Michele Caminati dodges rain and snow in search of sun on England's gritstone
The report by Michele Caminati about yet another trip to England to climb some of the famous gritstone trad routes and boulder problems.
My main goal this year was Voyager sit start, the boulder problem put up by Ben Moon at Burbage, but despite having spent about 70% of outdoors, I have to say I never got a good windy day which would have enabled me to climb it from start to finish....
This year the wind always blew from the east, making all of Burbage North extremely sheltered, and this is somewhat of a joke since the wind usually blows from the west and the guidebook recommends you seek shelter in poor weather at Burbage West, located directly opposite! Conditions here were perfect recently and the difference was amazing: I managed to sit in a T-shirt and contemplate how impossible the holds were on Voyager while I'd need a hat and three layers of clothes if I wanted to climb at the Burbage North.
This year I failed to find many other climbers keen on trying some hard trad climbs, having said that though it would have been far too cold to fiddle around with ropes and carabiners. In fact, the only time I used a rope (on Messiah E7 6c), I completely froze after placing the first piece of gear and, unable to continue, I had to rest and try to get my blood to circulate in my hands once again. When I climbed it I chose not to stop and place this first pro and instead continue up to the large crack after the crux, where gear can be placed to protect the finish.
After the heavy snowfall it was time for some highballs: the day after the snowfalls climbers were about, armed with shovels, cleaning the snow off the rock and building solid piles at the base to "tame" the steep and rocky landings. The settled snow provided an opportunity too good to be missed to try some routes with just a few crash pads which are otherwise pretty unprotectable, resulting in the first repeat of Superstition (E8 7b?), the route located next to The Promise which had remained untouched since 1999! I climbed the line together with Ned Feehally a few days after Ben Bransby; I think it's a little harder than The Promise, and in particular it requires a final "dyno" which I don't know if we'd have committed ourselves to without that albeit narrow ledge of snow. Maybe 7C boulder? Help by snow I also climbed Black Car Burning and Living in Oxford (both E7 6c), the latter was a challenge because I was alone and with 3 mattresses!
The snow didn't make much of a difference on Simba's Pride (E8 6b) and after a second scary fall from the top I opted to try the dyno on toprope first to prevent further falls onto my hurt knees.
On Samson the snow didn't really make much of a difference, but it partially helped to make the landing less steep so I didn't need loads of mattresses. I lowered off a rope to clean the holds and I briefly tried the final moves on self-belay since I didn't have much time left for a difficult ground-up climb and I really didn't want me to miss the chance to send this line I'd dreamt about for so long having seen Jerry Moffatt do it in Hard Grit. I must say this is definitely one of those that gave me most pleasure of all: a series of incredible moves cross a crack, two pockets and a series of slopy holds. The perfect combination of a route and boulder problem, a solid 8A, one of those you'll never forget.
My repeat of Superbloc (8a+) was as unforgettable as unexpected during a rare sunny day with perfect friction at the start of the trip. I'd tried this Fontainebleau-esque problem for the last two years and I consider it one of the hardest things I've climbed in the Peak District, at least one of those i had to invest more time in than others.
I'm fairly happy to have climbed as much as possible during the last two weeks, and these saved the holiday as otherwise the outcome would have been disastrous with rain, dampness and snow stopping play. As a friend told me, this year the British weather wanted to get me back for all the good days I'd had last year! Here is a brief list of the most difficult things I did this trip!
Superbloc Gardoms 8A+
Super Size Me Curbar 8A+
Samson Burbage South Edge 8A
Walk on By Curbar 7C+
Greater White Curbar 7C+
Superstition Burbage North E8 7a
Simba's Pride Burbage South Edge E8 6b
Messiah Burbage South Edge E7 6c
Living in Oxford Burbage North E7 6c
Black Car Burning Stanage Apparent North E7 6c
Silk Stanage Plantation E6 6c
by Michele Caminati
27/04/2012 - Michele Caminati, gritstone ground-up