05/11/2009 – 08/11/2009
Written by: David
Attendees: Tony, Martin, Patrick, Barry H, DK, Lucy and Brendan.
The alarm went off at 1.30 on Thursday morning. Whose idea was it to book such an early flight!!!
Quarter past two found me at Martin’s to pick up him and Barry before a short hop to Patrick’s to complete the car load. Thankfully the old Saab had a large enough boot to accommodate Patrick’s colossal suitcase.
An uneventful drive gave us access to Gatwick Airport at around four-thirty. Tony, having already arrived met us in the departure lounge for breakfast.
After a cramped but smooth flight, a slightly protracted car hire procedure and 45 minutes drive we arrived at the villa we would be staying at for the next four days. I have to say it rates as the best meet accommodation I have ever used on a club meet. Consisting of four bedrooms, all ensuite, a comfortable lounge and for Martin a well equipped kitchen it seemed a far cry from the Arkless’s bunkhouse in North Wales of the early 80’s.
After a quick cuppa and a bite to eat it was off to Pena Rubia a crag only 10 minutes away. This crag has a reputation for being polished and whilst not being up to the standard of some routes in the Avon Gorge and I have to admit it was not the nicest rock to climb on. That said we all climbed a couple of routes graded F5+ before the sun disappeared and it started to get cold.
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology Lucy and Brendan arrived at the accommodation which is miles from anywhere at around mid-night.
With a forecast of it being quite breezy we decided a good venue would be Marin which offered sheltered climbing at a reasonable grade and was only about 15 miles away.
Our choice of crag was vindicated as once on it’s south face we out of the very strong wind experienced at the car park.
Tony in his imitable fashion boisterously leapt onto the first 2** route we came to. While he, Barry and Patrick set up camp the rest of us moved along the crag to find some single pitch routes that were more suitable for the group.
With us in charge of lunch it wasn’t long before the others joined us climbing several pleasant grade F5+ routes. With Martin climbing comfortably he decided that we should up the grade a bit so he and I finished the day on Paranoia a strenuous F6a.
Having a good kitchen and Martin on a meet means you always eat well and this Spanish trip was no exception. That along with Patrick selecting the wine ensured a convivial evening.
Saturday was again sunny and hot and as we were new to this area of the Costa Blanca we decided to look at another new crag. Magdelena was said to have a collection of low grade slab climbs, mainly 5/5a+. This turned out to be a very arid area only 30 minutes drive from the villa. The climbs were fairly short but for most of the day we had the crag to ourselves which provided us with a relaxed day. This day was hot requiring taking on plenty of fluids and for some of us lots of sun cream.
It was towards the end of the day that Tony noticed a nearby column of rock. Closer inspection revealed a line of bolts up it. That was enough for him, it had to be climbed. I think most of Southern Spain heard his enthusiastic yell as he topped out.
After three days climbing some of us thought that a short day would do, so after dropping hard men Martin and Tony at Pena Rubia we went off to Biar sightseeing and acquiring postcards. The town is very picturesque with a fine looking 12th century Moorish castle at its hub. There are also several nice bars and restaurants.
When we arrived back at the crag we were greeted by Tony’s distressed pleas for help as he attempted to second the difficult and under graded El vuelo del Mono F5+.
By now the sun had gone the wind increased and by Spanish standards it was jolly cold. Patrick and I quickly did a couple of routes while Brendan and Lucy did another. It was then back to the accommodation get something to eat and head off to the airport for our 10 o’clock flight back to the UK.
A very successful meet and one that could well figure in next year’s calendar.
Thanks to Martin for organising it.
29/09/2009 – 29/09/2009
Written by: David
Attendees: David, Lucy, Brendan, Rob and Martin
We all met at 8am at Martin’s house with the luxury of the sun shinning. David volunteered to drive as we could fit 5 people in his car.
With the experience within the group Blacknor South would have been the best venue and best place to go BUT due to the tide times we had to settle for Cheyne Weares (it took 2.5 hours to get there due to everyone making the most of the good weather).
