About the Northumbrian Mountaineering Club (NMC) The NMC is a meeting point for climbers, fell walkers and mountaineers of all abilities. Our activities centre on rock-climbing in the summer and snow and ice climbing in the winter. Meets are held regularly throughout the year. The NMC is not, however a commercial organization and does NOT provide instructional courses.
NMC Meets The NMC Members’ handbook (available to all members) and the NMC website list the dates and locations of all meets. This magazine lists the meets arranged for the next few months.
BMC Public Liability Insurance for climbing incidents. Discounted NMC guide books. Discounted entry at certain indoor climbing walls and shops. Access to the extensive NMC library.
Join the NMC Download a Membership form from: www.thenmc.org.uk Send the signed and completed membership form with a cheque made out to the NMC for the membership fee (see below) to the Membership Secretary at the address shown on the membership form. Membership Fees •Full £25 •Prospective £15.00
Magazine articles This is YOUR magazine so please keep it running by writing about your own climbing experiences. Even beginners have something to write about. Send Contributions to:
Non-members: Are always welcome to attend meets. Note: Winter indoor meets require a minimum of prospective membership (see below) due to venue requirements for third party insurance.
Membership Details Members are Prospective until they fulfill the conditions for Full Membership (see membership form.) Full membership is valid for one year from the end of February. Prospective membership expires at the end of March each year. Membership gets you: • Copy of the quarterly magazine. NMC County Climber
Committee 2012/2013 President – John Dalrymple Vice Pres. – Richard Pow Secretary – Sam Judson Treasurer – Eva Diran Mem’ship – Gareth Crapper Hut Co-ord. – Neil Cranston Hut Bookings – Derek Cutts Magazine Ed. – Peter Flegg Social – Sarah Follmann Librarian – Eva Diran Web – Ian Birtwistle General: John Mountain, Andrew Shanks, Ian Ross, Adrian Wilson & Neil Morbey.
As an affiliate to the BMC, the NMC endorses the following participation statement: The BMC recognises that climbing, hill walking and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions and involvement.
Black & White Photos? If you received this magazine as a paper copy, then you are missing part of the picture as the download version of the magazine is in colour. To arrange for email notification that the latest issue of the magazine is ready for you to download, contact the membership secretary at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos Unless otherwise stated all photos in this issue were taken by the author of the article.
Copyright The contents of this magazine are copyright and may not be reproduced without permission of the NMC. The views expressed in the magazine are not necessarily those of the editor or the NMC.
Cover Shot Neil Morbey deep water soloing at Waterfall Geo, Mingulay, by Sarah Follmann
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What’s in this issue?
Weekend meets 2012
Wednesday evenings meets .......................... 3 Weekend meets 2012.................................... 3 Confidence.................................................... 4 Regular Fun .................................................. 6 Club News .................................................... 9 New sewage system at Bowderstone! ...... 9 Potential new members........................... 10 You CAN teach old dogs new tricks...... 11 Sicily, April/May 2012 a photo account..... 15 Another nice Mas! ...................................... 17 Oh come, all ye faithful .............................. 20
You MUST contact the meet leader in advance, as any accommodation may be limited or already fully booked. Note: A deposit may be required to reserve your place on a weekend trip. 23-24 June Highlands Rock Richard Pow 07831 216 024
30 Jun - 1 Jul
Bowderstone, Family Meet
Annual Dinner John Dalrymple
Neil Cranston 0191 270 2648 07591-242-339
Wednesday evenings meets No need to call anyone—just turn up with all your own equipment. The NMC website has crag location details (www.thenmc.org.uk), also check the website forum for indoor wall alternatives if the weather is not good. Meet afterwards at the pub shown in italics.
Clogwyn Huut, North Wales John Mountain 01670 505 202
Peak District Gareth Crapper 07825 457 416
Galloway, camping John Dalrymple 07591-242-339
Pembroke DWS Neil Morbey 07734 842 582
Yorkshire Limestone Sarah
27 June 12
Kyloe In – Percy Arms, Chatton
04 July 12
Ravensheugh – Turk’s Head, Rothbury
11 July 12
Wanneys – The Gun, Risdale
18 July 12
Crag Lough – Twice Brewed
25 July 12
Back Bowden – Percy Arms, Chatton
01 Aug 12
Coe – Angler’s Arms
08 Aug 12
Kyloe Out – Percy Arms, Chatton
15 Aug 12
Wanneys – The Gun, Risdale
22 Aug 12
Bowden Doors – Percy Arms, Chatton
Hut fees were increased in early 2011, to cover operating losses.
29 Aug 12
Peel – Twice Brewed
The new hut fees are:
05 Sept 12
Drakestone – Turk’s Head, Rothbury
12 Sept 12
East Woodburn/Wolf – The Gun, Risdale
19 Sept 12
Corby’s – Angler’s Arms
26 Sept 12
Rothley – Dyke Neuk
03 Oct 12
Shaftoe – Dyke Neuk
NMC County Climber
Follmann 07896 305 855
Bowderstone Working Meet Neil Cranston 0191 270 2648
North Yorkshire Grit Chris Davis 07967 638 826
Hut Overnight Fee increase
£5 for members £7 for non-members. These increases are effective immediately.
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Confidence Graham Williams
Confidence is a fragile thing. For 30 years, every time I have visited Bosigran, I have avoided doing Anvil Chorus. This VS has a reputation. The guidebook warns that serious accidents have occurred on pitch three. Pitch three is the line that draws the eye when you first arrive at the main cliff. It is a clean corner and, like Cenotaph Corner, presents the most obvious challenge on the cliff. The guidebook says ‘steady if jammed, bold if laybacked’ and advises placing a flexible friend at the bottom of the crack to prevent the other runners ripping out in the event of a fall. By 'serious accidents' what the guidebook means is that there have been two fatalities here, when a leader has pulled out the protection as he fell. So Easter 2012 once again found me back at Bosigran. We had stopped on the Culm coast on the way down; and spent a day at Vicarage Cliff, before torrential rain forced us to abandon the campsite at Hartland and head down to the Count House. I had hardly climbed in the last year, hence at Tregiffian Cove, I struggled to lead Acid Test, a Sennen like strenuous VS, perhaps I was also slightly spooked by using, as a playground, a place so close to where the Pendeen lifeboat and the Union Star were lost 31 years ago.
