Steve Pardoe's uk.rec.climbing Trip Report Archive Pages

Ben Blaukopf's Reports

Edition of 9/8/2004

Index to Ben's reports...
Ben B, Multipitch (etc) August 2004
Ben B, Stanage (Pop) June 2004
Ben B, Birchen Edge, May 2004

----- Original Message -----
From: "Ben Blaukopf"
Newsgroups: uk.rec.climbing
Sent: Tuesday, July 13, 2004 12:29 AM
Subject: TR: First multipitch

Well, we had a bit of an epic, and I seem to have written to match....

After asking for advice about multipitching, me and Clare went up to the Lakes on Thursday evening in search of longer routes. Stayed at Ambleside YHA, and then dropped into Rock and Run on Friday morning for a guidebook and 5 screwgates, then set off to Great Langdale campsite. Pitched up, and then set off in search of rock.

Navigation proved problematic. We headed off up to Middlefell buttress, only to find ourselves on Raven Crag. The guidebook said "ignore the right fork to Raven Crag". We backtracked, and found that the path to Middlefell was more of a nondescript left fork.. Oh well. Once of Middlefell buttresss, we hoped the climb would appear, and mistakely assumed it would be about the same level as Raven Crag. It wasn't, and we thrashed around looking for it, and eventually walked/scrambled all the way to the top without ever seeing anything resembling a climb. Oh well, onto Gimmer Crag, which was the next stop. For some reason we assumed we'd just follow the path and it would appear. Oh no. Four hours after leaving the campsite we found the crag. Don't ask where we went, we don't really know. We managed 150 miles of walking in Italy and lost the path once, for about 5 minutes. This was just ridiculous.

Okay, so we were finally at Gimmer Crag. Slight problem though, we were at the top of it, never mind the wrong face. Scramble/slither down the hill, and we get to the bottom of the SE face a little later, at the foot of Gimmer Chimney, which my guidebook says is a 80m VDiff+. We eyed up Bracket and Slab (Sev), but decided that GC had easier navigation, which was clearly not our strong point today. After all, we just had to follow the crack, and traverse a few metres left/right at a couple of points. How hard could it be...

Covered the first pitch okay, and then started up the 2nd (I was doing all the leads) which was supposed to be 17m, starting by traversing left. The initial traverse move was at least 4a. There then followed a fairly exposed pad up a groove. I reached an overhang, which even I could recognise as clearly off route, so padded right, and found myself back beneath a crack. OK, I figured I must have traversed too early. Wasn't really sure where I was on the route, but I had to set up a belay or the rope drag would get ridiculous...

Clare wasn't totally happy about the moves I'd just done, particularly given the pendulum possibilities, so I dreamed up a technique that I'm not sure is recommended! I had plenty of spare rope, so lowered a loop on a screwgate, got Clare to clove hitch the rope to the screwgate when it arrived, and then belayed her on that rope as well. Might not have been the best knot to use, but the purpose was mostly psychological support since I knew she could do the moves; she just felt very exposed. Belaying this arrangement proved to be an absolute pain in the backside, but the psychological effect worked, and Clare dumped the second rope once she had finished the first traverse anyway. She arrived up top, and we then had to figure out where we were.... OK, the first pitch was presumably wrong, somehow, since the second started with a traverse. I hadn't climbed 17m on the second pitch, so I figured that I had traversed early, still had to climb the crack above my head, and *then* traverse. I had a quick look at the crack 3m right, which looked significantly easier, but looks can deceive....

Headed up the first crack, and got some gear in. Climbed a bit higher. Thrutched. Wondered how Clare would find it. Started to realise that this couldn't possibly be VDiff, and had to be the MVS crack at the start of the 3rd pitch (the route traversed to the right hand crack to avoid this). The moves started to take me out of the warm safety of the crack, and quite frankly, 50m up, and without my helmet (we always climb with helmets, but forgot them in the car...) I didn't really fancy this. Downclimbing MVS didn't seem that viable. Slithered down the crack a few feet until I was below my gear, then got Clare to lower me. Phew. So we'd climbed too high on the first pitch, which was why the start of the traverse was a pain. And we were now at the start of the third pitch.

