Sunday, 31 December 2006

Sella dwellers

Colin's flight was on time (after a 3:30am start), so it was the traditional approach of up to Sella to crack off a few routes, we did three for starters up to 6b. It was hot on the face, and the places was quite busy, sadly all the routes we did are suffering a bit from polished holds nowadays.
After a buttie break we did Marion, its over 15 years since I first (and last) did this classic route, and I am pleased to say it remains as good as ever - at least it does once the first four metres have been done!
We abbed off and headed for home.

Saturday, 30 December 2006

Midwinter Sunshine

Better and better; firstly a pleasant day climbing at Gandia, the place was heaving with 40+ cars parked below the crag, and teams lined up side by side (I suppose we all know who to blame for that!) I was even spotted by some looking at the mug shot in the guide! Then it was time for a trip to the beach. Bizarrely we had that to ourselves a great contrast to the elbowing going on at the cliff.
At the beach I spotted some odd transparent quill-like shells, a web search later revealed them to be the shells of the fan mussel, quite rare apparently. The golden cloured threads that attach them to the sea bed are spun to make 'sea silk', a skill that still survives in Sardina having been originally introduced into the area by the Phonecians!
Another day a bit of exploration of the local area turned up a Crag X or two. Mind you I am not sure if 300 foot high sea cliff, bristling with overhangs is quite the place to start a new routing campaign!

Thursday, 28 December 2006


A marked improvement in the weather, and an unwinding from the journey came together, it looked like the hassle might have been worth it. There is a rare pleasure in actually having a bit of time to settle in, without the pressure of heading back home agian next week. Just need to get a bit of climbing done now.

Sunday, 24 December 2006


Three days behind the wheel to escape the fog and frost of the UK. A reasonable drive (1370 miles) and the rain started as we pulled off the motorway at Denia - three days later and its still spitting on, cold and windy.
Breaks in the weather allowed us to explore the local area - there are some impressive sea cliffs out there - and the weather will get better!

Saturday, 16 December 2006

Froggatt - mid-winter visit

December on Froggatt, little wonder we had the place pretty much to ourselves, I could have stopped at home but Graham is always keen for a bit of Grit. Trapeze Direct was the warm-up, the grade remains a bit of a puzzler, HS or VS, and 4b, 4c or 5a? Its as safe as they come though its a tricky pull with little for the feet. Chequers Arete (HVS 5a) was catching the sharp edge of the north-west wind, a true classic with superb positions and lovely balancy climbing. I have done it dozens of times and it is always worth the effort.

Three Pebble Slab (HVS 5a) was a bit more sheltered, and the sun came out for a while, and then to finish with it was a quick trip up Nanoq Slab, a real rarity a Froggatt route that neither of us had done before! The grade in Eastern Grit is E3 5c, though I must be honest, I don't know where that came from, E1 5a is nearer the mark, and although a bit of a filler in we both enjoyed it.
The sun was dipping fast so we rattled back down through the woods into the gathering gloom.

Monday, 11 December 2006

Slipstones - swift attack

A sunny forecast and the need to do the Christmas present run gave me the chance to sort another set of crag shots for the up-coming Northern England guide. An early start from Sheffield and we were in Coverdale by mid morning.

Despite the bitter wind the car parking was already just about full with a dozen or so vehicles, and it has to be admitted it was quite pleasant on the crag, its reputation for being a solid winter venue passed muster. I first visited the crag way back on 4th February 1967 and commented in my diary that we "managing "about 20 routes", so really I should have known it would be OKay!

The various teams on the crag were engrossed across the grade spectrum from a couple spotting each other on a three metre Moderate to afficianos 0n Holeshot (V9).
Thirty minutes later I had cracked off 60 shots and was headed back to the car ready to complete our journey north, I vowed to get back to the cliff sooner rather than later.

Saturday, 2 December 2006

Chatsworth Perambulations

Another weekend, another mid-winter ramble. Dave was back from his short sojourn on Tenerife's sunny shores, so we mustered at the Robin Hood car park and set off south for Chatsworth and Hob House. A big patch of blue sky blew in from the north west and although the Edge was in deep shade, the bigger buttresses looked surprisingly dry. Mind you, an air temperature of seven degrees meant climbing was only for stalwarts.I thought back to the last time I was there, back in early May when conditions were perfect, Puppet Crack, Pearls, Despot, Vibrio and a few others made for a great day out. We skirted round the small quarries of Dobb Edge, the temptation to have a poke round for 'last great problems' was tempered by the fact that I gave the place a good going-over when I wrote up Chatsworth for the BMC some years back.

We stopped briefly at the Hunting Tower, a substantial building with its expansive views out over the estate and inevitable 'private' signs. The path loops round the Emperor Lake which feeds the 'biggest fountain in the UK' far below. We mulled on the kind of wealth that allowed successive Dukes of Devonshire to construct buildings on a mind-boggling scale, and transform the landscape long before the advent of mechanised earth moving machinery, doubtless with an army of 'slaves' - or labourers as they were known back then.