NMC County Climber
The next day we did a couple of easy routes at Bosigran. ‘Get some mileage in,’ we told ourselves. From Ledge Route I stared over at the corner, 'It’s only VS, surely I can climb VS?' The next day I decided we could avoid the issue no longer and headed back down the path from the Count House to the main cliff. One polished hold surprised me as my foot
Bosigran Main Cliff
slipped at the start of the first pitch, but after pitch 1 it was wall climbing on positive holds, standard 4b. Reng then led the next pitch. Every pitch on the route is escapable at the end as easier routes cross it, and everyone on the easier routes is watching you. A scramble left gets to the belay for the corner pitch. Climbing up to the foot of the corner, I was anxious to follow the advice. I placed a large wire, it looked like there was no way any side pull could remove it but I placed my 2.5 cam as June 2012
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well. I have always tried to convince myself that I am good at jamming, so that was the approach I was determined to take. As I started up I realised how strenuous this 'approach' was going to be. The jams seemed not as good as I had hoped and there was little in the way of footholds on
summoned my remaining strength and laybacked up the remainder of the corner. I took a belay there and let Richard finish the rest of the pitch, a traverse followed by a tricky mantelshelf. At the top, after the boulder problem like fourth pitch, I thought about what had gone wrong. If I
Richard ‘Reng’ Hardwick on Acid Test
the wall of polished granite. There was a good edge in the corner that seemed ideal for laybacking. I hesitated and tired, then tried to push on torn between my plan A and laybacking. My right foot slipped in the crack as I fumbled in some more gear but I pushed on. I was too hesitant, too slow and it was tiring shouting ‘watch me, watch me’ to Richard like some kind of mantra. 'One more piece of gear,' I told myself 'then switch to laybacking.' The number 3 cam struggled to squeeze into the crack and sat there with only one of the cams properly engaged, I needed the 2.5 which I had placed at the bottom of the crack!
didn’t know about the history of the route, would I have climbed more confidently? If I had ignored the guidebook would I have just done the obvious, and laybacked the whole pitch? What if I had trusted my own judgement and better saved that 2.5 cam for higher up? What if I had trained harder and not got so tired? What if I had climbed more in the last year? Maybe it is only a route and I shouldn’t be wasting my time worrying about any of this. After all the route will still be there next year, and so will I.
I’m ashamed to say that I rested on that gear. I felt physically and mentally spent. Humiliated by resting on gear on a VS, I NMC County Climber
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Regular Fun Trevor Langhorne
As Nick parked the car in the last half space in the pull off, I had a dreadful feeling of déjà vu. The previous day we had arrived at the parking area below Daff Dome; it was nearly full and when we got to the base of our chosen route (West Crack, 5.9) we found the guidebook author to be accurate when he wrote 'come prepared to wait in line'. The base of the route had a queue, like one for lottery tickets when there is a quadruple roll over. We went elsewhere. Today we had a full car park below Fairview Dome and a guidebook that told us to 'expect a big line and slow parties. It is common to have to return many times before getting a chance to get on the route' (Fairview Regular Route, 5.9). More in hope than expectation we decided to go for a look.
160’ crack. After fifteen feet he slowed; “are you sure it is the right hand crack?” I was surprised by the note of concern in his voice. Topo check, yes; oh! Continuous steep bridging and finger jamming led him to a ledge below the polished crucial corner. “Watch me”, a few neat moves, “safe” and all too soon it was my turn. Reality struck home very quickly, many of the finger jams were in polished peg holes; even worse, Nick’s chipolata fingers fitted OK whereas my Cumberland sausage fingers didn’t. Finally I reached the ledge below the crux only to find it an illusion; a couple of tenuous moves later I was on the stance. Looking down there was another climber on the pitch but where was his second? Clad only in shorts, chalk bag and rock shoes he was soloing and soon cruised past and vanished above. The crack-line continued above, good but sometimes wet jams and excellent
After a pleasant woodland approach we arrived at a large snow patch, avoided by scrambling up and across slabs to the start. Result! There was no line of hopefuls; the only other climbers were near the top of pitch three. Gearing up on Regular Route, Fairview Dome the snow slope was 'interesting'; simultaneously trying to avoid protection took me to the topo’s 'awk pod sliding down the slope in rock shoes or (5.8)'. Up the left side on good holds then dropping the rack down the bergschrund. step in thought I, easier said than done, and I soon returned to the footholds below. Pitch one contained the crux and had Several attempts later, involving lateral Nick’s name written on it, he set off up the thinking and a layback, proved the right NMC County Climber
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arête to be bold but straightforward, not far above the pod was a large and comfortable stance. Nick stepped into the pod from the left with ease; I told myself it is easier on a rope. What followed was the first of three errors on my part. Rising above the left end of the ledge was a corner crack the topo noted as being 'incredibly sustained finger/hands, 5.7'. Failing to read the topo carefully enough I sent Nick up to the next big ledge. The climbing looked brilliant and he had soon disappeared from view round a small overhang, the rope kept on moving out, then speeded up and came
tight. My cry of “that’s me” elicited a worrying reply, “can you undo the belay and move up a bit – I’ve got my hands on the belay ledge”. Belay stripped, I mounted a couple of ledges and stood still until the welcome cry of “safe!” reached my ears. The pitch was stupendous, never desperate but not one easy move for the best part of 150’. On the stance I re-read the topo, I had told Nick to climb to a ledge half way up pitch four; the total length being 205’, no wonder our 60 metre (or 196’) didn’t reach! The topo showed a big white flake above, reaching it was tricky but well protected, once there it was clear that the flake was detached and there was no way to avoid swinging on it. Looking down at Nick directly below, should the flake fail he would be written off, I swung over very carefully and was relieved to get my weight off it. The wall above was delightful and all too soon I arrived at the lower edge of Crescent Ledge (the bivouac site used on the first ascent) and a grand place to stop for a bite to eat and a drink.
