THURSDAY, MAY 19, 2016

A catch up of all that is climbing May 2016

I've been meaning to write a few words since January however things seem to always be too hectic to sit down for a minute. I really wanted to write about the fact I finally lanked my way up the mega classic boulder problem at Burbage West Side Story (7C) by head torch, but I don't have time for that now, and it seems like ages ago.

Walking into the Loch Avon basin

Then I thought about the awesome time with Aiden in the Cairngorms back in February. The conditions were bad for hard mixed, but the easier stuff had great ice in the grooves making progress quick. I wanted to tell you about a battle with a buried Deep Throat (V,6) and brilliant The Seam (IV,5). Also I had to tell you about finally climbing in the Loch Avon basin on a stunning day with the mega classic Route Major (IV,5) and finishing at 12.30pm so a quick ascent of a big route. Or even talk about The Message (IV,6) in a storm. Well I don't have time to tell you anymore so there are some nice pictures here:

Aiden on Deep Throat (V,6)

All those things were great but I feel caught up in the moment and that seems to be all about hard(ish) grit routes right now. A special mention needs to go out to Andy Gardner on this subject. When I met Andy he seemed to be an E2 leader on a good day, but all of a sudden he had lots of free time on his hands and psyche on tap. Next thing we know E5 onsights and multiple E6 headpoints are commonplace for him! He was also the perfect partner. Who else can you call when you have only an hour and a half free and you need a belay? Cheers mate!

Andy is especially to thank for the first route of a good run for me. Adams Smith’s Invisible Hand (E6 6b) at Millstone, a strange and rarely repeated Johnny Dawes route which is either well protected or not depending on your view of 50 year old bolts threaded with 4mm tat. Andy was keen to try it and did all the hard work: abbed it, replaced the tat, figured out the moves and even set up the top rope. Thanks mate! I tried it on a rope and it felt nails, however we had been doing it all wrong! With the correct amazing high-stepping, arête-pinching beta it was game on. Gulp! Luckily it got dark. We returned a few days later with a 45 minute window, once again Andy had done the graft and set everything up before I arrived. A quick refresh of the moves and I was running out of excuses. Sharp end, deep breath, clip the skinny tat, go, crimp, pinch the arête, high foot, pull…...harder…..Phew! All that worry and it's over in less than a minute. We arrived at 6pm and were in the Broadie for beers by 7:30. Big thank you to Andy for that one.

Adam Smith's Invisible Hand

This seemed to spark a bit of a roll. A few days later and a beautiful evening up at Stanage. We warmed up on the classics of Fern Crack (VS 4c) and Fern Groove (E2 5c) and then moved over to the main event. I have wanted to do White Wand (E5 6a) for years, it's elegant but deeply committing and very bold. Someone mentioned it could be made safe with a sea of pads, people were summoned from far and wide to try and tame it for me. Some bailed, some were at the Plantation, but needed all 5 of their pads for the 3ft high Green Traverse (yes you Adam!) and so with a pile much smaller than I had hoped (5 pads, but not sure Simon's little one really counts!) set off anyway. I was rushing, I took a deep breath and…. climbed back down. Next time up there were no mistakes and before I knew it I was laybacking the sharp upper arête. Beautiful. Thanks to Bart and Simon for a patient spot.

Nathan Lee on Block and Tackle at Higgar Tor

Another week later a new plan had been formed. I’d seen photos of co-worker and PROPER climber Nathan Lee on and off Block and Tackle (E6 6b) at Higgar Tor, a classic Neil Foster route (more to come on Foster routes, stay tuned!) This looked great, bomber gear followed by burly slapping and heel hooks up the overhanging left arête. We had to try, ground up this time. A quick Raspy warm up and Adam starts up and sorts the gear, returning to the ground. Its winner stays on! Heel, crimp, left hand slap, stand up, higher heel, OFF! We both have a few whippy falls, mine a bit further being so weighty (some call it fat). Faith is failing us as is the light by the 3rd go. “Let’s strip it says Adam”, just the phrase I needed to get psyched for one more go! This time I know exactly what I need to do, try harder. I slap to the break and hold it in disbelief. Hurried gear is placed in fading light and one more move leads to dancing on the summit! Woohoo! Possibly the most fun I have had on a grit route! Thanks to Adam for this one.

Bouldering with baby Isla giving the traditional "Peak District Spot"

2 weeks pass with a little lull in activity other than a touch of sport and bouldering with a sleeping baby in the pram. Another steady Monday in the shop with indifferent weather and my psyche is bubbling. The forecast is bad but optimism is high and Steve, who isn’t even climbing at the moment, agrees to come and hold my rope, hero. As we walk into Gardoms after work the rain pours and the wind blows, we hide under a boulder. Steve says something about watching snooker in the warmth. I convince him it will dry soon and I set up the rope in the drizzle and towel down the holds. 10 minutes later and the sun tries and the wind dries. Nah’han (E8 6c) is looking possible. This is a recent Tom Randall offering, hugging a prow at Gardoms to the left of another classic Neil Foster route (sensing a theme?) Make it Snappy (E6 6b) that I did a few years back. I always thought the burly, slappy nature would suit me and even though a big fall is on the cards it could be relatively safe(ish). A few goes on a toprope and I can't believe how steady and controlled it feels and I’m not worried, this will feel great on lead with a casual reach to the break instead of the scary slap I’d seen in the videos. So I pull the ropes. I climb to the gear, a little tangle in the ropes, sorted. Deep breath. As I set off my foot pings on the first move but I snatch the crimp, calm down, heel pops, hold the arête, oh dear. Climbing further above the gear I fully realise why it's called headpointing and make the final slap to the break in a totally different position to how I'd practised. I’m up, I’m safe but not happy with how it went. Either way tick. (Note: it may say E8 in Rockfax but we all know I can’t climb that hard, it's E7 really, still awesome though.) Thanks to Steve for this one!

James Turnbull on Nah'han E8 (or E7)

So I’m sorry to have ranted more than normal, that's it for now. But then again I'm climbing tonight and who knows what adventures that will bring. The Peak District is awesome!

PS. Look out for an extra special article (it's not really a blog) I will be writing soon, clues in the text above!

THURSDAY, MAY 19, 2016
By James Turnbull

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James Turnbull
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