Since the last post, a lot has happened. I tried to be succinct but I think I failed.
Things have sorted themselves out pretty nicely and my adventure continues in a positive manner. Sadly this post starts with a loss, Rachel’s Granddad passed away and we travelled to Sheffield for the funeral.
We planned to stay down South to visit some friends in Manchester, climb in the peak and then the following weekend we were to head to Pembroke for the annual ‘Best Trip of the Year’. Rachel even managed to squeeze a job interview in Derby into the mix.
Rachel had booked into a Hotel with Alex over the weekend to have a girly catch up and be posh. I slept in the spare room at Rixham’s in between two good days of climbing. On Saturday I was coaxed into a last minute day trip to Llanberris; where Andy and I climbed the Super-Direct on Dinas Mot and then running across the valley to do Overlapping Wall and Yellow Crack at Carreg Y Wasted. An attempt to be ‘light and fast’ resulted in a cold and numb morning on the Mot. We rectified the misery with an awesome afternoon in the sun on Wasted and a tasty BBQ with Moritz, Rixham and their slack lining buds. On Sunday I tagged along with some mates from the MUMC who were going to Rivelin. I climbed with Dan who I’d not properly met before, we had good fun climbing some classic routes; Blizzard Ridge, Croton Oil and Altar Crack and some beefy cracks; Roof Route, Jelly Baby and Nonsuch confirming that HVS is a broad grade and can’t be underestimated. No E points but we both tried hard, fell off and lost skin, an excellent day.
On Monday Rachel had an interview in Derby so we paid a visit to Tony, Rachel, Stuart and their new-born kittens! After the interview on Monday morning Rachel and I headed out to Gardoms edge, a crag I’d not visited before due to rumours of green and rounded esoterica. I was pleasantly surprised by the crag, some of the routes looked cool and it was much less green and taller than I imagined (still quite round though). Rachel led me up a couple of routes; the sandbag HVS/E1 Landsick as a brutal warm up followed by the top 50 ‘what a move route’ of Moyers Buttress. Watching Rachel trick her way though the super reachy crux was possibly the most interesting sequence of climbing moves I’ve ever belayed. You gotta love the grit!
On Tuesday we borrowed Tony’s big cams and met Chi at a sunny Curbar. It was my first proper visit to this crag and I was pretty intimidated by its reputations for tough grading and butch routes. For my initiation I was ushered onto (or should I say into) the ‘Peapod’. This classic fissure involves some classic rock technique, awkward chimneying through the pod, the exit then requires a thuggy move off a good hand jam. It was with this glory jam in place that I found I was knackered. A few seconds of flailing and I had to rest on the gear. A destroyed onsight of this classic is a shame, but I’ve heard of more ‘dogged’ ascents than onsights so at least I’m not alone. On my second attempt I successfully emerged from the pod and jammed through the amazing terrain of Curbar’s Eliminate Wall.
Chi then fired up the imposing layback of Insanity, proving his strength by making it look easy. I’ll blame my height for my poor style and say its easy for the short. Rachel got all psyched up for L’Horla managing to rest on classic jug! I found it desperate on the second and wasn’t best pleased to have to lead again. Begrudgingly I scampered up Maupassant, mainly to get my lead over and done with, partly because I wanted to use the no. 6 camalot (it didn’t even fit!). Chi then jumped on the classic and ‘rarely cruised’ Usurper. Chi worried both of us by, running it out to the break under the roof, we held our breath until he clipped a good cam. The moves up the steep crack above looked hard, slapping for finger locks and various body positions were tried but Chi just couldn’t figure it out. He had to run off to get back in time for work, so I abbed for his gear. Rachel (in a moment of delusion) racked up with all of Tony’s big cams and proclaimed that she would try Elder crack!