Access to Cheyne Weares is an easy walk down to the bottom by the sea and boulder hopping along to the bottom of the crag, some having more difficulty than others.
David led Wave Warrior 4+ with Rob, whilst Martin explained to Lucy and Brendan, what they need to do at the top before they lower off if they led the route, he demonstrated on Jasper 4+. Other routes climbed during they day were Tombstone 3+, Ben 5, Valeries Patio 3, Jody Sunshine 4+ and Sidewinder 6a.
Another boulder hop took us back to the car and a visit to the café at Easton for a cup of tea. Refreshed we then visited The Cuttings just to show the others who had not visited here before the routes with easier well polished climbs.
27/06/2009 – 05/07/2009
Written by: David Knight
Having last year been alpine virgins Martin and I were keen to return this year to gain more experience. With none of the club alpinists other than Barry Hewett unfortunately injured showing any interest in going and a casual conversation on the way back from a days climbing at Swanage with Martin, revealed that both of us had been independently investigating going to the Alps. Within a few days accommodation, which was excellent (swimming pool and sauna), was secured and flights booked for the pair of us and respective wives.
Owing to the final British Lions game being on the Saturday of departure Frances and I decided to travel a day later.
Sunday found Martin exploring routes around the Aiguilles Crochues and visiting the Lac Blanc. Frances and I arrived by the Chamonix Express from Geneva Airport at mid-day, settled in to the accommodation before catching the free bus up the valley to boulder at Le Col des Montets.
On Monday Martin, who had bought a multi lift pass visited the Aiguille de Midi to check out the Cosmique Arete. As part of my acclimatisation I took Frances up to the Flegere lift station with the idea of walking to the Lac Blanc unfortunately it seemed that the altitude affected her so we quickly headed back down to Chamonix.
Wanting to get a measure of the gradings in the valley Martin and I went up the valley to the little village of La Joux where outside of which are three little crags. Choosing the most accessible one we climbed a couple of pleasant routes graded F5+ and one F6.
Tuesday’s forecast was not great with rain later in the afternoon and this in mind we caught the 10am cable car to the Flegere with the plan of doing a route on a buttress to the right of Le Index. A sign of what was to come was shown when the returning car spewed out a mass of climbers and by the time we reached the lower tree line rain was already spattering the windows. By the time we reached the Flegere it was pouring. Having paid for a ticket up to the Index and needing to get some altitude acclimatisation we endured a very wet chair lift ride to the upper station. Visibility was down to about 10metres so not being familiar with the area we slowly inched our way in the direction of the crag. Fortunately after about 45 minutes the gloom cleared and we found that we were just below the climb we had planned to do. Also the sun appeared quickly drying the rock. A closer look at the guide confirmed that we could abseil off if the weather turned again and with this knowledge we set off up a route called Mani Puliti graded Difficile. Leading alternate pitches we reached large grassy ledge. I looked up at the third pitch while Martin prepared to abseil back down as the hailstones started to fall. By the time we got done the rock was soaked again. With the visibility quite good we decided that we had just enough time to investigate the start of the SSE Arete of the Chapelle de la Gliere. With time running out before the last chair lift down a cursory glance of the start was all we got before we had to rush back, where, just as we arrived at the lift the heavens opened resulting in a very uncomfortable ride down.
In the knowledge that the rain the day/night before would have left fresh snow on the higher routes and me being weary Wednesday was to be a lazy day with a bit of roadside cragging late in the afternoon. For this we went to an area called Les Gaillands which is on the outskirts of Chamonix. There are eight crags varying in height from 10 to 70 metres offering single and multi pitch climbs graded from 2c to 7a (French). The crag we selected was about 30m from the car park (heaven) where we climbed four single pitch routes graded from 4c to 5c+.
