Tag: climbing


When I first started climbing I thought I’d be climbing VS in no time. But that didn’t happen. Then as the years passed I got content with being solid at Severe. Then a few big upheavels in my life bought some fresh perspective on the things that were important to me; I started to climb more.

There’s been a lot of learning in the last 18 months. Getting my confidence back, learning to be positive and learning to make things happen. There’s a lot more work to be done there, but it’s moving in the right direction. And so is the climbing. Hard Severe’s. MVS’s. A few gentle nudges from my climbing partners “come on Gueste, you can do that”.

And because I’m like that I didn’t want to take a route that was MVS in the guide but VS on UKC . And I didn’t want it to be a route I’d seconded before. I wanted it to be real.

Walthwaite Gully

Walthwaite Gully VS. Photo by Jan Bella

So yeah; VS.

And it felt pretty nice.


Is it just the Lakes where this grade exists…


Ardus, classic lakes MVS

It’s a nice grade – I’m liking it as a staging post on the way to VS.

Murrays Route, Dow Crag

I know, it’s a bit weak really, I’ve never been to Dow; the hill or the crag, before. In my defence it does have a bit of a reputation, the kind that makes you want the right conditions before you take the plunge.

This week conditions arrived, and then some! Blimey it’s been hot. A trip to Pavey Ark, described by one friend as “a big sponge” had to be curtailed due to heat: In March!

First visits to any crag usually overawe me, I was expecting to be, and was duly overawed by Dow. The phrases ‘amazing rock architecture’ and ‘serious territory’ could have been applied if i hadn’t been busy trying not to get too freaked. At least our early start was rewarded with sun bathed walls.

Southern Slabs (S)

Mark’s route of choice was a variation start to C’Ordinary – Southern Slabs (S) came out favourite. From the starting belay there was opportunity to admire the hard climbs above Woodhouse’s Pinnacle (Woodhouses Arete E6, Shining Path E5 and Paths to Victory) lots of wild looking overhangs and even more scary looking rusty pegs.. Southern Slabs turned out to be a pleasant meander across the slabs looking for some kind of gear placement. One does feel one ought to try and place some.

The route finished at Easy Terrace. I was a little concerned about the decent; as I usually am in new venues. Having someone who knows the way off takes off the stress that you might go wrong and plunge to your death; Just the not tripping up and plunging to your death to worry about then. As these things invariably are, the decent turned out not to be to bad.

Murray’s Route (S 4a)

Murray’s was my route choice, I figured a classic rock tick might be nice. The proviso was that I led the 1st pitch; the slab of which is regarded the crux. I found the preceding chimney harder, certainly more intimidating, It took a cheeky thread runner and the appearance of some solid holds about half way up to bring back a little confidence. Conversely the slab seemed all there in terms of feet and holds, although a little polished. I quite enjoyed the working your feet across the slab part.

Mark led through into Abraham’s Cave. We split the traverse pitch into 2 – both sling-on-flake’tastic and some pretty wild positions. The final pitch also fell to me, some lovely moves I thought, laying off the edge of the crack. The difficulties over I managed to reach easy terrace , just! on our 40m ropes.

As we topped out we saw we no longer had the crag to ourselves, and watched a couple of guys on what we guessed must be Eliminate A – which also looks like it gets into some pretty wild positions.

Vercors Climbing

des Allières

A small crag, with an easy walkin – not the most picturesque location (althought the valley is), but for what it’s worth in my book ideal first day crag. Its situated above the Village of Lans en vercor, and next to the fire road leading to the des Allières Auberge. Much used by groups, softer grading, and in the words of Mike “where you want a jug, there are three”, all make a good confidence boosting start to holiday. And the best thing about this crag? In the shade until about 2pm.


Wow! The cliffs here are BIG. 300m in places. If you aren’t impressed, then you probably aren’t a climber. Presles is a catch all name for a multitude of sectors on these impressive cliffs which sit below the village of Presles, which inturn lies on the plateau above. We stayed at the municiple campsite at Coronche, which lies in the valley bottom. 2 of the days we where here it was hot hot hot (doh – that’ll be July then!) So we stuck to climbing in the morning and evening, at the Tina Dalle sector. it’s a little polished in places, and the gradings quite stiff – but plesant.

Salad Days IMG_5598
Salad Days. Does this count as one of my 5 a day?

Our third day here we spent at the less accessible Sector Guarany. After bushwacking down trough the steep wood, we found lovely if slightly ‘salad’ like climbing (some of the best all holiday I thought) – shame rain stoped play after just 3 climbs.

In summary, Presles is one of those places that makes you want to be a much better climber – there clearly loads of amazing routes in far out places- and despite it being great to climb there, doing easy stuff on polished single pitch sectors seems a bit of waste.