Another classic Joe Brown beefcake at Curbar, it is always on the ticklist for any wide crack aspirant. I was therefore surprised at the lack of gruesome shuffling and body wedging involved. Rachel dispatched it with one of her signature high foot rock overs and I with an awkward knee lock rock over. It was here that things went from ‘climbing badly’ to ‘a crap day’; somehow we had managed to get the borrowed No. 6 Camalot stuck. Being the biggest cam it is also the most expensive and it was with very concerned faces that we set up an abseil to try to retrieve it. After a while of struggling Rachel gave up and I had another go. I wasn’t very hopeful, after a long time with no success I was about to give up, when via a serious of consecutively lucky jabs of my finger, a single lobe moved. A flurry of tinkering and rising excitement ensued, my wallet was 30ft away buried in my rucksack yet I could hear it breathe a sigh of relief as the £82 monster cam slid out of the crack. This success lifted our spirits and psyche grew back.
We trotted over to the Kayak slab ‘for a look’ it was getting warm and I was making up excuses about temperatures and friction, luckily for me some French climbers were top roping the adjacent routes so I could set myself an easier objective. The twin cracks of Avalanche Wall (HVS) looked very enticing and they bucked the trend of tough Curbar grading too. We had used all our water trying to free the stuck cam and were now very thirsty , the idea of a nice beer garden was very tempting. However the temps dropped as a large cloud cast its shadow and the French climbers had moved on. Filled with urgency I ran to the bottom of Kayak, the rock felt cool, my excuses had been removed and I wanted to feel like I was climbing well again. Last year I was very keen for this route, I had been doing a lot of grit slabs at the time and my confidence was high, the last few months of steep and bolted sandstone jug hauls, ice climbing and running around the Eden Valley didn’t seem like the best preparation for this bold head game. With the cloud moving fast I didn’t have the time to umm and ahh, the thought of failing/falling was locked out of my head (not an option) and I set off. Using a lot of lank and a bit of hope I got through the crux thankful and unashamed of using the lank. I topped out feeling like I was ‘back in the game’.
Wednesday was a rest day; we drove to Haslingden to meet Chi and Adam. A transfer of luggage from my car to Chi’s and we were off to Pembroke! The sun was high, psyche was high but mid route fish and chip quality was not. A surprise phone call started the trip off well. A recruitment agent rang me and said that I’d been offered a job in York! Boom! I had begun to get worried about all the new graduates who were about to join the job race but worry no more as I had crossed the finish line! I think that 3 job offers from 5 interviews is pretty good going. This talisman lifted our spirits and elevated psyche to stratospheric levels.
With the Range closed so the army could play fight we headed to Mother Carey’s Kitchen on Thursday morning. This was what we did for the first day last year, it didn’t go so well, it was damp, cold scary and I had a paddy and backed off Straight Gate. Hopefully it would be better this year. The tides weren’t playing too nicely and as we abed down Brazen Buttress we quickly realised we wouldn’t be crossing the cave without getting wet. Marooned on the little ledge we were going to have to jump in at the deep end, Rachel chose the dry deep end and set off up Brazen Buttress. Chi and Adam went up Herod just to the right, making a sociable affair of two amendable routes. Spurred on by Rachel’s ‘go for it’ attitude on Brazen and with the tide still up I decided to get straight on Herod, despite Chi’s warnings of a difficult section at the bottom. Perfect conditions and a little bit of beta helped me through the short crux, which was followed by a long stretch of enjoyable climbing in an amazing position.
