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

Stefan Beyer's Reports

Edition of 7/9/2005


Index to Stefan's reports...
German Sandstone, September 2005
Costa Blanca, Spain April 2005
Costa Blanca, Spain March 2005
Spain January 2005
Alps August 2004
Spain April 2004
Windgather October 2003


----- Original Message -----
From: "Stefan Beyer"
Newsgroups: uk.rec.climbing
Sent: Thursday, September 01, 2005 12:41 PM
Subject: TR: Sandstone Towers

Having been literally washed out of the Alps (Salzburg has a good climbing wall, for those that find themselves in a similar situation there), I headed up to my home town in western Germany near the French border. The weather was still bad, but on the last day of my stay things looked promising. I met up with Jochen, an old school friend of mine who is also a climber. He had long promised to take me to the area of Southern Palatinate (Sued-Pfalz). The climbing there is on sandstone, on free-standing towers and massifs (ridges) which stand out of the forest. In the lower grades it's all trad. Chalk is banned.

A quick one hour drive got us to the Fladensteine, a group of towers in the middle of the forest. Jochen suggested: "Let's start with a grade II". "Grade II? What's the point of roping up for that?", I laughed. "You will see", was all he answered.

The normal route up Bundenthaler Turm was the chosen objective. Confidently, I decided to take the first pitch. The route goes up a chimney between this tower and the next. All I had to do was climb up ten meters onto a ledge in the chimney and belay. The climbing wasn't difficult, but the holds were very sandy and did not make me feel too confident. I started to feel happy, we had roped up. Jochen took the next pitch, which can only be described as traditional. 20m of squeezing up the chimney until it gets too tight to progress just were a bench is chiselled into the rock for a belay (yes a bench, and yes chiselled!). There was not much gear and I realised at one point that should Jochen fall he wouldn't be in for a factor 2 fall anymore, as he would go all the way to the deck. I then took the last pitch, which leaves the chimney and goes easily up an arete in a fine position above the forest. The summit views were amazing and all that remained was an abseil back into the forest. Or that's what I thought. Jochen informed me that there was a grade 1 jump to perform to get to the abseil point. The abseil stations are often on ledges below the top or on a different tower and one has to jump to get to them. In hour case, we had to jump to a ledge 2.5 meters below. This didn't turn out as bad as it first looked, but I wouldn't want to stumble and roll off the ledge.

Back on the ground, Jochen confessed that the route is a well known local sandbag that he had chosen deliberately (after having seconded it before). He also said that the jump wasn't really graded as it is "too easy" compared to others.

The next route was the normal route up Ilexturm, a one pitch grade III, which felt miles easier, but equally nice.

We then drove about 10 minutes to the Hochstein massif, the most popular crag around there. The classic Hochsteinnadel was busy, so we went up the two-pitch Lochweg, which at V- still felt easier than the grade II we had started with. Jochen led both pitches and I followed up an excellent route which surprised me by every move being different. On only two pitches you find friction slabs, powerful pulls over juggy roof, enjoyable moves up a wall that looks like a bee hive and even a short jamming crack. The abseil off is a bit exiting as it starts above a large roof, and one has to lean back and jump out to get under it.

We then retired for an excellent organic beer in the local climbers hangout: Baerenbrunner Hof.

An unexpectedly good day in a fantastic area, after a disappointing Alpine season.

The area is well worth visiting. The climbing is more similar to climbing on gritstone than on the type of sandstone I have encountered in Cheshire, as the rock is harder and takes gear. Careful in the lower grades, as the locals haven't heard of grade inflation and remember not to use any chalk.

There is some info on Southern Palatinate on:

http://www.summitpost.org/show/mountain_link.pl/mountain_id/4329

There are some photos of out trip that haven't come out very well at:

http://www.telefonica.net/web2/sbeyer/Pfalz/

Stefan


From: "Stefan Beyer"
Newsgroups: uk.rec.climbing
Sent: Monday, April 25, 2005 1:11 PM
Subject: TR: Benicadell ridge with the Plonker's Start and the Idiot's Finish

Several weeks ago I told my climbing partner Vicent that it would be nice to do the Bernia ridge, a classic Costa Blanca scramble with some climbing sections. He was less than enthusiastic: "It's just a walk with a grade 4 pitch and a couple of abseils. We should do the Benicadell ridge instead. It's harder and climbing all the way." Having never heard of this ridge I went to the mountaineering library of my climbing club for a guide book, but was told there was none. Asking around the club finally revealed that it's 2km long, one moves together most of the time, but it's quite sustained with many proper pitches and the crux at the top. The grades for the top pitch seems to be something no one can agree on (anything between 3 and 5+), but the pitch is supposed to have fixed gear.