A bit of a wander up marshy tracks led through the pine woods until we eventually arrived at a locked gate, the sign on the other side declaring 'private - keep out' - hey ho! A quick poke round Hobs Hurst House (an earthwork of unknown date) and lunch using the wall as a wind-break and we headed back towards the car. Glowering clouds and an increasing strong wind with spats of rain kept us on the move, as shafts of sun light up the distant gritstone Edges, there would doubtless be a few teams up there making the most of the remains of the day.

Sunday, 26 November 2006

Stanage - Weekend Cobweb Removal

A grey morning but forecast to brighten later sounded just the ticket, and as occasionally happens the Weather Girl got it right. Usual partners were overseas, out of commission or climbing on limestone(!) so I thought I would take my new Nikon 18-200 lens out for a test-drive. I parked and wandered up towards True North, it was wild but exactly what was needed. A solitary boulderer was tackling Mating Toads (V2), blowing his own cobwebs away, as I scrambled up to the trig point and hoovered up some lung-fulls of the west wind.

Along the crest of the crag there were the usual convoys of weekend walkers, as we trooped past each other pleasantries were exchanged in the time-honored fashion. Peering off the edge I spotted a couple of copies of the new Eastern Grit guide being used; daft I know, but it always gives me buzz. A youth was trying to top-out on Right Unconquerable (HVS) though the gale whipping over the edge wasn't helping as he was enveloped in clouds of chalk at each attempt, I wonder if his ascent should have been classified as wind assisted!

I dropped out of the wind onto the flagged path though the Plantation; it was a different world down there - late November and as mild as a May day, strange indeed. The place wasn't heaving, but it was certainly BUSY - there were boulderers everywhere! I watch a guy on Tower Face Direct (E2) make very neat ascent and cracked of a bunch of shots, also noticing the chalk on Flight of Ideas (E7), it looked like there had been some daring deeds done recently.

I wandered on down to the road and set of back towards the car. The Edge was quite busy now, and several teams were enjoying the low winter sun shining straight on to the cliff. I mulled over the idea that with the new lens, when Eastern Grit needs a rewrite in five years time, I might be able to get the required crag shots without even getting out of the motor!

Back at the car and time to tootle back down the long hill home, invigorated, mind cleared, I felt a bit more ready for Sunday dinner and the working week. As to the lens, its a bit of a big brute but overall, I'm impressed.

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Ariege - A Flying Visit

1st - 5th November
Return flights from East Midlands to southern France for £30 a pop was too good an offer to miss. Dave Gregory and Colin Binks joined me and Sherri, an early flight (7:15) meant we were in Carcassone before midday and at ClimbAriege - in a steady drizzle - in time for a late lunch. The clouds hung on the hilltops but we decided to have a ride up to the granite crags at Auzat - 'just in case'. Halfway there the roads dried up and at the crag conditions were fine if a little cool, half-a-dozen routes later we staggered down through the gloomy woods, heading back for a late evening meal and a welcome kip.

Morning was cold and clear, the max/min thermometer showed a low of -4 the night before, the grass was covered with hoar frost. A steady climb saw us up at Calames and superb and extensive cliff which was full in the sun. Turns out it was half term week so the place was quite busy. The locals were amused at out attempts to climb as a three on 40m pitches, with a 60m and 30m rope but we managed OK. It was HOT!
Mid afternoon and we were frazzled (November!) so it was time to head to the Supermarche to stock up.

Another superb clear day so it was back to the granite and a visit to the slightly more remote Montcalme area - we didn't see a soul all day. Ten routes later we were homeward bound, Dave and Colin were starting to like the area!

For the final day it was something different, an impressively tall limestone crag with a ruined castle on the top, and with quite an English feel about the place. It was one of the first cliffs in the area to be climbed on, though in those days, bags of pegs were used and the routes went all the way to the top - nowadays it is the lower pitch - (or occasionally two) that is bolted up. Our host , Graham from ClimbAriege turned up and joined in the fun. Eventually after some excellent if occasionally loose and polished (I said it was like the UK) routes I rested my fingers and escorted Sherri up the steep path for a wander round the castle, the views were superb but I bet the postie used hate delivering there! Finally we wandered back to the village and sat on the edge of the fountain feeding the goldfish with the remnants of our butties, sadly tomorrow saw an early start and homeward bound.

Monday, 20 November 2006

A Burbage Round

Sunday Nov 19th
Cold and clear, with a biting north westerly, it was a good day for a walk and a chat. Dave Gregory was the usual partner and subjects cover the gammut of saving the planet, the way climbing guidebooks are going, scientific topics galore and of course where the next trip away was to be to. We saw a few folks climbing in the shady depths Millstone (heros!) and the usual teams of boulders swarming over Burbage North, though we decide that keeping on the move was more appropriate in the conditons.
It got me thinking, I assume a large part of the attraction of bouldering is in the camaraderie, the whooping, hollering and back-slapping, though I must admit it doesn't do a lot for me - I still see the hills as a place for a little solitude and 'time-out' even in the ever-busy Peak District!

A month in Switzerland

Gornergrat - rammed A month passed in Switzerland and it has been very pleasant, climbing, hiking, chilling and even doing a bit of to...