Nick leaving Crescent Ledge
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The next pitch proved easier but excellent and soon enough I was sorting the rack for pitch six. Nice steep and exposed moves up a long curving corner followed by a delicate slab led to a roof, the topo showed '3’ roof, 5.7 lb'. I now faced a double whammy, I struggled to get my paunch over the overhangs and laybacking is my least favourite technique; luckily it looked worse than it was and I was soon at the next stance. It was here that I made my second error – I continued up the short next pitch, rope drag increased with every move, until I finally dragged myself onto the stance.
brought Nick up. He soon had us on the right line although in a minor error on the final pitch I climbed direct rather than trending left, which provided a sting in the tail with a very awkward mantle-shelf onto the almost flat summit. Below us lay 12 pitches of superb climbing on immaculate rock; the view of Tuolumne Meadows from the summit was fantastic. All that was left was the walk down - sorry feet.
Looking around, it was obvious that the nature of the face had changed, the angle dropped back and there were many more Trevor and Nick happy to be on top features such as flakes, cracks and corners – we had completed the difficulties. Several easier pitches led up Postscript: and right, an excess of features making route finding difficult, requiring regular An ascent of the ultra-classic Regular reference to the topo. To save time I Route, IV 5.9 on Fairview Dome in hooked my glasses over the neck of my T Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National shirt, this was error number three. While Park by Nick Steen and Trevor Langhorne placing a wire I heard a tinkling, believing in July 2010. To quote Fifty Classic that I had dropped a wire, I looked down; Climbs in North America 'there is no 'no sign of it, must have fallen down the doubt, it’s one of the climbs to dream face,' I thought to myself. I continued about in Tuolumne Meadows', I agree. climbing but ended in a blind alley. Time to consult the topo; my glasses were nowhere to be seen, 'so that explains the tinkling noise!' I reversed to a ledge and NMC County Climber
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Club News New sewage system installed at the Bowderstone! John Mountain
NMC Annual Dinner The dinner this year takes place on: Saturday 7th July
My last briefing in March indicated that we were on the point of hiring a contractor to do the work necessary to install our new sewage system. We chose a locally based company, who set to work in April. There were a few complications: some to do with the weather, and some to do with the terrain, but the system is now installed and working. Sign-off from the local authority Building Control has been received, and my next (and hopefully final) task in this saga will be to advise the Environment Agency and other interested parties, that we now have a system that complies with current requirements. The cost of this work is £8000.
At the same location as last year: Riverdale Hall Hotel, Bellingham, Hexham
Turning now to the lease, the National Trust has visited the site and inspected the properties. They have come up with a list of works that need to be completed BEFORE the current lease comes to an end in March next year. Most of these are as expected, and a few have already been attended to (yes, even the ash pile has finally gone!). Nonetheless, there remain some significant work to be done at the next Members' Working meet. I’m hoping that Neil Cranston will get a positive response from you, the members, when he starts trawling for volunteers for the 22-23 September working meet. These tasks MUST be done and we need YOUR assistance, so even if your skills are limited to wielding a paint brush, you CAN help make a difference!
due in the near future, once available, we will pick up our discussions with the National Trust.
The National Trust has also indicated what work it would want us to undertake should we renew the lease—amongst the items listed are re-roofing and re-wiring. In anticipation of this, we have asked a local Chartered Surveyor to look at the premises, and report on the condition both with a view to current requirements, and to advise on likely future work. This report is NMC County Climber
A 2 or 3 course meal is available (£17.90, £21.40), and a choice of accommodation including exclusive NMC use of the Desmesne Farm Bunkhouse (£16 pp) Book your place at the dinner and in the bunkhouse (first come, first served) by contacting John Dalrymple: 01670-519-629 email@example.com
The Committee expects that the outcome of the lease talks with the National Trust will be one of two scenarios: 1. The Trust will stick to the same lease and continue to expect us to fund major works. 2. The Trust will agree a different lease which will absolve us of responsibility for major works. The consequence of which is likely to be a significant uplift of our rent. Neither of these outcomes are good for the Club and we will continue to press for a deal that the Club can afford, but I have to say that I am not optimistic.
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NMC Library news:
Change of phone number
The committee has decided that the guidebook library needs to be updated.
Membership Secretary Gareth Crapper has got a new mobile phone number.
Members can claim back the cost of the purchase price of a new guide for a climbing area if the club does not already have the copy – the book will be added to the library after your trip.
The new number is: 07825-457-416 Please note: The number listed for Gareth in the Members’ Handbook in both the meets section—Peak District Meet 4-5 Aug—and the NMC Members list is now incorrect.
You should ALWAYS check first with Librarian Eva Diran whether you can claim the back the cost of the book. Eva Diran: 07824 627 772, firstname.lastname@example.org
Business Cards Potential new members The committee wanted to improve the Clubs appearance for new and prospective members. To this end a couple of new ideas have been introduced: Website The website homepage is now improved for non-members - ie potential new members. This area provides concise general information about the Club with simple access to the relevant application forms. The original web pages - designed for members and mainly providing events calendar, news and discussion areas are still available from the same website but now accessed via the 'Community' button at the top right of the page. Twitter and Facebook The Club has updated it presence on both of the social networking sites - to keep the Club up-to-date with current communications methods.
Committtee members now carry NMC business cards containing information about the club and how to join. The cards can be handed out when talking to potential new members (at indoor walls, crags etc.) The card has space on the back for the member to write their name and contact number so that the potential new member can feel they have a known contact within the Club. We have more copies of the business card available - if any members wish to carry some cards to hand out and help publicise the Club to new members, then please contact John Dalrymple (email@example.com, 07591-242-339). Advertising at indoor walls A4-sized posters have been created to be displayed at the local indoor walls. The posters carry a plastic card holder which contains copies of the NMC business card, mentioned above, with the Membership Secretary's name and number on the back. Thanks to Adrian Wilson, Ian Birtwistle and Sam Judson for their work on this.
