Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Great Orme

Spring it may be and sunny it may have been - there was even some talk about shorty cags before putting on - but it was a raw day beneath the limestone ramparts of Great Orme, North Wales. Launching from West Shore, a light headwind was noticeable if not unpleasant and for the outward journey at least, warmed by some energetic paddling at the very base of the cliffs, the sense of summer days to come, remained strong. Later, I think we all found ourselves wishing for pogies and two days on, there is fresh snow on the low hills of The Dales. Winter it seems, is not quite done yet.
Rounding The Orme on calm seas beneath blue skies and the first of the season's breeding sea birds.
Back in the sun after a chilling stretch in the shadow of the cliffs...
...which with a little more movement in the water, offer some entertaining rock hopping...
...and a few caves, though many are hidden at high water.
We returned, paddling offshore, trying to put a little warmth back into numb fingers, passing beneath the old lighthouse, built in 1862 and in service until 1985.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Light as the moon's path over the sea the run of the hare over the land*

Sadly, my footsteps were neither as light as the moon's path nor the run of the hare though I saw both on this, a beautiful evening above Kettlewell, running the ridge of Great Whernside.
Turning to take in the view after a slow climb of Cam Head and the bog trotting and steep ascent which follows to reach the ridge, Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough clearly visible as the sky turned through pastel shades.
Once on the ridge, this is one of my favourite routes in the Dales. The ridge is typically broad and easy angled giving a fast route toward the summit cairn with long views in all directions...
...finishing with a flourish among weathered gritstone boulders before a fast, fun descent on soft peat.
As I dropped rapidly toward the distant valley floor, the moon rising toward clearing skies, a hare paused briefly before crossing my path. And finally, following the fleeting glimpse of this elusive creature, I felt something of the poet, Anna Crowe's affection for the hare and the light footed sense of fluid movement that is fell running at its best.
*A calendar of hares, Anna Crowe. (One of the 20, Best Scottish poems in 2005.)

Monday, 4 April 2016

Finding my feet

On the back of an unseasonable dose of flu, the first run that followed was predictably painful. Only at the end, following the walled tracks back to the hamlet of Wharfe did I find my feet, the ascent of Ingleborough and more unusually, much of the descent having simply felt like hard work. The vagaries of form. It's something I've come to recognise in all activities - sometimes things just don't gel. The boat feels heavy, the bike unbalanced or the legs just lack life, the footwork clumsy. Sometimes it's possible just to have a word, put a bit of effort in, and it comes good. At others, it seems best simply to quit while you're ahead. But a week that culminated with a mild dose of cabin fever put pay to any notions of turning back. Not that I saw anything throughout the upper half of the route, the clag being equally determined. Still, a good afternoon...
...that started by crossing Austwick Beck, Crummackdale Crag - marked as Studrigg Scar on the OS - where I have climbed every route once within my grade and scrabbled up a couple above it, visible in the right hand corner of the frame. It is an idyllic crag, that offers brilliant climbing mostly within the HVS to E2 grades although like many such places, a cautious approach is unlikely to succeed, the gear sparse and the routes bold. It is also a crag to which I added a line of my own, though it was never claimed in an official fashion, at the end of a long hot summer's day, one of the best days on Yorkshire Limestone I was lucky enough to experience.
Seen from a distance and at this angle, the crag appears broken with little in the way of clean rock. In fact it is probably one of the best single pitch crags in the area. But certainly one to choose when on form.
Looking across the limestone pavement above Moughton Scar - that crag also providing some adventurous climbing of a more friable nature. On form or not, care is required and it was not a crag with which I ever developed more than a passing acquaintance.
Finally, into my stride dropping back towards Wharfe, Ingleborough a gratifyingly distant lump, still hidden in the clag that felt a long way behind.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Gone fishing

Perhaps the oldest of expressions synonymous with escape from the mundane trivia of modern life and rarely used in a literal sense, it is also wonderfully simple. And that's the thing. Whether it's fishing or biking or paddling, it's all becoming so complicated. The kit, the access, the cost...and that's just for those on the outside. 
Inside, the industry itself is tying itself in knots. Brands vying to tell a unique story and strike a chord, to build affinity and loyalty while simultaneously striving to drive growth beyond their core market and harness the power of national press. Distributors trying to grow those same brands to support retailers discounting the same kit because those manufacturing it do so in quantities that exceed demand. And then there's the health agenda - whatever the sport, the outdoor lifestyle has been seized upon as a panacea to the state of the nation's health. And it's coffers. Which it may well be.
Still, I wonder what Derek Hersey would have made of all that. A man who lived for the vast walls of Yosemite, who cut his teeth on the grit and limestone crags of The Peak and followed his passion with a single-minded purity of spirit. Who soloed big wall routes back to back in a pair of tatty shorts, any one of which might be considered the highlight of a climbing career by any number of climbers today with a rack worth more than I suspect Hersey spent on food and drink in a typical year - reputed incidentally to consist largely of fry-ups and Newcastle Brown ale.
I digress. The thing is, most of us are guilty of it, sea-kayakers perhaps the worst - with room to carry almost any luxury - but the greater the choice, the more kit, gadgets and essential odds and ends, the more complex it becomes and the further we move from what the old shop keepers' sign once encapsulated. 
I was thinking about this the other day, because for the first time in years, I went fishing. And because it was the first time in so many years, having retrieved rod, reel and a tin of flies from the attic, it was beautifully simple. No extra kit - there wasn't any to take. And it wasn't missed. 
Just a day by the water at the foot of the fells I have known since childhood. And a fish for the pot.
So if it's not too late I will make a resolution for the year ahead. Keep it simple. Possibly good advice too for those brands mentioned earlier - be a specialist, keep it simple, do what you're good at. 
Anyway, no more kit. The sea, the hills and certainly the fish, wont care. Although a new spray deck may be required this summer, the tent (one of) definitely needs new poles, and a dropper post for the bike would be nice. And I've promised Isla a visit to the riding centre. Just for a look...surely nothing more than a hat required there?

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Eiger North Face

It's not every day you can say you climbed Eiger North Face. Rarer still when you can follow it with Eiger Left Face and then, yes, Eiger Right Face. Clearly this is not the Alps. Though I suspect the routes may have been named for the friable nature of the rock which is where the similarity with their namesake ends.
The approach is steep, but it is up over boulders, through hawthorn and ash, rather than snow fields to reach the base of the crag, the epitome in many ways of Yorkshire limestone esoterica, looking down on the River Wharfe.
Protection however is generally good, although the surrounding rock exploded on setting one wire, and the routes short. But then trad routes on limestone are something of a rarity to be savoured, as is the lack of polish, even if a few holds do need to be excavated on the ascent. 
Hawckswick Crag remains then, as it should, typically deserted; a quiet crag from which to savour some traditional limestone climbing and a fine sunset.