Peak Bouldering

Just a few photos from a bouldering trip to The Peak District two weekends ago…

Me on Crescent Arete, Stanage Plantation
Me on Crescent Arete, Stanage Plantation
Jordan on Crescent Arete, Stanage Plantation
Jordan on Crescent Arete, Stanage Plantation
Jordan off Crescent Arete, Stanage Plantation
Jordan off Crescent Arete, Stanage Plantation
Jordan on Crescent Arete, Stanage Plantation
Jordan on Crescent Arete, Stanage Plantation
Jordan on Crescent Arete, Stanage Plantation
Jordan on Crescent Arete, Stanage Plantation
Me topping out on Crescent Arete, Stanage Plantation
Me topping out on Crescent Arete, Stanage Plantation
Me on Crescent Arete, Stanage Plantation
Me on Crescent Arete, Stanage Plantation
Alison on Hampers Hang, Stanage
Alison on Hampers Hang, Stanage
Greta climbing at Stanage
Greta climbing at Stanage
Jessie climbing at Stanage
Jessie climbing at Stanage
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The Bernina Alps

Following on from the climbing down in Italy we decided to head back to Switzerland and see if the weather would give us a break. James and Harry had intended to do The Cassin Route on Piz Badile but a quick drive along the valley confirmed that this classic rock climb was covered in snow. This set us about weighing up our options.

The Original plan: Piz Bernina
Piz Bernina

I had no particular objective so was happy with just getting up high, and do something productive. So the three of us set off to climb in the Bernina Range.

Day 1
The walk up to the Diavolezza Hut wasn’t particularly long or hard, just pretty boring following a large track for several hours. I presume the track was there from building the cablecar and hotel at the top. Getting the cablecar would have made life a lot easier, but none of us could bring ourselves to pay that many francs when it can be walked in only a few hours. However I’ve subsequently learned that in order to give yourself the best possible chance on any given route in the Alps it is paramount to reach the bottom of it in top condition!

From the Diavolezza Hut looking towards Piz Palu (lefthand  peaks) and the Bellavista range (righthand Peaks)
From the Diavolezza Hut looking towards Piz Palu (lefthand peaks) and the Bellavista range (righthand Peaks)

At Diavolezza we met some Germans with a guide planning to climb Piz Palu.
When we told them we were planning to stay in the winter refuge at Marco e Rosa Hut one exclaimed “peugh! It is little more than a container!” We thought that the winter refuge at Marco e Rosa Hut was fantastic. Not sure how they would have reacted if we had told them we were planning to sleep outside the hotel to save money!

Making food
Making food

The Diavolezza Hut gave us a good vantage point to plan the next day but most of what we encountered could not really worked out until we were on it the next day.

Weighing up the mountain from the Diavolezza Hut
Weighing up the mountain from the Diavolezza Hut

Day 2
This was a long day by any definition. A 4am start with a complex glacier crossing started the day off, followed by an extremely long steep snow plod with a section of mixed climbing.

A minor detour from the intended route actually took us to the highest point we would achieve Bellavista (3922m). This less frequented summit was actually quite interesting with a narrow ridge leading away from it which we decided wasn’t safe to use, meaning we had to descend the way we came up.

From the summit of Bellavista looking towards Piz Palu
From the summit of Bellavista looking towards Piz Palu

After coming back down from the Bellavista we started heading towards the Marco e Rosa Hut, which involved more slow upwards progression on snow slopes and glaciated terrain. with time ticking by a summit attempt on the Piz Bernina was now looking less than likely today. Just getting to the hut would be enough for today.

One of the “interesting” sights of this part of the day was the group of climbers having lunch under the shadow of a melting serac in the afternoon sun…

Marco e Rosa Hut
Marco e Rosa Hut. Preety amazing place to put a hut. I think the hut is located just inside Italy.

The journey from the Diavolezza Hut to Marco e Rosa Hut took about 9hours, by which time exhaustion and altitude were taking there toll. It was also too late to have a reasonable go at summiting the Piz Bernina, so we decided to attempt it the next day if conditions allowed.

View from The Marco e Rosa Hut
Evening view from The Marco e Rosa Hut

When I arrived at the Marco e Rosa Hut I was totally shot. The combination of exhaustion and altitude had really got to me. Taking my sleeping bag out of it stuff sack felt like too much, I had to just get inside with the kit I’d been wearing all day, try not to hyperventilate and sleep it off. Ive never felt that bad ever, it was like the worst hangover ever mixed with being really cold and not being able to breath properly. I managed to sleep it off for a few hours, ate some cheese and then seemed to feel ok again. If I’ve learned anything from this trip it is the importance of being properly acclimatised, going from near sea level to nearly 4000m in two days doesn’t work too well!