So off we went with a hand drawn topo (see photo link below) for a real adventure. Finding the start was hard. We took about 1.5 hours for the 30 minute walk in we were told about. Finally, having spotted a peg marking the way up to the ridge, we were puzzled as to how to get up that peg. We had been told you don't gear up until you are on the ridge and the peg is only a marker. After half an hour of pissing about in approach shoes, I unpacked the rock boots and went straight up being belayed by Vicent. Another 20min later I reached a belay and realised there was an easy path up to this point from the right. Doh! By the time we got to the ridge to start the actual traverse it was 12 o'clock. The first hour and a half on the ridge were passed moving together uneventfully in a very nice position. The first climbing pitch was climbing up a pinnacle and down-climbing the other side of it. I failed miserably in protecting the down-climb for my second, so Vicent had a bit of a scary time on it. The next section was easy, so Vicent who was moving together for the first time got a chance to go in front a practise placing sling on spikes etc. When we settled down for some well earned lunch, we suddenly saw another team coming down the ridge un-roped. They had scrambled up the side of the ridge reached and a point they couldn't get up, but failed to find the spot were they had reached the ridge and had to go down all the way to retreat. They asked me about difficulty, but I didn't know what to tell them. When they saw we were roped up, they unpacked a rope themselves and continued moving down worriedly. I hope they are alright.

The next part of the ridge was spectacular. We did a few easy pitches belayed, and moved together the rest of the time. We finally came to rise on the ridge which we thought would lead to the summit. A slightly awkward climbing pitch seemed to match the description I had for the final crux pitch. I thought it was all over until I realised there just wasn't any descent belay at the top. What made matters worse was that the only dodge spike I could find was in a place where I couldn't get my body in a position to belay of my harness to take some weight of the belay. So I ended up belaying directly of a very dodgy spike. Vicent arrived stating: "This section would have been easy enough without pitching it!" "Funny you should mention this..." I answered and pointed out the belay.

We then had a surprise when reaching the next rise revealed 3 more false summits, before the real summit. It was getting late now, so we hurried up a bit more. On reaching the gap before the real summit we were stopped by a smooth wall. This was the real crux pitch and you turn it on left according my description. Vicent belayed and I followed some polish along a ledge. Although it was easy enough the exposure was breathtaking. I managed to place a sling on a spike and continued moving left. On turning the corner all I could see was a huge gap with an overhang crack staring above it. (I should have looked up and right to see a nice line of bolts leading to easy ground according to Vicent later.) I was getting seriously run-out now, but could not see any gear. A committing step out left me off-balance in a bridging position below the steep crack. Well, there was no other way than up now, as I could not reverse the move. A reach for my chalk bag proved fruitless, as I didn't have it with me on this "easy" route. So up I went getting seriously gripped and pumped. In went a poor wire and then I reached up for a big flake with my left hand. It didn't feel right, but I had to load it to reach up to another hold with my right. When I pulled hard the whole flake came off, sending a head size rock tumbling down. I just managed to stay on, but got really scared, when I then saw the only wire I had placed slide down the rope below me. Another steep pull got me to a good ledge where I placed a large friend with shaky hands. I stood there for at least 10 minutes, before scrambling up easy ground to find a belay. Vicent followed, swearing profoundly at my variation, which he named the "idiot finish". The last few weeks he had dedicated himself to seconding sport routes a bit harder than our usual 4+/5 and graded this pitch 6a, which would make it my hardest lead so far. It is certainly the scariest thing I have ever led. We proceeded up easy ground to the summit for some food and a fantastic sunset on the way down. We got back to car when it was well dark. Total time from car to car: 11 hours.

