A Dream

Well it was a loose arrangement, which I had supposed was tenuous at best and completely forgotten about already at worse, but nevertheless I had kept the weekend free – just in case. Amazingly, almost magically some might say, everything came together remarkably quickly during the previous week. Rachel had messaged me asking ‘Are we going then?’ to which my first thought was ‘How the hell do I know’ but then I checked the weather and thought ‘It’s good, how has that happened’. My next thought was ‘We’d better get our crap together then as this might never happen again in my lifetime’. So I started frantically contacting Alan who was primarily in situ back from the Pyrenees and had then been asleep for 2 days as far as I could make out. I had already made a mistake of misfiring with the weather for Dream earlier in the year and didn’t want to repeat this. So I had to wake Alan up, somehow!

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So we finally managed to all meet on the Tuesday evening and make a very brief plan. As with all plans it was subject to negotiation and change, especially as we hadn’t all been present at the same time whilst making the plan. Anyway, after dog walks, traffic incidents and etc etc we ended up in the car park at Breakwater Country Park just outside Holyhead at some point on Friday afternoon. We were organised in that we had ropes and stuff and even change for the ticket machine. The sun was shining, there was a cool breeze and I was starting to think ‘This could actually happen.’IMG_9655.JPG

So after a brief panic, whereby I was in charge of ‘the yellow rope’ which somehow managed to get a knot in it that I had to untangle whilst dangling wildly off the abseil rope, we settled in and started enjoying the climb. The first pitch had to be led by either Rachel or myself, as Alan had already put his dibs on the last pitch. We missed out the low tide pitch (because it wasn’t low tide and climbing under sea water (or any water) always makes things a bit slippy) so it was nice and neat with a pitch each to lead. Obviously the obligatory arm wrestle was had to win the first pitch. Just kidding ladies don’t arm wrestle, just like we don’t sweat, fart or belch! It was more of a: ‘Well after you’ ‘Well I don’t mind after you’ arrangement which Rachel gave up on first.

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I was feeling slightly nervous for a moment or two and then a large seal appeared and reassured me the everything was indeed fine. We watched the seal for a while waving at us and performing water backflips while Rachel finished the first pitch. For those who don’t know (and haven’t seen the videos) Dream of White Horses is pretty much one huge traverse around a huge boiling cauldron of sea off the coast of Anglesey at a place called Wen Zawn, Gogarth. If the name alone isn’t Tolkienesque enough to give you the jitters, you then have to abseil into a very small little standing area (well for 3 of us it was) and then you’re off. If you go up the wrong way you end up on an E2 called Zeus and if you fall off you end up in the sea with the seals (and possibly mermaids). As a point of interest on another sea cliff near there, there is another route called Icarus which I thought fits in rather nicely with the whole going too high (and meeting the gods) or going too low thus falling in sea concept. On another point of interest the other really good HVS to do at Wen Zawn is called Concrete Chimney. I’m not quite sure how the mythical naming went awry with that one, perhaps they asked a really boring quantity surveyor what he thought and he said the first thing that popped into his head.

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The first pitch of Dream is basically quite a good rising hand transverse but the foot holds are a bit dodgy in places.   However, the foot placements were nowhere near as dodgy as some of those down New Mills Torrs so it all felt relatively secure. I think it was at the end of pitch 1 that I became aware of Rachel’s pink cordelette. Although apparently it isn’t a cordelette, it’s a similar piece of equipment which has been designed specifically to annoy Alan. It is not tied in a closed loop like a cordelette but runs free at the ends. And run free it did. I think it does have a technical name but henceforth we dubbed it ‘the pink floppy thing’.

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So then I was up. Not much happened really. I climbed it, belayed slightly too early to a rusty peg (with back up nuts) and brought the other two across. We had an interesting vertically aligned arrangement on this stance which resulted in some good photos of the top of my head.

