22 December 2010

Arrived at nowhere

Simon heading towards the slab I landed on later,
ripping out what I thought to be a bomber hex, hitting
the slab and flipping upside down en route to landing
on the belay.  At least I held my axes and got down safely.

Jumping out of bed on Sunday for an early start didn't happen.  I did meet Simon on time but was about the last thing that worked out right.

Some things were avoidable: the forgotten head torch, the second attempt at driving up any icy slope, the hex placed sideways.

Other decisions might not have been necessary in different circumstances: should we carry on in the dark?

Whatever decisions that were made during the day all built up to me falling off the last, crux pitch of the route.  Maybe it was just bad luck?  or good luck to get away with just a little chip off my ankle?

or maybe sometimes a few risks have to be taken to get to the top?

As the pub was closed I went to hospital. Then probably the most memorable risk I took on Sunday (3 am Monday actually) was balancing on one leg and a crutch on top of the wall trying to chip the key out of the ice using a fusion by the light of my head torch to get indoors to get some sleep.

A great pitch and all for nothing! (photo Simon Frost)

Road to nowhere

Right from the word go shit was happening.

I only had two things to do on Saturday and somehow snow managed to turn them in to drawn out ordeals. It is fair to say that there was an unusually large amount of snow sitting on my Land Rover roof when I decided to leave, earlier than planned, for the 10 minute drive to Uxbridge. I had washed my down sleeping bag the previous evening and now it needed some time in a laundrette tumble dryer. As I crossed a bridge over the M25 I tried to see how the traffic was flowing, maybe the alarm bells should have started ringing when I couldn’t even see the M25 but it was only midday and there was no rush to get to Wales. A little further along the road, covered with a foot of snow by now, then….. “what’s this, a traffic jam?” then I remembered, the humped back bridge over the Grand Union Canal! On the road leading up to the bridge twenty drivers were patiently waiting in a queue to drive up towards the bridge, wheel spin for a few minutes then turn around. The look on peoples faces when their normally well behaved autos turned in to unwieldy toboggans was interesting. Engaging the diff. lock on my Land Rover I got sweet revenge on all those car drivers who wouldn’t let me out of the slow lane on the motorway. But this level of smugness is bad karma as I found out later.

Now, with a dry sleeping bag and no snow falling I tried to leave Uxbridge and get on the M40, this was not as easy as I hoped when I was quickly stopped by more traffic. I soon worked out that there is only one route West out of Uxbridge without a hill and everyone was now heading for it. Change of plan. When I got to the steepest longest hill out of town people were still trying their luck in the slush, and failing, then amazingly one guy got out and started putting chains on (he was driving a rear wheel drive Beemer so wasn’t out of the woods yet). Any cars with low ground clearance or rear wheel drive were worse off and I saw several Porsches going nowhere fast. Once on the M40 the action really hotted up………….

Carnage everywhere. I glimpsed the M25 as I crossed it again and realised it was going to be a loooong journey as I saw lorries skidded at all angles across the carriageway. Cruising north in the snowy 4x4 only lane things didn’t seem so bad until inevitably all lanes ground to a halt and everyone queued to pass uncontrollable lorries and abandoned sports cars. The worst of the snow was South of Warwick and further North things got a little easier. Fair enough, the UK is not used to snow but I still couldn’t believe how few people had snow chains and I don’t know what the snow ploughs on the motorway were up to, I saw a few gently redistributing the snow, one was even ploughing it off the fast lane and launching across the central reservation on to the other fast lane! The rest of the journey went pretty smoothly apart from walls of dense fog reducing visibility to 10m around the Nesscliffe area, good fun when the white lines are covered by snow. I arrived in Llanberis before midnight, just.

15 December 2010

What just happened to me????

It always seems to shock me going to l'Usine.  Every route I look at requires that I turn around to see the lower off, never a good omen.

See the end of this post for a slideshow

Jeff Mercier

Pavel Dobrinskiy

Jehan-roland Guillot

Benjamin Bucci

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8 December 2010

A rare view from a top out


Pete on his and Miles' route Travesty Direct (IX 9)

Not too sure why I’m writing this, I suppose it might jog my memory one day.  Here it is anyway……….