Regards,
Stefan

Photo link: http://www.telefonica.net/web2/sbeyer/benicadell/


Costa Blanca, Spain (Stefan Beyer / John Haslam) March 2005

----- Original Message -----
From: "Stefan Beyer"
Newsgroups: uk.rec.climbing
Sent: Tuesday, March 22, 2005 10:03 PM
Subject: TR: Costa Blanca March 2005

Joint report is on John H's page


----- Original Message -----
From: "Stefan Beyer"
Newsgroups: uk.rec.climbing
Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2005 7:22 PM
Subject: TR: Complacency (long, but so was the day)

Imagine the scene: a nice and sunny Sunday at a friendly sport climbing venue on the Costa Blanca. The temperature is around 20 degrees (T-shirt weather) and you are having a great time on some simple single pitch sport routes. The crag you are at is actually quite high and above the sport routes one can continue on impressive trad lines to the top. Since you never leave the house without trad gear (and in fact one or two kitchen sinks) you clip a few wires and friends to your harness take some slings and off you go, without much thinking.

This is exactly what happened to my climbing partner Vicent and me at Sierra de Toix last Sunday. Apart from the Rockfax guide book, I had a Spanish guide book with me, which suggested Espolon Limaban, a two-pitch grade 5 bolted route, followed by 3 trad pitches all the way to the top of the cliff. The route joins the run-out Amarilla (given the UK grade of E1 5a in the rock fax guide book) above the main difficulty, therefore reducing the grade to something around HS or MVS. Sounds great. A quick look at the descent: Rockfax said abseil off, but the Spanish book said: an easy walk off along the ridge. "Well, in this case one rope will do" is what I explained to Vicent who had never done any multi-pitch trad climbing.

So it came that reasons an inexperienced Spaniard and a short-sleeve wearing German set off to do 5 pitches they knew hardly anything about at 12:30 with a single rope and no head torch in the middle of winter. I led the first pitch, which was easy enough, but featured all sorts of rusty old gear. Then Vicent tried to lead the second sport pitch, a layback along massive hanging flake. He tried to reach the flake by climbing straight up the wall below, but just couldn't find the holds. After 20 minutes or so of trying I lowered him back to the stance. Okay, I was going to have a go now. Suddenly a rather run-out climber came in on tiny holds from the left and told that me his route and ours converged below the flake. Would I mind, if he went first, since he was not in a good position to rest. "No problem", I said, "It's your turn anyway, since we have already tried." This also had the advantage that I could watch him step on a block to reach the hanging flake from the right, instead of struggling up the steep wall. He brought up his second and then we waited until they had abbed off. All in all this cost us about 45 minutes waiting at the stance. I finally managed to get up the flake with a bit of aid and bring up Vicent. This was the end of the line of bolts and from now on it would all be trad. We decided to have a go at the next pitch. Checking the time didn't really occur to us.

I knew I had to get to the crest of the steep ridge up and left and I quickly found an easy enough line to the crest, where some faded tat indicated a belay. I backed up the tat with my own slings, just in case and brought up Vicent. This was the first time we actually looked at the watch: Shit. 4:45. About an hour of light left. What to do? Abbing off diagonally back to the last stance? "Hmm, not sure it will go with a single rope. Besides, I am sure I can do the remaining 2 pitches in less than an hour."

The next pitch was a bit more technical, but I still felt okay to move reasnably fast and not place gear every 2m. At the belay I found a single rusty peg, so I lost some time backing it up with an elaborate construction of equalised micro wires. Vicent came up beaming he really enjoyed himself. He wanted to have the belay explained, but I had to tell him, that we really had to move on now. I had already spotted the steep and exposed groove ahead, which didn't seem to be easy to protect and I was anxious to have a closer look. It turned out not to be too bad, but as suspected a bit run-out until a peg came to the rescue. The pitch was a long one. I used my prussiks as tat on a couple of threads and told Vicent to leave them behind to save time. After all, we were not going to abseil anyway. I ran out about 45m of rope before I finally reached a platform just below the top of the cliff. "Walking territory now." I thought. Suddenly the light went. A cloud had moved in front of the very low sun. I found a big ring bolt, probably an abseil station and brought up Vicent. He couldn't hear me, but finally reacted to rope signals. When he got to the top it was about 5:45 and I was well pleased with myself. We had managed to get to there on time. Now just an easy walk off the hill. Or was it?

