Sunday, 21 April 2013

Dartmoor Trip

Taking advantage of coinciding days off and a brilliant weather forecast, minion Lurch and I spontaneously headed over to Dartmoor to spend a few hours bleeding all over the sharp granite tors. I hadn’t been climbing in ages and was desperate to get some routes done and build up a bit of trad momentum. Since a promising start, where I picked up a few soft E points at Fairy Cave Quarry and even managed some Hard Very Swanage thuggery without being killed, 2013 had sort of fizzled out into a blur of crap weather and endless shifts in the Cotswold deathstar. Time to get going again.

So we slept in the car park and got going ridiculously early in the morning, heading round Haytor to find the wild overhang of Outward Bound. It was a route I’d wanted to do for ages, looked awesome, crazy steep moves on massive jugs. What could possibly go wrong? We shivered as mist and wind blew across the moor and racked up. It would’ve been sensible to warm up first but I just couldn’t resist getting on Outward Bound straight away.
This was a terrible mistake.
With freezing numb fingers I clawed my way up the easy lower wall and gazed out in horror at the succession of overhanging blocks leapfrogging each other into space. Chuffing hell, I thought, it didn’t look this steep from the ground. Climbs never bloody do. I plugged in a cam and a pretty decent nut and swung out onto the beckoning jugs. Totally committed, I lunged for the next block and squawked in terror as my feet pinged off and I cut loose onto my arms. Scrabbling and slapping for footholds, instantly pumped, I grabbed at a promising hold with the wrong hand and hung in utter desperation for long moments wondering what to do.

I nearly fell off. I tried to swap my hands around. I nearly fell off some more.

Finally I managed to do something useful with my feet and gibbered into a position of vague balance. No gear. Sobbing quietly I hauled on clumps of heather and grass towards the mid height ledge, and curled into the foetal position as painful hot aches spasmed through my fingers. Fortunately the rest of the route was straightforward. Warmed up/completely fucked already, I seconded Lurch up a couple of easier routes. He even took a fairly decent lob off an old school thrutching crack, getting straight back on it and leaving a trail of blood and muttered obscenities to the summit.
Next we ambled round the other side to check out a ‘3 star classic’ called Vandal and Ann, basically a couple of separate HVS pitches strung together. The first was a steep, sloper ridden slab, the second a moss covered crack groove thing. Lovely.

 The start was a 5b boulder problem, desperate smearing up to the first break. Here I placed an OK nut and made some more tricky moves to the next break. No obvious gear so I scuttled up to another on distressingly un-positive holds. Here I spent several minutes trying to place wires in a flared horizontal crack, ending up with 3 of the buggers in, none of which I would lower off let alone fall onto. This was all a bit full on. Nevermind, a final hard move, small foot edges and hands palming nothing, I eventually reached the belay.
“Scary biscuits, mate”, I told Lurch. “Nails biscuits”, he said seconding. I thought it very hard for HVS, probably E1 without small cams or offsets for the last break.

The second pitch, Ann, was 5a, completely overgrown. I made a tough pull through a bulge to enter the groove and was horrified by what awaited me. A green off-width crack snaked upwards, no discernible holds, sloping everything, moss everywhere. Thankfully there was some alright gear. I teetered and balanced my way higher, gardening for footholds as I went. Midway up I squirmed into a semi-restful thigh jam and tried to figure out what to do next.

“You alright?” said Lurch, perhaps concerned about my lack of progress.
“Well I’m not getting pumped,” I replied, “You need holds to get pumped on. There are none.”

Moving my feet up would’ve pushed me out the crack and off, I just needed something positive, anything. Then I noticed a tiny footledge on the slab to the left. Another bout of moss pruning and it was good to go. I worked my foot onto it, hands doing sod all, and executed an unnervingly tenuous rockover onto the slab. No going back now. I smeared higher, slipping on more bloody moss, aiming for a rounded knob that was the only feature I could see. I lunged for it, not great but good enough, and managed to pull myself beached whale style onto the easy finishing slabs. For some minutes I lay there and wondered how the hell such a monstrosity got 3 stars in the guidebook.
Lurch actually found the pitch alright, the bastard, probably because his freakish height allowed him to reach holds that I had otherwise been forced to grovel for. At least I told myself that.

We spent the rest of the day messing about on easy stuff in the sun, although I still managed to lose most of the skin off my arms in some godforsaken VDiff jamming crack. Nonetheless, it was two very satisfied red raw husks who staggered off into the sunset, leaving behind a legacy of blood splatters and picnicking children traumatised by gratuitous swearing and unearthly death shrieks.