20 March 2012

400 Miles in 6 days! London - Peterborough - Peak District - London

Another busy week, with a little climbing activity thrown in. After a few late nights at work and the fact that I do treasure my weekends, especially now, that I am working in a different city to the one that I reside in.
With the weather improving I am eager to get outdoors and enjoy nature as God intended. I hope that line doesn’t conjure up some interesting visuals but that could just be my “creative” imagination. In my last post I mentioned that I cancelled a lead climbing course which was meant to be during the week but because I am now working in Peterborough I couldn’t get into London in time to do it. So I re-scheduled it for the weekend course which was held in the Peak District last Saturday. So I decided to drive from London to Peterborough for work and Friday evening leave Peterborough for the Peak District. That’s about 400miles in 6 days!

With only The Script for company, I drive a little over three hours before arriving in heart of Hartington, Derbyshire. Funny, how a lone drive in the unlit wooded area conjures up some rather weird thoughts like those horror movies where people go missing of Blair Witch Project type of scenario. No lighting whatsoever apart from my car beams and right over Danny O'Donoghue’ singing, in the background I could hear “in 600 yards turn right and tell the first exit at the roundabout”. I was thinking to myself ‘I hope this chick(SatNav) knows where she is going because I have been driving for miles and haven’t seen a soul on this road’. She better not be sending me to Scotland! Not that there is anything wrong with Scotland but that’s not where I needed to be for this trip.

Anyway I arrived in Hartington having booked one night into the YHA, a youth hostel. I have never stayed in a youth hostel before. Just the word ‘hostel’ summoned up some prison like visuals in my head but I was delightfully surprised when I arrived at this 17th century built manor house in this little Derbyshire village. Shared facilities in dormitory settings with one shower between 8 people. What helped was the fact that the room I was in would normally occupy 8 sleepers but there was only 3 of us and its single sex rooms too! I also noticed that I didn’t have mobile reception when I arrived. After a mini panic I was thankful because many of us battle with distraction in the form of social networking I.e Facebook, Twitter, Angry Birds…Here, I could just enjoy the unpolluted fresh and breezy air with a view of little winding roads in the country side.
YHA Hostel: Front
YHA Hostel: Back
I was really impressed that it was clean and with plenty of facilities; games room, restaurant, self-catering quarters and beautiful setting outside. In the morning I met the other 3 people on the climbing course and the instructor to embark on the drive to the crag which was about 20 minutes to the crag. Before this I sneaked in a little wonder to explore the area just before we were set to leave.  It was great that I had already met and climbed with the other3 other people on the course at the Reach Climbing Wall in London. I guess it’s the whole of that trust issue especially when you will be hanging off a rope and just being mentally comfortable with the person you are climbing with.

The Course

A man and his tools! -  New Frontiers Climbing Instructor

Arrived at the crag and parked just overlooking the routes we were set to be climbing. We trekked up at the bottom of the crag and sat down to a little intro on what the course was about, what was going to be covered, the tools we were going to use as well as what we were all hoping to get out of the course. The first task was to place gear in the rock; with 1 or 2 good ones, a middle rating and one that you wouldn’t dare to hang off let alone climb on. The highest rating being a 10, in the group we had a few 9s and a couple of 6s. You have to look at where you have place the gear in terms of the quality of the rock; because if you find a good crack and you can fit or place a nut or cam in it, but, if the rock is flaky or thin or sounds hollow there is the possibility that it could crack and give way for gear to fall out. This was a lesson on what to look for when placing gear so you know what is good and bad gear placement. Also taking into account how easy it is to get your gear out. The last thing you want is to leave that shiny piece of kit behind because it’s stuck in the rock.

After getting placements rated it was time to climb! Paired in twos I belayed to start while my climbing partner went up and placed gear as he went up. When finished I climbed up and removed gear as I was climbing. We then swapped routes with the other pair of climbers. I climbed and placed gear and when my partner went up he rated and removed the gear I placed.

We scrambled to the top or another route, it was then time for setting up anchors and making sure you angle it correctly to even out the weight distribution.  This also meant belaying from the top rather than from the bottom. There are times when a climbing route is below sea level so you have to set up from the top then abseil down to climb the route. Also  we went through climbing calls to signal to your partner that you are ready for them to start climbing and calls to listen out for to tell you they have started, when they are safe to take off the rope, calls before throwing rope or items to the bottom.

Rik: Anchor set up and belaying instruction.

It was a fantastic day out albeit bloody well cold! That’s England for you. It was a great course with so much laughter as the people I was climbing with were just a ball of laughs. With a really patient instructor to explain all the nitty gritty climbing stuff that you kind of want to get sorted before having someone’s weight in the balance. Details of the course are below.

  • ·         Introduction to trad gear, carrying and care for it.
  • ·         Making sense of climbing grades and guidebooks.
  • ·         A short movement session to help you get used to the lack of footholds and abundance of friction.
  • ·         Climbing calls and communication.
  • ·         The placing and removal of trad protection.
  • ·         Abseiling with a backup.
  • ·         How belay anchor systems are built.

Instructions Course Contacts

I am off to Weymouth, Dorset next week for sport climbing weekend. So this course was more of a refresher for me as I did it last year in Wales but nevertheless great to do it again because safety should really come first when doing anything as crazy as hanging off rocks like climbers do. If you are climbing outdoors I would definitely recommend you get some sort of instructed course because accidents to happen and prevention is better than cure. Not that a course will prevent accidents but being properly equipped with the knowledge is surely better than going in there with the “how hard can it be” mentality. Check out the New Frontiers Facebook page run by Lisa and Rik’s for more details or contacts if you want to get on any of the climbing courses which do run all over the UK.

Checking out the holds on the rock

Starting is the scariest part (still fun though).


If you have any questions as always you are more than welcome to email me or leave a comment and I will try my best to answer.

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