Vicent clipped to the bolt and I walked to the top still tied in. "What the ... ?" There was no broad easy ridge that I had imagined but a narrow crest. I walked along it, until I got to another abseil point in a notch. Vicent followed. Now it was completely dark. I knew from the Rockfax guide that our rope wasn't long enough for any of the abseil points. So we had to continue. Vicent felt a bit insecure and preferred not to move unroped or to move together. I didn't feel too safe on an unknown ridge in the dark either, so we continued to pitch the ridge which was a bit of a knife edge in places. Not much harder than Grib Goch and during the day we would have both walked across it unroped without trouble. The rock seemed a bit loose and it was difficult to find the good bits in the dark. At this point I got really angry with myself. Where on earth was the head torch? At the foot of the route of course! After two slow and agonising pitches I got to a notch and placed two friends for a belay. When tying myself to the belay I struggled to find the right places to clip on to and do the knots. I realised that I was shaking from the cold and was very tired. We hadn't eaten since breakfast and carried no water. It was about 7:00 now.

The next bit would be a short narrow "au chaval" bit, followed by a rise to a summit. We could only hope that on the other side of the summit there would be the easy grass slope, we had imagined. When Vicent arrived at the belay, he said he was not going to move from this spot. At first I was pissed off, but than I realised he was right. The ridge was really no more than an easy scramble, but in our condition and in the dark it was too easy to get it wrong. We had two options: Spend the night there or phone for rescue. I had always thought I would bivvy, unless someone is injured, since I believe in being self-sufficient in the mountains, but we thought about what to do and the panic slowly began creeping up on us. The temperature had dropped significantly and I was stupidly just wearing a T-shirt. I was already shaking and it was likely to be around 0 degrees during the night, or just above. Furthermore, we were in an exposed spot close to the sea. The wind-chill was going to be significant. Would I be able to get myself off in the morning, after spending the night out in a T-shirt? Yes we could always take turns wearing Vicent's fleece, but would that be enough? So we decided to call 112 on the mobile. After a short explanation of the situation we were transferred to the Guardia Civil who, after a short lecture, over the phone transferred us the the local fire-fighters (they co-ordinate mountain rescue in the region). They were very helpful even over the phone and kept phoning us every 15min to see how we were and tell us what they were doing. First they tried to confirm we were really in the place we told them by asking us what we could see in either direction. "The Peņon de Ifach and Calpe in the north, the Mascarat Gorge (at least it was there before the light went) to the east and the lights of Altea and Benidorm to the South". At least I knew the local geography. They told us we had picked the spot with the best view and that they were on the way. About half an hour later we saw some blue lights on the road. They asked us over the phone, if could signal them somehow, so we used the flash of the camera to show them our position. Then we just had to wait. Vicent amazed me by asking, if wanted to go climbing next weekend!!!

After about 1.5 hours (and many updates on the phone) we saw 3 lights appearing on the summit in front of us. One of the team was lowered onto the crest and they proceeded to install a fixed rope as a handrail on the steep section that led down to the crest. Then the others followed. Suddenly we heard a noise of sliding rock and saw a light disappear behind a spike towards a gully. "Shit he's fallen! Was he clipped into the handrail?" The last thing I wanted was for a rescuer to get hurt because of my stupidity. But he didn't appear on the other side of the spike and in the gully, so his fall was stopped by something. After some frantic shouts and a lot of movement on the other sight of the crest, we learnt, that he was in fact clipped to the rope and wasn't hurt. Thanks god for that. The incident didn't exactly fill us with confidence, but about 15 minutes later a team member had been belayed across the crest and clipped me to a rope. Off I went across the rid, being belayed from the other side. I had to trail a rope for Vicent and clip it to the runners from which I unclipped my rope. After the initial exposed bit I felt more confident and realised that it was indeed walking territory. Quickly up the fixed rope and then I saw that from the summit it was indeed a gentle grassy slope down. I still felt cold, but at least the movement had stopped the shakes. I couldn't believe that such easy terrain had freaked us out that much! But things look different in the dark. Vicent followed and half an hour later we were being received by 2 fire engines, 2 police cars and a TV camera.

I doubt the coverage on the local news will be very positive, since I declined to give an interview in a rather impolite way. It was just the patronising attitude of the reporter that I didn't like. He had no idea what had just happened and probably never been near a mountain and insisted on giving us a lecture before requesting an interview. The mountain rescue team however was not judgemental at all. We discussed our mistakes with them and they said, this happens quite frequently there.

