (full of sheep shit) for sheltering in from the infrequent showers. The buttress forms a right angle to the crag at the summit. It’s in that 90 degree corner square of blue sky that I caught a glimpse of a pair of ravens wheeling round and disappearing round the top of their crag. We managed four climbs (all grades are purely speculative and subject to variation depending on your guidebook):

Tria  VS 4b 1* 18m. The right-hand corner of the alcove is worthwhile, giving enjoyable bridging marred only by the polished holds. [We used some in situ abseil tat round a tree at the top of Tria for all our descending needs on this trip, very handy and the abseil is modelled by Dr Mark and photographed by Dr Ali]

Ash Crack  VS 4b 2* 14m. Climb the central crack in the back wall of the alcove. Well-worn and well protected throughout! It eases with height. [No it bloody doesn’t – the first 12 metres on polished marble means the last two are a real struggle for numpties like me]

Gymnic  HVS 5a 1* 20m. Left of the through-cave, tackle the twin crack and the bulge to access the interesting groove above. Although highly polished, it remains popular [though possibly not with Dr Ali]! Exit either side of the final roof [give the tree a big hug]. [Protect the top – the top out as Dr Ali found out is a dome (doom?) of loose vegetation – fortunately this time it tested the Petzl helmet rather than the climber]

Cave Corner S 4a 0* 14m. The left corner of the square alcove is approached up the juggy wall. Care is needed with blocky rock near the top. [Another quality top -out]

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