Monday 27 May 2013

Stanage, Youth


Today was that unexpected and un-looked-for gift: a free day for all the family, with the house and garden in sufficient order that we flt no guilt in taking a day off. Not only that, but the weather was good. And most remarkably of all, the Peaks weren't crowded: perhaps everyone else had taken the half-term week off to go further afield. So we got up at 7, muted the few grumbles, wolfed down breakfast and set off. Arrive in Hathersage around 10 for breakfast at Outside and to buy Daniel some climbing shoes of his own - he's borrowed M's in the past, but hers are now too small for him; and he uses the school ones, but not on private trips. After not-much-thought we end up with Boreal Joker size 10's; and M buys a fleecy type thing that Miranda ends up occupying for the day. And so to the crag (with one slight mis-turn: remember, you want Birley lane); the car park is not full, though its now about 11. The edge is quite hard to see from google maps: for my future use here is a linkshowing the "popular end", the car park, and the camp site. Hathersage is off the bottom left; and this is Outside.

DSC_2063DSC_2064Where shall we go? The popular end, of course. And since it doesn't seem terribly crowded, we'll go to the first bit, which is around the Grotto Slab area. The bit with the fallen-over stack leaning against the edge. D and I gear up (D is all keen, as he's been climbing at school and in competitions, though he's slightly shocked I've so soon taken him at his word that he'd like to do more climbing) and look at Crack and Corner, ***, HVD, 4b (HVD 4b? You have to love these Stanage grades, they're so random). Last done by us, says the guidebook scribbling, in 1991. But I stare at the start (very polished, the crux, says the Book; how true) and realise that would be stupid: we'll do something easier first, just to get our ropework and calls in sync (D has done very little real-world climbing). So we move over to the fallen stack which is Grotto Slab, D - both M and I soloed it in 1992. I put in a couple of bits of gear to show willing, but they aren't really needed, and D breezes up. Miranda also does it - her only route for the day. She spends the rest of the time snuggled up reading Skulduggery Pleasant.

Speaking of which (the breezin' bit, I mean), its blowing a gale at the top. Not bad down at the foot of the climbs, and not too back 20 feet back from the top, but the edge itself is a linear tornado.

Next, well, something a bit harder but not too much. Capstone chimney is also a D, and nominally much shorter, but is actually considerably harder than the slab. But anyway, I lead it and D seconds it happily - barefoot in fact, which he begs to be allowed to try to do. M has a go too. She isn't exactly delirious with joy, and requires a second go ("I'm not very happy". Fortunately its too windy for me to shout down "Trust the rope").

DSC_2090-w-lead-crack-and-corner-hvd-4bTo the right of this is Green Wall (VS 4b; I led it with Howard in 1992, though we didn't realise this till later). D would like a go, so since I'm at the top he can top-rope it. He gets up it, with a couple of rests or heavy weights on rope. As you can see it has some awkwardnesses to it.

That completes our programme for the morning - well, its now 1:30, doesn't time fly. E is hungry, and so am I, so its back to Hathersage for lunch and a new pair of shoes for me too - my old ones have the rubber peeling away at the tip-toe, an unpleasant feeling when you try to stand on it. I tell the children that Howard would never let them get away with the decadent luxury of descent for lunch on a nice day. And for a miracle there is still a space in the car park behind Outside. Egg-on-toast; bean curry; chicken burger; sos-and-chips-in-giant-yorkshire-pud are just some of the delights we same in some order; and I get new Stonelands (tried the Joker and the Silex but they hurt around the back of the ankle. The Stonelands felt better, and were cheaper). We resist the lures of the bargain tent, and head back up - this time getting the route right.

DSC_2076What to do... tricky. Black Hawk Hell Crack? Or our original desire, Crack and Corner? BHHC is occupied (how odd) so go for Castle Crack (HS 4a; left) the corner crack just left. Having watched the previous pair struggle up it I'm careful to note footholds, and all goes well, indeed exhilaratingly so, though perhaps I shouldn't be so excited by a mere HS. But its a good climb, worth a star at least. Nominally a layback, in practice its a matter of delicately selecting and trusting the footholds, unless you're feeling really strong.

Next (and its getting on for time to be going) we vacillate for a while before going for Crack and Corner (HVD 4b; right). As the guidebook says, the start is rather polished and I fall out of it, the first time, when I'm not really applying myself. I resist the urge to do what some previous parties have done - effectively, to pre-place gear just above reach - though I do shuffle my nice purple friend into easy reach. And its fine, worth its stars, and who am I to comment on grades. A most enjoyable climb, and there's a little surprise if you do the over-the-top direct finish, which you should.

And that was all: 5:30 and we pack up and head home.