Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Round-up of climbing in 2011

As 2011 draws to a close I've taken a train journey to the north as an opportunity to select photos that represent my climbing throughout the year.  The past twelve months have been really great; I've had the opportunity to climb with new people, on new routes in some great new locations.

This year has been the year of full weekend climbing - away with the daytrips to Swanage and Portland and in with the weekend camping trips to (well, yes) Swanage and Portland but also the Peaks, Southern sandstone, North Wales and even Cornwall!  Unfortunately no trips abroad but that's just something to work on for next year.

I've had the opportunity to push my grade a little - achieving my first E1 (OS 5a, 5b) at Chudleigh, first F6b+ onsights and many solid attempts on harder climbs up to F7a!  I was finally able to achieve my long-term goal of climbing the spectacular blunt arete that is The Cutting Edge, F6c+ on my third attempt.

Many thanks for those who have had the patience to climb with me this year - in particular: Vlad, Owen, Mishtu and Kirsten.  Hopefully we can get out and do some more epic routes next year!


The year was off to an early start with a few nice trad lines out at Subluminal, Swanage, with Vlad and Owen.  Climbers were also out in force at The Cuttings in Portland.

First climb of 2011: January 9th


Owen and I headed up to Scotland early February and headed off on an introduction to winter mountaineering course with Adventure Peaks.  We have arranged to meet our guide, John Pickles, at the same time 2012 to pick up where we left off.  On February 14th the three of us did Ledge Route (II), our first real winter climb.

Day 1: Ice axe to the face

Vlad and his pies; a great day in the Peaks after being rained off on the Saturday


Headed out to Cheddar Gorge with Owen to climb the classic Utopia (HVS 4c).  Also managed to get in a few hard sport lines while we were there.

Fond memories of the old climb-mobile


April is the month the climbing really picked up.  We were out at a new venue early in the year on a two-day trip.  First destination was Chudleigh on a Saturday and Haytor on the Sunday.  Bagged The Spider (E1 5b) which I propose is overgraded - there are HVS 5a lines in the Peaks that go way harder.  The majority of the climbing at Chudleigh is polished and crap; it seems unlikely I'll be rushing back in 2012.

The moment where I was told the auto-focus had locked onto my nipples

Classy hen party

Gear at Haytor

Ben bringing up Owen's wife

Owen making Aramis (VS 4c) seem easy; it scared the shit out of me

Owen having trashed my rope


It's always great to take new people out for the first time on rock.  Here's my boss Grzegorz and colleague Bhaskar at Hedbury.

Grzegorz and Bhaskar at Hedbury, Swanage

Of course the Peaks is about the grit.  But bolted limestone does exist.  A great day out at Horseshoe Quarry with Anna, Vlad, Zoe and Emma.

Anna coming up the first pitch of Men at Work (F5)

Anna climbing Sag Ponir (F5)

Girls girls girls... enjoying the sun

Next up is one of the defining moments of 2011, certainly for Vlad.  We'd been climbing at Harpur Hill Quarry and had managed the spectacular 3* Coral Seas (F6a), I'd had a good punt at Apollo Creed (F6b) but then Vlad took a big fall leading People Will Talk (F5).  A huge block of loose rock came away with a run-out Vlad clinging on.  He just hit the ground but was fortunately okay.  Many lessons learned that day.

Safe at the bottom of People Will Talk

At least 10m


With Vlad out of action I headed down to The Cuttings on the early May bank holiday Monday with Grzegorz, Bhaskar and a friend.  We managed a single line before the rain hit.

Grzegorz on the breakfast baps


A view of Blacknor from a belay

Installed with the best intentions

Went out climbing with Mishtu for the first time after meeting her at the Westway thanks to climbfind.com .

Sun cream applied for the first and last time while out climbing with me

Mishtu seconding (with rests!) Fallen Slab Arete (F3 3*)

Two great days of climbing and camping

For the late May bank holiday Mishtu invited Vlad and I up to North Wales for the weekend.  In return we took her up a) her first multipitch; b) her first trad route (even if she was seconding).

