Helm Crag Circuit

Saturday’s lovely wall-to-wall sunshine was a perfect invite to get us out of the house and get further down Laetitia’s road back to full fitness. We went from Grasmere up Steel Fell, over Calf Crag, Gibson Knott, and finished at Helm Crag.

It feels like the rock climbing season is just around the corner with this kind of weather. It’s always a shame not get out for some fine Scottish winter climbing, but I’m happy to miss winter out of the calendar altogether if we can zoom straight in to spring…

Costa Blanca ’16/’17

Just back in the UK from a ace extended week in the Costa Blanca. There was a massive gang of people there over the New Year period and so we were lucky enough to snag a doss with our friends Steve & Sandra! 😀

Here are a few pictures from the trip…

El Diamante
El Diamante follows the pillar in the centre just right of the pale yellow area in six pitches. Although I managed to spurn the 6a+ pitch thinking it looked too easy! What a fool. Ah well, I climbed a nice 6c pitch instead! 😉
El Diamante
Steve figuring out the line of the penultimate pitch of El Diamante
El Diamante
Steve happy back on the ground after El Diamante, and with no stuck ropes after all the abseils!
Magical Mystery Tour
Clair on the abseil approach to Magical Mystery Tour – the ladders are a relic of fishing (or perhaps smuggling given the theme of the route names hereabouts). They are VERY unsafe, dropping some 40 metres attached to the rock with nothing more than electrical flex in places!
Magical Mystery Tour
Clair on one of the easy traverse pitches of Magical Mystery Tour
Magical Mystery Tour
Looking back to the belay on the penultimate pitch of Magical Mystery Tour – Clair led the last crux pitch – good job!
dinner
A select gang enjoying a more traditional Spanish dinner at a tiny local restaurant in Calpe
Vuelo del Aguila
Steve starting the second 6a+ pitch of Vuelo del Aguila in the Mascart Gorge, a tricky chimney carried on above Steve
Vuelo del Aguila
The top of Vuelo del Aguila with the Penon and Calpe beyond
walk
Laetitia walking on New Years day – on the way to take a peek at the Barranc de l’Infern
Barranc de l'Infern
The waterway scenery below of the technical section of the Barranc de l’Infern
Barranc de l'Infern
The supposed “duck” at the end of the technical sections of the Barranc de l’Infern – how deep does the water have to be to make this in to a duck?!
Arenal
Crowded scenes at the climbers gathering bar, the Arenal
Parle
The stunning abseil in to the Parle sea cave
Parle
Steve climbing out of the awesome (a word that is used too often, but in this case correct) Parle sea cave
Toix West
Pete, Keith, Fiona, and Steve at Toix West – enjoying a chat, the sun, and then some more routes!
L'Atzúvia
The gang at the new crag De L’Atzúvia (not in the Rockfax guidebook). Many of the routes were not properly shown on our poor topo, and most were graded “approximately” – anyway I did a great 6c route to finish my trip on! 🙂

Venues

1.markerworld-linkEl Diamante
2.markerworld-linkAlcalalí
3.markerworld-linkMarín
4.markerworld-linkParle
5.markerworld-linkMagical Mystery Tour
6.markerworld-linkVuelo del Aguila
7.markerworld-linkDe L'Atzúvia
8.markerworld-linkBarranc de l'Infern

Another Dry Lakeland Bank Holiday

After an amazing start to the summer weather in May and early June, July and August have been quite disappointing really. More wet, grey, and disappointing weather days than the proper summer sunshine we had hoped for. 🙁 However, despite that we’ve been out and about on the Lakeland crags a fair bit. 🙂 Then, as luck would have it, the August bank holiday was again (mostly) dry and sunny. Unfortunately we’ve both been ill so this held back adventures somewhat, but not completely… More “Another Dry Lakeland Bank Holiday”

Welsh 3000s and Remembering an old Friend

When I was about ten, my parents along with another family with similar aged kids, decided they should take us tramping (multi-day backpacking for non-New Zealanders). That summer, my parents, my brother and I, along with Graeme and Win and their kids spent a glorious seven days in Nelson Lakes National Park. The next year, we went for ten days, and this continued every summer until I went to university and got a job. Those are, without a doubt, among the most vivid memories of my childhood – being woken up by Keas in the little patch of woodland behind Upper Traverse Hut; crossing the Wangapeka Saddle in torrential rain and hail, with all the rivers in flood; eating sardines on cabin bread for breakfast at Coldwater Creek because it was all the food we had left.

Graeme made a huge impression on me during those summers with his humour, his confidence in any situation, and his evening stories of 20 day trips to the Arawata Valley and elsewhere. I learned about bush-craft from Graeme, how to back-country camp, proper hut etiquette, and how to lead a group and make decisions so nobody got lost or was asked to do more than they could. I think it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t be as confident and competent in the outdoors as I am without Graeme’s influence.