Feeling a bit better having got over the worst of the altitude/exhaustion at Marco e Rosa Hut
Feeling a bit better having got over the worst of the altitude/exhaustion at Marco e Rosa Hut
Sunset from The Marco e Rosa Hut
Sunset from The Marco e Rosa Hut

Day 3
Having not managed our initial objective the day before we had hoped to get an early start, but the conditions were doing all they could to put an end to this.

The sequence of events went something time this:

3:45am: too much wind.

4:00am: Harry volunteered to go outside to check wind situation. Still windy. Back to bed.

5:00am: Continuation of strong wind theme. Running out of time to do Piz Bernina.

8:00am: Pushing the limits of what can be considered an “Alpine start” but there was no point in getting up early if we weren’t doing the mountain.

Working our way back
Working our way back

After the “late” start we started making our way back. The first technical challenge of the day was to safely cross the glaciated terrain near the hut. This went pretty smoothly and we made good progress to the multiple abseils down the mixed section.

Descending towards the glacier
Descending towards the glacier…
Descending towards the glacier
More descending towards the glacier…

After the multiple abseils the only technical challenges left were descending the exposed slopes to the glacier and crossing the glacier. This decent wasn’t technically hard just typical Alpine “don’t fall off” terrain.

Looking over the glacier to the Bellavista
Looking over the glacier to the Bellavista

Glacier crossing is less stressful in the daytime because you can see more of what is underfoot, but I found it a bit frustrating when you can see the place you are trying to get to but cannot just strait line it because of the crevasse systems.

Even when you think you are off the glacier on the moraine at the side the glacier extends underneath you as this ice poking through shows from a few meters away from where the main glacier ends.
Even when you think you are off the glacier on the moraine at the side the glacier extends underneath you as this ice poking through shows from a few meters away from where the main glacier ends.
The Bellavista from Diavolezza Hut
The Bellavista from The Diavolezza Hut

Overall it was a good adventure but I am slightly disappointed to have not completed the planned goal of the Piz Bernina. The mountain will however always be there, and not always succeeding is just the nature of this game. I guess it just puts those times it does work out into context.

Made it down!
Back at the van

Geneva to Zurich to Lecco

Firstly apologies for the length of time it has taken me to post since coming back. This is the first of a few posts I’m planning to do about my trip.

After a night in Geneva I got the train to Zurich where the plan was to meet some friends who had driven down from back home. The plan was then to head down to near the Swiss-Italian border to climb but the weather was doing its best to stop us! It rained all the way from Geneva to Zurich, then pretty much all the way through the Alps as we headed south. It was only pretty much as we crossed the border into Italy that the rain stopped.

View from the van
Morning view from the van

Our first day got off to a pretty slow start due to lots of travel in the previous days and the absence of a guidebook to the area. Having eventually located a bookshop, and thus a guidebook we began attempting to locate the crag from the mediocre description in the book. After becoming well acquainted with most of the minor roads/dead ends in the area we found Galbiate.

James climbing at Galbiate
James climbing at Galbiate

Galbiate is a small crag in the trees above the town of the same name. It reminded me of  Giggleswick (in setting not quality or climate).

James climbing at Galbiate
James climbing at Galbiate

On our second day in the area we decided to do something bigger, and opted for a multipitch called Condorpass on Zucco dell’Angleone. This was a great route about 10ish pitches long, with fantastic view over the area.

View from Condorpass
View from Condorpass on Zucco dell’Angleone
Harry and James on a belay on Condorpass at Zucco dell'Angleone
Harry and James on a belay on Condorpass at Zucco dell’Angleone
Harry on Condorpass
Harry on Condorpass
James on Condorpass
James on Condorpass

Northern Italy provided us with everything we needed; good weather, cheaper than Switzerland and close proximity to the main objectives in the Alps. I would definitely recommend this area of Italy, but not just for escaping the weather in the Alps but also as a top quality area in its own right.

Alpine bound

When I was first offered the opportunity to head out to Briançon in the French Alps for fieldwork in September I immediately jumped at the idea. I love fieldwork, especially in places like the Alps! It got even better when I found out that I could add a climbing trip on as it made no difference to the university if I flew out a week early, then returned a few days late.