The rest was straightforward - now we knew where we were I climbed the right hand crack, set up a belay, got Clare to lower me down the left hand crack to retrieve our gear, climbing back up the same crack without any trouble once I was actually on a rope, and finished off the easy last pitch. We even managed to find our way back to the campsite without getting lost. But we did agree that if we did any more multipitching it would a) be for a purpose, not just climbing for the sake of it. So "crags" were out. We wanted to do something like milestone buttress up Tryfan, so we could be clear where we were going, and actually happy about something other than still being alive when we got to the top! b) we'd have a damn good look at the route first!

Saturday was raining in the morning so we just went walking, and managed to get lost for 5 minutes again, though that's another story. Sunday we decamped to North Lees and warm lovely cuddly gritstone. We like gritstone. Mmmmm.

Started on Balcony Buttress (S4a) at Stanage. I'd assumed that the first route of the day would probably scare me, and I wasn't disappointed. Managed to go a little high before the traverse under the overhang, and find some 4b climbing. Route finding being my speciality....

OK, having decided I couldn't climb S4a for toffee, I decided I'd got it out of my system and I could do a nice easy HS/VS. Walked up, and ended up at Via Media, which is on Rusty Wall. VS 4c, so my first 4c climb, and second ever VS after Inverted V a couple of weeks ago. Found the start moves extremely strenuous, and rather climbing wall style, and had to jump off for a rest. Headed up again, and managed it this time. The antithesis of thrutching up through a crack. Crimping, lay backs, smears... Great climb and would be worth a full three stars if the climb proper didn't stop at a ledge below a moderate chimney. I had a *big* grin on my face at that point. Another climb might have made us miss dinner, so we headed off for a calorie-fest at the Scotsmans Pack.

We got moving slowly on Sunday because the weather was a bit moody to start with. Settled on Birchen in the end (short climbs, so we could do them between showers, and 20 minutes on the way to Cambridge).

Started on Emma's Dilemna - S4a. Once again, I managed to thrutch massively on the warmup climb. Still felt harder than 4a, even allowing for that. Don't see why it gets 2 stars... Tried Emma's Delight next, and found it much nicer, worth more than one star.

Next - The Prow - an alleged VS5a route. Again, we'd seconded this before, so I knew I could climb it, even though it said 5a which was pushing my grade. Not that I remember how I climbed it before.... I had a vague idea that the first overhang was dead easy, and so it proved. The face below the second overhang was lovely, and I was very pleased to climb this cleanly. Final lead of the day for me was the Crow's Nest (VS4c). Won't comment on it much, because I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't done it, but it was great :)

We were planning on Clare leading Trafalgar Crack (VD, but not really) but the world's biggest top-roping party had descended, so we ended up on Stoker's Wall (Diff) and Clare did her first clean "flash". Good beginner's climb, this one - well protected. I soloed up afterwards and checked placements, and then we headed off back to Cambridge, tired but happy :) Did I say we liked gritstone?

Oh yes; whoever said the Great Langdale campsite was noisy... you are *so* right!


Stanage (Pop), June 2004

From: Ben Blaukopf (
Subject: Re: TR:Second time leading
Newsgroups: uk.rec.climbing
Date: 2004-06-07 02:27:49 PST

Err, this seems to have come out fairly long again. I start these things wondering what I'm going to write, and then it all comes out in a stream....

Last weekend, me and Clare did our first leads. This weekend we managed to get up to the Peaks on Sunday, and did some more stuff...

Drove down on Saturday night to stay with a friend near Bakewell, so we were able to make an early start on Sunday. Breakfast at the Hathersage bakery got us to the crag (Stanage Popular, showing a singular lack of imagination) for about 9am. As we came round the corner at the top of the hill, we saw the grey cloud that is starting to typify our visits - sunny everywhere except Stanage. The forecast was for a dry start and then thunderstorms in the afternoon - this didn't bode well! However, it didn't look that bad - and the cloud went and sat over Chesterfield in the end.

