Sunday, 30 May 2010

Bob Graham Round

Well done to Gary who completed his Bob Graham Round over the 28th & 29th May in a very impressive time of 21:48. This is one of the oldest of the long distance fell running challenges in the UK and has a proud and long history. The route visits 42 summits across the Lake District and has to be completed in under 24 hours. Traditionally this involves 72 miles on the fells and 10,000 meters of ascent. It was Gary's first attempt but he'd put an amazing amount of effort in to his preparations and training and fully deserved to enjoy the day. He's been keeping a blog which gives a great overview of the dedication needed to be successful at this challenge. Unfortunately I was away on Skye and couldn't be out on the fells pacing him but the updates that were coming through brought back some great memories of my attempts.

The final run in to Keswick on my successful attempt in 2008

Immediately after my successful attempt in 2008 I wrote a report for the Bob Graham Club which I hope shows some of the highs and lows of one of the best things you can do in the Lake District Fells...

'My third attempt on the Bob started at 11pm on Friday 16th May 2008. A couple of years away from the event and then supporting a few attempts last year had rekindled my interest. As a fifteen year old Scout my climbing career took off under the tutorage of Jim Loxham, number 10 on the BG list which I guess was my introduction to the Round. Seventeen years later I was trotting up Skiddaw with Bernie on a perfect cold but clear night. Very much a one paced runner the plan was to use most of the 24 hours and pretty much try to keep on a 23.36 schedule. Removing my watch was a very good idea which totally changed my attitude to the challenge. Taking the time pressure off myself and relying on my pacers to keep me straight lifted a great weight from my shoulders and meant I was far more relaxed even when falling behind schedule. As they say ignorance is bliss! The first leg went well, nailing the trod off Hare Crag and the Halls Fell bypass removing the risk of the fall which eventually curtailed my last attempt. A quick somersault coming down through the heather off Skiddaw was my only fall of the round. As we climbed towards the summit of Blencathra we saw the lights of a midnight attempt lost in the heather of Hare Crag behind us.

Out of Threlkeld 8 minutes up with Sarah & Gary it was all feeling pretty easy as we climbed into the clouds on Great Dodd. Surprisingly 3 backpackers loomed out of the mist at Watson’s Dodd at four in the morning! Dawn was grey but we made good time along the ridge until the cloud began to lift as we dropped off Helvellyn. Going right round Grisedale Tarn I hit my first low with a good dizzy spell and nausea. A quick break for a Bounty and some fluid and I quickly felt stronger than ever. Fairfield was quick and Seat Sandel even quicker with my pacers struggling to stay with me on the descent to the road bang on time.

Back at Moot Hall in 23:29 after 72 miles & 10,000m of ascent.

Bacon sarnies at Dunmail Raise were one of the highlights of the round. The surprisingly large support team, many of whom had slept out, did an excellent job and I was on my way feeling pretty comfortable . Following Kieran we completed High Raise before Sergeant Man, a variation which I’d not tried before but worked well. We lost some time around the Langdale Pikes but the long traverse to Rossett Crag which has always been a hard leg psychologically went perfectly, due to a good reccee a couple of weeks earlier, and I found myself below Bowfell feeling pretty positive. The climb went extremely well and the half way point was reached 8 minutes ahead of schedule.

By this stage there was heavy rain in the Helvellyn range but crucially we were still on dry rock and we began to gain time along the second half of the ridge, possibly due to being dragged along by the Old Counties Tops fell race. At Broad Stand I met my belayer looking very forlorn with his 30’ of knotted rope coiled on his back. Mat had arrived to find the scramble strewn with more than 200 meters of climbing rope, helmets, harnesses and plenty of attentive belayers for the attempts running just behind me. In the event the dry conditions meant a quick pull on a knotted rope for the crux rockover was all that was required and the vocal support from everyone meant that I gained 7 minutes on the climb to Scafell. The descent to Wasdale also went well with a controlled slide down the gully to arrive at the road 19 minutes up on schedule having been 6 minutes behind at Pike O‘Stickle.