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You CAN teach old dogs new tricks (Even if they don’t always learn!) J Spencer, A Wilson, J Vaughan
Picture the scene: Shelter Stone Crag, Cairngorms, a chilly June afternoon in 1992. I had led the crux pitch of Steeple, the so-called Ramp pitch, a 5c rising traverse up a ramp (!) with a step sideways onto the undercut belay ledge to finish. Paul, my second, could follow me up anything I was capable of leading, but not infrequently fell off. Since he was built like a brick shithouse and weighed in at 14 stone something, I was able to reassure him that he always got to the top under his own steam, give or take a pull on the odd piece of gear, since there was absolutely no
like a sack of potatoes a couple of hundred feet above the screes. Although he was only 10 feet below me, there was nothing I could do to help, so I lowered him to grassy ledges and executed a complicated retreat off the route and off the crag. If only I had known how to rig an assisted hoist or other means of hauling his ample frame up to the belay, we could have finished the route... Roll the clock forward twenty years. Following a suggestion at the Club AGM, Richard Pow took the initiative of organising a one-day rope and rescue course using a training grant from the BMC. The course was aimed at “those leading VS multi-pitch trad or above that want to learn more about self rescue and
Chris the instructor on the left with the two Johns.
way I could give him any assistance. Anyway, true to form, off he popped a couple of moves short of the belay, out ripped the top piece of gear, and away he swung, out into space, where he dangled NMC County Climber
other advanced techniques and is designed to give folk going to adventurous places some of the skills to get out of a tight spot.” The date was set for Sunday 13May; six places were offered at £55 per person June 2012
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(ie half the usual cost); and the instructor was to be Lakeland-based guide Chris Ensoll1 (BMG and UIAGM), who would be accompanied by two assistants, giving a highly acceptable tutor:pupil ratio of 1:2. Unfortunately Richard and Eva were not able to make it in the end, so the final “Lower Scout Crag Six” comprised: Adrian Heath, Sarah “Überschnell” Follmann, Neil Morbey, John Spencer, John Vaughan and Adrian Wilson. The meeting point was set for the Old Dungeon Ghyll car park, with Lower Scout Crag the venue for the training. John Vaughan takes up the story: “Sunday morning dawned cold and grey. After an afternoon climbing with a manic Neil Morbey at Shepherds the previous day, I was ready for a more relaxed session, refreshing my rope management and rescue skills on a safe Lakeland crag in preparation for the more serious sea cliffs of Mingulay... It was not to be - what transpired was a full-on day of ‘back to basics’ instruction in the building blocks of safe climbing and how to put them together smoothly and efficiently when it all starts to go wrong. Our instructor, Chris, was definitely ‘old skool’, preferring simple tools and techniques to more complex technology and emphasising the versatility of the basic prusik loop over mechanical devices... His approach was careful and logical, emphasising the need for clear thinking and a methodical approach in problem situations... As the day progressed he took us through the individual steps in securing a fallen climber, getting ourselves out of the system, hoisting, lowering and prusiking safely and quickly... All seemingly simple stuff but easy to get wrong under pressure... After a thorough grounding in the basics, the day culminated in a simulated scenario where we put everything together to rescue a fallen climber, bring him back
to the belay and prepare to lower him to the ground.” I was partnered with Mr Vaughan and had the great “pleasure” of being rescued by him in the aforementioned ‘simulated scenario’. This involved me leading an easy line on the crag, falling off at the end of a traverse (onto bomber gear, by the way), and dangling (in a chilly breeze) while he: secured the rope; escaped the belay; prusiked up the rope, past the gear, across the overhanging traverse and down the rope to me; fitted me into a home-made chest harness; attached the free end of the rope to me; prusiked back up the rope, across and down to the belay; re-entered the system; finally lowered me at the same time as hauling me over to the belay ledge. Expertly and smoothly executed. The fact that it took the best part of an hour not only meant I was well chilled in the wind, and very uncomfortable in the nether regions from dangling, but also that in real life I would have been well dead! Definitely need more practice... Adrian Wilson, teamed for the day with Neil Morbey, had this to say: “Like most climbers, I always carry prusik-loops and had an understanding of the principles of self-rescue: escaping the system, assisted hoists, counter-balance abseils and the like, but I had never really had to use any of them in anger. What I really liked about the training session was that it was based on real world scenarios and used whatever gear was available rather than assuming you’d be kitted out for every eventuality on every climb. There were lots of really useful tips alongside the core techniques which were used in a number of scenarios.” Overall, the day was great fun, and felt to be really useful by all participants. The standard of instruction was high and very practically-oriented. The four of us about to head off to Mingulay in particular imagined the skills and techniques could be potentially lifesaving. But what about the impact?