9am isn't exactly first light, but we were still only the fifth car or so there. Wandered up to the Manchester Buttress area with every intention of leading my first severe at some point in the day. Thought that maybe I should start with another HVD, and was eying up Crack and Corner. However, words like "polished", "overhanging", and "struggle" didn't really endear this climb to Clare, so we set off up Black Hawk Hell Crack (S) instead. Interesting experience - nothing on the climb was particularly harder than some of the VDiffs we've done - and it was distinctly less strenous in places - but there was definitely a greater feeling of exposure, and in contrast to the VDiffs, most of which were over after a short section, there were several problems to solve on this climb. Pleasant enough though.

Sociology (S) on was just to the right, between two VDiffs we did last weekend, so we climbed that as well. Wasn't sure if a ledge was inbounds at one point, but used it anyway - might go back sometime and try it without! Me and Clare were now rapidly coming round to the viewpoint of a friend who "never leads anything below Severe". They really did seem more fun, more technical (no surprises there), and less brute force.

Having ticked the "severe" box on my weekend goals, I was eyeing up Castle Crack (HS 4b). Not a planned goal, but the climbing was going well. There were some girls climbing up Black Hawk Traverse (VD) to the right, which shares the finish, so that gave me some impetus to get on with things! It proved an interesting route - Rockfax said "awkward jamming" which was certainly true. In retrospect, it gave me everything I'd been looking for in the severes - more problems, more exposure. And an 18m climb, though the last 4m were a doddle. I reached the finish before the girls on the VD, but have just realised while writing this that they took the wrong finish and went up the last few metres of Black Hawk (HS4c!). Hope they enjoyed it...

The sun had been out for most of the morning, and it was an absolutely glorious day - nice but tiring, and it was definitely time for lunch, so we sat down by the Black Hawk Area, and ate our sarnies. I was trying to persuade Clare to do a lead - BH Traverse Right (Diff with ***) looked good, but she didn't want to do anything while it was busy (and it was!), so we headed left. I was after another Severe, as I was getting a bit tired, and RH Trinity looked interesting, with a description of "good introduction to the art of hand hamming". That was busy, though, so we continued onto Bishop's Route. Busy. Back to RH Trinity, and sit down to wait for the route...

The party on RH Trinity seemed to be two guys plus an instructor, and when I arrived the instructor was heading up, belayed from the top by climbed A, and with another rope tied between himself and climbed B. Every time he got to some gear he passed the second rope through the gear - I assume he was checking gear placements, and then running the second rope through to let climber B practice seconding. Anyway, this was all a bit of a faff, and by the time he reached the top, the second on Christmas Crack (HS4a) was half way up, so we decamped and moved left. Since climbed B effectively couldn't do the start move and fell off several times before the instructor came down and gave him a bunk, this proved to be a good choice!

I was a bit wary of Christmas Crack since HS4a implied little protection. But the first break looked good for gear, and the first few moves were straightforward enough, so decided to give it a go. So it proved. I stuck two pieces in the first break - first time I've ever doubled up gear, but the first piece was good, but not perfect, and the landing was shocking. Onward, ever upward, with one extended stretch with not much gear but no risk of groundfall, and by the end of it I'd enjoyed a nicely technical climb with no thrutching, and put five pieces of gear in. Bit wierd - it felt harder than the two severes I'd led, but not really HS. On my *very* limited experience, I'd rate it as a top-end severe, good for preparing to move to HS. Lovely route.