The climb up Yewbarrow at the start of Leg 4 was the mental crux for me having never got passed Wasdale on my previous attempts. I left the checkpoint early and followed Dave up the stream using trekking poles. The climb went well apart from being nearly mown down by an anti clockwise attempt and we reached the summit feeling strong. However I made the mistake of relaxing believing I’d cracked it and didn’t manage my food and fluid intake as well as I had been. From Red Pike to Pillar I began to suffer from nausea and began to slow significantly. The poles were thrown away after Red Pike and I found myself having to dig pretty deep. We were joined by a lad on a reccee but I fear I wasn’t very sociable. Dave led me away from my normal route up the crest of the ridge to Kirkfell and we ascended a loose red gully to the left. Throughout my training I’d never had a problem, mentally or physically with the Great Gable climb despite what everybody had to say about it. However down at the col the hallucinations, fatigue, nausea and dizziness all came together and I was down and out. Bounties, water and a lie down gave me burst of energy and once I’d got going again things suddenly seemed a lot more positive. Great Gable was climbed on schedule and for the rest of the leg I was back up to speed especially when Kieran & Bernie joined us on Grey Knotts.

The reception at Honister was amazing and I began to have a sneaking suspicion I would get round in under the 24. With swollen, bruised feet missing a couple of toe nails and dry conditions on the fells I switched to road shoes for the final leg. Dave’s decision not to join us on Leg 5 although deadly serious provided plenty of laughter. As he put it ‘He’d have no problem if he didn’t like me, but as a friend he wasn’t too keen on watching me suffer as I had on the last leg!’

I was joined on Leg 5 by Kieran, Bernie, Anya, Sarah and Skye the dog. Plodding along behind the group I had a bit of argument with myself on Robinson but kissed the final summit 21 minutes ahead of schedule. Good natured abuse got me down to the valley and I began to settle into a rhythm of jogging and walking for the final road run. I didn’t stop at Newlands but was quickly joined by a convoy of runners, cars, bikes and a dog for the final few miles. Arriving in the outskirts of Keswick somebody mentioned we had 3 minutes to beat 23.30. The final sprint up Keswick High Street dodging the drunks and cheered by a large crowd was pretty special and the definite high point of the whole day. 23 hours, 29 minutes & 5 seconds and 6 minutes ahead of schedule.
The whole day was an amazing experience made very special by the many folk who were out in force to support me. A huge thank you to Bernie, Sarah, Gary, Kieran, Dave, Anya, Matt, Niv, Sally, Carl, Jo, Betty, Gordon and Skye. '

Cuillin Ridge Traverse Day 2

Still smiling despite the continued cold and wet weather.

Stunning views down towards Loch Coruisk as the clouds clear.
Enjoying the exposure on the fast drying rock.

Climbing the second tower on Sgurr A'Mhadaidh

Final scree descent to the valley.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Cuillin Ridge Traverse Day 1...

Approaching the ridge in the early morning.

Sgurr Alasdair & the top of the Great Stone Shoot through the cloud.

Crossing broken terrain on the approach to TD Gap.

Climbing the In Pin in the rain.

A very soggy summit shot on the In Pin.

A stunning evening...

...but it didn't last. A wet bivi on the summit of Sgurr Na Banachdich.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Introduction to Climbing Outdoors

Clare & Nicola on the Saddle stance of Little Chamonix.

Today was about taking the skills from climbing indoors out into the crag environment. Nicola & Clare had plenty of experience in climbing walls but were to keen to develop their skills and techniques to be self sufficient outdoors. Initially we headed up to the Brown Slabs area on Shepherd's Crag where we looked at rock protection, rigging anchors, top & bottom roping and moving on rock. The second part of the day involved an ascent of the crag classic Little Chamonix (V Diff). This stunning line features plenty of exposure and a unique crux move which focuses the mind!

Nicola belaying at the top of Brown Slabs.

The view down from the top of Brown Slabs.

Clare & Nicola on the initial groove of Little Chamonix (VD).

Nicola relaxed after making the crux move on Little Chamonix.

'How do I do this?' The crux of Little Chamonix.