The send train was now chugging along at full speed, so we threw the abb rope down the steep side of the kitchen. A long free hanging abb past impressive terrain got the adrenaline soaring. Two classic jug hauls were on the menu; Zeppelin (E3 5c) and Rock Idol (E1 5a). As I climbed the inset tufa’s of Rock Idol’s lower wall I could hear Chi’s nervous mutterings as he progressed through the steep terrain behind me. It wasn’t until I got a sit down rest that I could look round and see just how outrageous it was. Only sport climbs are that steep! After a nice rest I mooched up to the infamous roof and was dreaming of red rocks as I pulled through the jugs. Rachel whizzed up on second, psyched for Zeppelin, a de-brief with Chi and Adam revealed mixed opinions; Adam – “The crux was so hard!” Chi – “There was a crux?” Beast of the steep, Rachel had no problems. Linking both pitches in a ‘one-er’ a short pause below the crux looking for gear and a shoes off rest on the belay of pitch 1. I seconded with much more difficulty, but topping out on the most physically taxing day of trad climbing I’d ever done was amazing, getting pumped definitely feels good. A much better experience of Mother Carey’s than last year’s ‘mare on Straight Gate.
That evening the ‘Psyche Bus’ turned up, the first instalment of the MUMC crew. A stoked mix of Pembroke virgins and the annual pilgrims piled out of the mini bus and set up camp in rapid time. The weather forecast was prime, no time to waste, tops may come off for power but the sleeping bags are on for endurance.
With the Range still closed the next day, we all headed north. Chi, Rachel, Adam and I went to Carreg-y-Barccud while the mini bus carried on to St David’s. The sea cliffs in the North of Pembroke are sandstone and much lower angled than their southern cousins. I had never climbed in this area before and was quite excited to explore a new crag. Peering over the top of the main face the slabs looked smooth, and lacked the large obvious features that make the limestone sea cliffs so exciting to climb. We did a number of routes the best being Beyond the Azimuth and The Great Valerio, strangely because these followed the only cracks on the wall! The other few routes we did were a little samey; bold, crimpy and technical. Chi got on Kitten Claws E3 5c, which is one of the more well-known routes on the wall, it was bold, crimpy and technical but looked cool non the less. Just enough holds to make it up the blank slab, a route that looks impossible from a distance.
More MUMCers arrived that night and the village of tents grew. Having camped in the same field for the past 4 years we all realised that the little kid who comes round to collect the fee is no longer a little kid, but his dog is as mad as ever.
The range was finally open on Saturday morning! The sun was out but the wind was raging so we decided to seek shelter at St Govan’s east. A crag we had yet to explore. The temps were high in the lee and we were happy with our choice of crag. I was coaxed into jumping straight on the Top 50 E2 First Blood, initially I wasn’t keen but Chi and Rachel has bagsied the other classic; Calisto (E1).
A typical Pembroke start through a juggy overhang on soapy holds primes the arms before a rest from which to contemplate the crux. A beautiful thin crack starts with a bang before leading into some amazing flowstone with thread runners abound. The upper section eases off but is exposed with enough difficulty to keep you thinking. I messed about on the bottom of the crack and couldn’t commit to a hard pull on a bad fingerlock and had to rest on the rope. I was happy to have got on such a route and to have proven to my self that even if I can’t onsight it I can still enjoy the route (and that failing doesn’t mean taking a big scarey whipper). By this time a couple of large groups had found our sheltered haven and were creating quite a queue for the ab rope. Adam decided to lead Whispering Wind (E1), while belaying I witnessed quite a lot of rock fall from adjacent routes and the crowding of the crag began to make us feel quite un easy.
We headed over to Stennis Head, Adam was keen for the two classic E1’s Manzoku and Cool for Cats as well as Riders on the Storm. Manzoku was free first and Adam raced up this, Riders was still under the sea so we joined the queue for Cool for Cats. I managed to get lost (despite having done it before), I think this added to the route, requiring some thought and route finding skills as well as prolonging the experience. Feeling lazy I chilled out and watched Kyle, Dan and Alex struggle on the misprinted line of Hercules from the Rockfax guide. Adam partnered up with Liam and went to see if Riders was dry. I then found a tunnel through the back cliff and watched Natalya make light work of the delicate step across on Hercules.
