Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Ironing Out The Kinks a New Seasons Wintering

The modern world is jammed with entertainment possibilities; I'm the Sheffield Metropoint Arena, on stage Kasabian are smashing it in a brilliant live performance full of booming bass and blinding lightshows. Six hours ago I was perched half way up Gable Crag in the Lakes enveloped in cloud enjoying banging bits of metal into frozen turf. Ok so the number of people who have combined winter climbing and a rock gig into a 12 hr period are probably few and far between but really life is good.

Hints midweek that conditions might be good at the weekend had lead to sketch plans for a day wintering raid to be drawn up. Gable Crag being high had looked both a good bet, and had the added benefit of being a new destination for both me and climbing partner Dom. Leaving late on Friday we got involved with the ice a little earlier than expected when Dom's car ran out of traction half way up the Honister Pass. Rather worryingly the handbrake also appeared to have succumbed to the cold meaning all that was stopping an abrupt slide backwards into to House Gill was Dom's right boot.


Fortunately having sort of planned ahead we did have snow chains buried somewhere in the boot. Exiting the car to discover the road a sheet of ice I almost slide off down the hill only saving myself by desperately hanging onto bits of bodywork for dear life. Five spicy minutes later I manage to get some rocks behind the back wheels and the chains out of the boot. 


If you own snow chains it is a good idea to practice how to put them on in warm dry conditions preferably in daylight. Then when you have to do it for real in the dark at about minus five you won't spend the first twenty minutes staring blankly at the chains, the tyres and your frozen hands muttering "are you sure these are the right ones" in an ever more desperate voice. Finally after a bit of a battle the chains or "car-pons" as we renamed them were attached and the car crept forward up to the top of the pass and our camping spot for the night.


Gable Crag on a nicer day than we experienced Pinnacle Ridge lies below the con train. (UKC image)


The downside of winter climbing is the early starts, forcing yourself to crawl out of the warm cocoon of your sleeping bag at 05.30 is never fun. Walking in it was bitterly cold the wind biting at any exposed skin whipping away warmth into the dark. The fence we handrailed was coated in delicate blades of hoarfrost and unconsolidated mad the walk in a slog with a big pack. Every year Dom and I say the same thing to each other on these early trips; that next year we will get on big mountain routes through the summer to make these walk in's less tiring.

Arriving at the crag we fail to locate the "obvious corner" which our chosen route Pinnacle Ridge is said to start from so instead work our way up a series of steep steps interspersed with easier angled frozen turf. The terrain is easy so we move together alpine style just short roping here and there when needed. About a third of the way up I manage to get us on the route proper and the climbing suddenly improves in quality and difficulty.

Pinnacle Ridge is very much a mixed route, frozen turf, bits of ice, rock, but very little neve this early in the season. I'm not hugely experienced at mixed climbing; unlike on neve or ice where you can pretty much create placements where you want them here moves need to be precise and thought through. I enjoy working my way up a thinly iced slab noting the footholds and working out how I am going to move between them. The climbing is about mid III to top end III in places and quite good and unfortunately over too soon.


Climbers at the  guidebook crux, we felt in was lower down (UKC image)


Walking out early afternoon with our minds on tonights gig things were considerably warmer, the wind had lost it's bite and the hoarfrost was fast disappearing from the fence line. The fickle conditions of the Lakes in winter had allowed us a few hours of fun but was now closing the curtain until the next splash of winter. Having grabbed this brief opportunity to demonstrate the poor planning, lack of fitness, and bad route finding synonymous with forgetting quite how much more involved the basics are in winter are it's going to be great to iron out these kinks in the coming months. Open season!

1 comment:

  1. Hi, we attempted pinnacle ridge today however failed to find it in the clag. Did you notice that the guidebook picture shows the route as starting high and not at the bottom of the crags?

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