Clare figuring out the moves on Little Chamonix

Monday, 24 May 2010

AP Everest Team report

The 2010 Adventure Peaks Everest Team have had an eventful summit attempt. Everyone is now safely back at ABC with plenty of stories to tell. In the end Max, Brendan, Matt, Peter, Stu (3rd summit), Sonam, Nima, Phurba, Norbu, Tsring & Raj were all successful in reaching the top of the world at 8848m. The weather had made a dramatic turn for the worst and they survived a rough night before continuing their descent the next day. Of the others Josh damaged his oxygen mask and was forced to turn around at 8700m while Stephen had a problem with an oxygen cylinder and also retreated. A number of others made the tough but correct decision to abort their summit attempts when the turn around time was reached (11:00am). The weather has been very challenging this year with only a couple of small summit windows from the north. Well done to everyone for accepting the challenge and coming back to fight another day. 'Summiting is optional, Getting down safely is not'.

Goat Crag, Borrowdale

Ab-ing off from Goat Crag, Borrowdale.

With the Lake District still basking in a heatwave John and I opted to head for the north facing Goat Crag in Borrowdale. As we arrived we spotted a couple of Peregrines playing in the thermals. First up was the classic HVS, D.D.T. which gave 2 good pitches. Apart from dropping a set of wires on the first pitch all went well and we abseiled back to our bags. The crag is still pretty dirty but the holds on the popular routes are clean and have seen some traffic.
John then made a very impressive ascent of the four star Tumbleweed Connection (E2+) which gave two stunning pitches of 5c and 5b. The baffling crux was the traverse right from the peg on the first pitch. Staying low seemed to give the best sequence.

John topping out on the first pitch of D.D.T.

John on the initial moves of the Tumbleweed Connection.

John eyeballing the moves on the Tumbleweed Connection E2 5c.

The view over Derwent Water from Goat Crag

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Shepherds Crag, Borrowdale

Pete on the unique crux of Little Chamonix (VD)

For the second day of Neil & Pete's Learning to Lead course we headed up to Shepherd's Crag in Borrowdale. We quickly jumped on the uber classic Little Chamonix (V Diff) which they dispatched in good style including the crux slide.
We then increased the challenge and moved around to Ardus (MVS). This blocky corner and exposed traverse gives a stunning climb which is in shade until later in the day, useful when the temperature is in the high twenties as today. Pete led the first ramp before Neil took the vertical corner for his hardest lead to date. From having never led to MVS in 2 days is pretty good progression! The three dimensional climbing on this pitch often confuses those with an indoor climbing background but Neil made it look easy. The final exposed traverse fell to Pete who arranged some good gear before committing to the moves.
We finished the day with a couple of clean top roped ascents of Creeping Jesus (HVS 5a). Today I was working for Adventure Peaks.

Pete on the traditional saddle stance of Little Chamonix.

Neil eyeing up the crux moves on little Chamonix (VD)

Neil pulling hard on Little Chamonix (VD)

Neil starting the final exposed pitch of Little Chamonix.

Neil topping out on Little Chamonix.

The stunning final pitch of Little Chamonix overlooking Derwent Water.

Neil leading the second pitch of Ardus (MVS)

Pete starting the precarious moves on the 3rd pitch of Ardus.

Pete committed on the 3rd pitch of Ardus (MVS)

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Learning to Lead in Langdale!

Neil abseiling off Middlefell Buttress.

Today I was working with Neil and Pete on an Intro to Leading course. Being on the sharp end was a new experience to Neil but Pete had a number of single pitch leads to his credit and was wanting to perfect his skills. In blazing sunshine we headed into Raven Crag and on to the classic Middlefell Buttress (Diff). We looked at the additional skills required for multi pitching and soon got Neil on his first lead which he soon dispatched with style.
Our second route of the day was Revelation (Hard Severe). Neil took the first pitch placing some excellent protection and fashioning a text book belay. The overhanging second pitch fell to Pete who showed good tenacity to fiddle in some gear before romping to the top.

Good stance management pays dividends.

Pete eyeing up the moves on Revelations (HS)

Pete pulling through the crux on Revelations (HS)

Neil arriving at the top of Revelation (HS)