Aaron's Journal: #002
6th - 7th July 2019
Peak District, United Kingdom
The Peak District in the English Midlands is home to some of the greatest Trad Climbing there is, home to countless routes ranging from Mod to E9. It's also the first place I ever experienced the world of trad climbing.
A good pal of mine, Dave, took me out a few months back to second up his trad leads and learn about gear placement and climbing on Gritstone as I went. Now, months later, we returned to the beauty of the English countryside to take it on.
Friday night we checked the forecast and were expecting clear skies and a warm sun throughout the weekend, so when we arrived in Hathersage to pouring rain, we weren't too pleased! The forecast had changed in the early hours to rain until midday, so we sulked off to a cafe nearby and passed the time by trying to work out how to set up and use a Kong Slyde (How-To tutorial coming soon!).
Eventually the rain subsided and we decided to head to Stannage Popular, a rock face that's exposed to the winds and should hopefully be the quickest place to dry out. When we got there though, we soon realised how the place got its name! It seemed every climber in the local area had the same idea and were crowding up on the top of the rock face. Deciding to avoid the crowds, we headed a bit further East to a section known as Apparent North. While most of the climbs were shorter than at Popular, they were quiet and dry(ish).
The climbs also proved pretty tough going! Neither Dave or I are a fan of crack climbing and jamming, yet the first climbs we sent were Sleazy Jamming (Sev. 4b) and Easy Jamming (HVD, 4a). Whilst not the not technically challenging climbs, they felt sketchy for our warm up climbs, and only my third ever trad lead climb.
We sent five routes between us at Apparent North before heading round back to Popular where the crowds had cleared out a little now that the sun was shining bright. We scaled another four routes here: Physiology (VD), Anatomy (VD), Sociology (Sev 4a) and Castle Crack (HS 4b).
Between the climbs we were even graced with the appearance of not one but two crag dogs! Anyone who knows me well enough will know my day was made when the younger of the two - a fluffy Collie looking dog - trotted over with a stick in its mouth, dropping it at my feet.
Eventually we tire of our climbing for the day and check the time. 8pm. We'd been climbing constantly for 8 hours! That definitely meant a well deserved beer. Lugging all of our kit into the back of my car (me leaving my chalk bag open and covering the entire black boot with fine white chalk) and headed to the nearest pub.
We had a plan for the evening, grab some dinner in a pub with a beer garden, then head out to the YHA we had booked for the night. We were about a 30 minute drive away so had plenty of time to enjoy our beers first... wrong.
We soon realised that the kitchen stopped serving food at 9pm and by now it was already 8.20. Frantically we downed our drinks and jumped in the car, hurtling to Eyam. If it wasn't for the nicest barmaid- Lucy - we wouldn't have made it for dinner that night. Lucy held the kitchen open for us until we arrived and ordered, then disappeared only to emerge again moments later with two cold pints in hand. If you're reading this Lucy - you're amazing, thank you!
We thought that was the end things that day as we sat leisurely enjoying our drinks and food - the first thing we had eaten since setting off from home in Essex at 7am. And for the most part, it was.
Sunday saw warm weather and a day of climbing. But that wasn't before we ended up walking through what felt like the set of Jurassic Park! When we got to the crag we wanted, we found it was overgrown, and mossy green beyond anything we would consider climbing. Around we turned and ended up looking at a few chimney climbs.
Well I say 'climb', in reality I became a nervous wreck less than a few meters from the ground on my second climb. After a long days climbing the day before, several pints that night and my fear of heights kicking in, I found my breaking point and backed out of the climb.
I learnt a valuable lesson there though - It's ok to back out. It's good to push yourself, that's where you find and bend your limits, but it's better to not stretch those limits too far.