Crazy Germans huh? For some reason, Dennis insists on visiting the Peak District every year in the middle of summer. Undeterred by slopers hot and slippery, unfazed by clouds of midges thick, black and hungry, he returns, tries really hard, and falls off. A lot. "It's good for my head" he says. I try to convince him otherwise, at least get him out to the Lime, but he always declines. " I have much limestone in Frankenjura" . Maybe he's never experienced good connies? After a few evenings I just refuse to climb with him anymore. "See you next year," I say, "and you really should come earlier next time!"
Finally he listened, and came back for a couple of weeks in May. Much cooler than before, he starts ticking some slightly harder routes, It's still not exactly primo, but it's passable, and no midges! For his last weekend I bundle him into the car and head for North Wales, keen to show him what British climbing does best - big gnarly sea cliffs.
As is the norm for Welsh Wales, we arrive in the pouring rain. A full winter of chronic desk-related RSI has left me too weak to even consider the standard climber's wet weather option of Parisella's Cave, so we head off to explore the slate quarries. I explain some of the history, how unique slate climbing is, but he isn't one bit impressed. Rusty chains, wobbly ladders and choss scrambling sind furchtbar. We bimble round half of the Snakes and Ladders route before sacking it in.
The next day sees sunshine and the seaside is calling! Yellow gorse flowers fill the air with their thick, buttery scent as we stumble across the cliff top. What better introduction to proper UK trad (grit really doesn't count) than Drummond's classic Dream of White Horses? An exciting ab into an impressive zawn, belaying above the sea, fiddly gear, double ropes, tons of exposure and easy climbing. Unfortunately there's another team up ahead and they're taking forever to leave the first belay. Two teams behind too, it's gonna get busy.
Under normal circumstances, climbing a girdle traverse on a popular crag on a busy Saturday is about as anti-social as queue jumping at the bar, but what if the girdle traverse is THE major route of the crag? Surely then, climbing the straight-up routes is the charmless thing to do?
I ponder a moment, see the tangle of ropes surrounding the first team and zip off down the rope for a plan B. The tide is fully in, so we amble along the belay ledge to start the second pitch of Concrete Chimney, a delightful romp (yup, it's actually better than Dream) on steep and satisfying jugs. As planned, we're up and off in no time.
Basking in the sunshine, Dennis spots the striking line of the Quartz Icicle and racks up. "Make sure you take lots of nuts!" I advise, handing him my bunch of smalls, knowing full well that he's come to the UK with a double set of cams, 8 DMM Offsets and that's it.
The Icicle Pitch is amazing, nice and sustained, mostly incut holds, a bit tricky for feet at times, and generally decent gear. Dennis sprints up but stops at the first distinct crux. He dallies; heavy breathing, some bizarre Ondra-style noises, a shout of "Watch Me" and ….. oh …. he seems to have traversed into Concrete Chimney and reversed all of the way back to the belay.
“I am really scared of this rock. It is like nothing I have ever climbed before, I think the hold will snap, maybe you try?” Sounds good to me! And hopefully it will get me out of leading the last pitch cos I found that really hard last time!
I pull the ropes, and rack up. Dennis has only gone and left all the small nuts on the top of the cliff, no wonder he's frightened! I give it a go, micro cams seem to do okay, although I could really do with a Wallnut 3 to stop my leg from trembling. Dennis leads the top pitch in good style, having finally got his head around the double rope system, and relaxed into the weird, flakey quartzite. Grinning from ear to ear we stroll back to the van.
Next morning, I have the great idea of nipping down to Castell Helen for a quick route before the South Stack Cafe opens for breakfast. Tangled ropes, soaking wet rock, razorbills and far too much fun mean we don't reach the top until after 1pm, and we stagger into the Caff and order two lunches, each. And cake.
Unfortunately, the rest of the day isn't quite as fun. I manage to twang my shoulder on The Strand, I think the repetitive left hand slapping for 40 metres bores it to death or something, then, on his final route of the trip, Dennis totally shreds his hands on some little overhanging jam-crack up on Holyhead Mountain. And that's it, see you next year buddy!
So it's been a while since my last blog, sorry about that, but as I mentioned many moons ago, I was about to become a father and hence the climbing may slow down a little. So now I am a father, and my daughter Isla is bloody ace, but this is a climbing blog. If you want to see one of my billion photos of her you will have to come in the shop and see me.
Just before Isla was born we hosted a lecture in the shop by Mr Energizer Bunny himself, Tim Emmett. As a father we asked him if it had slowed him down, his reply was simple “Dads crush!”. Hence the title. My climbing has slowed and changed, but I wouldn't say suffered. Having time constraints turned me into a boulderer for a little while, embarrassingly I quite enjoyed it and, for once, stuck with one discipline and I think I saw improvements.
Many of the Peak classics I had previously thought too hard for me got sent, which was cool! The Terrace (7C), T-Crack (7B), Late Junction (7B), Electrical Storm (7B), Purple Haze (7A+) all got ticked for the first time, and things I'd barely scraped up like Submergance (7C), Sparks (7B), Boyager (7A+) and Monochrome (7A) went with relative ease. It was nice to have felt the extra power from just bouldering, but unfortunately I don't feel like I used it on any real routes and I’m sure it's faded now, booo!
