Against the ebbing tide

Having fun on Octopuss Party (6c) in Portland

As climbers dwelling on British sea cliffs, we are all well acquainted with the ebbs and flows of the tides. The comings and going of bodies of water. The ups and downs, like a metaphor for life, sometimes flowing with you, sometimes against you. Towards the end of winter I picked a nasty elbow injury, which to start with, I didn't think much of it. But as the weeks went by it became obvious this was nothing like any previous injuries i had and hindered my climbing seriously. I have spend spring and much of the summer doing rehab and seeing specialist around the country. Luckily all of them agreed that I should carry on climbing to help the recovery, albeit at a very low level. As luck would have it (or dark humour from the weather gods...) Britain was going through the best weather window it has seen in living memory. The Lakes crags drier than ever, the south coast cliffs scorching in the sun, warm sea... It made for the perfect scenario for my "recovery" climbing.

Viki making good use of her Filo downie on an early season Pembroke visit

A few weeks after my elbow went “pop” we did a trip to Pembroke to test things out. It was quite encouraging to find out I could still climb easy routes, so ticked some of the classics that I had left to do like the outrageous Zeppelin (E3) at Mother Careys. We also visited Portland a lot as spring it’s the best time there, and with the start of the good weather we donned the shorts and suncream and did our first DWS’s of the season. The good thing about soloing is that you get a lot of buck for your money, you might only be climbing 6a or 6b, but you certainly get a full experience, perfect for feeding the rat when you are not at your best.

Enjoying the exposure and specially the very big holds of Zeppelin at Mother Carey’s (Photo Stefan Morris)

Following the questing mode I headed up Crag Y Ysfa in North Wales, a mountain crag I didn’t even know it existed despite being glaryingly obvious in the Rockfax guidebook. We had a great day up there doing all the classics to and even managed to second an E5 (Mother of Mercy) which was auspicious. Heading to Cyrn Las the day after my legs were feeling the burn and my elbow was certainly not feeling the love. I struggled to second my friend Misha up the Edge of time (E4), sagging on the rope a few times.

Making a very hot ascent of Bloody Sunday. Even the coolness coming from the depths of Huntsman’s Leap wasn’t enough to stop this being a very torrid affair (Photo Stefan Morris)

By now we were in the full blast of the heat wave and had a four day trip booked with an extremely keen Rob Greenwood. We headed to the Lakes to scape the heat and makes the most of the best conditions the Lakes has seen in a long time. Rob is on a mission as he is to tick the Extreme Rock routes, so I followed his lead. The following four days where a whirlwind of action, ticking some incredible climbs in an most idyllic setting. When the Lakes are good, the are very good indeed. Perhaps my highlight was leading the immaculate main pitch of Air on a bowstring (E3) on Bowfell Buttress, one of the best I’ve done.

Enjoying the easier climbing on Tarkus (E1), after a very bold and not-so-E1 start. (Photo Mark Glaister. Look out for the new Rockfax guidebook to the Lakes)

By now the heat down south was getting unbearable. We tried to climb in Pembroke, but only managed a few (very sweaty!) trad routes. The DWS saved the weekend, however the water was too nice to not go swimming, which is what we mostly did. We put the swimming to good use to reach the block in the sea in front of Trevallen to go and do the excellent Rock around the block (6c).

Enjoying the mad geological journey on "Topology" (7a) at Skomars Arch in Pembroke (Photo Gaz Hughes)

We read the writing on the wall regarding the weather and retreated to Peak District for the next few weekends until the heat wave dissipated. The elbow still needs nursing, but it seems that is on the mend and I can’t wait to get fully recovered and make the most of what’s left of the year.

Scratch & Win

A Winter's Tale