So we all went our separate ways on Friday evening from Langdale, having spent two weeks touring with the Odyssey team. After a couple of days off to rest and spend time with my family I have started looking through and converting footage before I leave for the Dolomites on Friday. I wanted to give a little run down of the trip, its highs and lows and share some of the photographs that I took on here while I have a little time.
So our route took us first to Northumberland where we visited three of the county’s most well known crags – Back Bowden, Bowden Doors and Great Wanney. All gave a good introduction to the intricacies of sandstone climbing, with run outs, marginal gear and ground fall potential. The northern wind certainly woke us up a bit!
Our plan after this point was to head North and get stuck in to some steep routes at Dumbarton, but the weather just didn’t play ball. With rain and possible snow forecast in Glasgow we opted to head north with the risk patchy rain hitting the whole country, but with high hopes of finding something in nick. We set our sights on Llanberis and got on the road for a long 5-6 hour drive. When we arrived we set up camp high above the town, overlooking the Dinorwig quarries and checked back in with the weather. It was rubbish! The amazing thing about North Wales is that it has both mountain crags and sea cliffs within easy driving distance so you can often escape the worst of coming weather. We headed out to Gogarth and were blessed with wall to wall blue sky. James and Caro headed off to do their own and thing and Hazel got stuck in to a bold lead of ‘The Cad’ on North Stack Wall.
So with a better forecast for the following day and some energy and excitement from Gogarth, we headed for an epic day at Tremadoc and ‘Strawberries’ in our sights. Hazel was happy to look at the route as a head point, James was warming up for the onsight, Caro went for a flash on James gear and Hans waited patiently behind a rock for most of the day. It was so entertaining to watch these guys hit this route one by one. With such different styles and strengths it was clear that it would not fall easily for some. James powered up the wall looking strong but miss-reading the sequence a little he sailed from the top moves right back down to the belay. Caro showed unbelievable strength and determination as she fought her way up to the top section. Her talent as a competition climber shone through as she clung on to the very last moment but couldn’t go any further, she is a truly inspiring climber. Hazel showed how talented and dynamic she is, even in powerful reachy ground but again didn’t make it to the top out. Once these guys had had their chance, Hans popped out from behind his rock grinning and psyched out of his mind. we were all crossing our fingers and ready to will him up but knew how easily the route would spit him off. To our surprise and joy he read it faultlessly, stayed strong and nailed it. We were all overjoyed.
The slate was a big objective for us all from the beginning of the trip, so with a slightly dodgy weather forecast we headed in to the Dinorwig Quarries.Unfortunately we didn’t have such a productive time, the climbers found the transition on to the smooth frictionless rock a little difficult. Cold temps and brooding clouds also dampened everyones spirits. We finished the first day with little in the way of footage and headed back, determined to snatch something in the morning before we left for Pembroke. As promised we returned early the next day with Hazel and snatched a covert solo on bath time wall in Vivian. This would have to do for now.
From day one all the climbers were looking forward to Pembroke, with a big collection of hard routes and a friendlier climate it looked to be a productive leg of the tour. But we had to get there first! Oh boy, that was a long drive, the truck rolled in some 9 and a half hours after leaving Pete’s Eat’s in Berris. Finally we settled at what would be our most special basecamp, St petrox campsite. We let the climbers go off and do their own thing for the afternoon, take some time to get used to the climbing and find a route that they wanted to hit the next day. In two days we filmed a handful of E6’s, took some creative shots from the water, got badly sunburned and finished by filming James and Caro’s ascents of ‘The Jackals’ in Hunstman’s Leap.
Off to Nesscliffe! Again we gave the climbers a chance to look at some routes and sample the rock for the afternoon while we prepared for the next day. What can I say about this day……it was epic! Most hard routes ever filmed in one day by a single film crew? Probably not, but we got a lot done. We were at the crag by 9am and rolled back in to camp at 10pm with cards full of quality climbing. Sadly Hansjorg had left us the previous night to ready himself for adventures in Baffin, as had Matt Sharman who had other work to catch up with. They were both sadly missed. Routes filmed – E7 ground up, 2 x E7 on sight, 2 x E8 head point, E8 on sight and an E9 squeezed in at the end!
There was some talk of Devon as a last stop of the trip, but the weather in the Lakes was stunning, and that doesn’t happen very often. How could we finish the trip and not hit the Lakes? Again we packed up and got trucking for the last leg, rolling in to Langdale in baking temperatures and wall to wall blue sky. Weirdly as we were interviewing James the clouds began to roll in and we were treated to a booming thunderstorm of warm rain. We took off our t-shirts, played football and slack lined in the downpour for over an hour. It felt really good to be back in the lakes.
We set out early for the last day of the trip with our longest walk in ahead of us. Our limbs felt as heavy as our packs and the sun was scorching. I quickly began to enjoy the gruelling walk up and got my head down, looking forward to the mountain crag experience. The wind was whipping round Pavey Ark and cooling things down enough to make some hard climbing possible. We had two routes to film, an on sight ascent of ‘Sixpence’ from Hazel and a flash of ‘Impact Day from James. We rigged while the climbers warmed up…..actually, I sat and ate a sandwich feeling a little guilty that Diff was doing all the hard work. He had insisted though so I let him get on with it. With a cool head once again Hazel effortlessly floated up ‘Sixpence E6’, showing that she is, without doubt one of the most naturally gifted and fearless trad climbers in the country. To step up and on sight E6 is impressive anywhere, but up on the high lakeland crags is totally inspiring.
With that in the can James got sorted and set off up ‘Impact Day’, an E9 put up by Birkett a few years ago. James showed, like Hazel, that he has amazing talent as a climber and added his some muscles to the mix climbing right up the steep wall to the high crux. Upon reaching a slopey rail in the hard 7a crux, James tried to find the crucial foothold that would stop his body swinging…but missed, and took another of his signature flying trips right back down to the belay some 20 metres below. Nutter. He promptly got back on and climbed it second go!
So there we have it. It was an awesome two weeks and a pleasure to spend time with everyone on the trip. I leave for the Dolomites on Friday to reconnect with my climbing and get my first taste of big walls, then the edit will begin. I’ll keep you posted!
There are lots more pics to see on the Hot Aches and Land and Sky Media Facebook pages too!
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