Knowing that the forecast for Thursday was good we opted for the mixed snow, rock and ice route of Petite Aiguille Verte graded PD. Remembering that having climbed TD on rock I thought this would be easy. How wrong could I have been? Crossing the moderately sloping glacier for me was jolly scary, I even placed a couple of ice screws to help me feel more safe. My confidence was not helped with several teams backing off the route because of the amount of ice on it. As it turned out the section where they backed off was not too bad. From here it was onto the rock much of which was coated with fresh snow. Having taken a lot longer than the guidebook time of 2½ hours to reach the summit the cloud had pulled in lowering the visibility it was not time to hang about. In order to speed up a slow decent Martin set up an ab rope which deposited us back on to the snow. From here it was only a short step down to the traverse across the snow. By this time the cloud had dropped right down and the wind picked up the result of which was to start obliterating the route back. Fortunately the visibility occasionally improved sufficiently to catch glimpses of the cable car station enabling us to get back with plenty of time to catch the penultimate car back down. So much for the book time of three hours; including a short time on the summit we took at least six!! I was shattered.
Friday was to be an easy day for me and one without snow and ice. So after a relaxed breakfast we headed off to the Brevent gondola station. Once up at the top it was a twenty minute walk down to the start of a seven pitch route La Somone which is graded AD+ which was our planned route. After about 5 minutes we found ourselves at Brevent Slabs. We were so impressed how good the rock was and that below us was shrouded in cloud and looked most unappetising we quickly selected a route called ‘Le quatrieme tiers’ graded 5a. As we finished this route the cloud cleared so we continued our way down to the start of La Somone. Whilst a pleasant enough route it was fairly easy and if you take in the top two pitches a bit fractured. With still some time to spare before the last car down we went back down to the slabs where Martin led a really nice route called ‘Reve de cornichon’ graded 5b.
The late evening flights out of Geneva allowed us the opportunity to visit some other roadside climbing venues. After vacating the apartment our first stop was the bouldering area up at the top of the valley where in warm sunshine we padded around on the large ‘Le Transat’ block completing a number of problems graded from 4c – 5c. From here we headed off towards the airport with the idea of stopping at Le Fayet for a picnic in the park where lo and behold there is another group of crags. Choosing the lower one adjacent to a convenient grassy area we snacked and climbed several of the slabby routes graded between 5a and 5c.
From here it was a short drive through rural French countryside to the airport for the flight home. All in all a brilliant week.
Conclusions: A week is not long enough, Martin and I are looking at two weeks next year.
Flying can allow you to climbing on both days of travel.
The free bus service which starts running at 7.00am allow you to get to most of the lift stations fairly early and any other parts of the valley probably negating the need for a car.
For the non-alpinist there is a lot of rock climbing much of it at valley level.
24/04/2009 – 26/04/2009
Written by: David Knight
Attendees: Barry V, Ian Mc, Ian T, Simon, Neil N, Tony, Martin, Frances and David
We all met on Friday evening at Bushy Heath Farm, a new venue for the club and comprising a camp site and a well equipped new bunkhouse that sleeps eight.
With a range of capabilities it was decided that Froggatt Edge offered routes to suit all.
To accommodate beginners Martin and I climbed with Simon, Tony paired up with Neil while the very experienced Barry and Ian T climbed together. This left Frances and Ian Mac to go walking above Ladybower Reservoir onto Derwent Edge.
With each team warming up on the comfortable Sunset Slab (HS) things were looking good. Martin led a couple of VSs before finishing off on the excellent Chequers Buttress (HVS). I managed a couple of Hard Severes and a VS all of which Simon muscled his way up. Tony continued his improving by leading the same routes while Barry and Ian took turns in leading some slightly lower grade old favourites. A bonus with the bunkhouse, was the facility to order in a curry, plus beers which provided a satisfying conclusion to a good day.
With some of us looking for an early departure from the Peaks the popular end of Stanage ensured quick access and egress. Whilst Barry and Ian continued climbing together the rest of us mixed and matched with Neil leading his first outdoor route, Martin leading Tony up the fine Lancashire Wall (HVS) and me testing Simon on Heather Wall. At around mid-day the walkers arrived after traversing the edge and Frances and I headed home leaving the others to grab another route before following suit.
