After a day of dreary weather on Saturday I awoke on Sunday to find the sun bursting through the clouds. Jordan Taylor picked me up in Fallowfield at around 9am and we set off towards the eastern edges of Stanage and Burbage.
After a brief discussion the decision was made to go to Burbage North. On the approach the car thermometer joyfully displayed that the temperature was 6 degrees. I felt happy and a little smug that I had remembered to put on my thermals. Jordan was not so lucky! Fortunately, it did look as though it would warm up. The sun was looking strong and there was only a light breeze blowing over the top of the crag. As we arrived at the car park it was plain to see that there were plenty of folk out. Walkers, bikers and climbers were all in attendance.
For a warm up we headed over to the amenable area of Ash tree wall. Jordan led the enjoyable 2 star route Ash Tree Wall, S 4a as the first route of the day. Considering the amount of times we have both done this route we found it more difficult than previous ascents. I blame the cold and first route jitters.
By the time I had led the second route a pleasant V diff jamming crack the rock had warmed up nicely. It was going to be a good day! As I was gearing up for the V diff a gaggle of climbers had rocked up. Our quiet enclave of easy warm up routes was suddenly swamped and we decided to move on.
Next up it was Jordan’s route and he chose a corker in Still Orange, S 4a. A cracking little route with a little bit of everything. The start was a ramp and corner crack with nice moves. The upper section involved a short traverse and a lovely jamming crack. If the jamming crack had been a little longer it would certainly get more than its allotted 1 star. Seconding the route I was feeling good and felt I needed to get on something a little harder.
For a while I had been harbouring the urge to get back on Long tall Sally, E1 5b. In my mind I had already decided that today I would get back on it and as I walked in the general direction of the route I was mentally geeing myself up for the struggle ahead. The first time I led this route was in 2011 and I remember a feeling of abject terror and panic as I made my way up the slabby corner desperately trying to stuff my fingers into its tiny cracks and fiddling gear in with all the grace of a demolition man!
On the approach we spotted another team on the route. A young girl was seconding the route, gingerly balancing her way up. It looked like she might take a while and we very nearly moved on to a VS in the opposite corner. Fortunately a couple of guys popped up wanting to do the route. As they had all their gear ready I told them to go for it. This in effect pushed me back towards my goal. Waiting for the route to be free I had a good look at the start of the route. Water was seeping out of the corner covering the crucial holds in what might as well have been crude oil. I remembered from my past tussle with Long tall Sally that the start was hard and in its current dripping state would be even worse. There was no backing off now though. I had mentally committed to the route and barring not being able to start the route a pack of wild horses would have been needed to drag me away. The way I see it if you’ve said your going to do a route there’s no backing off!
Getting off the floor was hard. After a few false starts and some encouragement from other climbers I managed to use the only dry’ish hold, a crimp to pull up on and then put my foot in the sopping wet break. Very carefully I reached up into a good hold and moved over and up till I could reach the deep pocket. I then thankfully rammed 3 fingers in the pocket and pulled myself up to regain some form of composure. Jordan kindly reminded me to wipe my shoes off which I did vehemently. I then finally moved over left and into the corner. Upon reaching the bulging lip I was desperate to get my first bit of gear in. After some fiddling, some sweating and a fair bit of panicking I managed to get in my first bit of gear, a 0.5 cam. Back footing onto the left hand wall I made the crucial moves to get over the lip. The moves on this route require precision and moving up over the lip I was glad I was keeping my head together. Once up and over the lip, friction (and desperately holding on to whatever bit of crack your fingers will fit into) is all that keeps you from slipping towards the ground.
My previous smugness about having my thermals on had transformed and I was now wishing I had discarded them before doing the tango with Long tall Sally! Before committing to the next moves I managed to get a small nut into the crack. It wasn’t a bomber placement but psychologically it was enough. I steadied my hands in the crack found the foot placements and slowly made my way up. Feeling panicked but still moving well I managed to work my way up to a good handhold for my left hand, and managed to get in a small cam. On my previous ascent I had run out the top section but this time Jordan had given me another small cam and god was it useful. Having that last bit of gear helped me to push on through and before long I was performing an impression of a beached whale as I flopped over the edge at the top. The fear and panic I had felt was promptly replaced with relief and joy, it was indeed a good day. Apart from a similar trouble getting started, Jordan made mean work of Long tall Sally and hopefully before long he will be testing himself on her slabby ramparts!
Next up was Jordan’s lead and he took us on the equally fantastic route of Great Crack, VS 5a. What a route! A spot of lay backing or jamming depending on your persuasion leads to a horizontal break right under a roof. A powerful hand traverse leads you from under the roof out on to the arête, placing cams as you go. For Jordan the next section was a veritable scamper up the arête to gain position in the jamming crack and then up to the top. A mixture or powerful moves lower down and delicate foot work makes this route an absolute pleasure. On first looks it is intimidating, the roof is imposing and the moves round the corner to the arête look scary. I remember one team remarking that it was the traverse of death. Looks are deceiving though and it is a pleasure to climb.
To wrap up the day I led Knightsmove, HVS 5a. It’s a great route that requires a steady head. The first gear placement is quite high up but all in all the gear is good. It starts off with delicate moves until you gain the crack where you can place you first set of runners. It has a beautiful section where you have to palm off one wall as you move your feet up and into position. Confidence really helps with this section as it helps you to push away from the wall giving you the right body position to make the moves. A timid leader may stay close to the wall and find more difficulties than are necessary. Again, Jordan seconded this with ease and will no doubt be back for the lead soon.
All in all a good day was had on a wonderful crag, with great company.