Lans en Vercors

A deceptively large crag, with loads of different sectors, and a wide grade spread (3b to 8a). From the road you can only really see the Sector des Trous (sector of holes), but round the corner there is another 5 sectors. We climbed mainly in the Sector Humour Noir, and the Sector des Trous.

Lans Pierre in the Sector des Trous

The crag reminded me a bit of a Guadi cathedral or a Sudano-Sahelian mosque – It’s hard to explain, but have a look at pictures of these buildings and it might be clearer. At an altitude of over 1000m we never really found it too hot to climb here, although the weather was less hot in general while we were here.

Les Trois Pucelles

You can either translate this as the three virgins or the three maidens depending on your sensibilties. Les Trois Pucelles dominates the skyline at you look up from grenoble to St. Nizer.

Les Trois Pucelles

The first ‘getting’ lost happened in the woods on the way up – which is a thin trail up through the woods, and then up the gully. You start the route round the corner in the gully then traverse left to right, to get to the base of the middle virgin. First pitch, fell to me – a sparsley bolted traverse, when you set off you have about 5m of space below you – by the end of the pitch about 50m, but all OK, because even if it’s slight pokey, the climbing is easy. The second pitch is more wandering through a wood attached to a rope (think the 2nd pitch on Little Chamonix – but longer). The third pitch we never found. We thought we found it – but it wasn’t bolted. We tried some alternatives – random bolts leading us down dead, vertical soil, ends. In the end we abbed off, and went up the gully. This turned out to be a whole big adventure in itself – of the loose rock and caving variety.

In conclusion The Vercors is a good climbing destination – but probably best not to go in July.

Reiff Break

Have wanted to go to Reiff for ages – Coigach is such a lovely corner of Scotland and the climbing at Reiff has a big reputation. Luckily for me some mates didn’t take much (read none) convincing that a weekend trip was a good idea. Leaving Edinburgh at 4pm, stopping for chips in Aviemore, and being witness to an amazing sunset as we travelled the last stretch, we made it the 235 miles to Altandu before closing time.

Roinn a’Mhill

Saturday dawned, and with about one good nights sleep between four, we rose groggy but keen. An overcast sky wasn’t ideal, but a stiff breeze made up for it. Predictably, because it’s the first area you come across and has the shortest walk-in, we headed to Pinnacle area of Roinn a’Mhill to start off. By the time we had got organised and Fiona had led her first route, Helen and Tim had got 2 routes under their belts [note to self: faster pussycat!]. On Helens recommendation I opted for Diagonal Crack (VD)* as my first climb – just as I was about to set off both rain and midges decended. In these situations the best thing to do is just crack on with it (geddit?) and get to the top sooner. Steepish but steady climbing that required a bit of thought – worthy of it’s star.

Photo of Roinn a'Mhill cliffs taken from the cliff top at An Stiuir
Roinn a’Mhill taken from the cliff top at An Stiuir

A few routes later we headed over to the Marriage area to find Junior Groove (VD). It looks a bit like a mini version of Inverted V at Stanage, but tucked away in a gully. Fiona decided half way up that this wasn’t the route for her. A few more short routes later and hating unfinished business I found myself back in the gully and on Juniors Groove (did i mention that grooves really aren’t my thing). Actually it was quite nice – and as the 7th climb of the day, finished what for me was a pretty high route tally, on a high.

Route Tally

Decent Route (Diff)

Diagonal Crack (VD)* – Lead

Special K (Diff)

Sandstone Shuffle (VD) – Lead

Something Blue (HS)

Something Borrowed (VD) – Lead

Juniors Groove (VD) – Lead

An Stiuir

For day two we headed further along the coast, away from the crowds, to the Sea Cliff in the An Stiuir area. We did know the tide times, but when we arrived it was still much more ‘in’ than we would have liked, so some time killing ensued. We did some scouting around the diffrent sectors – the Seal song wall is immense – and at Severe overhanging crack has got to be on my wishlist. Eating lunch in the sun, scanning the horizon for dolphins, we managed to pass an hour or two easily.

Time dead, and the tide had pulled out to reveal solid ground to climb from – so we abbed in and got on with it.

Fiona led Sea PInk (VD) then my turn. Sea Phylis (VD)** looks well tough from the rock fin, but looks better from underneath (look mum, hold’s and everything!) – it climbs very well too. I’m not sure what the other routes we did where – there was an easy groove, just left of the decent coner (possibly Sea Quim), and then Fiona tried what we thought was Sea Weed (VD) – but in retrospect might have been Sea Stytis (S). Whatever it was, it was more like a tough Severe than a V.diff, both to look at and to climb.

A dropping breeze, signaled a retreat, and the long road home.

Route Tally

Sea Pink (VD)

Sea Phylis (VD)** – Lead

? (VD) – Lead

? (S)

Sat on the cliff top at An Stiuir
The end of the second day

Cheers guys for a lovely weekend, and Reiff = defintaly worth a return trip. In fact I’m already working on my wish list…