On the 2 hour drive back to Valencia (which involved coffee stops to keep the driver awake) we discussed our mistakes. What did we do wrong?
The following are my observations:

1.Vicent didn't do much wrong, since we both knew he didn't have much experience and it was clear from the beginning that I was going to have to take the responsibility on the climb.
2.The biggest mistake was not taking a torch. We would have been off in half an hour with a torch.
3.I should have taken a jacket.

So why did I set off on a 5 pitch route so late in the day without a torch and a jacket? Normally, I take full on polar kit and a torch on a 2 pitch sport route in August (okay a bit exagerated). I simply got complcacent! The friendly sport climbing atmosphere of the lower crag had lulled me into a false sense of security.

Another point to take away from this: Next time I will use double ropes on multi-pitch trad. Oh, and if the excellent Rockfax guide doesn't mention a walking descent, there probably isn't an easy way off. I shall avoid trusting that Spanish book again.

Was calling mountain rescue the right thing to do or a waste of their time? We discussed this in a bar the day after and concluded we did the right thing. We were both psychologiacally and physically not able to continue safely.

Stefan (who is not looking forward to the climbing club meeting on Thursday, after having featured in the local newspaper yesterday)


----- Original Message -----
From: "Stefan Beyer"
Newsgroups: uk.rec.climbing
Sent: Tuesday, July 13, 2004 2:59 PM
Subject: TR: A rest day in the alps

Having just completed a Conville Alpine course in Chamonix (which was excellent by the way) and having then spent a few days walking with my girlfriend, I was all set for 4 days of more Alpine climbing.

However, the weather turned bad and I ended up rock climbing in the valley. The following is a description of the type of mini-epic that happens, when one tries to do just one more easy bolt-protected route before going home:

On my last day in the valley, the weather looked rather bad, but it wasn't supposed to rain until lunch time. And I had a score to settle: The day before, I had tried to do a nice 5 pitch route at Vallorcine, which at French 4c seemed well doable for my partner and me. However, my climbing partner had travelled to the Alps without rock boots and climbing in big boots proved a bit too much on that route, so we abseiled of after 3 pitches.

Determined to go back and finish what looked like a fantastic route, I agreed to hitch back to Vallorcine with a girl from New Zealand, with whom I had climbed at La Joux two days before. We got there later than we had hoped at around 12:00 (That's when the thunder storms where supposed to arrive) and set of swiftly (swapping leads) on the first two short pitches. Graded 3 they these two pitches give a good warm up.

The next pitch is a well bolted 20m layback corner with a good rest every 5m (4b). It's probably the nicest pitch I have climbed in a long time. As with all laybacks, one has to keep moving until the next rest is reached. The position and view (you are almost facing out toward the mountains) is spectacular. That was highest point we reached the day before. The next pitch (4c) is the crux.

Here is a description of what I think is the way to climb it properly. The pitch consists of climbing up a crack to a big ledge below an overhang, then going around the overhang into another layback corner. The layback crack gets thinner and thinner until oyou are forced to traverse out onto steep slab. The hardest move is getting onto the slab.

There is a crack with good holds on the slab which gets just about close enough to step into where the layback crack starts to disappear. It's a move that is easier with long legs.

Still at the stance my climbing partner tells me she wouldn't mind lead the first part of the pitch up to below the overhang, but didn't fancy the harder looking part above. I had spotted a ring above the ledge below the overhang, so there seemed to be a stance (There are many routes on the face, which cross each other, so there are plenty of stances which seem not to make too much sense on a particular route). Since it was her lead and it seemed trivial to split the pitch, she set off to lead the first 5m. She got to the stance only to report that the ring was more like a large old peg, which seemed to move quite a bit, nothing else in situ.

Now we had a problem, because my climbing partner didn't want to finish the pitch and didn't want to lower off the funny lose peg. After some discussion it was decided that she was to tie to the ring, sit down on the ledge, push her feet as hard as possible into the ledge and give me a tight rope. I carried some trad gear (two small cams and four wires), because I was told some of the older routes were poorly equipped and a bit run out (which proved true a few minutes later). Once I reached the stance I clipped to the poor peg, which was quite high above the ledge and had to hang on it for bit to sort out a back up belay above it.

After much fussing about during which it started to rain, I managed to equalise the peg, a wire and a cam with a long sling for a decent belay.