However bouldering season is over and it's time for trad! Of course we headed to Stoney, the greatest crag on earth, to re-familiarise ourselves with the classics including Scoop Wall, the easiest E2 on the Windy Ledge in our eyes (or is that E3, as the BMC Grading Squad seem to think?). Not many big things have been climbed of interest since the ropes came out but it was great to reclimb some amazing routes such as Asp (E3 6a), Tippler Direct (E3 6a), Chameleon (E4 6a) and other mega classics. The other reason for this blog is for once I have some awesome photos for you, since the one and only POD (Pete O’Donovan) was on hand to take some great pictures. Keep an eye out for (yet another) great selective guide book to the Peak District from him.
So now it's summer it means it's time for lime! If you ever struggle for motivation the brand new BMC Peak Limestone guide book is now here too, the greatest guide ever written to the greatest crags on earth! You lucky, lucky people. I will try my best to do as advised by Mr Emmett and next time, hopefully, have some more exciting things to write about.
Thanks to Pete O'Donovan for the photos!
Huge congratulations to Amanda Henchliffe, one of our regular customers, for successfully climbing Scafell Pike just two years after receiving a life-saving full heart and lung transplant!
Managed it!!!! It was truly amazing, very busy but none the less awe inspiring!! We had a lovely view, and it was extremely emotional - I did not find the ascent (or descent!!!!) easy. My heart and lungs were amazing not breathless at all but my legs had definitely met their match!!! It is testament to the donor and her family as well as the skill of the surgeon and medical/nursing team!!!
p.s. Good fitting boots, appropriate clothing and walking poles made my trip possible, safe and comfortable!!!
I was born with a coarctation of the aorta. This was not corrected until I was aged 4. As a consequence I developed Endocardial Fibroelastosis-a very rare condition. This was diagnosed during my nurse training when it was found that I had Severe Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension.
At the age of 26 I went into Atrial Fibrillation, ultimately requiring ablation of the AV node with full pacing support from a pacemaker (to give me a heart beat). This was my Millennium present!!
Subsequent years found my symptoms gradually deteriorating with the onset of heart failure. This had a devastating effect on my family, friends and myself. I had to stop being the outdoor, active, Mother, Wife, academic person (-always trying to progress myself in my career) and gradually become dependent upon others for help with the simplest of things. I had to stop my career as a Practice Nurse as I became too ill to be added to the transplant waiting list despite still managing to work 40 hrs a week. THIS WAS ALL UTTERLY DEVASTATING!!!!!!!!!
The Freeman Hospital in Newcastle serves the whole of the UK especially where rare, complicated conditions require treatment. Combined heart and lung transplants are extremely rare. In the year that I had mine only 4 of these procedures were carried out in the whole of the UK.
I had my first call in August 2012. This was a false alarm so was sent home. At the 2nd call in February 2013 we had the 999 ambulance dash to Newcastle. When the call came it felt very different to my false alarm call - I just knew this was it and was initially frightened to go through with it. With David and Evan with me I never doubted that it was the right thing for us. I was in theatre for 6 1/2 hours going to ITU at approx 11.30-12 midnight. By 9am I was waking up, off ventilation, my new organs fully supporting me. I was warm, in fact I felt hot and flushed. I could breath, lie flat. I knew I had made it through. Those caring for me were absolutely tremendous, caring, supporting, encouraging and I was able to return home after 3 weeks!
For my 1st birthday, I held a party, in recognition for everyone who had supported us, but mostly to acknowledge my donor family. We raised a little money for the Freeman Heart/Lung Transplant Association.
Despite a few little niggles, I am: back at work nursing, pain free, I can breath, I am warm, can eat/drink, am able to socialise. I take less tablets than before. With support, I am able to take part in physical activity, and have increased my self confidence trying new skills like climbing, and I plan to integrate scrambling into my walks. I take part in Transplant Sport.
During the past 2 years since my surgery, my husband and I have purchased our equipment from yourselves purely because any purchase has been supported with expert advice from friendly staff. This has been greatly appreciated keeping me safe, warm and comfortable!! As a way of thank you I wanted to 'fly the flag' for your company and my 'summits'.
This year my goal was to climb/walk Kinder Scout, I achieved this in March after having climbed High Cup Nick in Cumbria, and so on to Scafell!
I am alive and am positive about life and the future. My motto throughout has been “I will try” and I am hoping that this is fulfilling my part of the contract with my donor family and the team looking after me, helping to make the transplant process a success to inspire others.
Well done Amanda! Hopefully we'll be seeing you up many more mountains yet! If you haven't already, please take a moment to join the Organ Donor Register. It really is as close as you can get to life after death.
It’s my day off work so I have volunteered to go to the Salomon training day.
Hoping to pick a few tips up, I arrive early with a couple of work colleges at Castleton Youth Hostel.
A couple of gazebos are set up in the car park when we arrive: this looks professional I think to myself.
