Sorry not much blogging recently, we have been getting out but on short, gentle trips trying to conserve Penny’s energy (baby is taking more that its fair share). A fortnight ago we went for a walk up Crag Fell in Ennerdale on Saturday and round Devoke Water on the Sunday. Last weekend we went to Kendal Climbing wall on Saturday and then I had a mountain rescue training day on the Sunday and Penny returned to Crag Fell and Grike with Lauren.Today with a pleasant forecast we decided to head to Borrowdale to get out on some rock. Whilst looking for easy and accessible routes in the guidebook I came across Dalt Quarry. A small quarry fifteen minutes walk from Grange with sport routes starting at grade 3+. The quarry has a shallow pond in the middle and is sheltered from the breeze, it will be a midge heaven later in the year. We started on one of the 3+ routes, Bury My Heart and it felt significantly harder than that (perhaps 4+). Continue reading
So yesterday we were still on a high from climbing Raindrop and The Go Between and decided to return to Borrowdale. Reading Bill Birkett’s Classic Climbs in the Lake District conviced me that Lower Falcon Crag wouldn’t be that bad and that we should go and have a look.
We parked at the small car park on the Ashness Bridge road and headed up on path that was overgrown despite the bracken being on the decline! The crag was imposing and steep. We decided to climb Illusion (HVS 5a) a three pitch route that traverses under a large overhang (think Pluto on Raven Crag Langdale).
The first pitch was a gentle and short warm-up to a large block belay. It was a good introduction to the nature of the rock which was very angular with some suspicious holds, the gear was also a little spaced. The second pitch was the main event. It started with a pleasant ascent of a groove. Once you reach a large flake it is used to make progress rightwards, I chose to use the flake for my feet this involved placing a sling over a spike with my right foot! The rest of the traverse had well-spaced gear and a series of holds not 100% attached to the crag. There appeared to be two possible lines, we both took the lower one with positive foot holds. I was concerned about the lack of protection for Penny so I put in a rubbish micro-nut that was only there to stop her getting too concerned. After the horizontal section of the traverse a large corner/groove allows a couple of reliable cam placements. This relaxed my nerves and also gave me reassurance that if Penny fell off the traverse she wouldn’t swing too far. From here it was not far to the belay ledge, this was not very well supplied with gear placements so I got one small cam and three small nuts in before breathing a sigh of relief. Penny seconded this pitch confidently (and more calmly than I may have expected) before we completed the easy six metre final pitch.
I noticed some tat on a tree at the top but we followed the guidebook description for the descent which involved a steep scree gully. Should I pluck up the courage to return I will probably abseil off in future.
- The first pitch starts with a short steep crack. I had a sling over a spike to start with but this would not have helped me if I had fallen off the higher moves. I ended up a little off to the left but Penny seconded this section quickly and directly up the crack. The rest of this short pitch involved following a groove to a sloping ledge.
- The main event was the second pitch, delicate slab climbing with spaced, micro nut protection. The crux was short but definitely 5c. It involved having a little faith in some smears on not the cleanest rock whilst crimping hard on two smallish holds. I got a little pumped placing a number 4 or 5 BD swedge into a small horizontal crack just before the crux as well as having to swap my feet on the only good (but small) hold, this caused a little leg shake! After the crux a horizontal break gives some reassuringly good gear before some more delicate (but easier) climbing leads to the top. Penny seconded this whole pitch quickly and smoothly, despite saying she found the crux hard it showed what a technically good climber she is.
So we successfully climbed a multipitch E2, no drama, it was good to be climbing close to my limit and having to pull hard to succeed. We both felt we were climbing with ‘flow’. If this is a concept that is new to you I suggest a quick google.
As an aside we have been watching the 5 1/2 hours of The Great Climb on BBC IPlayer and really enjoyed it. Tim and Dave made comments about the feelings you only get when climbing at your limit (whatever that may be!)
Our intended route was Raindrop, so-called because the line of the climb is more or less the line taken by a raindrop falling off the pinnacle. Bob had been enthusiastic about it on our first visit to the crag.
- The first pitch involved a short 5b crack but with plenty of holds on the face to the left of the crack and excellent protection it was a steady introduction to the route. The crack is interesting, it changes width continuously allowing many (perhaps five) different size cams to be placed in about 8 metres of climbing.
- The second pitch was very good (much better than pitch two of Troutdale Pinnacle Direct), it involved climbing a groove straight up until a delicate leftward traverse tested your faith in the friction between your shoes and the rock. From here another groove/crack allowed a move back right to reach the same belay we used on Troutdale Pinnacle Direct.
- The third pitch is supposed to be strenuous, there were sections of off-balance climbing and a little loose rock at the start but as Penny said “there were lots of footholds throughout the whole pitch. It involves climbing two flake cracks until you step left into a groove that then takes you up and right to the arête. All of this is on the front face of the pinnacle, an excellent position (see photo
here). The last few moves bring you to the top of the pinnacle to join Troutdale Pinnacle. This was a sociable belay with a mother and daughter team (you don’t get many of those!) and some Cumbria University Outdoor Ed students.
- We finished up the excellent but polished last pitch of Troutdale Pinnacle.
This was an excellent route, with clean solid rock, superb views and locations and a plumb line. It is a little eliminate, especially if you have climbed on Black Crag before.