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Alan then got to the last pitch which was very long and looked impossible from where I was standing/semi-hanging precariously. So I was very pleased he was leading it and actually seemed to want to. The balance and precise micro-route finding looked critical. I was only belaying and yet there was some nervous tension for me when I could see that one of the ropes was looking decidedly like it might be getting jammed under a undercut flakey spike. It was too late to shout Alan as he was well past it and I couldn’t flick it from my end either. I cursed myself for not noticing it sooner. I just had to hope it would keep moving through. I tried to leave that rope relatively slack so it wasn’t forced up deeper into the groove. It worked and soon the pitch was done with some inevitable rope drag at the end but nothing insurmountable.

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It was my turn next, our juxtapositions didn’t allow for an arm wrestle, so I was assertive and just said “I’ll go next”. I soon found out that being the middle person on an incredibly scary traverse using double ropes is actually much more scary and dangerous than actually leading it or being the last person. I clearly hadn’t thought this through. When you are the middle person you have unclip your rope and clip it to the other rope. Without going into the micro detail this means that then your rope stretches away from you (for what seems like miles) before it is clipped into anything else leaving a swing of perhaps 6-7m (maybe 9 or 10m with rope stretch) which (x2) is a lot of fall (15m or so).  On the bright side it was completely overhanging so I would only be falling into thin air (and then dangle) and worst case scenario it would be the sea. However, obviously this ridiculous and preposterous scenario didn’t enter my head as with every climber your one thought in these situations is – I won’t fall off. At one point a large (though fortunately not crucial) hand hold detached itself and I found myself shouting ‘below’ to the seals (there were two at that stage). Fortunately the climbing was well within my limits (and the others too) and it just seemed to pan out perfectly, indeed like a dream. Or even like that scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where he has to cross the invisible bridge.

I emerged up a little corner to a grinning Alan. I then tried really hard to get a video of Rachel doing the last pitch but the gremlins stole that somehow. She eventually emerged, cocooned in slings with several pink tails trailing, and did a little dance. Impressive given the circumstances.

We had various other adventures over the next few days involving very hurty feet, some decidedly conflicting route descriptions, all to a backdrop of purple flowering heather and very yellow gorse with flitting painted ladies, bouncing choughs and diving peregrines.

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Baking Bamford

Tuesday night saw the club heading to Bamford… it was forecast to be a blistering one but in the end turned out to be merely really hot.

Bamford is always a treat to visit with it usually being quiet with lovely views and relatively polish free climbing and it didn’t disappoint. There was a good BuxtonMC turnout with some new and new-ish members making the trip to both climb and walk.

Most action centred on Neb  and Gun Buttress areas. The classics of Bamford Wall and Bamford Buttress saw many ascents

But also Neb Buttress Direct by Saffra, Jo and William

and Joy strong-armed James into leading Oracle

So a pretty cracking night with the breeze high on Bamford making the heat bearable. Admittedly me and James ended the evening with a 40 minute operation to free a cam I got stuck.… but still better than any other way of spending a Tuesday evening.

Busy Day at Birchen

There has been a lack of posts about Tuesday Meets… so I’m going to prove that true by giving some info about today (a Sunday) at Birchen.

So with these sort of things a message will go round saying a and b are going to Stanage, and then c, d and e say they need to stay local so are going to Castlenaze, f and g say they don’t fancy either and are going bouldering to Roaches and x, y, z decide they fancy Horseshoe….. it then rains and no one goes anywhere.

But today all stars aligned and we had at least 15 people out at Birchen, spread all out along the crag.

 

The weather stayed nice, a bit of a breeze and the crag was not overly crowded (despite our attempts). A lot of action was around the Emma’s area and Crows Nest had a few ascents

 

It was great to see so many people out together on a weekend especially as there were a few newer members out too.

 

Well lets hope the nice weekends continue for a few months yet

Buxton Mountaineering Club East……… By Dan

This blog is the first from the Buxton MC’s newest chapter- Buxton MC East, based in Saxony.

