Saturday, March 31, 2012

Iron Crag

Thursday was another scorcher. Duncan and I got up early and set off hitching to the Lakes. We got a sweet lift with trucker from Bangor to Queensferry. The guy was good craic and gave us both a Stella from his fridge - Hero. After a while stood at Queensferry we got a lift to Lymm Services. The hitchers grave yard. We were there for 2.5 hours with no joy so ended up getting a taxi to Warrington Bank Quay and a train to Penrith. I've ended up bailing from Lymm on a few occasions, if anyone has any tips or a pair of trade plates I can borrow they'd be much appreciated.

Iron Crag - left hand buttress
In the ideal world we'd have headed to Scafell on Friday, but we had other stuff to do as well so headed for Iron Crag. This single pitch venue, 40 minutes walk up an idyllic valley near Thirlmere is probably the best crag in the Lakes not in the select guide. The left hand buttress is a perfect for those operating at E1 to E4, the middle buttress is unfortunately choss and the right hand crag is reserved strictly for wads with a brace of three star routes from E5 to E9.

I first climbed at Iron Crag with Pete Hill last year. We did a cool E1 Granolthic Groove followed by Marshall Law, which has a steep short first pitch then a long second pitch that traverse a crack, very reminiscent of Atlantis, True Moments Freebird. 

The second time I visited I climbed with Luke Hunt we climbed Steel Band an excellent E2 that runs parallel with Marshall Law. Luke then lead Marble Staircase (E4 5c), which I managed to second by the skin of my teeth.

On the third occasion, again with Luke, we raced up to the right hand crag after an afternoon on Swirl Crag. Luke racked up and went for it up the stunning overhanging groove of Western Union (E6 6c f7c). He gave it a really good effort before taking a long fall when his foot slipped. A superb effort and definitely one of the most impressive pieces of climbing I've witnessed.

Dunc chilling out in the sunshine on the walk in.
Keen for some stress free single pitching Duncan and I headed up, in the sunshine even the long slog up the scree slope didn't seem too bad. Dunc set off up Solidarity another ** E1 that climbs a groove to the right before joining Granolithic Groove. The route was a bit dusty and the climbing felt good value for the grade.

DC low down on Solidarity.
I've been wanting to climb Hiddenite (E2 5c) for a while. It is one of the best lines on the crag following a steep wall on the right hand side. I'd heard it was hard for the grade with a bold start so after racking up I set off nervously. Thankfully the bold start was easy, gear and more easy climbing up a groove lead to the meat of the pitch. After fannying around, sorting out runners and climbing up and down I psyched up set off up the wall. The climbing was excellent on positive edges I got two reasonable runners followed by a good cam. The overhang loomed above. I girded my loins once more and climbed trickily up to the good holds on the overhang. The climbing was strenuous so I continued past fiddly gear to jugs above. Pumping now I desperately fiddled a wire behind some crystals, shock out and pushed on, well aware that I was dangerously close to taking some big airtime. I clawed my way over the top psyched and chuffed.

Hiddenite - Dunc pulling through the groove there was no way I was stopping to fiddle in gear there!
Dunc shaking out on goof holds above the overhang.
Duncan then had a go at Amabalite (E4 6a) he climbed the tricky looking start groove. He then had to commit to a mantelshelf onto a small ledge with the gear well below his feet and no sign of the next runner. Unfortunately, the little hero managed to convinced himself that the gear wasn't good so came down. I abseiled down to retrieve the gear and there is a good runner a couple of moves above the ledge and I don't reckon the gear Dunc was convinced was going to rip is too bad either. Get on it!

Duncan climbing up the tricky initial groove on his attempt of Amabalite.

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