2014 is over and I’m already anticipating everything 2015 will bring, but before I race too far ahead I’d like to take a moment to appreciate some of the best bits of this year. Here are my five favourite climbing experiences:
- Camino del Rey, El Chorro, Spain – 1 January 2014: This is a via-ferrata-type experience on a
crumbling concrete and rusting iron walkway. It was built more than 100 years ago to allow hydroelectric plant workers access around the gorge, but fell into disrepair and became accessible only to climbers. Having never done via feratta before, and having a sheer drop to the valley floor between my feet from the first move, initially I was scared and backed off the Caminito. Left on my own at the start of the walkway though, I realised I didn’t want to miss out, and I made my way across polished limestone and rusted iron bars to catch up with my partner. It was a unique and atmospheric experience, never to be repeated as the authorities in Spain have since rebuilt and reopened the walkway as a safe and accessible tourist attraction.
- Via Media (VS 4c), Stanage Popular, Peak District – 1 March 2014: This was one of those days that remind me exactly why I climb. In spring sunlight with clear blue skies Stanage looked beautiful. Stanage Popular has an abundance of routes, but I always notice Via Media. It’s a 10m route that starts with a thin straight crack on a flat wall and it went on my wishlist as soon as I saw it, even when I thought the grade was way beyond me. It doesn’t happen often, but on this day almost all my climbing partners were out and at the same crag, creating a happy atmosphere. Clio belayed for me, I always feel particularly proud to climb routes with her as we don’t often see two girls leading routes together. All around me routes were being ticked, and I ticked mine, no drama, just an enjoyable climb at one of my favourite places with some of the best people.
- Doorpost (HS 4b), Bosigran, Cornwall – 18 April 2014: When I first learned to climb I would
happily second every route, but now that I’m learning to lead I feel the need to pull my own weight a little more. Alt-leading is such a rewarding climbing experience, combining the luxury of seconding pitches in fantastic positions with the challenge of leading. Doorpost is a classic three pitch route at one of the most popular sea cliffs in Cornwall, and Jonny was able to lead an E-grade first pitch to make the route more interesting for him. I led the second pitch, technically the crux but really very straight forward, and Jonny led the final pitch. We spent a long long time at the first belay ledge, due to a slightly over-confident third person in the party ahead of us realising that he actually couldn’t second HS in trainers. All the more time to look out at the sea, watch for seals, and enjoy the Cornish sun.
- Slam the Jam (6a), Horseshoe Quarry, Peak District – 15 May 2014: I wouldn’t recommend this route to anyone, the bottom half involves a broken up groove which in Horseshoe Quarry style feels like it could collapse if you stand on the wrong part of it. The bolt that would protect the crux felt a bit too high and resulted in shaky precarious clipping, much slack, and a nervous belayer (Clio). But the finish is no-excuses hand jamming for several moves through a roof and up a rightwards slanting perfect hands crack. This is when I realised that I really had learned to jam! I was so amazed I led it twice, just to check that I didn’t dream it.
- Nutcracker 5.8, Manure Pile Buttress, Yosemite Valley – 15 September 2014: Yosemite granite schools us and schools us again. This time the lesson was that one litre of water is not enough for two people on a 150m 5 pitch climb during a heat wave. We had just arrived from autumn in the UK and hadn’t anticipated just how much heat would radiate off the rock. This is one of the most popular routes in Yosemite, so we should have realised when it was deserted that conditions wouldn’t be great! The route follows a series of cracks, the first one being the hardest with a pumpy and slippery layback round a roof. After that the climbing is never too hard, but certainly interesting, including a very intimidating looking mantle up a slightly overhanging corner. Long multipitch is what climbing is all about for me, we don’t get to do it very often in the Peaks where the longest route is around 35m. I didn’t lead any pitches, so thanks to Jonny for this experience.
Now… Onwards to 2015 and all it’s adventures, planned and unplanned, bring it on… Happy New Year!