Rob drove heroically to get me and my boxes of junk to Saxony, but after he left, I found myself alone, with no working phone or internet, and all shops closed for two days due to the Pfingsten holiday. It looked pretty bleak. I cycled through the woods and had a beer at the beer garden in the middle of it. This helped calm my nerves and inspire me to try once again with the little battery power I had left to make a phone call. As it turns out, my UK phone could make calls, but send no texts. Ulli insisted I get on the next train to Rathen, a spa town on the Elbe. One thing I have learned- with Ulli, anything is possible; Rucksack fallen over 100m onto a glacier?  No need to despair. A very long abseil should do the trick. (And he actually collected all the items that had fallen out on the way as he recovered the damaged sack!) So I went along and within 2 hours was greeting the good doctor on the platform. Soon I was at a party of people I had never met, drinking wine I never bought, and sitting around a fire outside a very large country house I had never been in. I felt like a celebrity.

The next day was sunny and warm. We hiked for an hour or so through the forest and uphill, trying to recall from memory what the guidebook we didn’t have would have told us. Wide tourist paths gave way to narrow paths for climbers, and then came a small obstacle- a bit of a scramble up some steep sandstone boulders and passages too narrow for rucksacks. Watching Ulli lift both legs and run in the air, cartoon style, while his pack held him in place will always be a highlight. We quickly set up a rope to pull the packs up and through, and even helped some other people behind us. Doing this all barefoot to save time made me feel closer to our forebears of the last century, who did all of these routes barefoot.

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One thing that has always impressed me, in fact, is the stasis of the Elbsandstein. It had not changed in the years I had been gone, and indeed it had not changed much in the 155 years since the first routes were put up. Oscar Schuster, Fritz Brosin, Oliver Perry-Smith and Rudolf Fehrmann had experienced it much the same as we did. The familiar sights, sounds, and smells of the woods and sandstone towers made me feel as if I had not been gone at all, as if the last eight years had never happened. I felt the timelessness of the place, it seemed to echo back into infinity.

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Soon we were staring in awe at Höllenhund, one of the great classic towers, some 70m high, a wall full of tiny, web-like structures, and according to the books, plenty of places for threads. I say awe, but fear is perhaps more accurate. The easiest way up is not easy at all, and quite dangerous. We decided instead on a few easier towers nearby.

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Each tower has several routes, the oldest generally the easiest, and almost always called Alter Weg (old way). Much like gritstone, the grades can be deceptive. Even theoretically easy grades can have very tricky portions. Soon we were on top of the Eule, the first I had climbed here in 8 years! Its narrow but long peak had a fantastic view. After a 25m abseil, in which we got off early on a sloping canyon, rather than descending the entire 35m or so, we walked to the Höllendhund Scheibe, which was close but in fact required an abseil from a tree on loose ground and through trees to get to, and thus was an effort of 30 minutes or so. Here we did a few more difficult routes, the last one having very marginal protection and very fragile hand and foot placements. By fragile I mean that they crumbled away in your hand.

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Perhaps most interesting here was the summit register at the top.  These are always in a small zinc box to protect it from the elements, and with a pencil which can be sharpened by scraping it along the stone. Each book stays there until it is full, at which time the local Alpine Club (SBB) collects it, replaces it, and archives it. Popular summits’ books must be replaced yearly or more often. This one, perhaps because of the difficulty of reaching the start, had been in use, in its zinc box, since 1976! And just before us, the lead climber had written that this was his final summit of all those in the Elbsandstein! There are over 1,100 such towers on the German side, and more if you include the Bohemian side.  Only a few people have done this, and even fewer have led at least one route on every summit. From the top we could also see a ring on the rock wall some metres away. Climbing on the innumerable massifs is not allowed, but the ring is there to accommodate the belaying of those who would like to jump from the massif to the top of the tower. It seems a rather large effort for something that has probably only been done once. Successfully.

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The walk back down through the fragrant forest, empty of humans, but full of birdsong and sandstone towers, was a pleasure only added to when Ulli pulled the beers out of the creek, where he had hidden them earlier, and we drank them on the ferry across the Elbe.

The Year So Far

So the news updates have been a bit lacking this season so far therefore a quick update is due after the first few meets.

The fine conditions continued and we got some good meets in. This season has seen decent numbers climbing at pretty much all the club meets with a handful of new people turning up.

