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Thursday, 23 February 2012

We're From The Isle of Man...

As it was half-term and the in-laws wanted an opportunity to goo-goo gaa-gaa at number two son a trip to the Isle of Man was scheduled. Now much as I like the in-laws I fairly clearly expressed the opinion that I wanted to "get out climbing", "quite a bit"...


So with a series of passes in place I was keen to explore some mroe of the trad on the island. There is an online guide to the Isle of Man (HERE) but it max's out at E2. Beyond that there is a pretty extensive collection of routes, mainly the work of Dougie Hall. And the majority of them await repeats.

Travel over on the ferry with the boy lard, the dog and (critically) the car. It takes ages, borrrrrring. The wife and number two son fly, cunning. Speak to Doug, he's heading to the (new) wall tomorrow evening, I arrange to see him there hang up and then realise that its Feb 14th tomorrow, uh-oh. The mother-in-laws birthday, cry off from the wall, but agree an afternoon pass with the boss.

Morning child herding. As one of them can't walk yet and the other is mesmerised by Scooby-Doo this is less testing than might be imagined, don't tell the wife though...
Afternoon I head out with a rope and shunt. I have in mind a project line that I saw last time I was over. I get to it and it's as I remember, vertical (maybe ever so slightly over hanging) small holds, no gear, 14 metres high. I sort out a rope on it and get to work. The sequence comes together pretty quickly, it's thin balancy moves, lovely. Then a hands off rest before the last move which is a really spooky high-step outside edge with a poor right hand undercut, full stretch to a good left hand sidepull jug. The reach is just far enough to make you think your foot will slip, creepy. The whole route is pretty sustained difficulty without being pumpy as you can get a lot on your feet (if your not over-gripping and gibbering like something gibberey). Anyway at the end of the session I shunt it in a oner. It all feels steady apart from one move which is a right hand foot match on a positive edge then a big rock up with a slightly unconvincing left hand to a positive right hand which is a looooong way away. I almost lose momentum and stop before I reach the hold, not a problem on a shunt. But if you tightened up on the sharp (solo) end you'd be off, 7 metres down to a ankle snapping boulder before carrying on down the steep boulder strewn grass slope to the boulder choked sea a couple of hundred feet down. Hmmmm, time to go out for a pizza...

Another morning of Scooby Doo then..
Out alone again. Shunt the route cleanly straight off, brush it on the way down, shunt it again, brush it again. It's feeling steadier but it's still thin with an unpleasant dismount. Hmmm, have a slice of malt loaf. Another brush and check the solidity of the holds on the crux. Another piece of malt loaf, a drink of water. Helmet on, boots squeaked, off we go. It flows, I'm climbing smoothly and well and I quickly find myself at the hands off rest. Don't hang around getting spooked and freaked, chalk, left hand poor slopey edge, right undercut, it's too high so feels rubbish, left foot steps through and up to high smear outside edge, stand up weight on foot, move hips across to the right and flag right leg out for balance, reach up left hand, keep reaching, keep reaching, fingers on side of the sidepull now but still not round onto the hold, feel solid, raise the heel slightly for the final inch of reach, god that's scary, fingers curl, feet up high, pull, top. Breathe.
Tenaya E7 6b but probably hard at both..

Wall in the evening to meet Doug. New wall first visit. It's OK, given the limits of the building there's no point bitching about wall height, just go up and down until you get pumped... There are a couple of things that need sorting though. The bouldering wall needs proper mats, the lead wall needs some dense rubber flooring under it (several people "decked out" on rope stretch while I was there, it's inevitable given the length of the wall, nobody was hurt but...) and the music was too loud. Maybe I'm an old fuddy-duddy but I had a sore throat for the next two days as I spent the whole evening shouting conversations with people, it was like been in a party pub. Communication from the top of the wall to belayer was sign language only. Anyway I'd go back, can't say fairer than that.

