The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Our Boxing Day night out!

After a great day out with friends, Dean and I met up around 8pm and headed over to Borrowdale.

A frozen Derwent Water a few days earlier

A few days earlier we’d spied a beautiful ice line which had formed on the right edge of Buckstone How Upper left crag. The line was catching the mid-day sun and looked fantastic.
For the next couple of days it was all we’d talked about, it looked steep, long, well formed and with relatively easy access.
The ice formed down a steep section of crag up and left of Buckstone How (or Yew crag Quarries crag as marked on the OS map) just above Honister Pass and to the right of Buckstone How Upper Left crag.
There’s an easier angled broken gulley/corner, higher up, left and behind Buckstone How which is marked in the FRCC summer climbing guide as not to be used in descent from the crag after climbing the summer routes there - the ice wasn’t formed here but further left than this on a steep section of compact crag.
We parked up at the Pass and headed up the old quarry track to Buckstone How, traversed underneath the crag and then climbed our way through steeper broken ground till we were under a steep wall above.
We both looked up and our headlamps picked out the lower ice which looked thin but well bonded and above a steep ice pillar rose up and finished in the darkness above.
Then it started to snow, lightly at first and then more heavily and with purpose with the wind closing down most of our visibility.
We looked at each other and new that our biggest stress at this point wasn’t the ice which looked fantastic, but was our car and how we’d get back down the steep road from Honister Pass again.
Dean started up and the beam from my headlamp reflected off the twinkling snow coming down which now was being blown around by a strong wind. Dean’s pool of light and the sound of his ice axe chinking into hard ice faded into the night leaving me to stress about the car on my own.

A voice shouted down and asked what I thought, Dean was at the pillar and also worried about the snow. I replied with ‘there’s a shovel in the back of the car, climb the pillar!’
It was on, Dean worked the pillar, belayed and brought me up. The climbing was fantastic, the ice well formed, featured and well boned. The pillar was vertical and had formed into a thin column with few features, I had to pinch myself that we were actually here.
What a great pitch, as I pulled over the pillar to the screw belay and smiled at Dean. I looked up at my next pitch and my headlamp picked out steep white ice bleached a little by the weak winter sun.
The route faces SW getting a little sun, perfect to warm the ice and fatten it little by little. The cold weather we’d had secured the ice from melting out completely and with the shorter days also playing a part, helping form the line.
I left the belay and climbed thin, steep, well bonded ice which led onto a thin delaminated section of sun bleached ice, which felt more serious. Most of the screws up till now were either tied off at half length or clipped at the hanger but with an inch still proud. I worked the placements carefully drilling in a few screws and tying them off. I pulled over and up into a groove filled with thicker ice, which took a great screw and a smile broke across my face.
I picked my head up and the headlamp picked out the top of the crag just visible in the swirling snow filling the dark night sky.
I quickly worked the last section of easier angled ice and pulled over the top – awesome.

I belayed, Dean arrived and we shook hands but didn’t speak, we went into automatic, rigged a belay and abseiled down. Quickly we stuffed everything in our sacs and ran down the hillside, up and under Buckstone How Crag, the snow now laying thick and covering our old tracks.
Without realising it we’d walked onto the road which was now think with the white stuff. We chucked everything in the car, Dean pulled out the shovel in readiness and I started the engine, spun the car around and headed down the hill in first gear.
The crux of our adventure was just around the corner and over the cattle grid at the top of the steep section of hill. I engaged first gear and committed to it.
It’s the umpteenth time I’d been out when the snow tyres had paid for themselves and the first when having snow tyres all round really made the difference.
We pulled up at Seatoller and the silence was filled with laughter and all the excitement being released – what a steel, we couldn’t believe it.
Totally white roads led back over Dunmail raise and back to Ambleside where the snow started to thin out and home where it was almost raining.
We’re not sure if anyone else had climbed the line before or whether it’s even formed before or even seen it before but in any case it was a great adventure and one of my best night’s out this Christmas so far!


Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Well, It's all on here in the Lakes at the moment and it's all about fitting it into the family Christmas plans.....!

Tim and I had some more Christmas shopping to do yesterday, so we whipped up Cautley Spout on the way through into Kendal!

Tim enjoying the upper pitches of Cautley Spout

Well, it's Christmas Eve and another fantastic day, cold, Dean and I headed back into the Central Lakes, armed to give a new line a try.

We were heading back to the same crag on which we climbed on last week - the new route we climb then, was a corner line bounding the left edge of the crag which we climbed in 3 pitches.

We wanted to climb the amazing, steep central groove line which just looked fantastic. It's a great looking line, steep, turfy with ice seeping out at half height, spilling down the corner.

Dean working the steep second pitch

Dean enjoying some steep ice high on the second pitch

It's not often you get this sort of quality mixed climbing on a Lakeland crag

We had a great day and I was still back in time to meet the guys for food, drinks and mince pies with some close friends!

Merry Christmas


Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Kirkstone Quarry climbs

I had a great day out with Tim on Sunday, when we headed up to the Kirkstone Pass looking for ice. A friend had mentioned to Tim that he'd been up and climbed the left most pillar of three steep ice pitches in an old disused quarry.

This is the first view of the climbs as we headed up to Kirkstone Pass

We were both surprised that we hadn't seen these pillars formed before, but in any case we continued up to the Kirkstone Pass, parked and then contoured the hillside and on up to the ice.