After the formal introductions, who's who all that kind of stuff, we are introduced to Salomon’s latest kit. It all sounds very impressive and I’m eager to get the nice looking blue shoes on.
These are Fellraisers, I’m told. I’m also given a waterproof top as it’s blowing a gale and raining outside.
Out of the centre we go, GPS watches set and off we go at a nice chatty pace through a stile and up the hill. All the time the talk is of how the running shoes are performing. We head down a steep grassy bank and a further steep concrete farm track along the lane and back to the centre.
Upon arrival we are given a tick sheet with ratings out of 5 on various comments about the shoe we had chosen. For me the Fellraisers scored a perfect 5 for all categories; fit/grip/comfort etc. etc.
Next up I chose a pair of Sense 4, which most of the group had been impressed with on the first run. The rain stops so I take off the waterproof jacket and put on a wind proof. Again GPS watches set, off we go through the stile up the hill. Almost immediately I notice pain in my calves. I mention this to one of the other members of the group who is running alongside me and he explains to me the difference. The Sense 4s have a low drop and my calves are stretching. When we reach the top and turn down the hill I don’t feel as confident in the grip on these shoes. Also when we reach the farm track I feel the shoes are much less comfortable on the concrete as we descend at a fair pace along the lane and back to the centre. Again forms to fill in, boxes to tick; I give my honest answer and the Sense 4 scores an average 4 for me, not bad.
Up next, a pair of Speedcross as I’m told these will give me more comfort than the Sense 4.
Speedlace tied, watch set, off we go only this time we go up and up and up. Bloody hell, I’m thinking to myself, I hope we are not going to the top (Lose Hill). I’m relieved when I’m told we’re only going halfway up - phew! When we gather at the halfway point one of our group has carried on to the top - a local fell running legend named Stuart Bond wow! One day that could be me.
Anyway we traverse the side of the hill and start to descend to a path. I am totally not happy with the Speedcross I have on; they feel far too high and unstable so I slow down and get to the path safe. Down the path and along the lanes back to the centre; the Speedcross perform fine on flat non-technical terrain.
Back at the centre it’s time to mark the shoes and I give these an average mark of 4, only letting themselves down by feeling unstable on the descent.
By this time it’s time for a late lunch and a general chat about how things have gone.
All in all I had a great time testing Salomon’s kit and listening to some good advice. If you get the chance, I would highly recommend trying some shoes out before buying them. I’ve come away with some good knowledge of products and training tips which will help me in my marathon training.
Currently at the shop we have some Scott shoes available to “try before you buy”. If I were looking to buy some trail shoes I would definitely head over and take them out for a trial run before making a decision.
Next week on the blog I’m looking forward to the lighter evening runs after work.
Oh by the way Stuart got back to the centre before us. Maybe he ran to the top because he couldn’t maintain my pace.
So it was Easter Sunday, it was scorching and I was working (brilliant). The shop was super busy but when I could grab a minute I did a little map research to see where to run that evening.
Sorted, I picked an area called Bretton Clough. It was new to me so it would be interesting.
It was still warm as I parked the car at Leadmill Bridge a little later than expected. I’m sure Rob mentioned an hour’s overtime or it may have been just the hot sun getting to my head. Anyway off I went at a nice steady pace. As soon as I turned off the road and into the first field there were the sheep again, only this time they had babies with them. Quick as a flash I got the camera out click/click what a glorious sight new born lambs, it really felt like Easter.
On I went at a slow pace as I wasn't too sure of the area and I was knackered after a busy day in the shop.
I was really enjoying this run. Discovering new paths added interest and the weather was amazing, but all of a sudden travelling downhill at speed on a steep, muddy descent, I was down on my arse.
I couldn't help but laugh knowing I would have to get undressed on the driveway again when I got home (new carpets).
I decided at this point to turn back and head to the car. At the top of the hill after a steady run up a well-marked path I headed off in the direction of Hathersage. Dropping down to the river I followed it downstream back to the bridge, listening to the sounds of the lambs in the nearby fields.
Arriving back at the car I was grinning from ear to ear. I really am enjoying these runs and I’m starting to notice an improvement. I’m now running every other day – fast paced short runs of around 2-3 miles, usually followed a couple of days later by a steady 6 miler. I try and run one long run a week, which at the moment is about 12 miles. My pace is varied, around fast 9 min miles up to 14 min miles steady.
This week I did a long run in the afternoon on my day off and it felt really good, a nice change from the early morning and after work runs.
On Saturday night when I finished work I ran back to Hunters Bar roundabout (Endcliffe Park) which was around the 10 mile mark.
On this outing I picked up some company: an Everest mountain marathon runner, a Lakeland marathon finisher, and a little bloke from Dronfield who's done a 10k. I would have asked them for some training tips but I was too far away to hold a conversation.
Also this week I met Stuart Air, a sponsored trail runner who runs for Scott. We are going on a training run later this month and I’ll get to try out some new products. He’s a Hardrock 100 finisher, so if I can keep up with him for long enough it should be a good opportunity to ask some questions!
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