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Back to Adrian: “The weekend after the training, I was climbing in the Lakes with some friends; on one of the climbs, my second, who wasn’t having a very good day, got a bit fazed and couldn’t commit to making the crux moves on a particular section. I arranged an assisted hoist and he was soon over the crux and climbing up to the belay. Whilst it was great to be able to do it “for real” with confidence, it reinforced the need to continue to practise and consolidate the skills and techniques to become slicker and more efficient; as with first aid skills, you may be unlikely Adrian Heath and Sarah Follmann trying not to get carried away to need them but if and when you do, you really need to get it right with the minimum of fuss!” ‘sort-of’ rest day. I suggested we visit Seal What about Mr Vaughan? “Even with a refreshed understanding of techniques that, as a caver, I’d once considered second nature, little did we know how soon they might be required!!!” Read on... Postscript
Mingulay, Day Six, the day after Mr Vaughan and I climbed Voyage of Faith2. We were tired and looking for another 2
See article ‘Oh come, all ye faithful’ by John Spencer elsewhere in this issue
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Song Geo, a venue that looks daunting – the rock is black and overhanging, there are lots of birds and all the routes require abseil access – but about which Al and Kat Horsefield had raved. So we surely had to give it a look, didn’t we? We plodged across the island in the heat of the midday sun. Mr Vaughan, Uberschnell and I plumped for a route called Walking on Waves, a two pitch E1 starting from ‘a small triangular plinth 15 metres above the sea’, whilst Johnny and Steve got stuck into another line near the top of the geo. It took us a while to locate the start of the climb (is that a plinth? no it’s a platform...) June 2012
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and set up the abseil, and in the end we had to move the rope a little away from the actual line of the route to avoid a couple of unpleasant looking sharp edges. We fed out the static line, and over I went, with full rack and one of the ropes on the way, I though, for a walk on the waves (but not literally.) Just as I was about to alight on the plinth, the rope shifted and left me dangling 3 or 4 feet out (by now about 20 metres above the sea.) Bugger. I let my leg loop prusik slide up into the belay plate and secured the abseil rope with an overhand knot. So far so good, I then tried to swing into the rock, but my efforts were thwarted when the rope above shifted again, resulting in me now hanging some 10 feet from the rock. Shit. Ah well, I’ll have to climb back out... Now psychologists working in fields as diverse as aviation, the nuclear industry and medicine have proposed a classification of the kinds of errors that people make. They include ‘skills-based errors’ (a.k.a. slips and lapses’ - you’re distracted and incorrectly perform an action you’ve done correctly a thousand times before), ‘knowledge-based errors’ (you do the wrong thing simply because you don’t know what to do), ‘violations’ (you take a shortcut and hope you don’t screw-up), and ‘rule-based’ (you know what to do, you just don’t do it in the right sequence). I wasn’t distracted, was not in the mood for shortcuts, and I knew what to do – I just did it wrong, a classic rulebased error. In a nutshell, I got my leg and waist prusiks the wrong way round, which rendered upward progress a whole lot more awkward than it should have been (or was on Lower Scout Crag!), not helped by the fact I was very slowly slipping down the rope and before I realised this the top prusik was out of reach. Yes, as everyone and his dog were keen to remind me later, I could have used my leg loop as an extra prusik, indeed could have used any of the long slings dangling round my neck. But I didn’t. In the way that completely bonkers ideas infiltrate rational thought processes NMC County Climber
when you’re under duress, I did consider abbing down to the sea, leaving all the gear tied onto the abseil rope, detaching myself, and swimming across the geo to… not sure where and to what fate (certainly not walking on the waves!) but thankfully good sense kicked in and I stayed put. Anyway, once they realised I was not going anywhere fast, the team set in motion a rescue operation involving Steve and Johnny, summoned up from their second route. This eventually saw me hauled ignominiously upwards until I could touch rock, then top-roped me up the second pitch of our intended route. I reached the top some two hours after abbing into the geo. Back at Camp, the tale quickly did the rounds and the ribbing started, and several specially dedicated verses crafted to many of the songs sung that evening at the ‘last night party’. So all rather embarrassing for me and a salutary lesson, to quote John Vaughan, “of the need to relearn and practise these skills on a regular basis.” Thanks to Richard Pow for organising the session and to Chris Ensoll and colleagues Mark and Jake for delivering it.
Magazine Deadline The next issue of this magazine is due in late-September 2012. Articles for inclusion need to be with me before the end of the first week of September. Send photo files and text separately. Send text only in DOC, RTF or TXT format. Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Sicily, April/May 2012 - a photo account Bryn Roberts
Photo 1 – Lewis on Lo Sciavo
The advance party headed to Lo Sciavo, a 350m high face on Monte Pelligrino which stands proudly above the suburbs of Palermo. An evening of single pitch routes on Lewis’s final day was followed the next day by Bryn and Kenny teaming up alongside Sarah F and Martina to climb adjacent 6-7 pitch routes, accompanied by the sound of 30,000 singing Catholics in a festival in the Palermo football stadium far below.
Photo 2 – The ‘young team’ of Sarah F, Martina, Adrian, Neil, Sarah H and Cat (plus Bryn and Kenny) at El Bahira campsite.
The site lies directly below the rockface which extends maybe 3 miles along the coast south of San Vito. There is a dedicated climber’s area with outside dining facilities, plus the swimming pool and beach nearby – is this a climbing paradise? John Vaughan’s team opted for the ‘comforts’ of San Vito.
Photo 3 – Neil on the sport climbing cliff of San Vito Photo 1
Can’t remember the route name, but what does it matter? Everybody managed to climb up to their limit on the superb rock of the main escarpment, which has seen intensive bolting over the last five
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years, and new-routing continues. Hundreds of routes, generally between 2030m, with a wacky (but safe) assortment of lower-offs.
Photo 4 – Sarah F, Kenny and Marina on San Vito beach
What do you do when it’s too hot too climb? The best ‘gelati’ in the world and the beach await you! In the background is Monte Monaco, which hosts numerous multi-pitch routes plus the shady north face, with mostly high grade single pitches on a bulging yellow wall and some more amenable pitches on grey slabby rock.
Photo 5 – Coastline and hills southwest of San Vito
The surrounding region provides plenty of opportunity for relaxing, bathing and exploring historic sites such as the old town of Erice, which stands on a hill 700m above the surrounding countryside and the town of Trapani.
Photo 4 NMC County Climber
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Another nice Mas! Dave Hume
Disclaimer: I know from experience as an occasional contributor to the County Climber that I need to tread carefully when naming individuals in trip reports - phrases like 'you'll be hearing from my solicitor' and 'sending the boys round to break your pencils' have been muttered before. Therefore, "any resemblance between the people in this article and any persons, living or dead, who were part of this trip, is a miracle", and to make doubly sure I'm safe, I won't put names to specific actions. However, if the cap fits...