Chi and Rachel had a successful morning beasting up Calisto, First Blood and Forbidden Fruits (E3). They then headed over to Saddle Head to have a chat with the rest of the club. With limited route options they got on Get On Lord (E2) apparently a bit of a sandbag and sadly Chi popped a tendon in his finger, a devastating injury for our climbing mad friend.
Saturday night we had a BBQ and ate lots of tasty burgers, plans were hatched for the following day and Rachel and I committed to heading into the ‘Leap’.
Huntsman’s Leap has always seemed like a big deal to me, from standing on the rim on previous trips I had never really thought about what the climbing inside would be like. With the easiest route out being E1 I assumed it would be a while before I made the committing descent. E1 doesn’t seem that hard any more but the leap still looks intimidating, the routes look steep and what if they’re all sand bags?
I memorised the description from Beast From the Undergrowth (E2) and left a sling by the belay stake. Once inside, the routes looked a little less steep, but the rock was noticeably smoother and less ‘crozzly’ that the more exposed parts of Pembroke. A slippery start to the route was a little worrying, requiring multiple attempts to get off the ground. The climbing was nice, I was careful not to slip on the greasy holds, the guidebook tells of a crux loooong crux move, suiting my style, before I knew it I was at the crux shocked that it had been so easy so far. I had been caught out, in an attempt to save gear for when it got hard I had skipped a few good placements, now at the crux move with a single piece of in-situ tat below my feet the only gear for a while, I wished I had backed it up with a nut. I fiddled around for quite some time trying to place wires by my face, getting increasingly tired. Eventually I sacrificed half a handhold to a cam placement and did the move, no need to fuss! The upper wall, which looked so steep from the top, was really a slab and super easy, the only barrier to success being the final meters of vertical grass.
Psyched to have ticked this route we whizzed back down for another lap of the leap. Quiet Waters Direct was in the crosshairs, although the line wasn’t clear. Rachel set off up hoping the holds would appear. Unfortunately the path wasn’t obvious and the gear wasn’t forthcoming. After hanging around for a while wondering where to go, not wanting to commit, Rachel strayed onto the adjacent Shape Up (E1) and finished up this. Despite not completing the aim it was an interesting climb non the less.
With our objectives finished by mid morning we spent a while relaxing and wondering what to do. With Chi’s finger not feeling good we decided to find something easier with a bit more adventure. Sunny Corner (HVS) on Bosherston Head seemed to fit the bill nicely. A long freehanging abseil into an impressive cave lead to a hanging belay. I stupidly forgot to bring extra gear and ended up using the tail end of the ab rope to construct the belay. Chi came down and an awkward re-shuffle took place so that I could lead. An initial corner crack lead up to an impressive hanging slab, a little bit of damp and some old school limb wedging made the initial section interesting, the rock was also strange, polished by the crashing waves. The exposure of the hanging slab was exaggerated by lack of other routes or climbers in the cave. Rachel was hanging on the ab rope taking pictures as I traversed the slab, savouring the air beneath my feet.
Again we were left wondering what to do, objectives filled we made the tough decision to visit Ma Weston’s Olde World Café and treat ourselves to a proper cream tea. Nom.
Monday was our final day; we were saddened by this but psyched. A ticklist of nemeses was compiled and we headed to St Govan’s. War Games (Rachel backed off last year in wet) for a warm up, Deranged (I failed miserably on second last year) and Depraved were dispatched in quick succession. The temps then rose so it was shirts off as I revisited the pumpy Vice is Nice to finish off a most excellent trip.
The journey home took a long time! We set off from Pembroke unaware of Rachel’s train times. By coincidence the sat-nav reckoned we would arrive at Penrith station 10 mins prior to the last train to Glasgow. A handful of contingency plans were made at each bank holiday traffic jam we encountered and it was touch and go the whole way. Chi drove like Schumacher through Wales to Haslingden where we jumped in the faithful Punto and stocked up on coffee. Rachel eventually made it back to Glasgow at 1am – 10 hours after leaving Bosherston.