Anyone who regularly reads this blog (does anyone read this blog?) will know that there are two consistent themes. The first, unsurprisingly, is climbing. The second is the weather, or more precisely how frequently the weather ruins my plans. Because of this consistent meteorological frustration I’d been promising myself that I’d make the most of any clear spells that arrive and so last weekend it was, ironically, the clear weather that altered my non-climbing plans.
I was booked in to spend time in Cambridge having a uni catch up, punting and drinking on Saturday followed by the traditional hangover breakfast in the Copper Kettle on Sunday morning. A quick glance at the weather forecast, however, showed that the Peak District was due some unseasonally warm and clear weather whilst the south of the Country would continue to labour under an oppressive grey sky. Embracing my new “can-do” attitude and after a couple of persuasive phone calls I’d got Joe and Will on board with a new plan; Cambridge on Saturday then an early morning Sunday start and a day climbing at Rivelin on the eastern border of the Peaks.
So on Sunday morning I found myself bleary eyed, regretting the last couple of glasses of wine and ready to head off with Will and Joe in tow. We arrived at the car park around 11 and after some facilities hunting got to crag in beautiful sunshine. We decided to start on Root Route, tough for the grade at severe but with some really interesting layback moves and solid protection throughout.
Warming up on Root Route - perfect blue skies on an autumn day
Will and Joe both managed Root Route comfortably, impressive considering Joe forgot to put his climbing shoes on and only realised a few moves in he was heading up in trainers. Next door loomed the impressive Roof Route, a solid HVS with some interesting jamming required, but as tempting as it was it felt like a step too far so we decided to head further along to the Altar Crack section of the crag, so named for the giant altar of rock at the centre of the buttress, and got onto the imposing Altar Crack. This climb is renowned for causing accidents, it consists of a semi-comfortable stance from which protection can be placed as high as possible followed by a mad layback dash to the sanctuary of two horizontal breaks in the rock. A fall before the breaks would end up perilously close to the ground with the added danger of smashing into the altar on the way down.
After getting a couple of pieces of gear in I nervously entered the layback section and soon realised my forearms were getting increasingly pumped with each move. Looking down at the gear which now seemed to be a mile below me, I started to get concerned. I had my hands at the breaks but needed my feet up there and didn’t have the strength to make the final moves. Sweating and starting to visualise the whipper of a fall I was about to take I quickly stuffed a cam into the crack and slumped onto the rope. I shook out for a while and went for attempt number two which was unfortunately thwarted when Joe forgot to feed rope out and I was unceremoniously pulled back like a dog on a lead. Third time lucky I made it to the breaks, got some more gear in, had a rest and then finished up the final headwall to the precarious mantel finish.
Proving my lack of upper body strength during a laboured attempt on Altar Crack
Keen not to be back into London too late, we decided to have lunch and be done by four. With that deadline looming I was keen to get onto Croton Oil, an absolute classic HVS up the Rivelin Pinnacle that I had been eyeing up ever since Pat had recommended it as a Peak District must do route. Having only climbed slabs at HVS it felt like a my first “proper” climb at the grade and I was eager to get going.
Getting gear in before the crux of Croton Oil
After climbing through the slanting off-width to the plateau and then up to the low horizontal break I found myself looking at some interesting balancy moves to get established on the main wall and arete - the crux of the route. With a couple of decent pieces of protection in I decided to go for it and after a couple of interesting foot holds found myself gripping a juggy flake and getting some more gear in before quickly working up to the infamous “rickety flake”. God knows how this flake is still attached to the rock, but given no other options I grabbed onto it and before I knew it found myself on top of the pinnacle in a jubilant mood.
Belaying on top of Rivelin Pinnacle - the perfect end to the day
After setting up the belay it was Will’s turn. He also cruised through the initial off-width but got shut down my the crux moves. A pretty impressive attempt considering how infrequently he climbs. After lowering him off, Joe tied in and got onto the route. He made similar progress to the crux but managed to get through the toughest moves and soon ended up at the rickety flake. After a couple of false starts Joe soon joined me on top of the pinnacle for a round of high fives. We rigged up an abseil and were soon back on the ground sporting big grins.
Joe heading down from the pinnacle
The only down side to the day was the drive home. The M1 traffic was pretty awful and it took nearly four and a half hours to get back to London. Luckily my wonderful girlfriend greeted us with freshly baked lasagne to keep an excellent day on track right to the end. It also showed that the peaks in a day was a resonable prospect.