After 2 weeks of dreary rain, Saturday marked a brief break in the weather. Making a dash for this sliver of opportunity were Will, Mark, Steve and myself.
Setting off early doors, the weather didn’t look particularly promising. The forecast however had assured us that it would stay dry and to be fair it was pretty much spot on. There were a few spots of drizzle throughout the day but they weren’t enough to stop play.
Upon arriving we realised that none of us had a guidebook. No matter, we had all been here before and knew a few routes that we could get on to warm up. No doubt we would be able to find folk later on who had come better prepared.
For the warm up we headed over to an area with a few short routes which Will had climbed before. We led a flurry of routes graded at severe and a bold HS up an arête. The routes were enjoyable albeit a little slimy in the cracks but on the whole they were dry.
The rain over the past few days must have been nothing short of a deluge as many popular sections were sopping wet and unappealing. Walking past the ‘Long Tall Sally’ area, it was plain to see that yet again the start was wet and even the crack effused a steady trickle of water.
We eventually settled on some routes just past Long Tall Sally. Without a guide book we had no idea what the routes were graded at but on closer inspection they looked like they would go.
The route I chose to lead was Right Fin, HVS 5a. I had been looking at it for a while, trying to work out what grade it was and whether there was ample protection. I think I chose the route because it was pleasing to the eye. The line looked interesting and bold, a large layback flake with a slim fiddly looking crack for gear. Standing at the foot of the climb I began to feel the fear! Whether it was the added unknown of climbing a mystery route or that I was just being soft that day I don’t know. Maybe a bit of both!
That being said, I forced myself to get going. Once I had put in some gear and committed to the flake I was pretty much up and over in flash. A great route that feels bold until you actually commit and make the moves! Steve followed up with no real issues, he had his tunes playing on his headphones. Some pumping bass in the form of Miles Benjamin, ‘Chop that wood‘ helped him to power through.
Mark tackled a short but technical route that we now know to be Spider Crack, VS 5b. Confident climbing saw Mark briskly scamper up the thin finger crack. A minor tussle ensued as Will seconded the desperately technical route. A slip and a fall marked the start of a thorough beating for Will’s hands!
After a short break for a spot of lunch we started prospecting for other routes to do. I went for a route that I had seconded before but never led. Greeny crack, VS 4b just to the right of Long tall Sally. As the name suggests it was green and a little wet. I had a bit of a wobbly moment half way up but I managed to get my head together and moved through the crux. As I set up the anchors to belay I could see Will making his way up another mystery climb.
His route was Rose Flake, VS 4b described as “Steep and enjoyable crack climbing up the north-facing wall on jugs and jams, and with plenty of runners.” To be fair it did have plenty of runners but it looked minging. The bottom section looked quite ‘balancey’ and the top section just looked improbable. Some serious jamming, a few moments of doubt and a glorious struggle found Will standing victorious at the top of a tough route! Marked followed without too much trouble apart from an epic battle to retrieve Will’s hex. 10 minutes later and the hex had refused to move. It would have to wait till they were down. With some patience, ingenious bashing and levering Will managed to liberate the stubborn gear and the war was won.
After their battle with gear and crag Will and Mark wrapped up the day on Greeny crack. Gladly for me, Mark had a moments hesitation at the same spot I did. I wasn’t a complete wuss after all.
Steve and I finished up a route graded at HS 4b, I’m still not sure of the name. On the lead it felt tricky, a bouldery start led to a wide crack that looked likely to swallow all of my large gear. Half way up I regretted giving Will by number 3 cam. It would have come in really handy when I was having a moment, desperately searching for suitable gear. After Steve had seconded the route he proclaimed that it was his favourite route of the day. Maybe he’s more into jamming than me!
All in all a great day was had. The weather held off and we got some good climbing in. I really enjoyed climbing without a guidebook and I think I might have to make it an occasional treat!