Sunday 30 September 2007

Chasing dry climbs in the Lakes

Repeating Dawes Rides a Shovelhead E8 6c, Raven Crag. All photos: copyright Claire MacLeod

With the northerlies last week came the first signs of winter. I watched snow flurries turn the top 1000 feet of the Ben pale white while trying to warm my hands as Steall crag. Early doors the next morning I ran for the first bus south and was greeted by a bitter morning with hard frost at the front door.

A day’s climbing with Malc at the Anvil got me fired up for getting strong again and left me wondering how much strength I’ve lost from the summer of trad climbs. I’ve got a long way to go to get back in shape for the season of sport and bouldering. Malc is making moves on the Anvil roof look easy, which always makes projects seem possible. But my project there is the hardest bolted route I’ve ever been on. Many nights of dangling and skipping dessert lie ahead.

Claire and I decided to take advantage of the late September high pressure and see if I could finish some unfinished business in the mountains of the Lake District. But the weather had other ideas. A bitter easterly chilled me to the bone and made me feel like it was time for throwing in the towel for the mountain trad season. I made a good link with my duvet on and numb extremities, so perhaps another look is called for yet.

After the chilling we retreated to Keswick’s warmest pubs to consider the options for the second day. Too cold to go high, but we’d come too far to go home. I suggested a look at another Birkett creation, a comfortable 10 mins from the car and away from that biting easterly. Dawes Rides a Shovel Head (you’ll need to ask the Birkett for an explanation!) looked pretty fierce in Set in Stone at E8 6c. Would it go in an afternoon?

I left Claire to peruse the papers while I sussed out some moves for an hour. Hmmm, I could still feel Steall and the Anvil in my forearms – I felt tired. But although the holds were small, they were positive and felt some fear would be plenty of incentive to pull through, so as I watched Claire follow me up to the crag, I stripped the toprope and prepared the rack.

Headpointing is so much about having a routine. My routine for a lead normally starts a few days before the actual lead day. Normally the feeling of two days rest in my forearms as I start up a route gives me a hit of confidence as I pull on the first small holds. The feeling of tired forearms was enough to make me shake a little as I moved up into a no hands rest in the middle in the wall.

Thought stopping…

After a beautiful sequence of committing crimp and undercut moves I arrived at the jug under the roof and could relax again, and feel like I am starting to get to know, and like Lake District climbing…

…except those busy roads!

1 comment:

  1. hey dave!!! nice one you are cementing my belief that you are the best climber in Britain!! good effort on some of Dave Birkett's routes!!

    so whats next for you?? are you going to do James Pearson's The Promise E10?? that would be cool!!

    keep up the good work!