 

 

 

 

Birchens, Roaches Lower and Lawrencefield have stood out for me as being meets where 15+ BuxtonMC members were climbing doing everything from Diffs to HVS (with mixed levels of success). A few years ago there was sometimes a risk of arriving at a crag and only having 3-4 members of the club there but now we always have a good show.

Even at Millstone where the weather looked menacing all afternoon 6 members risked it and had a great evening while others were climbing more locally to Buxton.

 

 

We have a had a few wet meets called off recently but now the nights are getting shorter (it’ll soon be Christmas) I’m looking forward to a string of good Tuesdays to keep things going.

Hang Tough

May Bank Holiday saw Buxton Spring Fair taking over the town once again. In the past we have attended, the first one saw me being told I couldn’t dangle from a tree! but this year we decided to either Go Big or Go Home with our very own Hang Tough competition…. basically grab hold of a horizontal scaffold pole and hang on till you can’t hang any longer

 

 

Tim came up with the ideas and did all the practical work building a scaffolding rig so much credit must go to him.

 

We were very fortunate that The Rope Race in Marple, Substation in Macclesfield and the BMC had provided prizes so we could run a genuine competition with out much outlay. We had a female, male and junior category which were all heavily contested.

It was a great day and we were busy the whole time through, often with queues of people waiting, at the end of the day we even had to turn people away….. some people hung for a 30 seconds while others, as you can see did some pretty impressive times

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The stand out performance weas a young lad called Joel who blew the competition away, staying off the ground for over 12minutes. He has never climbed but won a voucher to go to the Rope Race kids climbing session… so maybe someone to look out for in LA Olympics in 2028!

 

The competition was great fun and it was brilliant to see everyone having a go but the real reason was the let local people know about the climbing club. Only a week later we have had direct contact with 2 people who we met on the day and another 3 have joined the BuxtonMC Facebook site and hopefully will get in contact soon. We also were able to signpost people to the Substation and to The Roperace for intro the climbing tasters as well, so maybe some of those will filter through to the club.

All in all a great day, so we will be back next year… as Tim pointed out, he’s built it now!

For the many, not the few – by Ross

On Saturday I joined a hardy bunch to recognise and celebrate the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, the act that essentially allowed the setting up of the Peak National Park two years later

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The Spirit of Kinder supported by the National Trust, Peak Park, Ramblers and the BMC was due to be held in Winnats Pass, where many rallies pre-Kinder Trespass occurred. The event was not well advertised… i happened to pick up a leaflet, plus a friend works for the NT.  This poor promotion was a blessing in the end as the church could not have held many people… but if the weather had been good, several hundred people packing out Winnats pass would have sent quite a message about the value of sustainable access to our Countryside.

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Winnats Pass late 20s

 

After a few pictures were taken we returned to the Peveril Conference Centre/church for some speeches and a cuppa. Speeches were by Lord Blunkett, the CEO of the National Trust Hillary McGrady, Lynn Robinson the president of the BMC and High Peak MP Ruth George. Realistically though the most noteworthy and entertaining talk was by Pulp Frontman Jarvis Cocker.

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Jarvis

Jarvis talked about his love of the Peak District and that despite living in Sheffield it was never somewhere he and his family felt they belonged until a school trip which non of his friends were looking forward to. The Countryside is now somewhere he goes for calm and inspiration. He is currently setting up and art an discovery trail that will start and end at Edale train station as part of these 70 year celebrations.

All speakers were keen to highlight that a lot has been achieved but that there is much to do. What remains is mostly around sustainable access and use of the national park, encouraging all people to come and visit but having as little of an impact as is practicable. Issues around erosion, re-wilding (including grouse moors), off roading and litter were all raised

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The new generation

The event came to a close with a number of ‘Elders’ of Kinder’ (including BMC Access stalwart Henry Folkard) passing the mantle onto a group of young NT volunteers in the form of swapping badges. Yes it was a bit twee but you cant fault the sentiment, Conservation now needs to be thought of in 50+year plans so the young generation are going to be needed to keep the NP, the NT and the governments feet to the fires.