Friday, 6 February 2015

Faith and friction

With one notable distraction, the days of late have been dominated by work - preparation for the launch of another outdoor brand, travel for trade shows at home and abroad - time consumed by thoughts of the latest gear, market trends, campaign proposals...and with such focus comes greater awareness of how far removed so much of this is from the real reasons I spend the time that remains as I do. An afternoon in the sun, walking a familiar moorland edge, picking off the boulders at will, some taxing, some easy - there's them yer can do and them yer can't as the saying goes - went a long way to restoring fractured winter sanity.
Rylstone Cross through the pines. It's been some time since I approached the crag from this direction, though not so many years ago it was a regular jaunt, the climbs here among my favourite in The Dales. How well I remember an afternoon with Karl, when having climbed the Kilnsey classic, The Diedre (E2, 5a, 5b), we nipped up to Rylstone to climb another four routes including The Hot Line (E1, 5b) and Beached Whale (E2, 5b) - it was one of those perfect days when faith and friction met in equal measure, the sort of day when you know with every move, that this is what you were meant to be doing. How simple life seemed.
In search of that same simplicity, I passed along the edge, stopping occasionally to inspect a line, pick off another boulder, or simply sit in the sun, the only sound that of the grouse and gentle wind in the heather.
Approaching the cross...
...having bottled yet another attempt at High Flying Adored (E1, 5b) - at 8m it is a short route, more an extended boulder problem, but an icy finish and dicy landing put pay to any real commitment to top out. After climbing the easy arete pictured above, the line follows a hand traverse to the lip of the overhang and a dynamic finish. Bold but satisfying - so says the guide book - I'm sure one day it will be.
Through the afternoon, the sun came and went, slow moving cloud periodically plunging all into chill shade, yet never seeming to touch the burnished bracken on the shoulder beneath Cracoe's memorial obelisk.
I finished the afternoon there, dropping back along the edge as the moor began to glow in the late afternoon, winter sun.

Friday, 30 January 2015

While out running

It is harder than when walking, to excuse a moment's rest when running as simply taking in the view. But then I've always treated runs like these as an afternoon out much like any other, whether in the boat or on the bike, so a moment's pause to take in the view, take photos or simply rest screaming calves is a fairly common occurrence for me while out running.
Late afternoon light across the flank of Ingleborough...
...and the pastel shades of a winter sunset beyond Penyghent - two good excuses for a moment's rest though I may have found others as well. A good end to the working week.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Mid-week winter blues

Making good use of that well known weather phenomenon - mid-week blue skies and sunshine - I'd opted for a day on the fells, taking advantage of several days of consistently lower temperatures which I hoped would have brought many of the higher crags into good condition.
The day began beneath brilliant blue skies - climbing rapidly above Borrowdale it took only a few minutes to reach the snow line, fresh powder covering the trail as soon as I reach the bowl of Gillercombe after which I cut across the upper valley to climb the sunlit flank of Brandreth.
Gillercombe Buttress, with its classic summer climb of the same name - rarely in good winter condition - also offers a long grade II winter route which I'd considered, though it was obvious from here that I would need to go higher to find better conditions.
Approaching the summit of Green Gable - looking back on Brandreth, Hay Stacks the low summit in the left of the frame - and the weather was changing rapidly though the wind remained light.
Inspecting conditions from the top of Green Gable Crag, the austere north facing buttress of Gable Crag hidden in the mist beyond.
Deep powder at the base of the crag, which improved once established on the climbs, though unconsolidated powder remained present at all levels.
Looking down the narrow upper section of the wonderfully named Gully of the Plods - an interesting grade II gully with two crux steps, the second of which is the obvious steeper section just beneath my stance in the image above.
Over all too quickly, I climbed several shorter low grade lines, enjoying some good ice but backing off the upper corner of Garden of Eden which felt distinctly insecure.
Descending via Aaron Slack to Styhead Tarn, happy with my first real winter foray of the year.
I reached the tarn as the sun set beyond Great End, the Scafell summits hidden in thickening clag, tomorrow's weather rolling in from the west. The descent to Borrowdale seemed to take an age, more used as I am to riding this rocky route to the valley floor, but I reached Stockley Bridge more than happy with a fine day on the fells having banished the mid-week blues.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Bog trotting on Barden Moor

Another dump of snow but with temperatures hovering above zero, it was soft wet going up from Embsay resevoir. Following the path beyond Crookrise I struck out across the open moor, a little bog trotting necessary to pick up better, firmer trails leading up and on towards Cracoe Memorial.
It's a familiar, undulating route and one which I have run more frequently than normal recently as the gales have blown through in rapid succession. But with colder, calmer weather forecast, it might just be worth getting dressed up and heading to the fells for something a little steeper soon enough.

Monday, 5 January 2015

A touch of frost on the Islands of Fleet

Launching from Ross Bay within the Kirkcudbright estuary proved a better option than our usual starting point hereabouts, avoiding a long carry with loaded boats that would have been necessary otherwise. For a short winter's day it was a late start but timed perfectly with a 24hr weather window, the skies clearing as we loaded the boats and headed out towards Ross Island.
The best of the paddling on this stretch of coast is here, in the race that forms either side of the island, and beneath the cliffs of Meikle Ross.
Chris, heading into an open corner at the back of which is a long and narrow cave. A slight swell provided gentle but enjoyable conditions close in, replaced by oily seas once away from the cliffs.
A moment's pause as the sun nears the horizon...
...before turning the western corner of Barlocco Island, our home for the night.
A small fire on the shingle beach had kept the cold at bay the previous evening but it was a bitter start to the day - the unique sensation of pulling on an icy dry-suit being one of the joys of multi-day winter paddling trips.
Thickening cloud cover took the edge off the cold and for now all was calm, though there was little time to waste with fresh winds imminent and a front clearly visible to the south.
Passing inside Barlocco Island and out across the bay towards Meikle Pinnacle - a small stack which can be passed via a narrow channel at high water given suitable conditions.
Conditions remained suitable for some time - an oily calm remained as we passed inside Manxman's Rock, the first breath of wind following shortly after. A swiftly ebbing tide draining Brighouse Bay provided some entertaining waves to around three feet after which it was clapotis all the way to Slack Heugh.
Pulling out of the chop into smoother seas once more approaching The Sound separating the mainland peninsula from Ross Island...
...and moving up the eddy. Before we were even out of the channel the sun had gone, replaced by grey skies and a cold southerly wind. With the last paddle strokes, our short weather window closed, the first trip of the year ending with a degree of satisfaction having made perfect use of the break in the winds and the simple pleasure of warm, dry clothes.