Showing posts from 2012

Tubing at Dover

Plans for Scotland this weekend were binned again due to the high winds forecast. I made a day trip with Murilo to Dover instead. We parked the car at St Margaret's Bay at 8am shortly after sunrise and one hour after low tide. Clear skies greeted us. A welcome break from the sometimes unrelenting rains of late. After examining a number of unclimbed lines we eventually opted for The Tube. I climbed this fifteenth months ago - largely in the dark, due to a slightly bonkers 8pm start, and with no head torch. I was happy to climb it again in order to appreciate the daylight experience.

The start of the first pitch was harder than recollection. The short-lived overhung wall was well hooked but my fluency was compromised by a number of the pockets being worn down to a bed of flint rendering them unreliable. The going was soft today and I could sometimes feel movement in my foot placements. My forearms were feeling the effects of me gripping the axes tighter than normal as a result.

The …

Blood on the Car Seat

I pulled the plug on plans for Scotland this weekend at about 7pm on Friday. The Northern Coires were full of wind slab and category 4 avalanche risk. The situation was the same on Ben Nevis. I considered Lochnagar for a bit as it sounded as though less snow had fallen there. Snow and wind was forecast throughout the night so maybe Lochnagar would also be a problem by the morning? Then there were the road conditions to consider. Would we reach the car park? If I lived in Scotland I would "take a look". Travelling from London to "take a look" seemed unjustifiable.

I would have to make do with chalk although nobody was available for climbing. Low-level traversing is always good for strength and stamina though. Low tide on Sunday was the ghastly time of 7am. I managed to park the car at Saltdean for 8am. A record early start for me on chalk. Some of the regulars had been at the cliffs since 6am and so put my efforts to shame.

I traversed the cliffs East of the Thunder…

Newhaven-Saltdean Double-Header

With a fresh dump of snow in the UK mountain areas followed by warmer temperatures it seemed sensible to climb chalk this weekend. Rick and I headed to Newhaven this morning. The routes at Newhaven are in the same style as Saltdean but with a smaller selection of routes.

Our planned warm-up route, called Sea Shelle on the Sea Shore (C4/5), proved to have fallen down. To its left a large detached pillar suggested further collapse was imminently. We opted for the next ‘easiest’ route called Fly Catcher, graded C6. Compared to Saltdean the placements were minimal and sometimes hard to spot. Tricky technical moves up moderately overhung chalk led to a smooth wall that was climbed to beneath a roof. Rick’s attempt to lead to route halted below the roof. I top-roped as far as Rick’s last quickdraw, however the time needed to search for hooks above the roof called for a rest. I led on above the bolt and managed to rock-over the roof to the lower-off. Both Rick's and my next attempt agai…

Crest Route (V,6), Stob Coire nan Lochan

With more clear weather promised by the forecast we opted to return to Stob Coire nan Lochan in order to capitalise from its fine viewpoint. We rose again at 5.30am again and began the walk in with head torches under a moonlit sky. A good night's sleep had rejuvenating my tired legs and arms. We reached the coire as the crimson light was creeping over the hill tops. Another perfect dawn.

After the drama on the last pitch of Chimney Route yesterday we settled for the easier Crest Route (V,6), which was recommended to us by a pair we briefly spoke to yesterday in the coire. The route from the ground up looked a spectacular line for the grade.

After a cold night the conditions had further improved with turf encountered now rock solid. The first pitch was a gentle warm-up before the real climbing began on the second and third pitches. Rick led the second, whilst I took over for the third. Both pitches involved some tricky sequences of hooks and torques that felt at the top of the gra…

Chimney Route (VI,6), Stob Coire nan Lochan

We rose at 5.30am, five hours after completing our drive from London. I had slept restlessly due to combination of uncomfortable bedding, snoring in the dorm, and general excitement about kick-starting my winter season. We were keen to start the season with a VI in order to lay down a benchmark. Chimney Route in Stob Coire nan Lochan looked a great objective.

With head torches donned we started the steep climb into the coire. A beautiful sunrise greeted us. The cliffs looked in splendid condition. This weekend would be payback for all the dreadful weather I endured last winter.

The first pitch of Chimney Route looked inviting. Rick was keen to lead it, despite having never climbed grade VI before. I had no objections. We wasted time trying to find a belay. The start of the route was choked with ice, which wasn't strong enough for ice protection. The thin cracks in the vicinity were flared or parallel but we had no pegs. In the end I banged my axes and a warthog into the frozen tur…

Clocking Mileage at Saltdean

With no sign of winter re-emerging I headed to Saltdean again with Julia. We left London at 7am in order to capitalise on the 8am low tide.

There was a decent turn-out of climbers given the perfect weather conditions of clear winter skies and little breeze. I was inspired to witness someone climb Blade Runner (C5/6) for my first time before I set to work on Everyman's Route (C5) in order to swap the screwgate karabiner installed last week for one rarely used. I then top-roped Cathy Come Home (C8) to the right but only to 2/3 height. The pair climbing next door to us had started to lead up the same route directly below me and, despite it being unlikely, I did not want to risk dropping an axe on them. I'll come back soon and work this route properly.

Water was beginning to pool beneath the Seaward Face, which I know from bad experience means rapid advancement of the tide here. We abandoned the section of cliff to climb Slab Route/Extension whilst the climber on Cathy Come Home w…

Saltdean: Something Less Dramatic

After last weekend's late night climbing antics at Dover I was keen for something less dramatic this weekend. Jack and me headed to the bolted routes at Saltdean.

We warmed up of Slab Route/Slab Extension. The start to Slab Route continues to get slightly harder each season as chalk falls away beneath it. A small cave has now formed beneath the slab. The undercut chalk at the base of the slab is plagued with extensive cracks that suggest the slab may begin higher up in the near future. The short wall to gain the slab offered good value and needed composure to clip to the first bolt, after which the climbing became easy.

Having climbed Slab Route we set up a top-rope on the lower-off further right, which I believe to be Christmas Cracker (C6). I think this was the route that Hugh Dennis climbed on the BBC program 'The Great British Countryside', which was broadcast earlier this year. Therefore surely a push-over? This section of cliff has since a lot of change in recent yea…