Neither of us felt like another four or five pitches so we decided to head down. However Quayfoot Buttress caught my eye and so we decided to go and have a look at The Go Between (E2). Click the link for the next episode…
The route itself is a pleasant but long route climbing a rib just right of Gillercombe Gully, which forms the left end of the crag. We spilt into two pairs, Penny seconding Bob and Lauren following me. This was Penny’s first climb where she was not climbing with me! Bob and Penny went first and I got to share some belays with Penny whilst she was belaying Bob and I was belaying Lauren, it was a little strange. We climbed the route in five pitches, 30m, 40m, 20m, 40m and 40m, this left a scramble to the top. Whilst route finding was never difficult (follow the crampon scratches) it took an interesting line with a couple of tricky moves (for severe), in particular the leftward traverse on our second pitch and the start of our final pitch.By the time we reached the top it was 10pm and so we needed a purposeful decent to reach a hostelry before closing time. We reached the car at 10:50 (it was nearly dark) and despite it being a few minutes after eleven by the time we reached the Riverside Bar they took one look at us and decided that we needed some refreshment before the drive home.
There are many reasons it is so popular, it is easily accessible with a 5 minute walk in, it has spectacular views over Derwentwater, the climbing is absorbing and the situations and exposure are much greater than you normally get with v. diff. climbs.There was one pair in front of us so we took our time. Penny took several harder variations and I tried to remove a cam that had been there a while. We climbed it in two pitches taking a belay at the highest tree on the midway ledge. The highlight was definitely the move off the block onto the slab that involved sitting down and sliding across. There was a helpful foothold low down on the left that I think many people may miss. I also took a route up inside the flake about five metres below the top, I think you are supposed to go around the outside of the flake. As we reached the top it started to rain and by the time we were back at our bags it was reminiscent of Costa Rica with it being very warm but very wet. So only one route today but a very famous one that had been on our list for a while.
Saturday started grey but dry and after a recent trip to Black Crag in Borrowdale I was keen to return. We started up Obituary Grooves which has a common first pitch with Mortician. This was the same pitch we climbed when we did Troutdale Pinnacle Direct. This time the rock was colder and more concerning was that is was a bit greasy. Last time the friction had been excellent. At the end of the first pitch came the decision between Obituary Grooves (VS) and Mortician (HVS). The crux of Mortician was at the start of the pitch so I thought I would ‘have a look’. There was a thin crack that took two small wires and these gave me the confidence to go for it. A little grunting and leg shake later I was over the bulge and established on the slab above. I was doing my best to put gear into all the best holds to make Penny’s climb more of a challenge (or perhaps I needed a little reassurance). The groove/corner above continued for what seemed like ever (about 20 metres), eventually after passing under a horizontal tree I arrived at the wide crack that led to the belay. Here things got steeper but also juggier, I was running a little low on gear as well, having placed most of it already. This was also the first time the weather let us know its intentions with a little light drizzle. The crack was fine in an exposed position and I was soon just below the belay. Another pair were in residence (in my opinion having a rather relaxed chat and handover given the ominous weather), having climbed the Superdirect (HVS) so I attached myself to a tree backed up with a cam and sat on a spike to bring Penny up. It was one of the best pitches I have ever climbed, 35 metres of absorbing climbing.
Penny made easy work of the inital difficulties and made quick progress up the corner. However, the final piece of gear was a 2.5 friend that I had placed into a crack designed for a 2 or perhaps even 1.5 (did I mention I was running out of gear). After about ten minutes (hours says Penny) and not to mention a little frustration she came to join me at the belay in not the best of moods. Things were not going to improve for a while as after we sorted out our gear, we swapped positions at the belay and then Penny had the dubious pleasure of sitting on the spike whilst lowering me down to the stuck cam. The motivation of knowing the cost of cams these days helped me free it. according to the guidebook we had two pitches to go to the summit. I climbed them both in one. The first half was a broken groove to the top of Troutdale pinnacle, the second was up the rib to the top. By doing this I overtook the pair who did not seem to be moving as purposefully as us. This was a poor end to the climb. It would have been much more interesting to climb the finger traverse of the Superdirect.
By the time I reached the top the heavens had opened and I went into quick belay setting up mode. Penny climbed quickly but slipped a couple of times on the wet polish and banged her knee. A swift coil of the ropes and walk down to the bags saw us reunited with our waterproofs just as the rain was abating. We noted that the other team had just about reached the top.
Last night after a prompt getaway from school Mark, Bob, Penny and I headed to Borrowdale climbing. Despite being the most popular climbing in the Lakes Penny and I had yet to climb there (Penny had been there once with her pupils). We decided on Black Crag with home of the Classic Rock route Troutdale Pinnacle. Bets were placed on the time that it would take to get from the car onto the rock, it actually took 35 minutes. By 6pm Penny and I were heading up Troutdale Pinnacle Direct whilst Bob and Mark were setting off up Troutdale Pinnacle.Our route consisted of four pitches. The first involved climbing a well protected rib/slab and then traversing right to belay. I placed all my gear on the left rope, expecting to need the right rope after or during the traverse. However the traverse was just a walk along a ledge so the right rope was never used. The second pitch was supposed to be the crux, it never seemed 4c to me and quickly I was at the next belay, under the pinnacle. The third pitch took us up onto the pinnacle, since this met the classic route the holds became polished and the gear placements were obvious. Our fourth and final pitch climbed onto the top of the pinnacle and then up the rib to finish. The position and exposure was great, with the climbing never being too difficult. We will have to return to Black Crag to climb Troutdale Pinnacle Superdirect and Rain Drop. Both of these look to be excellent routes. It was great to get a proper climb done on a school night. I am looking forward to the coming weeks.