By then it was getting wetter and wetter and it was time to get a move on. We could hear thunder in the distance, and knew the descent route consisted of metal ladders.

Just as I was about to set off around the overhang, I heard a "wush" followed by a thud on my helmet, followed by a shout "corde" form above. Yes, in that order! My Kiwi climbing partner who was rather tense at this stage, because she still didn't like the belay, erupted in a stream of unrepeatable swear words which the French abseiler chose to ignore. Instead he abseiled right over us, getting the ropes into a right tangle.

All that sorted out I had the now suitably wet crux sequence to look forward to. I laybacked up the crack and tried to spot the place, where I cut traverse onto the slab. The next bolt seemed curiously absent. I realised I could not get any higher and had to step out onto the slab, but the line of good holds seemed just out of reach. I knew I had to use a small lichen covered sloping foothold for a quick half-way step, before getting onto the good holds. This seemed a committing move at the best of times for me, but in these wet conditions I just couldn't get myself to trust my feet at all. A quick glance down confirmed that I was bout 3m above the last bolt and that I was looking at hitting the slab 6m down. Then I remembered that I still had a small cam, and that I had just come up crack which was getting to small for my fingers. Surely there must be placement somewhere. After much fiddling I managed to reach down and put the cam in at knee level. Now I just had to force myself to do the move. I stepped onto the slippy hold and things seemed fine. Just as I was thinking that it was all easier than it looked, I slipped and found myself hanging of that cam. I had previously failed to trust cams, but I have to admit that they hold well in granite crags. It's somehow ironic that my first proper fall onto trad gear occurred on a sport route.

Hanging on that cam, it was just a matter of swinging over to the line of good holds and climb up to the next bolt, which was now quite high above me, because I was somewhat lower than the intended traverse line. However the climbing was easy now and I put a wire in just in case. Having clipped the bold I lowered back down to take the wire out, so that my second could try to follow the proper line, without repeating my little pendulum. The belay was reached without further problem and my climbing partner made the sequence I had just failed on look embarrassingly easy (Remember it's a traverse, so not necessarily less intimidating for the second).

The final pitch was 4c again in the guide book, but seemed much less serious than the previous pitch. When we got to the top the thunder was pretty close and we quickly hurried down the ladders for some lunch in the forest.

The lessons learnt: Take every low-level "rest day" as serious as an alpine excursion and always carry a small rack on alpine sport crags.

Stefan


----- Original Message -----
From: "Stefan Beyer"
Newsgroups: uk.rec.climbing
Sent: Saturday, April 24, 2004 9:55 PM
Subject: TR: Low grade bolt-clipping

Last weekend, whilst holidaying in Valencia (Spain), I drove down to the Costa Blanca for my my first bolt-clipping experience. I arrived Friday night at my accommodation (The Orange House in Finestrat) in the hope of finding a climbing partner for the weekend. I was immediately introduced to Harry a climber from London who was staying there to do some building work. Harry had to work Saturday, but we arranged to get out in the evening and spend Sunday climbing as well.

I thought I should take it easy during the day and went for a walk up the Puig Campana, the local hill, which I underestimated. I strolled up with a book under my arm with the intention to read it on the summit, only to find myself struggling 3 hours up a punishing scree slope. Turns out "that local hill" is higher than Ben Nevis. I just made it back in time for 4 o'clock to head out with Harry. We drove the short distance to Sella, were we went straight for the beginner's section and did some easy grade 3s and 4s. It turned out that Harry is a southern sandstone specialist and spends a lot of time on a top-rope. Although being the technically better climber, his lead grade seemed to match mine. The highlight of this evening was to watch a domestic unfold on an adjacent route, when a Andalusian climber introduced his girlfriend to climbing. He had neglected to tell her what to do when she got to the top of the route.

We were also expecting to meet a group of 4 British Army instructors with their charge of 8 soldiers who were staying at The Orange House for a tax payer funded climbing course. We found out later that on their first route on that day (their first day), one of the instructors had set off to lead a grade 3 to set up a top rope for the beginners and fell from just below the third bolt and broke an ankle. He ended up in Benidorm hospital.