22/02/2009 – 28/02/2009
Written by: Patrick Manuel
Attendees: Martin Lennon, Berry Hewett and Patrick Manuel
Martin and Barry picked me up from Lancaster services and after cramming my contribution to the excess baggage into Martin’s car we headed north, leaving my wife to head south (by way of explanation for the apparently strange meeting place, I had been visiting No 2 sprog who is incarcerated at Lancaster Uni). The journey was mercifully uneventful (though as an observation, the road past Loch Lomond has to qualify for the most pot holed A road in the UK) and, supported by an eclectic mix of music provided by Martin, we made Onich, situated near the mouth of Loch Leven, by late afternoon. There was some confusion over the cottage we were to inhabit and, in the absence of the owners to advise, we popped in to Fort William to make the first of almost daily visits to the Morrison’s for vital supplies.
The gently swaying gondola headed up the mountain with little evidence of any snow to be seen through the rain streaked windows. Exiting the top station we wandered around for a bit before following the line of the chair lift upwards into the rain. The flog from the upper station to the top of Coire an Lochain is some 600 vertical metres and by the time we had reached it the temperature had dropped considerably and the, by now evident, snow was good and sound.
Availing ourselves of an abandoned snow bollard we abbed down the head wall of Easy Gully and headed off to our planned initial climb, the one star grade II route Right Twin. However for reasons that are not entirely clear we decided to have a crack at Left Twin, an alluring three star grade III gully instead.
Not having used crampons or axes since last year I kicked and hacked my way hesitantly up the bottom of the gulley and over a short bulge to a good stance then brought the others up. After a bit of gear swapping Martin took the lead, confidently disappearing upward and round a distant corner, not stopping until all but a couple of metres of rope remained when a muffled ‘safe’ was heard. Barry and I followed suitably impressed, particularly by challenging ice wall at the corner and noticeable absence of placed protection.
Enough for one day! Heading back down the hill Martin managed to upset one of the locals by using the piste as a descent path, the chap firmly impressed upon us his desire not to have great big crampon holes in his beautiful snow. He was under the wildly optimistic belief that conditions were about to improve overnight and they were due to have a massive influx of skiers the next day.
Having consulted the excellent weather and avalanche information service provided by the Lennon Meteorological Office (LMO) the night before, the Cairngorm appeared to offer the best opportunities so at a refreshingly early hour we set off in a north-easterly direction accompanied to the strains of Music of the Glens or some such. Bagpipes are an acquired taste and I am not sure that I have yet acquired it. I was driving and the others appeared to sleep, or have lapsed into coma.
Coire an t-Sneachda is considered, by Scottish standards, to be a road side crag but the mere two klick walk in still gave us plenty of time to contemplate the rather awe inspiring north face of the coire. In fact when you get to the base of the crag it is nowhere near as steep as it seems from a distance. So much so that Barry shot off solo up The Runnel, disappearing into the narrow ice choked chimney at its top. Martin and I followed up sugary but reasonably firm snow. The exercise was made considerably easier by using the veritable staircase of foot holes that had been left by previous parties; the chimney was in good condition and the lack or ropes added a certain frisson of excitement to the top end of the climb.
We descended to the bottom of the crag via the Goat Track to eat lunch and consider the next climb. After our success soloing the Runnel, Barry and Martin tackled Central Gulley whilst I had a crack at Central Left-Hand, having climbed Central Gulley last year. After a minor epic at the top end of the climb, the details of which I will not recount, I rejoined the others who had tackled the steep headwall of Central Gulley with little difficulty.
We headed back to the ski centre, bagging the Cairngorm summit on the way, and being very carful to avoid the ski runs, or not to get caught using them anyway, on the way down.