It looked like some weather was coming in, so we decided to finish with April Crack (HS 4b). I have to confess that I was feeling pretty tired, and my head wasn't really ready for this one. Looked up, saw a blank face (well not really, but still...) on the left and wondered how I was getting up. But Clare still didn't feel like leading anything, and it was a three-star route... Started to the right, which was not too bad, and managed to get a rockcentric in in once the crack started to narrow. Getting up the crack didn't prove as hard work as I'd feared, with a combination of jams, laybacks, and a bit of face climbing (mostly by Clare, who went a bit too far right at one point!). After I got the first piece of gear in, protection was pretty much perfect - as promised by Rockfax. Definitely harder work than the other HSs, and convinced me by the top that I wanted to do some more before trying a VS. Setting up the belay I could see a lovely bank of cloud moving over from Hathersage, and it did indeed start raining, though only a few drops. However, it proved useful - Clare was having a bit of trouble on the midsection of the climb, but the moment she felt the first raindrop she started rocketing up it :)

Called it a day there, so Clare didn't get any leads in, but definitely enjoyed herself - more than last weekend. As she said, she wouldn't fancy leading of the VDiffs - they're all really hard work. The Severes are much easier! And Hard Severe proved a great balance between a bit of work, technical problems, and pure quality of climb.

Not climbing for at least two weeks now, possibly three. Might go to the Castle or something, but I'll probably fail to make it up anything! Oh, and a quick postnote on the rain - driving back past Birchen the roads were quite wet, so it seemed that cloud really did head off towards Chesterfield!


Birchen Edge, May 2004

From: Ben Blaukopf (
Subject: TR: First time leading
Newsgroups: uk.rec.climbing
Date: 2004-05-31 12:39:00 PST

Back home in Cambridge after a weekend in the Peaks, and still buzzing. Have got to tell someone! If you can't be bothered reading my drivel, then it was brilliant and I'm hooked.

Did a YHA learn to lead course three weeks ago, and then me and my fiancee (Clare) bought a rack and rope. Sat looking at the rack for three weeks while Clare finished her exams, and nervously watching the weather forecast.

Saturday started as a typical English summers day - i.e. chucking it down. Ambled into Hathersage, picked up some sarnies from the bakery, and killed time in Outside. The afternoon forecast was better, so we headed off to Birchen and got there for 11, just as the rain was easing - still spitting occasionally, but it was alright.

First climb of the day was Gun-Cotton Groove (VD) at Kismet Buttress. Clare tried this first, but had to back off from halfway - not a good first leading experience. I went up, and didn't exactly find it a breeze ever. Well protected, though, and a good choice of route in retrospect. I fancied trying an HVD next, and we went over to Cannonball Crack. A quick look up the inside of the off-width with no breaks (i.e. unprotected) persuaded me to stick to VDs for a bit! Cannonball Wall proved an interesting an slightly inelegant struggle. Over to Pigtail - HVD 4a, which as far as I could see meant "if you can do make the first break, then it's a doddle". I couldn't, but like the other the other HVD I tried, I reckon if I go back next week I'll wonder what all the fuss was. Tars Arete involved some powerful arm moves over a dodgy drop followed by some pointless kit for the easy slab climb that followed. A hard VD, I reckon, but not HVD. Thuggish arm moves are my speciality. Not Clare's though, and I had to second the climb to get the kit back. Clare then led Tar's Gully (Mod) and as expected smoked up it, though was a little bit put out when I soloed up behind her with the camera and took pictures of her gear placements :) Being novice climbers we were whizzing through the climbs (not), and called it a day at this point.

Sunday was supposed to be good in the morning, and rubbish in the afternoon. In the event, it was alternate rain and shine. Usually rain just as I got to the top of the climb having left my jacket at the bottom, so I got to belay in the rain. Lovely. Yesterday had persuaded me to do some more VDiffs, and we walked up to Manchester Buttress. Physiology was busy, so we started up Anatomy, which felt straightforward, and certainly easier than Saturday's climbs. Well protected, and a good beginner's route. Physiology was a notch harder, and a bit squirmy. Nice route. Wandered past Flying Buttress, and eyed up the eponymous HVD, but the route was temporarily closed - we'd seen the chopper come in while on Phsyiology, and it turned out that they'd falled off FB Direct and hit the slab badly :( Leaning Buttress Crack proved a worthwhile VDiff - Rockfax rates it as a top-end VDiff, but I wouldn't say it's that tricky - certainly felt a notch easier than Hollybush Crack which we did next (and which is a *great* route).

