Stanage without a clue

Time for my monthly update… When I started this blog the idea was to write something every time I climbed something. However, with the best will in the world, it’s not always easy to find something interesting to write about another trip to Hatfield or Stowmarket. Hopefully now the weather has taken a marked turn for the better I’ll be able to get outside a bit more (and I don’t mean the West Stow boulder) and get some more interesting things written.

Anyhow, enough apologies. On to the main subject of this months outpouring of drivel – a trip to Stanage last week. I’d heard good, and bad things about Stanage to be honest. Good – the quality and quantity of the routes were without question, and a flick through the Eastern Grit guidebook showed page after page of inviting looking cragginess with any number of fantastic looking lines. Bad – I’d been told the place would be crowded, and told to watch out for the ‘Prana-wearing top-roping Gaylords’. I made a mental note of this, and vowed never to buy a Prana shirt as long as I’m climbing, just in case I get seen seconding a route whilst wearing it. Sol & I had an early start, and stopped half way up the M1 at Leicester Forest for a bacon sarnie and coffee whilst looking out the window at the hammering rain. It didn’t look good. We arrived at Stanage Popular via a GPS-induced series of detours around Hathersage (just in case anyone from Hathersage ever reads this, I’m really sorry if we disturbed you after driving around the village for the fifth time) to a completely deserted car-park, and a low cloud but no actual rain. So we put the kettle on. An hour or so later, the cloud was still low, but the wind had picked up nicely. And we were still the only people there. Another car load of young climbers had turned up, all piled out of the car, and then spent ten minutes asking each other who had remembered to pack the ropes before all piling back into the car and going to get them. I like to think that they had remembered their Prana shirts and matching chalk-bags though.

So, with nothing better to do, we wandered up to the crag, and had a poke around. Anything that was in the wind was dry, anything sheltered was greener than a particularly sanctimonious David Cameron cycling off to fix his wind turbine. So, we picked a route, Leaning Buttress Crack, and I geared up to lead it. About half way up I got lost, came back down to have a good rethink, while Sol scooted up there in about twenty seconds flat. I seconded him, and we walked around the crag to get back down again. Lovely. Eddie had turned up by now, and he and Sol had a quick go at Chockstone Direct while I wandered off to do something vitally important, the exact nature of which completely escapes me. Next up, the classic line of Flying Buttress, again with Sol leading and me seconding. What a brilliant climb. I had a bit of a problem flopping over the top on the very last move, but it was still a fantastic climb, and the first time I’ve realised what a 3-star climb is all about. Brilliant. We stopped for some lunch, at which point I realised that Pot Noodles are far easier to eat with a fork rather than a pair of matches as chopsticks.

After lunch we decided to go for something a little harder, and Beech Tree Wall appeared to fit the bill, particularly as all the easier climbs now appeared to be in the process of being top-roped by a bunch of Prana-wearing gaylords. (And one unfortunate youngster who got stuck on Leaning Buttress Crack for about 90 minutes, while continually whining to anyone in a twelve mile radius that there were no handholds. I have no idea what happened to him. For all I know he’s still there. The queue of people waiting to try the same route just led up past him in the end, fed up with waiting). Anyhow, again, it was agreed that Sol would lead the climb, as there was a rather blank looking section in the middle that would require long arms and a steady nerve. Both of which Sol possesses and I don’t. And, he did struggle with it, but eventually topped out with a whoop of restrained happiness while I got ready to fall off it. Which is exactly what happened. It was only a little slip though, and once over the sketchy middle section, it was plain sailing until I put my hand into a pile of bird poo on the top ledge. We were both getting a bit tired by now, and it was a long journey home, so we decided to have a crack at an easy one to round off the day. Black Hawk Traverse Left was chosen as a suitable candidate, and I tied in to lead. To cut a long story short, I got lost. Twice. Idiot. That will teach me to read the guidebook more carefully in future. However, help was at hand in the form of a group on the next climb who pointed me in the right direction for the “bishop’s stride” around the bulge. A great move, once I had worked out where it was… And I capitalised on this sudden rush of confidence by traversing straight past the point where I should have started heading upwards, instead finishing up Castle Crack. Enjoyable, apart from the rope drag caused by my navigational incompetence.

A great day out. I don’t care that I only led one climb and managed to get lost doing it – I thoroughly enjoyed the crag, and can see why it’s so popular.