Wednesday saw a relatively leisurely start with the intention of heading a few miles south to Glen Coe and seeking out climbs on the upper slopes of Stob Coire nan Lochan. The approach to the summit teases as you first drop down 40m from the car park before starting the unrelenting ascent of something over 600m to the basin where the snow is to be found. I trailed along in the wake of Martin and Barry and after an hour or so of wheezing and gasping was rewarded by a break for food and reasonably favourable conditions; the not overly abundant snow being slightly sugary but sound. Our original intention of the grade II/II Forked Gully Right was immediately abandoned as the route was not in condition so we contended ourselves with an unroped ascent of the grade I Forked Gully. Barry and I alternated on the trail breaking whilst Martin took the opportunity to grab a few snaps. Although relatively easy ground, we were not oblivious of the impact that a fall would have in the way of more grim statistics on winter mountaineering fatalities in Scotland. Fortunately the statisticians were denied their grizzly data. We topped out into unexpectedly ferocious wind and blown snow, abandoning any thoughts of bagging the summit, only a handful of metres away; we crawled the short distance to the top of Broad Gully and descended without incident to the basin where more food and drink was consumed. Descent was by the route up and we returned to the car for a second day having lugged the majority of our climbing gear up and down a mountain for no particularly good reason. A slap up feast followed.
The weather was not looking good on the Thursday morning (confirming the LMO forecast). Barry made an early and very sensibly decision to sit it out for the day; I amused myself on the beach at Onich for a while prospecting for stones to expatriate, then we all drove up to the Nevis Range centre; Martin and I boarding the gondola and Barry heading back to Fort William for a spot of retail therapy. The flog up to the top of Aonach Mor saw conditions deteriorating until at the top Martin and I were subject to the full force of typical Scottish winter conditions; high winds and horizontally blown spindrift which stung mercilessly where it hit exposed flesh. We tottered over to the top of the easy way down and peered into the depths of the vast satanic pit falling away beneath us. The official excuse for not descending into the maelstrom is that there were several parties in front of us and there would have been quite a wait to get down. The unofficial one is that the conditions were just plain grim! So we flogged our way back down to the upper station and thence the gondola and the car park where we were met by the charitably un-smug Barry.
The prognostications from the LMO were not encouraging for the West coast so another early morning start saw us following the now familiar route to the Cairngorms for a second time. Fortunately Runrig had replaced Music of the Glens so the journey, whilst maintaining a Scottish theme, was considerably more amenable.
With plans no more refined than the intention of looking at conditions, we headed off in the direction of Coire an Lochain. After a bit of prodding round in the snow at the side of the frozen corrie we decided to head up a bit and see what the snow was like. Barry took the lead and headed off in a generally upward direction on moderately steep slopes of decaying snow. So we thought we would take a look Y Gulley Right up which another party were heading.
We arrived at the start of the climb but the pair in front of us seemed to be taking their time on the second pitch so we amused ourselves cutting out a platform in the snow slope and generally making ourselves comfortable. Eventually our forerunners cleared the stance and I plodded up to a rather soggy but sound belay with Barry and Martin following smartly behind. It was at this point that we realised that the sound of running water was not issuing from some water fall issuing from a fissure in the crag but emanating from under the steeply angled ice slab that marked the start of the second pitch. On closer inspection there seemed to be little holding the ice onto the underlying rock. Not to be discouraged, Martin disappeared upward leaving Barry and myself to speculate on the seriousness of the next pitch. And serious it was, as once the ice slab had been negotiated there was a long steep funnel of crumbly snow to contend with. Martin’s lead had been very bold as the only protection had been an old peg barely 5 metres above the second stance. The poor state of the snow was graphically illustrated when a large lump of decaying cornice detaching itself and neatly bowled Barry from the wall during his ascent. Having survived the climb the weather clagged in and we were obliged to follow a compass bearing to ensure a safe return to the floor of the corrie and hence back to the ski centre. Then back to Onich, via Morrison’s in Fort William, for yet another slap up feast.
Departure from Onich was against a backdrop of deteriorating conditions and we were clearly not about to miss anything in the vertically frozen arena in the short term. Return to the south coast was as uneventful as the trip up with only the pot holes on the A82 to contend with.
All in all a brilliant trip that made the most of the condition available on the west and east costs of Scotland in late February 2009. Many thanks go to the LMO, otherwise known as Sue Lennon, who’s unfailing daily forecasts were so vital in the decision making process.