Breakthrough (Wye Valley day 5)

Day five of the Wye Valley trip with Kev. We settled on going back to Symonds Yat as the walk-in was short and there were plenty of quality routes to climb without getting lost or having to scramble around in the undergrowth. I was feeling very confident about trying another E2 climb, as my fingers and elbows were holding up well.

Never Trust a Smiling Cat E2 5c

I decided to warm up on Never Trust a Smiling Cat E2 5c as it was the direct finish to an easier VS route called The Druid.  The VS graded part of the climb goes up fractured rock to the right of Golden Fleece HS 4b, and was really easy.  I felt confident moving into the E2 section, and just about did the first half of the crux, a sequence of moves using ridiculously small crimpy holds some way above gear. I got to a resting place and couldn’t figure out where to go, so instead I escaped right to the arête to abseil off. As soon as I stepped onto a ledge to abseil down I saw the crucial hold that I had missed. Sigh.

I was disappointed in myself for letting the difficulty of the climbing get to my head and making me bail off the route. Realistically though I hadn’t in the safest position and would have gotten seriously hurt if I had fallen off at my high point. The route was also graded E2 5c, a level of difficulty I hadn’t tried before. The route will be a good challenge for my next visit.

Approaching the hard section of Never Trust a Smiling Cat E2 5c

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Wintours Leap Adventures (Wye Valley day 4)

After my failed attempt at having an ‘easy’ day yesterday, Kev and I headed to Wintours Leap; the biggest crag in the area, with routes up to 90m high. Having had a good look through the guidebook the night before, there were several E1 climbs that I was interested in. The problem was that they started on Main Ledge, some way off the ground, so I had to find a way of getting Kev up there so he could belay.

Left Hand Route HS 4b

With this in mind we had a look at Left Hand Route HS 4b, a two pitch route going up the left side of the crag. Left Hand Route can also be used to access a large ledge at the bottom of North Wall, and the beginning of the classic E1 Notung, one of the routes on my list. While we were sorting out our kit at the base of the climb I looked over at some other climbers  and instantly recognized Tony Penning, the hard as nails climbing instructor who had taught me the basics of trad climbing a few years ago. It’s a small world.

The first pitch of Left Hand Route  was fairly easy except for a few tough moves under an overhang. For a 4b graded section it was a bit of a sandbag (a climb that gets a lower grade than it deserves) so I was worried Kev would have a hard time following me. I quickly made it up to the piton belay and Kev started climbing up after me. He got to the overhang, but couldn’t do the vital move to get around it and continue up the easy ledges above. After a lot of shouting back and forth (it was hard to hear each other) I lowered him off and then managed to find a way to abseil down and retrieve the gear.

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The crux of Left Hand Route HS 4b – tricky moves lead left over the protruding block and loop back above the overhang

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Sandbags and Aliens (Wye Valley day 3)

Day three of the Wye Valley trip.

It had rained a little in the night so this was the perfect opportunity to drop a few grades and climb some easier routes. Kev and I headed to Wynd Cliff for the first time to scope out some of the two and three star classic routes.

The walk-in to the crag could easily have been from a Jurassic Park set. Everything was covered in moss and bright sunlight filtered through the branches of the gnarled trees. To our dismay the camera had decided to take photos of the inside of Kev’s bag until it had run out of battery, so no pictures for us. Typical.

The directions in the Climbers Club guidebook were, for once, remarkably accurate and we got ourselves to the base of the left-hand wall of the crag quickly. Fibre VS 4c seemed like an obvious choice for a warm-up. Continue reading

The Shorncliff experience (Wye Valley day 2)

Day two of the Wye valley trip. Today Kev and I headed to Shorncliff, the best crag in the valley for mid-grade (HVS to E2) climbing. For me, used to walking from my car to the gym, the approach was brutal, around 40 minutes of uphill slog with lots of mud.  The crag itself is a long line of unquarried limestone walls up to 30 metres high hidden in the forest.

After a forced march up the hill I turned to check on Kev to find him looking as though he was on the verge of having some kind of serious cardiac event. Whoops. Kind of easy to forget he’s over sixty with a giant backpack to boot.

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‘Kev are you okay? Speak to me!’

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Return to Symonds Yat (Wye Valley day 1)

Today was the first day of my April climbing trip with Kev. Six days in the Wye Valley with a cosy bunkhouse to ourselves and brilliant weather guaranteed for the week.

I’ve been struggling on and off all winter with tendonitis in both my elbows so this was my first chance to see if the limited amount of training I had managed would pay off. Rehab was an on-going battle with pain management and trying to listen to my body. I had really moved up a gear on the recovery front recently and my elbows were feeling pretty good in the weeks leading up to the trip though, as I discovered over the winter, that could change in a heartbeat.

On my previous visit to Symonds Yat a year ago I had climbed one of the classic climbs at the crag, The Russian HVS 5a, as a warm-up, completely unaware that it had acquired a reputation over the years as a route that is serious and deserving of no small amount of respect. I had nearly contributed to its tally of victims when I found myself facing a ground fall with only a green dragon cam to stop me.

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