Had now done four VDiffs on Sunday, and was feeling very comfortable with them, and ready for more, so we went back to Flying Buttress. Watched a couple head up the route, and then we were ready for business. The slab looked fine, despite being described as unprotected. So it proved, and although a couple of pockets looked perfect for a cam, there was no need, and clipping anything here would have made life very difficult later on a single rope. Stuck some bomber gear in, but on a rather longer extender than was probably necessary, so it ended up below my waist, which didn't help confidence :) Tried entering the groove, thrutched for a bit, thought about falling off, downclimbed one move, and planned my assault. Managed it the second time, and carried on up the second slab and finished the climb, and the day, with a big grin on my face. An easy HVD (in retrospect, after a couple more), but a brilliant route on a classic face, and absolutely perfect for me at the time. Couldn't ask for more, and Clare enjoyed seconding it. It then proceeded to bucket down, and although it soon stopped, we decided to call it a day since we wanted to finish on a high.

Monday was supposed to be awful. Woke up, and it was glorious. Hmmm. Straight up to Burbage, getting there for a bit before 10am (we were staying with friends at Ilam Hall YHA; not the ideal base, but meant the evenings were social), and with only 4.5 hours to climb, as we had to be back in Cambridge for the evening. Warmed up on Triangle Buttress Arete (VD), which reminded me how different holds can be on different climbs - friction galore, but everything was fairly rounded. No gear for the first tricky moves over a dodgy landing, but easier after that. Hard end of VD, I think. Triangle Crack (HVD) was next door, and described as "awkward... can be a struggle". Oh yes. I got up the first couple of metres with a heavy layback - Clare didn't have the armpower, and found that very difficult. She was not impressed with my choice of route!

Ash Tree Wall (HVD) was my first ever climb, and I fancied giving it a go on lead. Just about managed to get a knee into the fist-width (yeah, right) crack, and was fairly high up before I had any protection besides swearing. Last year my mate used a Size 4 cam, which was surprisingly absent from my rack (and just about every other HVD leader). Rockfax forums reckon it's a Severe - not sure about that (let you know when I've done one!), but certainly the hard end of HVD. A worthwhile climb, and next weekend will have some more HVDs and hopefully a severe or two.

Clare now needed a good Diff to try a proper lead, as opposed to Saturday's mod, and we found Black Slab Variation. Being a slab, the pro was a bit dodgy. She got a very borderline nut in, followed by a probably sound one, but was then knackered, so downclimbed and had a rest. Up again, and she went higher, got a bomber rock in, and then went to the top. We were now very short on time, so she practiced setting up a belay, while I soloed up. Found one of the moves non-trivial, and it was before she got any gear in, so I was quite impressed. Not sure we made the right choice for a first lead, but she certainly enjoyed it (at the end :) ). With 4 climbs done in 4.5 hours, we were still not exactly flying, but moving a lot quicker than Saturday.

A quick comment on kit - having read all the posts about gritstone racks before buying my rack, I ended up with

1-10 DMM wallnuts - Think I used all of these except no 1.. Not sure what that says! Might well purchase a 1-5 halfset soon.
Rockcentrics - full set was 45 from Outside. Used all of them except no 3 in the end, often for anchors. Was leaving 3 and 8 in my bag by the end of the day though, to stop sounding like a xmas tree on the way up.
Cams - Bought WC tech 1,2,3. 3 was the most used, as I expected (I considered just buying this one), then 1, with 2 hardly used at all. A 2.5 would have been useful at times though :)

Fairly happy with the rack and would buy the same again. Frequently found that a long extender was needed though (I only had one over 20cm), and at one point I improvised with two QDs clipped together. And definitely need some more krabs for racking!

Right, thanks for listening. In summary, it was brilliant, and I'm hooked. And I've got vast amounts of respect for my friends - on my first day out, last year, they took me up a bunch of stuff including Knight's Move, and Long Tall Sally. I can only dream of leading at that level at the moment...

Ben (Nutkey)

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