Following a successful four-man foray to France's Côte d'Azur last year, we didn't rest on our laurels, and recruited some hardy reinforcements to find out what the Languedoc region had to offer. After polishing off the classics of the Côte d'Azur last year, some of which had been polished before we got there, we knew we needed to call in some specialists. If only we had checked out their specialist credentials more carefully - low-carb cuisine, crosswords, silent reading, knockout G&T mixing and unbridled enthusiasm all added to our core portfolio of skills in sloth, snoring, cowardice and tactical injuries. Still, there were now eight of us, including one team member who is a business-card carrying officer of the NMC. How could we fail to have fun? With a combined age upwards of 480 years, our experience showed even before we set off. No rocky bivis, no grubby campsites, no smelly huts for us - we were going En Mas for luxury. Despite the attractions of Mimi's place, last year's base camp, it was just too far east for our intended crags, and was too small NMC County Climber
for the enlarged squad. No. 2097 Chemin de l'eau, near Noves, just south of Avignon, was perfect on both counts. Clever use of Babelfish translator had cemented our relationship with Danièle, who proved very accommodating by renting us her five bedroom Mas midweek to midweek. How was she to know? Our vast experience didn't help us to find out in advance that the day we arrived was a local French holiday, with bulls and drunks running around the town - no problem with that - some of the team live in rural Northumberland - but all the shops were shut too. A slightly pricy restaurant saved the day. Our nearest crag was Orgon, only 20 minutes drive by car, or 40 minutes by SatNav. With a short walk in, the Brêche Sud sector proved a pleasant place to start, and so we got started. In spite of walking sticks for cranky hips, strapped up ankles, dodgy shoulders, excess body fat, and old war wounds, we put in a good day's work at this crag. Luckily there were few witnesses to contradict that claim. We even left it as we found it, especially the harder routes which remained untouched. By now, the Wine Collectives and supermarkets were open, and our Gîte began to feel more like home. The cooks
Mike at start of L’enver du décor at Fontvieille by C Robson
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got working in the kitchen; the rest opened bottles and checked them for quality. In the afterglow of decision-making, we agreed to give Orgon another taste of our skills, this time heading to the shady side Acteur's Studio, a crag of relatively short but tricky routes. (A description that was also overheard about one of the team). Later in the day, the keenest and fittest slid over the col for a few extra routes on the Pointe de la Découverte. The less keen and less fit headed for the Orgon Campsite bar, to practise French on the receptionist and leaf through the expensive glossy local guidebook, pretending that we might buy it. Another al fresco evening ensued. Social niceties were over as rifts appeared in where to go next day. Two people had brought ancient local guidebooks to the Alpilles, so to make it worth their while bothering on our behalf, we headed out to find Aurielle. When we found it, the
Nick higher on L’enver du décor
NMC County Climber
prospect of a south-facing crag with no shelter put off a few suitors, and what looked like a longish and rough approach put off the walking wounded, so we drove another 20 miles to Fontvieille. Failing to find the crag, we went for a beer in the market place, but the Tourist Office told us the way, and they were right - it was exactly where they said it was. Hard to find, and initially hard to locate the sectors through the trees, half the team threw themselves at Sector Mozart, where Northumberland-style bouldery starts slowed them up a bit on short but tough routes. The other half of the team explored further northwards and found much more scope. We took an Arnie oath to be back, next day in fact, but not before calling back at the market place bar, and bringing a big smile to the mademoiselle in the fruit and veg shop, by buying all her strawberries. The butcher was smiling and thinking of buying a holiday home when we left too, with a giant leg of lamb surgically opened and ready for our barbecue. The barbecue billowed smoke on an industrial scale, and the lamb the best any of us had ever tasted, except for our vegetarian colleague, who had never, and wasn't going to either. From here on, one team member began to stand out from the crowd, albeit on a dodgy ankle, by emerging as a Masterchef contender with an inability to remember our names. His enthusiasm for ratatouille resulted in a 3-day supply of the stuff, although mutterings were heard about the lack of carbs. Nobody did anything about it of course. We got where we are today just by complaining. After all, another team player manfully cycled into Noves every morning to provide us with fresh bread. What more could we possibly want? Wasn't that carb enough for us?
by P Hazlehurst
And so we went back to page 18 of 24
Our last crag of the trip was Mouries. As it is north-facing, noone could use the sun as an excuse, although one of our more mature climbers couldn't summon up the will to climb here. After a couple of slippery starts, the climbing proved to be much better than first appearances, and grades began to creep up, Card carrying NMC man at Mt Gaussier, a roadside crag by C Robson genuinely for some, and in their own opinion for others. Fontvieille. Knowing where the crag was, turned out to be a big advantage. This is an Our visit was only just into Languedoc, excellent venue, although its not included really only the eastern fringe of the region in the Rockfax guide which states that around the Alpilles. From here we could there is no access. That has been resolved have reached the western crags of Haute apparently, and there were plenty of Provence too, had we been willing to drive French climbers there at the weekend. The an hour or so to get there. But we didn't get rock architecture and texture is spectacular, where we are today by spending hours in a and more than one of the team were fizzing car during a climbing trip. We didn't get about their day when we returned to where we are today by spending hours DaniĂ¨le's, where we enjoyed fizzy wine dogging routes too hard for us either. This too. probably means that yet again we failed to behave with a proper sport climbing By now it was Sunday and we no longer mentality. We frittered away our time by had the crags to ourselves. Seynes is a climbing routes within our capabilities, huge crag North West of Avignon, such as they are, although occasional toppossibly even visible from space, although roping was allowed for those members of this didn't help one of our SatNavs find an the party who had pre-booked this activity. easy way to it. That particular machine also nearly found an easy way out of the Key Words: Sun, wine, low-carb car window. cuisine, gigot d'agneau, segregation by crossword, and another nice Mas we got It was very hot, but well worth the ourselves into. drive. Excellent rock, many routes following good natural lines, and this Team 2012: Cliff Robson, Dave Hume, proved to be a favourite day with most of Gary Brosnan, Mike Blood, Nick Steen, us. There was enough here for a whole Patrick Hazlehurst, Pete Flegg, Trevor weekâ€”especially if you found a local Langhorne, and possibly some bloke called place to be based. So replete were we with 'Geoff'. a great day's climbing that we didn't even complain about a third day's portion of ratatouille.