Our plan to set off early next morning was foiled by the fantastic honesty bar at The Orange House and the fact that not many Spanish shops are open to sell lunch on Sunday mornings. We arrived at Toix West (our the chosen crag for the day) to find the Army had set up top ropes on all the easy climbs. At first this annoyed me, until the person in charge suggested we could just pull which ever rope we wanted and use it to lead the route on. With no ropes to coil, uncoil and carry from route to route, we made fast progress and had quickly led 5 routes each (all grade 3 to 4+). I was getting really into the spirit of the bolt clipping and was soon much more confident about my leading than usual.

When the Army collectively took their T-shirt off and tried to impress 2 English girls that had arrived by top-roping a tough grade 3, we decided to go off to do a multi-pitch route on the higher part of the crag.

We settled for Renov, a fully bolted 3 star route with two longish pitches, the first one being graded 4+ and second one 5. Harry asked me to lead the second pitch, since he felt not very confident leading grade 5 (neither did I, but the relative safety of the bolts made me go for a try).

The route wanders a bit and we could not see the second pitch. When we were about to get going some ropes came flying down and a French pair came abseiling down in a very worrying fashion. They had made a real mess of the ropes and untangling them took half an hour. They hadn't backed up their abseils and couldn't watch as the first guy down jumped up and down on the ropes to free them from a tree and various flakes.

It was getting a bit late by now, as I was supposed to meet my girl friend back at The Orange House for the drive home. When they finally got down, the French pair warned us bout loose rock, but insisted we should get going before they pulled their ropes. Very strange! We preferred to wait.

Finally, Harry got going and initially joked about the large number of bolts on the initial slab. The distance between the bolts increased when he entered a steep grove and I soon heard him shout "Take in!". After what seemed like a very long time he made it to the belay and I soon found out what the fuss was about. The groove was awkward and I struggled seconding it. Harry had done extremely well getting up it at all. The pitch was much harder than the other 4+'s we had done earlier.

By that time I was getting late for my pick up, but thought I could just phone when we would get down in a few minutes. Then I led off to do my pitch. I wouldn't describe the climbing as difficult, but as extremely awkward and painful I had to stick my fingers in the sharpest crack I have ever seen. I was bleeding all over it. Apart from this the position was very exposed and a bit too run-out for my taste. I wouldn't have been able to let go with anything to clip a bolt on the crux anyway. This was the only time that day I got really scared, but the only way out was to go on. When I finally reached the belay I made myself safe by clipping to one anker and spent a few minutes to calm myself before setting up the full belay to bring up Harry. After all, this was the first multi-pitch climb, in which I was the one responsible for these things, and I needed a clean head to get all the equalising of ankers right. It wasn't exactly like wrapping the rope around a big boulder at the top of Stanage.

When Harry got to the top, we proceeded quickly to set up the abseil for the descent. I am a bit scared of abseiling and wanted to go first, so that Harry could watch my set-up. Because the route wanders, the abseil to the first belay had to be diagonal and I quickly realised, that like the French, we had made a mess of the ropes. I had to do a scary pendulum to get to a tree to free the ropes from it. I needed one arm to hold on to the tree, not to swing back, and the other one to free the ropes. Hanging on my backup prussik was scary to say the least. The second abseil was straight down and I was soon in for a bollocking for being one hour and a half late for meeting my girlfriend who was understandably worried. A nice seafood dinner in Calpe afterwards and things were back to normal and I was on my way back to Valencia.

So this was a report from a first sport climbing experience from a beginner's perspective. I am sure I will be back for more.

Many thanks to John H. for suggesting the venues.

BTW: This is the view from the belay:

http://www.cs.man.ac.uk/~beyers8/climbing/belay_view.jpg

Stefan


Windgather (Kinder area, Western Grit), Stefan Beyer, October 2003

----- Original Message ----- From: "Stefan Beyer"
Newsgroups: uk.rec.climbing
Sent: Sunday, October 05, 2003 9:25 PM
Subject: (TR) Frost bite at Windgather

This is my first attempt at a trip report, so please be patient. It will probably be boring for most of you, since I am a beginner climber doing low grade stuff. Pete and I met up at Windgather yesterday for a few easy climbs to push my previously started leading activity into the severe grade.

When I got there at 11.00 it was freezing, but sunny. I had some time to orientate myself, before Pete turned up, so I set out to walk along the crag to identify some climbs I had my eye on. Mississippi crack came highly recommended by Steve P, but when I got there, there was a whole group of university freshers hanging of top ropes. I saw more top ropes being set up to the right, so I quickly established myself near High Buttress Arete (Diff), the other classic according to Rockfax.

