Peaking a little too late
Having endured a damp week in not-so-sunny southern England we were pleased to see a brighter forecast for the peaks (on Saturday at least). The merry band of climbers and walkers assembled at the rather luxurious Ollerbrook barn on Friday night were therefore in rather high spirits, looking forward to a cheery walk up on Kinder Scout or sending some new routes on the grit stone (it’s at its best when the weather’s cooler they say…). O/S maps were perused, and guidebooks browsed over a bevvy or three and we all then flopped into bunk beds with high hopes for the next day.
Saturday dawned and, viewed from the hut windows, the weather appeared to be living up to its promise so the “popular” group of climbers (Chuck, Joe, Marie, Stef, Damien, Katherine, Oli, Chrissie, Charmian, Anna) set off for Stanage popular. The equally popular group of walkers, ably led by Gemma and Cara and joined by Robin somewhere on the moor, began the ascent of Kinder Scout, walking closely by the start of the Pennine Way which commences within ½ a mile of the hut. This left Chris and Nick.
Not wanting to use a car when there was a crag within walking distance Nick suggested that they explored the tors high up on Kinder South. The guidebook may have said something like “best enjoyed on a summer’s afternoon” but, what the hey – it was at least 12 degrees outside…Racing out to catch-up with the walkers they passed Chuck. “Enjoy your walk(!)” he shouted to the intrepid pair. “Enjoy queuing(!)”, Nick retorted. As it turned out, both were correct.
Meeting that evening at the Old Nags Head (supposedly the “official” start of the Pennine Way – but I didn’t see any officials) we compared notes over a traditional pub dinner. Joe mentioned that the first sight that greeted the Stanage crowd was the sight of a climber backing off the legendary, but not overly challenging, Flying buttress. This set the tone and was only one of a few backing-offs to occur that frigid day. Nick and Chris had found the going green and tough up on Kinder. Nick had slipped suddenly off the Severe Hiker’s Crack (much gratitude to Chris and the cam-placement…) and had to escape on Hiker’s Gully Left (HVD). Again, gratitude to Chris for leading the unexpectedly required second pitch. They then attempted the top-fifty Upper Tor Wall and found it all a bit much so had to arrange an abseil to collect the gear. The day ended with a pleasant walk, mind.
The popular climbers found that Stanage was indeed busy but shimmied up a variety of classics including: Right Twin Crack (VS*); April Crack (S***); Shuffle (VD*) and Left Twin Chimney (D**). Conditions were testing though – Katherine noted that her hands had lost all feeling in the cold – and queues at the bottom of the routes were a welcome opportunity to warm up.
Overall then, the walkers probably had the best of it – taking in a pleasant route up Grinds Brook onto the Edale Moor, over Kinder Scout and then homewards on the Pennine Way.
Underground, overground, Wombling free
It tipped it down on Sunday. Seriously – I’ve seen some miserable D of E candidates on enforced walks before; but the looks on their sodden faces tramping past the barn on Sunday morning would bring sympathy from even the stoniest of hearts. We smiled at them from the windows of the barn and stayed in the dry watching Rugby.
Eventually it was time to leave the hut and three groups formed: an underground group picked out an interesting caving excursion; an overground group set out for the Sheffield climbing centre; the rest of the MMC decided to
pick up litter on Wimbledon Common go shopping and eat cake.
Driving down the M1 in a never-ending rain cloud Chris announced to Nick that he was giving up climbing in conditions under 15 degrees. “I used to think there was a 10 degree limit”, he explained, “but it’s just not pleasant, is it?” Nick concurred – “but we’ve done Mod’s in lower temperatures” he noted. “And what about ice-climbing…?”
And so, through empiricism and anecdote, it was that the first putative study on the relationship between climbing grade and ambient temperature was completed.