Sadly, Graeme died last week, so it seemed appropriate to dedicate my weekend’s adventure to his memory. Without him, I’m sure I wouldn’t have spent Sunday doing the Welsh 3000’s challenge – summiting all the 3000+ ft peaks in Wales in 24 hours – solo and unsupported, and as a circuit rather than the usual one way trip. Graeme, I think, would have loved the spectacular mountain scenery, as well as the challenge of a really long day out in the hills.

First light on the Crib Goch ridge, with Garnedd Ugain and Snowdon behind.
First light on the Crib Goch ridge, with Garnedd Ugain and Snowdon behind.

I camped overnight between Pen Y Pass and the foot of the Crib Goch ridge so as to get an early start. At 5:30 I was packed up and ready for the first peak of the day – Crib Goch, with it’s tricky scramble to start, and then knife edge ridge with massive exposure on either side. Even at that time it was surprisingly busy, mostly with other people attempting the challenge. The ridge was slow, but after that things sped up with quick ascents of Garnedd Ugain and Snowdon, then the steep descent to Nant Peris, 950m below. After that was the long slow ascent of Elidir Fawr, which I reached four hours after setting off, and where I met up with a group of fell runners. I ran with them over Y Garn, and down to the lake at Llyn y Cwn, then as they headed up Glyder Fawr, I descended to the road at Ogwen Cottage for a well earned sausage roll and a bit of a break before my third big climb of the day.

Y Garn summit, with Pen yr Ole Wen and the Carnedds behind. Five down, ten to go...
Y Garn summit, with Pen yr Ole Wen and the Carnedds behind. Five down, ten to go…

Pen yr Ole Wen was the next peak, but the route from Ogwen Cottage was horrendous, with an indistinct trail, some serious scrambling, and just unrelenting steepness for 700m of ascent. However, from the summit, the whole Carnedd ridge was stretched out in front, with peaks every km or so – at that stage I’d done six peaks in seven hours, but the ridge promised quicker progress for a while. After a short break to recover, I set off again, and quickly reached Carnedd Dafydd, then the long flat ridge to the foot of Carnedd Llewelyn. Since I would be coming back this way, I left that one for the return and traversed around to Yr Elen, stuck out on its own on a side ridge. Then back to the main ridge and on to Foel Grach, Garnedd Uchaf and finally Foel-Fras, my turning around point.

Looking back the way I'd come from the summit of Carnedd Dafydd. Pen yr Ole Wen is directly behind, with Snowdon and Crib Goch on the skyline.
Looking back the way I’d come from the summit of Carnedd Dafydd. Pen yr Ole Wen is directly behind, with Snowdon and Crib Goch on the skyline.

By this stage I was feeling pretty tired, so was only running the gentle downhill sections, but fortunately there were quite a few of them! I returned along the ridge, picked up Carnedd Llewelyn, then dropped off the side to the stream below Ffynnon Lloer and so to the road. That left me three peaks left to do, Tryfan, Glyder Fach, and Glyder Fawr. I decided I was too tired for the scrambling approach to Tryfan, so opted for Heather Terrace and approaching the summit from the South. Unfortunately, tiredness was really kicking in at this point and I missed the main route to Heather Terrace, and rather than going back decided to follow an indistinct track that was climbing in the right direction. This worked, but with a bit more scrambling than I’d planned given my tired legs. Despite arriving at the summit just before 7pm (13 and a half hours after starting), there was still a crowd at the top – I hate to think how busy it must have been earlier in the day! From Tryfan there’s a very steep scree climb to Glyder Fach – I was glad to be going up instead of down – and then an easy wander along the ridge, bathed in the last of the sunshine, to my last peak, Glyder Fawr. 14 hours, 55 minutes after starting I had finished the peaks!

The summit of Tryfan. Number 13 out of 15!
The summit of Tryfan. Number 13 out of 15!

The descent to Pen Y Pass was long and tedious, and my knees were quite sore by then. I finished the loop just over 16 hours after starting. A very big day out, but a challenge that I’ve been thinking about for quite a while conquered!

I thought about Graeme a lot on the way around. He had a big influence on me, and I undoubtedly wouldn’t be the outdoors person I am today without him. I’ll always remember those sunny (and occasionally not) summer days tramping in the New Zealand bush. Thank you, Graeme.

Celebrating on the final peak, Glyder Fawr. Sorry about the picture - there was nobody else up there to take it!
Celebrating on the final peak, Glyder Fawr. Sorry about the picture – there was nobody else up there to take it!