Tim just arriving at the base of the climbs

The ice looked great, well bonded to the quarry walls and in a real cold spot which seemed to get little sun.

Tim starting up the left hand pillar

On first impressions the quarry looked disused but after a walk about a little later we felt that it may have been blasted more recently? This could also be the reason why we'd not spotted the lines before as they'd never formed before this winter? It's possible that when blasting they've tapped into a water course which with all this cold weather has formed these great ice pillars.

Tim half way up the first left hand pillar

It's a great little spot, with easy walking access and some fun pitches of ice of around sixty foot in length, up to the top anchors.

We only had two screws between us, not expecting this kind of sport and I think we both wished we'd have taken at least one more!

Me leading up the central pillar

Steep climbing up the central pillar

Tim enjoying the third step right hand pillar

Some great, fun, roadside ice climbing her in the Lakes and only a short drive from Windermere and Ambleside - how good is that.

Go enjoy


Sunday, 19 December 2010

You've got to just love the Lakes!

I had a couple of great training rides here at home in the Howgills on the Cyclocross during last week. It was a week of warm weather stripping all the snow and ice off the fells with the freezing levels well above the summits. But it was great to be out on the bike making the most of the warmer weather and having my own adventures on unknown tracks and trails, both muddy and icy/with pockets of old snow in places. It was hard riding with plenty of carrying and some difficult descents.

Then Wednesday it started to get really cold again and Thursday we woke up to a super hard frost.

Friday, Tim and I probably had the coldest cycle ride we've ever had! The day never got above freezing and for the most part was well below freezing. The roads were treacherous and very icy, the ground off-road was rock hard with bullet proof ice filling all the trails and tracks. For 3 hours we struggled to keep warm and once back at Tim's I found a layer of ice between my cycle shoes and overboots! I said to Tim that my feet actually felt quite warm, but then my feet started to thaw out and warm up and then I felt the hot aches..

Friday night it snowed and then it was all on again.

Dean and I met early doors on saturday and headed into the Lakes.

The crag we headed to hasn't been climbed on in winter before and we hadn't even seen it in summer! making the day feeling very adventurous and exciting.
We'd scoured old photo's and pictures and gleamed what we could locally (without also giving too much away) and felt it had all the signs of a top winter crag.

We found the perfect winter crag - completely overgrown, frozen turf chocking up all the cracks and corners, ice seeping out everywhere and the whole place wind blasted with frozen snow, awesome. 

We opted for the left most corner crack system, which gave us some great mixed climbing.

We climbed the new route in 3 pitches.

Dean bridging an awkward section low down on the second pitch

Dean working hard on the steep second pitch

Dean pulling over an awkward bulge, half way up the second pitch

Dean climbing the final steep ice step at the top of the third pitch

The route had it all, with steep corners and cracks chocked with frozen turf and ice and then to top it all, the final exit at the top of the third pitch was two fragile pillars of ice. You had to climb these ice pillars and then pull into an ice chocked groove to the top which was a great finish to an awesome route.

We topped out just as it was going dark and abseiled back down to our sacs - a great day and a real adventure.

You've got to just love the Lakes!


Thursday, 16 December 2010

Cogne, Northern Italy.

High up the steep mountain side from Aosta, is the beautiful village of Cogne which is home to a high concentration of some of the best icefalls in  the world.

It's a lovely, very friendly village and it's high altitude guarantees, that many of the icefalls form each year without fail. 

The local stone and history is a real feature in the village depicted here on a roundabout entering the main street.

The village and surrounding valley's are all in the Parco Nationale Gran Paradiso.
It's a beautiful place both summer and winter with Val Saveranche accessing Italy's highest peak the Gran Paradiso which is a great summit both summer and winter and Cogne itself accessing Valeille and Valnontey for the ice climbing. Coupled with  that, Cogne is the home of ski de Fonde, with over 40km of amazing trails linking all the valley's with the village itself.

The village has worked closely with the National Park over the years and has taken great care in developing the trails & marking pistes whilst being sympathetic to nature and the environment, making it a real treat climbing there.

I always love staying in Hotel La Barme, when I'm climbing in Cogne. Andrea, Stefano, along with their families give you such a warm welcome when you arrive and I feel as relaxed there as I do when I'm at home, not to mention the huge drying room, hot tub and great food!
The other plus is that the hotel's situated in Valnontey, so for much of the climbing you can walk straight from the front door.

So a few classic's in Valnontey -

Repentance Super

Repentance Super from Monday Money

Me heading up the first pitch of Repentence Super

Left - Repentance Super & right - Monday Money

A climber high up on Monday Money

Climbers on Patri de droite & the rarely formed directissime

Gia enjoying the final pitch of Patri de gauche

Leif enjoying the upper pitches of L'Acheronte

And a few classic's in Valeille -

Left - Candelabro del Coyotte & right - Tuborg

Heading up the first pitch of Tuborg

Leading the first pitch of Candelabro del Coyote

Heading up the second pitch of Candelabro del Coyote

Chandelle Levure

Enjoying the final pillar of Chandelle Levure

Cold Couloir

Stella Artice

A view up the second pitch of Stella Artice

Heading up the final pitches on Stella Artice

Pattinaggio Artistico

Adrian leading up the first pitch of Pattinaggio Artistico

Adrian enjoying the top pitches of Pattinaggio Artistico

Patinaggio Artistico Direct

Cogne's an awesome place, it just comes alive in winter and If you haven't climbed there then ask Santa this Christmas!