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Oh come, all ye faithful John Spencer
As I’m sure you know, Voyage of Faith is the title of a seminal book by Alabamabased gospel preacher Frank Chesser in which he defines sin as: “...the purity of heart lying in a cluttered heap at the vile feet of pornography... the stench of sexual perversion rising from the graveyard of Sodom and Gomorrah.”3 Heady reading for sure. However, it’s also the name of a climb on Dun Mingulay, one of the first routes4 to find its way up that stunning bastion of rock, a special route (E3 5b, 5b, 5c) that seems to be a superlative magnet.
story (see photo). The top pitch, my lead, was the icing on the cake, a 50 metre 5b romp through first overhanging, then vertical rock on huge jugs – a ‘truly brilliant’ climb indeed. We both had big wide grins as we enjoyed a late lunch and sorted the gear in the afternoon sun. Meanwhile, the other party on the cliff (it
It wasn’t on our hit list for the Ming 2012 trip. The Big Project was another E3 on the cliff, Call of the Sea, our interest sparked by a short piece in a 2010 Climber article by Dave Pickford entitled ‘15 Routes To Do Before You Die’5 accompanied by two mouthwatering photographs. The line, which “...finds a faint almost delicate line of weakness through the central section of the crag,” he contended “...may not be the most mind boggling route but it penetrates the heart of Dun Mingulay’s epic NW face at a relatively amenable grade... It is a truly brilliant climb.” Neither of us are E3 regulars, but with a description like that and the situations depicted in the photos it was impossible to resist “the call”, especially with an adjective like ‘amenable’ applied to the grade! We nailed Call on the Tuesday, Mr Vaughan leading the technical, sequency 5c crux pitch, clocking up some air miles in the doing. Not bad for an owd gadgee, one day shy of his sixty third birthday! The cheeky smile on his face on the belay tells the whole 3
Chesser F. Voyage of Faith. Publishing Designs Inc. 4 First ascent by ex-pat Northumbrian Kev Howett and Scot Graham Little in May 1993. 5 Pickford D. Fifteen climbs to do before you die. Climber, June 2010. NMC County Climber
The cheeky grin tells the whole story
is not a crowded venue, queuing for routes rarely necessary!), Tim and Tamsin from Chamonix, had tackled Voyage of Faith. They topped out just after we did, with June 2012
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similarly big grins on their faces and tales of perfect rock, good but spaced gear, and amazing situations including a monster traverse above a cave. Clearly another route that had to be done. The next day was Mr Vaughan’s birthday and officially designated a sortof-rest day. After a leisurely start breakfasting and opening presents, we slogged over to the Geirum Walls and floundered around rather wearily on outcrop-graded single pitch sandbags. That night saw the birthday celebrations continue, including cake and a firework display, which thankfully did not attract the attention of the coastguards.
Mr Vaughan on the second pitch
Thursday dawned dry but with cloud drifting in from the east and shrouding the island’s hills. This looked a little ominous for a while, with possible rain forecast for later. However the sun eventually emerged NMC County Climber
and burned off the cloud. Time to embark on our voyage of faith. Four parties were heading over to the Dun today, eight people in total, all thankfully with different targets: Johnny Hall and Kiwi Steve aiming for Sula; Neil and Überschnell (aka Sarah F) for Call of the Sea; and Tim and Tasmin for Les Voyageurs, a sort-of directissima of Voyage of Faith. We only took one static line, a brand new 100 metre job belonging to Johnny. Unfortunately as Steve uncoiled it he came across a dangerous looking section of damaged sheath about 10 metres from one end. Hmmm. Not looking good. The damaged section could be isolated but the prospect of abbing past a knot in free space 80 metres above the waves was not appealing, at least not to me! Thankfully, we could see that the shortened line just reached the ledges at the bottom of the cliff, and a convincingly sound belay was expertly rigged by Tim Blakemore and Mr Vaughan. Over the top we went. Dave Pickford wrote of “...an absolutely jawdropping approach, a 100 metre free hanging abseil down to sea-washed ledges above extremely deep cold water.” Graham Little, first ascensionist of Voyage, was even more expressive in a 1997 article in the Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal: “My first full abseil down the central section of Dun Mingulay casts very serious doubts upon my judgement and upon the sanity of Kev Howett, my partner. The Atlantic licks its lips. I spiral down a free hanging bit of string, the rock stares blankly out at me. So OK, it is the best bit of rock in the world and we did climb two superb routes... but those moments of fear are with me forever.”6 It have been quite something. In an email, Kevin described their first visit. Having sailed to Mingulay with Bonington and Fowler, they had seen the Dun in profile as they prospected for crags, abseiled in on spec despite a hugh swell and rain threatening and ended up
Little GE. Rock jocks and sea dogs. Scottish Mountaineering Journal, Volume XXXVI, No 188, 1997.