Somehow the early start didn't materialise and it probably wasn't far from mid day when Matt and I walked up to try the line I had seen on Tue - Cracking Up IX 9 on Clogwyn Du.  I had made a load of assumptions about the route most of which turned out to be wrong, I’ll put that down to a lack of experience of mixed climbing on gear.  Expecting either a quick success or failure in good style I was disappointed to find myself wanting to do a lot of down climbing to recoup arms and head (sculpting ice runners is time consuming).  This was ok but I had hoped to be a bit more decisive, when I eventually neared the point of no return where the route moves right below the roof it was decision time.  Lack of time and appropriate gear were all the excuses I needed.  [Down climbed from roof cleaning all gear]

Next time I’ll commit to the moves and see what happens (if it’s still in condition)

Climbing with Simon (a link to his blog on my previous post)

Simon finding a line.  Chris Parkin has previously been to
the ledge on Simons right.

Small pieces of information that are used to gain knowledge about a route to make it easier.
Even just knowing the (approximate) grade helps.  At least a grade indicates the climbing above is possible.
None of this information is available when trying a new route from the ground.

So when Simon suggested trying a new winter line I was keen to give it a go and I wasn’t disappointed!!  A bit gutted that circumstances didn’t give us a route we could finish this attempt but wobbling up blobs of turf frozen to compact rock with poor tied off warthogs for protection was surprisingly good fun.  I think this is my first real new route attempt although quite a lot of winter lines I have been on have a large element of uncertainty attached to them so it wasn’t a completely new experience.

Bring it on....  (obviously enthusiastic when I was writing this!!)

Simon about level with the peckers wedged behind what
looked like a loose block frozen in to the corner.
More climbing above, but how hard?

All of this lot above was written at the time, now I'll finish off the diary.
Italics added Dec 2012

rest day

Got a better start but still worried that someone had beaten me to the route, it was ok though, the team that was ahead only wanted to throw themselves off Travesty!!  But someone had been on my preferred route as there were a couple of wires visible at the pedestal after the roof.  I put in gear to the start of roof crack.  Back down for a rest.

Went for it and was pretty happy to step on to the ledge and clip the others gear.  Went for it again and got in to pod.  Now the wheels started to fall off, as I tried to get out of the pod I used a small rimed dish up and left that gained some height but did not allow me to get any decent placements in the crack above the pod.  So I gave up! and lowered off a hex removing all of the gear apart from a wire near the ledge.

Tired just walking up the hill then made a half hearted attempt at Travesty Direct, it was good climbing but not for what should have been a rest day.  Somehow which ever direction I looked, up or down, dislodged rime ended up in my eyes............... hmmmmmmm ............... bouldering in Font.................

Rest day

Last throw of the dice as had to leave Wales that eve.  Simon agreed to me taking another look and a good start got us to the crag early.  Having been on the route previously made climbing up to the ledge not too bad and I soloed up the ice to where the roof began then placed gear, getting in to the pod again was a different ball game but eventually I was relaxing in to that comfortable niche.

Unfortunately a Mountain Equipment photo of the route had been discovered in a magazine on saturday evening and the memory of this combined with poor holds in the crack above sent me searching for invisible holds out left above the pod.  From the belay Simon shouted up and assured me that the line followed the crack direct so (after some swearing) using a small edge uncovered near the dish I could reach back up and right to get a good torque and some blindly placed gear in the crack.  Bunching my feet below me then turning the torque to an strenuous undercut I reached up and hooked something covered by rime on the blunt arete left of the crack, committed I moved up and left until I could drop a large wire in to some shattered flakes further left.  Following the rib now, I clipped a jammed number 6 wire and mantled on to a good ledge.  Top quality entertainment on a very good route.

Me climbing (photo Simon Frost)

In Condition? Plenty of ice in the crack and well rimed from above but below the roof it could be whiter (see photo of Pete on Travesty Direct from earlier in the week)

Thanks Matt, Simon, Pete and Miles

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5 December 2010

Welsh Mixed Attempts

here is one of the routes that I haven't climbed yet!


more photos to follow.............