Well organised kit whilst packing tonight
Well organised kit whilst packing tonight

So anyway I doubt I’ll be posting too regularly whilst I’m out and about but I can promise a combination of interesting climbing and geology posts from this trip on my return:)

Shaftoe Bouldering

Headed up to Shaftoe in Northumberland on Tuesday evening trying to make the most out of the decent weather and light evenings as the nights start to draw in.

Pete on Soft Centre, Shaftoe
Pete on Soft Centre
Me on Sloper masterclass, Shaftoe
Me on Sloper Masterclass

The rock at Shafoe climbs quite differently to other venues in Northumberland in that its much more rough than the sandstone found at places like Bowden Doors and Kyloe (in and out). Its still a sandstone but with a definite feel of grit about it, similar to the rock at places like The Slipstones down in Yorkshire.The rock on the problems generally has brilliant friction and is of good quality, quite different from the much finer, softer sandstone found at nearby Corby’s

The coarse fluvial Sandstone at Shaftoe
The coarse fluvial Sandstone at Shaftoe

In terms of the geology of this rougher sandstone is believed to be a fluvial deposit. This means that it is a sedimentary rock produced by a river, and is slightly younger than the Fell Sandstone which makes up Bowden and Kyloe.

Pete on Hound Dog, Shaftoe
Pete on Hound Dog
Me on Soft Centre, Shaftoe
Me on Soft Centre

Flutes and fossils: Trowbarrow

Before heading off to North Wales last week I went to Trowbarrow quarry in Lancashire for a quick climb and poke about but haven’t had time to post about it.

This disused quarry is a geological SSSI with lots of high quality (and some crap!) climbing on offer. One of the most prominent geological features at Trowbarrow is the near vertical nature of the bedding planes. We can see this on the photo of the main wall where the routes follow cracks along the bedding. Other interesting geological features at Trowbarrow worth seeking out include; faults, folds, fossils and apparent paleo-karst.

Climbing on the main wall, Trowbarrow, UK
Climbing on the main wall, Trowbarrow, UK

The photo of the main wall above is actually one from a few years ago but it hasn’t changed much, except some people say that the entire right hand side of the main wall is rotating causing the cracks to widen? The climbs on the righthand side of the main wall are looking a little ‘unstable’ but I’m sure people can make their own judgements about whether to climb them…

Coral Sea (VS), Trowbarrow Quarry, Lancashire
Looking down onto Coral Sea (VS), Trowbarrow Quarry, Lancashire

Like many of the climbs at Trowbarrow Coral Sea (photo above) follows the bedding plane, and as the name would suggest numerous fossils are observable all the way up.

Fluting at the top of Trowbarrow Quarry, Lancashire, UK
Fluting at the top of Trowbarrow Quarry, Lancashire, UK

Another feature at Trowbarrow is Fluting. This is a common feature on limestone and is caused by differential weathering and erosion. It can be observed at Trowbarrow at the top of Assagai wall, where it forms the spectacular finish to Assagai (good sling runner in the flutes!).

Fluting at the top of Trowbarrow Quarry, Lancashire, UK
Fluting at the top of Trowbarrow Quarry, Lancashire, UK

In terms of the climbing the obvious mid grade classics Jean Jeanie(VS 4c), Coral Sea (VS 4c) and Assagai (HVS 5a) are certainly worth a look. Polish can be a bit of a problem at Trowbarrow (especially on Jean Jeanie!) but generally the climbing is really good quality!

UKC Trowbarrow Logbook Page

The Great Orme: Lower Pen Trwyn

Apologies for the multiple posts today but there’s lots to post about since returning from Wales!

I hadn’t climbed on Lower Pen Trwyn (LPT) before but would certainly go back. In terms of the Climbing LPT has some really good routes across the grades and has the feel of sport climbing elsewhere in Europe, especially if the sun is out! Could The Orme be the Welsh answer to Kalymnos?

Approach to Lower Pen Trwyn
Approach to Lower Pen Trwyn

The approach is pretty simple (steep start) with some good geology to maintain interest on the way in. The following photos and thoughts are by no means an exhaustive study, and were captured in a passing by type manner with the intention of inspiring climbers to look around them on the way in to LPT.

Sediments onto of the limestone on the approach to Lower Pen Trwyn. Presumably these are recent sediments sourced from the limestone above on the Orme, but this does not explain why there is such rapid variation in roundness and sorting between layers. Ideas?
Sediments ontop of the limestone on the approach to Lower Pen Trwyn.

Presumably the sediments above the limestone are relatively recent, and are sourced from the limestone above on the Orme? This short transportation distance however does surely not provide a satisfactory explanation as to why there is such rapid variation observable in roundness and sorting between beds?