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spinning in space over the sea cave and having to swing in to climb out. It was not actually as much of an arse-winker today, but exciting enough. As I was halfway down Donald’s boat chugged beneath the cliff, full of day-trippers with cameras at the ready – must have been quite a spectacle. Route descriptions on Dun Mingulay are awash with superlatives: “spectacular line”, “outrageous”, “impressively situated”, “wonderful”, “impressive”, “sensational exposure”, “superb”. Voyage of Faith is no exception. Gary Latter’s Scottish Rock guide describes the climb as: “An outstanding intricate line with much atmosphere and stunning exposure and a bit of sting in the tail”7, awarding it fully four stars. Essentially it takes a rising traverse line up an expanse of rock undercut by a large sea cave and capped by an overhanging headwall (see photo). We had a little bit of beta from Tim and Tamsin, the important message being that 5c ‘the sting in the tail’ wasn’t too bad, and, crucially, was well protected. Quite reassuring. Mr Vaughan led off on the first pitch, a short corner followed by grooves. He took a belay lower than designated in the guide, a better stance all round, but it meant that pitch two, the longest, was going to be even longer than the 35 metres stated in the guide. Not that I minded, likelihood of rope drag notwithstanding. The route continued up the groove system, took a 7
line of flakes across very steep ground, then up a flake crack to a horizontal break. The gear, as reported, was very good but
spaced out, a characteristic feature of Mingulay gneiss. Tim, on pitch two of Les Voyageurs, arrived at the break at the same time, taking a stance on some small ledges. He’d nicked most of the placements for his belay, but I managed to winkle in a small cam and headed off on the hand traverse. Fabulous climbing on mostly adequate handholds, but with only nubbins for the feet, leading to a very exposed hanging stance on a nose of rock 60 metres above the waves. What a voyage! Even though we were in full view of each other, Mr Vaughan’s Motorola walkie-talkies came in very handy, not least so I could warn him about the rope drag and point out there was no gear on the hand traverse so he’d better not fall off, else face a blood curdling pendule and something of a
Latter G. Scottish Rock, Volume 2, North, 2009.
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dangle over the lip of the sea cave (mind you, that would allow him to put into practice rescue skills rehearsed a few weeks previously in the Lakes – see other article). At this point the basking shark that had been grazing a little way off shore came closer into the cliff; seen from above its enormous size (easily 10 metres long) and elegance were apparent, as was its huge mouth filtering the ocean. Someone please explain how the feck something grows that big on plankton! In the event Mr Vaughan climbed the pitch steadily and effortlessly, joined me on the belay, and took off on pitch three. This led to an overlap, traversed leftwards beneath it then rightwards on top of it to a very comfortable belay nestled below the overhangs, surrounded by fantasticical rock architecture, all bulbous protruberances, elephant ears and blunt spikes. Tamsin had meanwhile led the very steep crux pitch of Les Voyageurs in fine style and was belayed just below us. Thus to the last pitch and the sting in the tail. By this time the sky had darkened, a breeze was whipping up and we were feeling spits of rain on our cheeks. Better get on with it. I moved right to the lower break in the roof and pulled through on customary monster-sized Dun Mingulay holds, but on reverting back to the vertical discovered it was now drizzling steadily. The top section of the cliff, a 25-something metre band of darker, flakier and more brittle rock, requires care at the best of times, in the wet even more so. The much anticipated sting, a hanging corner, turned out as predicted to be short lived, the thrutchy moves protected by a couple of pieces of ‘bomber’ gear. But cautious climbing up slippy, occasionally loose and vegetated rock was required to take me to the top. No whooping or hollering, for by now the rain was well set in, just businesslike belaying to bring up Mr Vaughan. Johnny, Steve, Neil and Sarah had topped out a while before, in time to enjoy a little sun but also in time to kindly stash our sacs and shoes out of the rain. The other voyageurs finally appeared, everyone now NMC County Climber
counted out and counted back in. Job’s a good ‘un. Lunch hastily consumed, stories swapped, gear sorted, abb rope pulled, and off we set for the trudge back to Camp, somewhat bedraggled but, I think speaking for all of us, everyone very pleased with their lot. Mr Vaughan even ranked Voyage of Faith alongside Regular Route on Fairview Dome (see Trevor Langhorne’s article in this issue of the magazine about Fairview Dome) as amongst the best routes
he’d ever done – praise indeed (although he has never climbed in Wilton Quarries, Lancashire so judgement must be reserved on this one!). Kevin confirmed that it really was a voyage of faith for them: threatening skies, hugh seas, beetling roofs and no way of knowing whether they could get through them at reasonable grade, Graham pulled off a block on the second pitch which just missed Kevin, and the final few moves proving the hardest. “Drank a lot of whiskey that night in the tent and even got Bonington tipsy!” Enough said The cover notes of Frank Chesser’s book tell us that Voyage of Faith is filled with “trembling (a little, here and there, in my case just before abbing in), spurning (the odd gear placement? possibly but not intentionally, it was sparse enough without spurning), proving (something, I guess, but not sure what), honouring (??), pleading (thankfully not required on this route), reaching (yes, for wonderful holds), moving (through some mind boggling territory), and obeying (Spencer, stop fiddling around).” This voyage saw ‘purity of heart’, yes, but no ‘stench of sexual perversion’, not that I could smell anyway, in fact only the faintest stench of anything (eg guano relatively few seabirds nest on Dun Mingulay), just a tremendous route, on an amazing piece of rock, in a stunning situation, on a magical island, on the edge of the world – superb! Superlatives anyone??
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The website includes various discussion forums, a photoarchive for members’ climbing photos, online guides for most Northumberland crags.
Indoor climbing: £1 off the standard entry price at: • Sunderland Wall. • Durham Wall. • Climb Newcastle (Wed. nites only). • Newcastle Climbing Centre (Byker) • Morpeth Bouldering Wall Also winter season Wed. nights at Burnside college, £5 entrance fee, open to NMC members only.
NMC Website The NMC has a very informative website
NMC Guidebooks NMC members pay a discounted price for any guidebook published by the NMC. Currently available are the following guides: • Northumberland Climbing Guide Definitive Guide to climbing in Northumberland. £12.50 to members (RRP £18.95)
For the above 2 guides add £2 P&P if required. Contact John Earl on 0191 236 5922 • No Nobler County A history of the NMC and climbing in Northumberland. Now ONLY £2.00 Hurry while stocks Last!!! Contact Martin Cooper on 0191 252 5707
T-shirts Various styles of T-shirt with printed NMC designs and logo are available. Order direct by contacting Ian Birtwistle 07828 123 143.
• Northumberland Bouldering Guide The new guide, £12.50 to members (RRP £19.95)
Neil Cranston at work on Overhanging Heave at East Woodburn by John Dalrymple
NMC County Climber
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