A day of rest (and cream teas, yummm)

Out with Dougie and Beef. Dougie knows the routes so I let him lead the way. He suggests top roping a couple of lines, fine by me. First off an E4 to warm-up. It's a bit pumpy but steady away, nice warm-up. Then there's an adjacent route called Mansard an E6 of Dougies that's unrepeated, I have a top-rope, pull the rope, have a piece of flapjack then lead it. Feel very steady, which is nice as it's overhanging and probably 16 metres, the kind of route I would have probably avoided in years gone by. A bit of sport fittness crossover training for trad?
Then Dougie poionted me at another E6, I briefly toyed with the idea of trying to on-sight it but as he'd already placed a top-rope on the line I didn't. Thank god, t'was filthy. Dougie went up first to show me the numbers and give it a bit of a brush then I had a pop. It was still really dirty, the rock on the Isle of Man seems to get covered in this fine powder which feels like graphite powder, really slippy and means you massively over-grip even on big holds. This route was a bit more sustained and combined with the dirt I just pumped out on the easier headwall, glad I didn't go for the lead it wouldn't have been fun.
Finally we went to have a look at a great looking line, another E6 of Dougies only this one has had a repeat. It's pretty long (25/30 metres?) and overhanging all the way. Apparently it's E2 to about half height then it kicks in with a crux last move. All sounds very sustained and pumpy and pretty much my anti-route. However it was catching the wind something chronic so we decided to leave it, I'll be back to try it though as it looks mega.
To finish off we tried a steep un-named E5 of Dougies. It was really steep but on good holds. I managed to drag myself up it but was almost caught out by a tricky last move just when you think it's all over. Hence the new name, "Scorpion" beware the sting in the tale...

Another day out with Dougie, and Squib this time. After yesterday I was keen to try some on-sighting. A couple of routes in particular appealed. But first the warm-up. I started off with Hut Circle Middle, a nice E1 up a slab then a corner with a steep move to get established in the corner.
Then I felt warmed up, it was a lovely day, blue sky, light breeze, I felt confident and like I was climbing pretty well so decided to go for my main target of the day. Levitation (it's called Hut Circle Mid-right on UKC) is another unrepeated E6 of Dougies and it looked pretty basic and bouldery from the ground, Obvious gear and then head for the top. So that's what I did.

A great fun route that went without a hitch, excellent.

Then Dougie lead Hut Circle Right (E4), then Squib had a lead and finally I got on the sharp end.

Then onto the other route that appealed. At the right end of Hut Circle Buttress there is a big roof which makes an obvious target. The nature of the handholds means the route (The Roof E5 6a) doesn't actually climb over the widest point of the roof, rather it attacks it from the right-hand side. It's still plenty steep though. Again I was keen to on-sight this so tied on and headed up. It all felt fine, the hold at the back of the roof felt ever so slightly damp but nothing to fret about. Anyway up onto the lip of the roof, then reach over and look for holds to top out and aaaaargh I'm blind. Serious sun in the eyes, a bit of groping finds a couple of holds and over I go. Would have been nice to be able to see things though. Dougie and Squib then both lead it.
(sorry about the poor video quality, I had to film pretty much directly into the sun)

Finally Squib and then I finish off with a lead each of Mandatory Scuttle, an E3 up the left sidewall of the roof. This is a vertical route with easy climbing to gear, then a spooky step out onto the sidewall of the roof, exposure, then one thin pull to the top. Then Dougie insists on a "mandatory scuttle" rightwards before topping out because "it's nicer". What a lovely day.

I had a great week in the Isle of Man, I really got my head round the climbing this time and was very pleased with the ticks I came away with, I'm absolutely certain that Levitation is my first non-grit E6 on-sight (which is nice) and I was pleased with the other on-sights/flashes. The new route is excellent, and when compared to the other routes I did on the island is probably right at the top-end of E7 6b, and the headpoint was pleasingly rapid (it's easy to feel disappointed and that I should have gone for the on-sight but I'll take the positive that I didn't "work" the route, I just did it on a toprope then led it). I was pleased with the confident way I was climbing, I honestly felt like I just wasn't going to fall off, even on the spooky bit at the top of the new route. I read the Jerry book just before going over, is that connected??

Anyway, here's some (not great, sorry) photo's, you deserve them if you've read all this...
The Roof 1
The Roof 2
Isle of Man
Hut Circle Right 1
Hut Circle Right 2
Hut Circle Right 3

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