Faults in the limestone on the approach to Lower Pen Trwyn
Several apparent faults in the limestone on the approach to Lower Pen Trwyn
Fossils at Lower Pen Trwyn. I'm not a fossil expert so any help with identification would be appreciated?
Fossils at Lower Pen Trwyn. I’m not a fossil expert so any help with identification would be appreciated?

Climbing wise Under the Boardwalk stands out as a real classic of the crag, proving to be a tricky little number requiring a sustained effort right till the end, but the crag contains abundant quality climbs. At the far right end there are several ‘easier’ sport routes in the F6a(ish) range with Beauty is Only and Skin Game being good fun.

Matt Keeves on Under the Boardwalk, Lower Pen Trwyn
Matt Keeves on Under the Boardwalk, Lower Pen Trwyn

Oh and remember that LPT is tidal, and accessible apart from about three hours either side of high tide. Its also worth noting that the 1st bolt on most climbs is pretty high (due to the tides).

UKC logbook page for Lower Pen Trwyn

The slate

I have always loved the Welsh slate (in terms of climbing and geology) so no trip to North Wales would have been complete without a substantial amount of time spent here. This is not intended as a in depth review of either the geology or the climbing, more like a few photos, words and thoughts. A really great article on the climbing can be found on UKC.

The Dinorwic Quarries looking towards the Lanberris Pass
The Dinorwic Quarries looking towards the Lanberris Pass. The shear size of these quarries is very impressive, and I’m told that the quarries which are still active at Bethesda are even bigger?

So what is slate? Slate is a metamorphic rock (meaning that it was previously another rock which was heated up and pressurised without melting causing physical and chemical changes). The rock which made up the slate previously was probably a fine grained sedimentary rock (such as a shale).

Pull my Daisy (E2 5b), Rainbow Slab, Dinorwic Quarries
Alex Peace on Pull my Daisy (E2 5b), Rainbow Slab, Dinorwic Quarries

Good things about climbing on Welsh slate:

  • Quick drying: this is wales we are talking about so it will rain and with some routes climbable only 15mins after a shower it can save a damp days climbing!
  • Unique routes

Good things about the geology of the Welsh slate:

Pull my Daisy (E2 5b), Rainbow Slab, Dinorwic Quarries
Alex Peace on Pull my Daisy (E2 5b), Rainbow Slab, Dinorwic Quarries
Pull my Daisy (E2 5b), Rainbow Slab, Dinorwic Quarries
Alex Peace on Pull my Daisy (E2 5b), Rainbow Slab, Dinorwic Quarries
Bus Stop, Dinorwic Quarries
Jessie Harris, Bus Stop, Dinorwic Quarries
Quite a strange route (even for slate) at Bus Stop Quarry
Quite a strange route (even for slate) at Bus Stop Quarry
Pulling shapes!
Pulling shapes!
Not really sure what these are, any ideas? Something leaching into the slate?
Not really sure what these are, any ideas? Something leaching into the slate?

Overall if you have never visited the abandoned quarries near Llanberis it is well worth the effort to explore the unique landscape found here.

A Dream of White Horses

Did Dream of White Horses on Gogarth yesterday. Been wanting to do this for so long! Just thought I would put a few pictures up. Go and do this route now!

Looking over the Zawn
Looking over the Zawn
The Abseil down
The Abseil down
Jordan Phethean Leading the pitch above the ledge
Jordan Phethean Leading the pitch above the ledge
John Phethean seconding the pitch above the ledge
John Phethean seconding the pitch above the ledge
John Phethean seconding the pitch above the ledge
John Phethean seconding the pitch above the ledge
Looking back from the end of the final traverse pitch towards the previous belay. Best pitch on UK rock?
Looking back from the end of the final traverse pitch towards the previous belay. Best pitch on UK rock?

Off for a Scramble today:)

Pembrokeshire

Just a few photos from the DUMC summer meet to St. Davids in Pembrokeshire…

Armorican,  Craig Caerfai, Pembrokeshire
Armorican, Craig Caerfai, Pembrokeshire
Uncertain Smile, Craig Caerfai, Pembrokeshire
Uncertain Smile, Craig Caerfai, Pembrokeshire
Armorican, Craig Caerfai, Pembrokeshire
Armorican, Craig Caerfai, Pembrokeshire
Craig Caerfai, Pembrokeshire
Craig Caerfai, Pembrokeshire
Pembrokeshire rain
Pembrokeshire rain

The trip inevitably ended in the obligatory rain induced chaos that comes with any trip to Wales.