Edition of 28/4/2005
The sun was shining, the wives and child had left us to our own devices, so we (myself and AndrewR) took it upon ourselves to head out to the wilds of Northumberland and see if we could remember what this climbing lark was all about.
On arrival at the crag, we had something of a shock: it almost felt warm! In fact, there were people climbing without their shirts on, a rare event indeed for Peel Crag.
Full of confidence at the start, Andy decided to have a bash at "Swing Up", an HS 4b detour from the VD "Easy Crack", involving a confidence-sapping wide step off a pedestal onto an arete. Our logic was that as we'd done it before, and it wasn't technically difficult, we should be able to do it again despite our current lack of ability.
Later events have clouded the exact details of the ascent in my mind, but suffice to say that Andy found it harder than he expected, and decided against going for the brave step when he got to the top of the pedestal and instead continued up "Easy Crack". I followed him up, and did exactly the same. (Hmmm... this all sounds quite similar to a TR from about two years ago.)
It was then "decided" that it was my turn to lead. My confidence not being what it was, due to a long lay-off after injury, I decided to go for something that should have been almost ridiculously easy: "Apollo", MS.
The guidebook description was something along the lines of scrambling up to the start, where the middle section "provides interest" and leads to easier climbing on broken rocks above.
The scramble was fine, although I was a little concerned about the lack of grip from my climbing boots on the grass. Reaching the middle section, I discovered that the guidebook had used "interest" as a synonym for "much, much scarier than I expected for an MS". It took a lot longer than it should have done, but after giving myself several damn good lectures I managed to persuade myself up it and gained the broken rocks, which certainly were: all the obvious holds moved to some extent, and I nearly managed to brain Andy with a rock I knocked off (note to self: must work on aim). A little gardening was undertaken to reveal some more comfortable holds.
Reaching the top, I was glad to find a convenient piece of metalwork to use as a belay point, as my brain was too frazzled to think about rigging up anything complicated. I belayed Andy up the route, and he commented that on the middle section there were some really nice moves, but he was very glad to be doing it on a top rope... his turn to lead it next time, I think.
After that spectacularly poor performance, we decided to finish off by nipping quickly up the old favourite "Sunset", and hopefully getting home in time to stop the divorce papers.
Andy's turn to lead again, which he did without problem... apart from forgetting how to do the opening move, and somehow managing to get one of my biggest Rockcentrics wedged somewhere that he didn't feel would take a fall, but he couldn't get out even though it was loose.
Following Andy up, I managed to do the first move perfectly, which is unusual for me - I normally try to find a non-existent foothold out to the left, which never works. Increasingly confident, I started climbing quicker, but soon discovered that I was far too out-of-condition to keep that up. Easily retrieving my precious Rockcentric, I reached the last move, and found it to be somewhat awkward, as usual.
With that, our time was up. We walked back to the car, still bathed in sunshine, and wondered why they still hadn't seen fit to put in a chair lift to take you from the bottom of the crag up to the car park - I swear that bank gets steeper every time.
As you may have noticed from my earlier post, we (AndrewR and I) had another trip to Crag Lough yesterday evening, but things didn't quite go according to plan...
Andy started off the evening in good style with a lead up "Pedestal Face" (VS **). The guidebook-suggested step between the sentry box and the nearby pinnacle was discarded as being only for the foolhardy - much more of a jump than a step, we thought, with the prospect of a very uncomfortable landing if you missed. The move up and out of the sentry box appeared a tad daunting, but was negotiated with little trouble. This led to a tricky section on the face, without any decent footholds apart from a very uncomfortable jam in the crack. Completing this move gained some easy climbing (avoiding the dead and somewhat smelly jackdaw) to the top.
I (being somewhat worn out from more DIY over the weekend) seconded with a complete lack of style and finesse: an awkward belly-flop into the sentry box; slipping off whilst getting out of the sentry box; not being able to jam my foot in the crack... until I tried to get my foot out, when I discovered that it really was jammed. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the route and felt it was fully deserving of its 2-star rating.
My turn to lead, so I decided to pick something nice and easy. The guidebook gave us something on Hadrian's Buttress whose name escapes me - the book says it faces the Appian Way. The S grade, and 1-star rating seemed to suggest that it should be well within my capabilities, and not be too hard on my already aching shoulders.
But either I was having (another) off-day, or we were missing something really obvious, because it was horrible. Desperate moves and a shortage of comfortable(ish) places to stand whilst placing pro made it feel much harder than I expected, and was certainly the closest I've ever come to taking a leader fall.
Filed under "Not To Be Repeated".
And so on to our last climb of the evening, "Impossible Buttress 1" (HVS 5a **). The route looked as if it was going to be a fairly easy climb up to a very tricky crux near the top, and so it turned out to be: Andy made quick progress up the route to just below the slopey spout (literally - there was water running down it), and placed two or three pieces of gear.
After attempting the crux fairly gingerly, he gave it another more committed go and nearly succeeded, but slipped slightly and was caught by his gear before he fell too far.
However, rather than dampening his enthusiasm, this only inspired him to be more courageous since he knew his gear would hold. After placing another piece of pro (just to be sure) he went at the crux with gusto, and made it over... but didn't have time to celebrate his victory, as his feet slipped on the wet and slimy rock, and he fell.
To me, the fall didn't look too serious, but we think he must have hit an improbably small ledge at an awkward angle. To cut a long story short: ambulance; Hexham A&E; admitted to hospital late last night.
As I type, he should be just about to get knocked out for a procedure to reattach the back of his heel bone (where the Achilles tendon attaches) to the rest of that bone, and while they're in they'll be checking for other suspected ligament and/or tendon damage which is causing some very impressive swelling.
He should be allowed out within a couple of days, but I suspect it'll be some time before he'll be doing any more climbing...
Eddie Top of page
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Steve & Judy Pardoe
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