'For Adventures of a lifetime'

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Getting back into it.

My mini (day long) adventure with Roxcool started with a small North Yorkshire Moors hill, which was definitely a good warm up session! A breathless 10 minutes later we had reached Scugdale Crag with me feeling very unfit at this moment in time! Thankfully Cliff gave me a nice little break to regain my breath and then proceeded to go through some warm up exercises to prepare me for the climbing that lay ahead and to prevent injuries. We then began on basic, step by step foot work, balance and mini bouldering to get all the joints warmed up and ready for some rope climbing, hooray!

Cliff then provided a detailed explanation of each item of climbing protection, which I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know when and when not to use an item. Then the fun began with climbing the first route starting with an easy one for me to do. This helped me get my bearings and slowly gain confidence and in the following couple of hours we climbed many routes which helped me increase my knowledge and understanding. Unfortunately the day was interrupted with rain but this didn’t spoil the session as it allowed us to cover rope work, belaying and leader placed protection, which was great. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Roxcool and cannot wait for the next course!  A very tired but happy climber.

Laura Thompson (Geordie climber)

Friday, 9 September 2011

Multi-Pitching in the Lake District: The Wet & the Dry of It

Before I start my attempt to distill the adventures of this weekend into a condensed blog post, I want to make a quick disclaimer: For anyone out there who has yet set foot on the volcanic rock of the Lake District, no blog post will ever give it justice - it m-u-s-t be experienced! There, with that out of the way, this is my attempt to summarize my experience!

After a couple of hours in the car and a quick standing dinner in Keswick, we made our way to Baysbrown Farm Campsite in Chapel Style. The beautiful Langdale valley, surrounded by majestic mountains, set the scene straight away. Setting up the tent went surprisingly smoothly (I guess that’s part of using a tent a whole lot better than the average festival tent?) and after a warming brew, pink donuts and quite a bit of chatting we fell asleep as the first drops of rain started to fall on the tent.

On Saturday morning, we woke up to a light but dense rain and a thick fog covering the valley. Despite an incredibly bleak weather forecast, I still managed to feel deeply excited when driving towards the first crag and route of the day: Route 1 of Upper Scout Crag. After some recaps from my previous outdoor climbs with Cliff and some new additions (including a communication system based on “tugs”, which is almost as exciting as it sounds!), we were ready to face the rock and the rain. Falling on the very first move on the first pitch of a multi-pitch course might not seem like the best way to start, but at least I got that out of the way first thing! After the first pitch I was already starting to feel a bit more confident, despite a quite slippery volcanic rock! The rain was getting heavier and if it wasn’t for the strong feeling of adventure and challenge I might actually have minded the rain streaming down my sleeves as I was reaching for holds and the sharp drops of rain being blown into my eyes by the wind.

Once we’d finished off Upper Scout, we waited for a bit in the hope that the rain
was going to ease (eternal optimists!) but the rain was there to stay and so we put our brave faces on and headed out for Middlefell Buttress on Raven’s Crag. Three easy pitches were made more challenging in the rain, which at this point was becoming heavier as the wind caught speed. Belaying positions have never seemed so critical (back against the wind: good, face against the wind: not so good)! But, against all odds, we managed to get to the top and – believe it or not – the Lake District looks pretty damn good from a peak even in stormy conditions!

Back at the tent I finally understood why wild camping is not always the obvious option (Ed. This is the usual way in Sweden) – after a day out in rain and wind, a warm shower is pretty much unbeatable! We finished the day off in style with a hearty pub meal and live music by a very entertaining Spanish inspired guitar-ukulele-harmonica-playing musician. That night I slept like a baby (sorry about the snoring, Cliff!)!

Sunday morning. No sound of rain on the tent. Unzipping the tent, looking out… there is mist, dew in the grass and up above… blue skies!!! Huge relief, excitement, a quick breakfast and we were on our way towards Borrowdale! As we were driving, the surroundings were literally exploding with beauty, so much that we had to get out of the car a couple of times to fully enjoy it and snap some photos! Once parked, we made our way towards Black Crag on foot whilst the sun was warming our faces. The dry rock was a whole different experience to its wet equivalent and for the second time on the same weekend I had to get used to a different style of climbing. Slowly but surely I was getting used to taking out the gear (minus one little nut that was pretty well wedged into the crag (Ed. So she says ;-)), tidying it up and attaching it to myself (mental note: blue slings around the body!) with less and less frustration. The Troutdale Pinnacle, a classic 3* 6 pitch route over 107 meters, was next! A brilliant confidence-inducing start, a nice slab followed by the trickiest move of the day, and then up towards the famous pinnacle. Standing up on the very exposed pinnacle in the sun was even better than I had imagined – AMAZING!! Whilst taking celebratory photos at the top, among the heaps of purple heather and with the Lake District below in its full glory, it was difficult to think of anything (anything at all!) that could ever beat this experience. (Ed. Maybe the next Roxcool Multipitch course :-))

After an extremely slippery descent from Black Crag (4 slips on the way down, 0 on the way up!) we had a well-deserved and delicious “lunch” (apple and plum pie!) at a close-by café Ed. Probably the best café in the world Shepherds Café), where we also met up with Simon Gee who was there to follow our next ascent through the lens of his film camera (Ed. We’ll not mention what type of camera I said it was for eh Jonna lol). Simon is making a film that will be shown at Kendal Mountain Film Festival about Ray MacCaffery who climbed our next route in Boxing gloves and roller skates. Little Charmonix at Shephards Crag, a classic 4-pitch route that was surprisingly and pleasantly free of other climbers for the day, made the last climb of a brilliant weekend. And, as promised, it was an excellent route! There was the exposed slab (“just put your foot on this little hold and ignore the drop below!” /Cliff) just after a large and well-protected table, the exposed arête from which the view was just unbelievable, and my first experience of a saddle belay (with a great view in all directions, of course!). Once at the top, I decided to finish off my multi-pitch experience by abseiling down to the bottom of the crag! I had never done anything of this sort before so after pushing aside some nerve I stepped out on the cliff (not sure how deep the drop could have been – 40 meters?) and started to lower myself down whilst thinking how on earth Little Charmonix could be climbed in roller skates and boxing gloves!

Another delicious cake experience marked the end of what had turned out to be a weekend of extremes. The challenges of rain and the wind on the Sunday, the pure pleasure of the sun and the views on the Saturday – both with lots of glorious climbing in common! I know I will be coming back for more soon.

So after an absolutely brilliant adventure in the Lake District we were suddenly on our way back to the North East in a stinky car. But who really mind the stink of wet gear when the scent of warm heather at the peak of a mountain is still fresh in your memory?

Jonna Nilsson (Ed. Multipitch climber extraordinaire and all round nice person :-))