Not a bad summer

Records say it's been the wettest summer ever! Well I feel I have been exceptionally lucky, I haven't had a big trip but had quite a few short ones, all with perfect weather!

The summer started for me at the end of May with 5 perfect days in Skye (see Phil's earlier blog). Next up was 3 days in the Swiss Alps (see Rob's earlier blog). Then it was time for a 3 day trip to Pembroke, the weather had been awful but luck was on our side and once again, perfect weather, we nearly mentioned it might have been too hot! I was climbing with former Outside member Henry who was recovering well from a knee operation.

Day one: No flag was flying, so straight on to Stennis Head and classics Manzoku (E1 5b) and Cool for Cats (E1 5b) were ticked and got the ball rolling nicely. Warmed up I fancied moving on to the one of the main aims for the trip, Pleasure Dome (E3 5c). This has a reputation for being fairly tough for the grade so I was keen not to blow it. Incredible climbing directly above the sea, AWESOME! Things were going well.

I had not really planned on the next route but it looked so inspiring from Stennis Head we moved over and abbed into climb Star Wars (E4 5c). The climbing was steady but all a little off balance with slightly spaced gear, great stuff.

Ok now it was too hot, so we headed into Huntsman's Leap for some shade. Down there it was still humid and all the starts of the routes were wet and even the easiest way out, Shape-Up (E1 5b), felt unnerving at the start.

Riders on the Storm (HVS 5a)

Henry headed back to the van for more water feeling hot a bothered and said, "Choose one more route easier than E1 then time for beer". Good call! Riders on the Storm (HVS 5a) was a great way to finish. Beer o'clock.

Henry topping out on Chimes of Freedom (E2 5b)

In the pub that night we had heard that Mowing Word's bird ban had been lifted so we headed there and straight for more classics. A great day was had climbing Blowin' in the Wind (HVS 5a), Stand by to Boogie (E3 5c), Sealhunt (E1 5b), Chimes of Freedom (E2 5b) and Heart of Darkness/New Morning (E1 5b). Most of these routes cover some impressive ground for the grades above a beautiful sea. One poor chap went for a swim to retrieve his dropped boot, it looked nice and refreshing.

Heart of Darkness (E1 5b), Mowing Word

With a long drive home on the last day we opted for a close quick approach and chose St Govan's Head. We were blown away with the quality of the rock and climbing on The Arrow (E1 5b) and voted it pitch of the trip. Clean Hand Blues Band (E1 5b) felt a little tougher for the grade, as did Test Case (E3 5c) which did test me in the greasy heat. Deranged (E2 5b) was next followed by the steep and pushy No Mans Land (E4 5c). A final romp up War Games (E1 5b) finished the day and trip off nicely before the long drive home.

I only had to wait around another week until my next trip away, this time back with my normal climbing partner Aiden. We headed for North Wales this time and with reports of wet mountain crags we headed for Gogarth. It was again a lovely but strange weather day as we went in and out of sea mist and sunshine.

South Stack Lighthouse lurking in the sea mist

With high tide around 1pm we got straight to it and headed for the classic The Big Groove (E3 5c) which didn't disappoint. Aiden started the day well dropping my Nutbuster in the sea soon followed by a couple of small wires. Oh well, I work in a gear shop! We quickly climbed this even with a damp final pitch and headed back round for The Assasin (E3 5c). The middle pitch of this was incredible with perfect small holds up a blank(ish) wall.

Pitch 1 of The Big Groove (E3 5c), Gogarth North Stack

By now the tide had cut us off from the main cliff and we had some lunch followed by Aiden smoothly climbing the uber classic The Strand (E2 5b). By the end of this our feet hurt and the heat had taken its toll. Maybe The Ramp (HVS 5a) or something easy to finish? We headed over and after seeing the awesome looking feature of Energy Crisis (E5 6a) I regained psyche and thought 'I can do that', and so did with a clean onsight but not without a fight! The top pitch is not to be underestimated either with blind moves and poor rock. The view of the light house through the sea mist was a stunning end to a brilliant day.

We slept in the van in Llanberis Pass and awoke to scorcher of a day. I really fancied Cyrn Las but people told us it would be wet, but having never done The Grooves (E1 5b) we decided we could do it even if wet and at least we would be in the shade. After a very boggy walk in we were treated to a dry and brilliant classic route. All went smoothly other than Aiden fumbling again and another 3 small wires down!

Aiden on The Grooves (E1 5b)

Time for lunch and a discussion if we could do The Skull (E4 6a) with the few remaining wires we had. When it came to it we were there, it was dry, there was no way we weren't going to try!

The 3 main pitches are all amazing with a brutal hard steep second pitch and a simply stunning final groove with tons of exposure. Aiden didn't have any wires left by the end of the final pitch and as luck had it there was an insitu wire very near the end. We have been very lucky.

Thrown in for good measure this summer have of of been the evening hits with highlights being Boc No Buttress (E5 6a) at Stanage and repeating Gary Gibson's new trad routes at Stoney which resulted in snapping holds and taking fliers.

Boc No Buttress (E5 6a), Stanage Popular End

Who said worst summer on record? paahh!

James works at Outside Hathersage

By James Turnbull

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