Before climbing Flying Buttress

Vlad the burka woman

At the summit of Flying Buttress (VD)

A view of Flying Buttress

Epic hut, courtesy of Imperial College London

Randomly bumped into some old friends from Manchester

Mishtu seconding what is probably Equinox (VS 4c)

Not even sure what this was... but it was hard and damp and I had to retreat

Some B&E

Turns out Vlad has lovely soft hands

Incredible walls in the slate quarry

Slate embedded in my thumbnail

Beautiful clouds just before sunset along the M5


Sheltering from the rain under a huge roof at Winspit Quarry

Least willing climber of the year

Mishtu huddling for warmth under a small roof in the Peaks

Mishtu leading the spectacular Slings Shot (F5) at Blacknor North, Portland

Many great post-climbing rest spots


June/July has now become established as one of the key times in the climbing calendar - the annual Harrison's Rocks climbing/social trip.  It's rather under-represented here but as always, was a spectacular weekend with good weather, good climbing and great friends.

Post climbing pint

Disaster struck when I forgot my rock boots on a trip to Winspit Quarry.  I still managed to lead F6a with sandals...

Those rams-head lower-offs are hugely overrated

Top pub grub at The Castle Inn, Corfe (but no Dorset Apple cake)

Camping chairs: better left at the store

Another great trad multi-pitch, this time climbing Giant's Cave Buttress (VS 4c) at Avon Gorge.

The Ship Inn for a pint following a day at Blacknor North and The Cuttings (another failed attempt at The Cutting Edge (F6c+))
By July I was successfully climbing F6b/F6b+ onsight most of the time.  F6a had become my warm-up and I was really enjoying starting to push those grades.


Scrambled eggs on the OmniFuel - the unleaded petrol got ditched soon afterwards

Mishtu seconding at Sennen, Cornwall

Mishtu coming up Dolphin Cracks (HVS 5a) at Sennen

A nice, late finish to the day

At the belay on Doorpost (HS 4b ***)

Stunning sunset as viewed from The Ship Inn, Portland

Another good day out with Bhaskar

The hole in my thumb was finally about to go

A hole in my hand from climbing some hard trad routes


By September it felt as though the good climbing just wasn't going to end.  But that wasn't true... the days were starting to get shorter, but I had some great climbing partners and there were still plenty of opportunities to get out on the rock.

Foreigner sat atop Gaia, Black Rocks


Come October we'd given up hope for balmy summer days but to our surprise the first weekend in October was truly sweltering.  Down at Dancing Ledge in Swanage we'd not experienced heat like this all year.  Truly the most fondly remembered climbing day of the year.

Me hiding from the sun in a bivvy spot

Other tourists enjoying the unseasonal October weather

Swimming in the sea!

Once the heat passed, we were back on the rock.  Vlad's probably on Empty Promises (F6a)

More lessons learned: how not to make espresso on the go

Mishtu taking a lead fall on an overhung climb at The Nook, Portland

Keith climbing in the darkness

Vlad going up by headtorch... the days were getting shorter

In October we returned to Harpur Hill Quarry for the first time since People Will Talk.  We tried some hard sport lines but the cold wind was definitely against us.  Days were getting even shorter.

Anna out at Castle Naze in the Peak District

Vlad on a solid trad lead

A failing attempt at The Sloth (HVS 5a), The Roaches

The day I discovered Microsoft Photosynth

The Roaches Lower Tier

Ultra-classic Valkyrie (VS 4c ***)


Bea climbing near The Cuttings

Mishtu onsighting The Jam (F4) at The Cuttings, Portland


Climbing necessarily tailed off in November/December.  Conditions meant it was still possible to climb but the weather was cold, the days were short and the drives were long.  All round the risk of a wasted trip increased.

Owen, Adie and I headed up north to Fort William for a couple of days of wild camping and a bit of trudging about in the snow.

After a lovely 3am roadside kip

Stunning morning view

What's impressive about this list is the sheer number of days that have not been included.  The more routine trips to Portland and Swanage were just not photographed.  But these were the days when the majority of the hard routes went down and we all got a chance to really improve with our climbing.