Journeys in the hills and mountains
At the end of a half term holiday spent marking work, I took two and a half days off to go climbing in the Peak District. Leaving at lunchtime on Friday with Jo, Dave and Simon, we drove up to Chatsworth, the whole journey taking a long time due to traffic on the M1. We arrived, however, to near-perfect climbing conditions, with the warm evening sun casting a wonderful light over the crags. I climbed with Simon for the evening. I led some of the easier routes, including Choked Crag (Diff) and Step Buttress (VDiff). Simon confidently led some of the more challenging routes, including Cave Crack (Severe) and Step Buttress (VDiff). The routes at Chatsworth seemed hard in the grade, but the evening was most pleasant, overlooking the midges which began to feast on my bared arms.
Enjoying the hospitality of Jo’s parents in Bradwell, we had a good outdoor breakfast before heading off to Stanage early on Saturday to avoid the crowds. We were joined there by Tom, Joe, Bethan and Mohammad who drove up from Cambridge that morning. I again climbed with Simon for the day. Once again I led some easier routes such as Uno Cracks (Diff) and Youth (VDiff) while Simon took the lead on Ono (Severe) and Warm Afternoon (VDiff). We moved further along the crags later in the morning to try some harder routes. I led Overhanging Chimney (HVD), which was a nasty squeeze up a tight chimney that involved lots of scrabbling around in the dirt and scraping elbows against gritstone (tetanus jab recommended). Simon led Aries, a good Severe that had a couple of tricky moves. After some lunch, and a quick solo up the fun narrow fin of Staircase Rib (Diff), we moved to the quieter crags at the far northern end of Stanage. The weather grew worse as we emerged from the shelter, but we nevertheless did some good routes. Simon led Doctor’s Chimney (Severe), a far more pleasant chimney than the previous one, and The Crab Crawl (Severe), a fun route involving careful balancing on slabs. I led The Ariel (VDiff), which was poorly protected but an excellent route gaining two stars in the guidebook. Tired, and increasingly cold, we all headed back to Jo’s parents’ place for some curry, whiling away the evening with typically ‘Cambridge’ conversations about graduations and boat races.
On Sunday we were all rather tired, and opted for a day at Birchen, just north-east of the climbs we had done at Chatsworth on Friday. Drawing on the memorial to the Battle of Trafalgar on top of the crags, most of the routes here have seaworthy names. We switched climbing partners today, and I started climbing with Tom. He led Nautical Crack (VDiff), a tight chimney, while I led Yo-ho Crack (VDiff), a more pleasant route up the face of Stoker’s Wall. At some point on this I hurt my arm, and so took a little time to watch the others climbing. I returned to action seconding Jo up Sailor’s Problem (VDiff), before joining up with Mohammad at Poop Deck Crack. I led All Aboard (Diff), which was poorly protected and tricky, and Mohammad led Handy Crack (Diff), a more pleasing climb. I finished the day leading Emma’s Temptation (HVD), an exhilarating climb on Emma’s Slab.
All in all, an excellent weekend’s climbing; I’m not sure, looking at my calendar, when my next climbing trip will be! I do, however, have a weekend in Ennerdale next week, two schools trips to the Peak District and Lake District, and a trip to the Alps in August, so there’s plenty happening over the coming weeks!