Yeap, the weather still is completely mad! It can't make up it's mind whether it should sunshine or just rain all day. Instead it has decided to have big, heavy downpours that last a few minutes, followed by lovely, warm sunshine. Fortunately it hasn't disrupted today's climbing too much. I've spent the day climbing with a regular client, who is now leading climbs that are graded Hard Very Severe (HVS). This is the second weekend in a row that we've climbed together. Last weekend we climbed on the lovely granite of Dartmoor. On the Saturday we chose to climb at The Dewerstone, which is a big crag (for Dartmoor). There are many fabulous climbs here, including a route that is in the book, Classic Rock. Although there aren't many climbs above E2, the setting alone is enough to inspire even the most jaded 'hardman', and the start of the climb "Climber's Club Direct" will certainly give most modern sports climbers a hard time.
The next day, we headed out to Hay Tor, perhaps the most visited crag on the moor - not just by climbers, as those who seek an audience while climbing will not be disappointed here. As a major attraction, bus loads of tourists stream their way up from the carpark, to make ascents of both the main tor and Low Man via steps that have been cut into the granite a couple of hundred years ago, and are now polished to a high sheen by millions of feet. There was a cold wind blowing, but it was possible to find shelter by hiding on part of the crag that was in the lee of the wind. Six more climbs here, and our tally for the weekend was up to 10 routes!
With colder winds and rain forecast, on the monday, we took a gamble and headed to Torquay and coastal limestone. Probably best known for the hard sports climbing at Anstey's Cove, Torquay also offers great climbing at lower grades, in quarries and sea cliffs, including the awe-inspiring cave at Berry Head. With a mild climate, and being south-facing, it makes for a great winter climbing venue. It was here that I took a big fall, some 20 years ago, from a climb called Crinoid. I had managed to wobble my way up to, and then beyond, twin pegs, before being spat off on the crux moves, and ended up upside down, just two feet from the ground. Keen to put this beast to rest, I tied in and went for it. It involved lots of technical footwork on a steep slab with loooonnnnggg runouts above protection. A couple of times I thought I had blown it, but managed to keep myself together and make it to the top. A check of the latest guidebook revealed that the climb has been 'upgraded' from E1 to E2 (that means its harder)! Let's just say I was very chuffed, as was my client, whose climbing skills had come on leaps and bounds and had culminated with a perfect 'on-sight' lead of a climb called 'Liaison with Lenin', which is graded HVS , and is a really good climb for someone to lead, when making the jump from Very Severe (VS), as the protection is excellent and easy to place.
Ok, it seems like I've been neglecting the wonderful seacliffs of Cornwall....well, nothing could be further from the truth. I've been climbing down on the Lizard quite a bit recently. This is partially due to helping a friend, who is currently writing a new guidebook to the area. The new book should be available next year, but at the moment, we have been checking climbs and climbing new ones too! I've also been there with friends from my time in the RAF. It's been a great way to catch up, even though the last time we climbed together was back in 1999!!!
And it's not just climbing on The Lizard, I've also been down in Penwith at Chair Ladder, Carn Barra and other cliffs - both for work and for pleasure. I've been drafted in to help with a new guidebook for the area, so I've been checking lots of routes, mostly those climbs that people don't do because they concentrate on climbing the 'classics' or '3 star' routes. Well, all I can say is that they are missing out!
Well, thats it. I think I have caught up with everything, apart from today's escapades up near Bristol (climbing at Portishead Quarry and Suspension Bridge Buttress, Avon Gorge), but I'm sure I will post something again soon. Off to the Wye Valley tomorrow. Hope the weather holds out.