Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Perilous Pebble Pulling

Bamford is a great little edge in the Peak with commanding views down onto Ladybower Reservoir and the Derwent Valley. The condition of the rock is also superb with very little ware or polish showing even on the three star classic routes. This is because until recently access to the crag was restricted for much of the year on the grounds that the area was used as a grouse moor. Now thanks to the countryside rights of way act the area is designated access land and accessible all year round.

The crag is still quite quite and got us all thinking of how amazing it must have been when the whole of the Peak was like this. These days with climbing ever increasing in popularity crags, and popular routes at places like Stanage and Burbage are slowly being eroded away as holds ware and brake. It's the same with mountain walking with footpath erosion. This is the Catch 22 of our sport, the more we love to climb the more we slowly destroy the thing we love;  the more people fall in love with the outdoors the more we cut and scar the landscape.

I feel conflicted; I really enjoy teaching people to climb and seeing them realise what a great activity it is. Some of my best memories are taking beginners out with university, yet a part of me wants to keep climbing and the mountains as my little secret, a world of whispered words and closely guarded secrets protecting these amazing place from the inevitable damage of popularity.

I had rather stupidly let slip in front of my friend George that in terms of strength and technical ability I should be onsighting E2 and it's only my complete failure in the head game that stops me doing so. George in his deeply empathetic and understanding way decided that the answer to this was to go out and make me climb E2s by not telling we what the grades were before starting and refusing to let me wuss out when on lead. 

This was clearly a recipe for one upset pram and toys scattered all over northern Derbyshire, and using my amazing logic and reasoning skills I managed to talk him down to a plan of getting comfortable VS. Very severe is a funny grade, when people ask my what grade I climb I tend to say Hard Severe, I like to think that you could drop me in front of any HS in th country and I would get up it without too much drama. Once you start to move on to VS and HVS a whole can of worms is opened. New guide books are littered with ex VS and HVS climbs that now have more E numbers than a bag of Haribo (and are considerably less enjoyable). There are still a few snakes in the grass out there!

Getting involved with Bilberry Crack VS 5a.

Stage one, Bilberry Crack a hard but safe route at VS, I did get a bit nervous but sent the route pretty well although I laced it with gear. To work on the problem that if I keep putting that much gear in I will start to require air-drop resupply halfway up most routes we decided that I should have a go at Browns Crack an HS, but with the proviso could only place four bits of gear on the route, thus forcing me to climb up above my gear.

The crack line was awesome with some really solid jams and a crux that took a long time to work out, and only four bits of gear were placed!

Booooom, solid jamming on Browns Crack

Dom had his eye on a hard slab route called The Trout graded at a rather calorific E6 6b with climbing involving pulling on holds that didn't really exist. After a couple of practice goes on top-rope Dom sent the route in good style and I got some good pictures.

Spot the holds????

The day finished with a memorable ascent of Gargoyle Flake a brilliant, but steep to overhanging route on huge holds that gives you one of the classic climbing photographs in the Peak. Brilliant day!

Top moves on Gargoyle Flake, amazing exposure!!!

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