A bearded guy, who seemed responsible for the university club strolled over for a chat and explained they would try to keep everyone calm and under control and not get in the way. I thought this was quite nice and they certainly did not disturb at all.

When Pete came I set out to lead High Buttress Arete, which turned out easy (as expected at the grade), but extremely pleasant. The exposure is quite impressive considering the route is only 12m long. Pete did not seem to trust my skills in selecting anchors, so he came up to help me set up the belay. This was useful, since my belay would have been safe, but Pete showed me how to equalise the anchors better.

Pete then seconded with ease and it was his lead. He felt in a mood for slabs, so he led Centre (HVD 3c), which had almost no gear until he almost got to the top. I followed him up and we set out towards Mississippi Crack, where there was still a top rope in place. The nice bearded guy however pulled it up, so that I could have a go at leading it.

There was some confusion the day before, when Steve P had said Mississippi Crack (his guide book lists it without the Crack bit in the name) would be a good first severe lead for me, since it used to be VDiff and only got upgraded recently. My Western Grit book however suggests S 4a and says it is hard for the grade. Our best guess is, they changed the grade, but not the description. Anyway, since Tony had taught me not to be too worried about grades and the climb looked rather nice, I had a go at leading it.

I climbed up to the bulge and there, just for a moment, my confidence dropped. However, after placing two bits of bomber gear on the bulge, I had a go and was pleasantly surprised that the holds were all there. Once above the bulge it was easy until I hit another, smaller bulge, which was not going to stop me at this stage. Bomber gear gave me confidence and I soon reached the top. Pete followed with ease and the look on his face suggested he really liked that route. I don't know, if the route is high in the grade at severe, an easy severe or a hard VDiff, but the route is just a classic. All the barriers on it certainly seem to be psychological.

Then it was Pete's lead and he still felt a bit slabby, so we went back to the scene of is other lead and he led Leg Stump (Diff), which was easy but sparse in gear again. I got told off by a woman on the route next to us while seconding, because she said it was bad for her confidence, if people climbed faster than her. She was wearing trainers and her partner introduced her to rock climbing on the coldest day of the year. He was in for quite a bollocking, which was one of the highlights of the day.

Next, I thought I should try another severe to get some more leading confidence, so I picked Side Face (S 4a), which is described as a "set of unhelpful shelving holds" in the guide book. I looked at it and dismissed the guide book's description and had a go. The only problem was, that it had started to rain a bit and I might have been a bit overconfident considering the conditions. I set off well and managed to place one of the small cams I borrowed from Pete. With only that between me and the floor I was slowly getting worried about the next gear placement, as nothing much materialised. Suddenly, and without warning, both feet just went from under me and I almost tested the cam. I just about managed to hold on to a good handhold and got back into balance. I moved up a foot and found the perfect gear placement. I picked my krab with all the rocks between size 6 to 10 on and slid the right one into place first try.

I was really pleased with myself for holding it all together until I tried to clip the krab with the rocks back to my harness and dropped it down the crag. Dooohh. Not only could I have hit Pete, which I fortunately didn't, but I also made a beginner's mistake I was sure I would never make. On a mountain route this could have been serious. The rest of the climb was easy, but all the gear I needed was on the krab, that lay at the bottom of the crag. Duncan will be pleased to hear that his words about "eggs in the same basked" sprang to my mind, and that I shall rack my gear differently in future. I started to set up a belay at the top, but Pete got impatient and soloed up the arete on the left of the route from which he could reach the gear. This later turned out to be First's Arete (VDiff), certainly a good solo considering the wet conditions at this time.

Pete didn't fancy another lead and I had a quick look at Right Triplet Crack (S 4a), which features the probably best protected and smallest roof on the planet. Since it's not often you can do that type of stuff in the lower grades, I quite fancied the climb, but decided against it, when we realised how wet the holds were. The route will be there another day.

So we packed up and called it a day. Overall a very pleasant day at a superb location for my current level. This probably sounds easy stuff for most of you, but I am certainly pleased to push my lead grade up a bit.

Stefan Beyer
--
beyer@cs.man.ac.uk
http://www.cs.man.ac.uk/~beyers8/

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