This trip marked the annual BUCS bouldering competition in Sheffield. We enter competitors every year and the university pay for the transport, meaning this is one of the cheapest trips. For those who don’t compete, it provides an opportunity to climb on the fine gritstone of the Peak District.
The trip nearly didn’t happen – I had a phone call 24 hours before the trip from the Students’ Union telling me that they had agreed to hire out more minibuses than they have. For the next few hours they promised us a variety of buses, MPVs, people carriers, cars ect., but in actual fact they had no idea what they had. After much arguing with them, me and Owen eventually managed to work a solution which involved three cars and a big bill for the SU to pick up.
Milton, Owen, Kimberly and myself left at 11am on Friday with the aim of getting a few hours climbing in at Stanage before it got dark. Our progress was hindered by FOUR separate traffic jams! Six and a half hours crammed in a mini with gear on our laps was not fun, and we arrived at Stanage Edge just as the sun was setting. Ever the optimists, we headed up to the crag, put our headtorches into ‘stealth mode’ and started climbing. It was Owen’s first trad lead for six months, and it was Kimberly’s first ever trad climb – nothing quite beats throwing people in at the deep end. The wind was so strong it made communication impossible, which meant that Milton and Kimberly started climbing under the impression that they were ‘probably on belay’.
After nearly catching hypothermia from belaying in the wind we decided to call it a night. We drove to Hathersage to get some food before heading to the hut and waiting for everybody else to arrive.
Meanwhile, as the others were leaving Plymouth Beki announced that she didn’t have a sleeping bag. There’s always one…
We woke up the next morning to a steamy bowl of porridge and the sight of Milton in his boxers (don’t know which I preferred). As a result of the minibus cock up, two of our three drivers needed to drive to Sheffield because they were competing in BUCS. This meant that the rest of us had to be up at stupid-o-clock if we wanted a lift to a crag.
It was a glorious sunny day and I was actually quite happy to be out of the hut early. We were the first people on the crag and turned out to be the last to leave. The day began with a few people watching me fanny about on Flying Buttress Direct, a climb that’s been on my list since I first saw it in November. After much hanging around, I decided I couldn’t do it and ended up backing off. The week before, I had mentioned to Will that I wanted to try the climb – he replied “you won’t be able to do it”. So I had to do it.
Gingerly, I had a second attempt an hour later and was pleased to do it clean, although the audience had dispersed. Amie and Libby were busy doing their first outdoor lead climbs and I was surprised to see that even Denzel was on a climb (guess there’s a first time for everything). Owen asked me to show him what VS was like to climb, so I jumped on Hargreaves Original, VS 4c, which turned out to be one of the least protected VS’s around, although the climbing was immaculate. No matter, by the end of the day Owen and Will had both done their first HS leads.
As the sun was setting and we finished the last climb, a crazy northern bloke wanted us to help get his gear back because his mate couldn’t do the route. I tied into the end of his rope, had a bit of a fight to get his gear and eventually got to the top. I cringed when I saw how awful his belay was! He wasn’t even concentrating; he was too busy talking to Will in Northern – phrases included: “I could do with a brew” and “job’s a guddon,” as well as replacing the word “the” with the letter “t”.
When we got back to the hut we were greeted with some spag bol. (Sorry Ewan, but it was so much nicer than soup). Adam and Ryan returned from BUCS and told us about their day. Ryan finished joint 31st, Adam 55th, Milton 140th and Will 159th. Beki came 106th in the female category. A good effort all round. Best of all – we beat Marjon!
The weather forecast for the next day looked okay in the morning and bad in the afternoon. We decided to go to bed early and wake up early, but the people in the bunkhouse upstairs decided to have a party. Just as we eventually fell asleep, I was woken by Denzel and Will, who decided it would be funny to give me pinkeye. Denzel then woke us up again whilst looking for FHM, although insisted he wasn’t going for a tug.
Ryan seemed to enjoy waking up the guys in the bunkhouse above us to get them to move their minibus. It wasn’t even their minibus (which is even better!). We headed out to Burbage North, where there’s some climbing and bouldering.
Will challenged me to climb Long Tall Sally, E1 5b, but I couldn’t even get off the floor. We then made the logical decision to try something harder, so headed over to The Sentinel, E2 5c, which is very exposed (it was gusting 50mph winds). The photo below shows the result of the first attempt.
I don’t even know what happened. I’d done the hard bit and was comfortably clipping a cam before doing the last two moves to the top. The next thing I knew I was hanging upside down, very grateful for my helmet. I blame the wind. I gave it another go an hour later and got it clean.
It was a day of people pushing their grade – Jack did his first HS, Simon did his first VS (a grimy off-width crack) and Will did most of his first VS (if anybody wants a free torque nut, there’s one stuck in Hollyash Crack). I had to run away from the rockface to stop Will hitting the floor – he went upside down but his helmet took the brunt of the impact (it’ll be sore for weeks!). He was lucky I bothered – a few minutes previous, he had asked me to spot him as he placed his first bit of gear and then preceded to fart directly in my face.
The boulderers seemed like they enjoyed themselves too. They made up their own routes at Burbage North and made a few good videos, although they hated the weather and decided to take shelter in the car.
The rain came down at midday and we decided to head to Awesome Walls in Sheffield. It was nice to be warm, but most of us were too tired to climb properly. We stared at their bouldering room, training room and lead wall in awe – it gave us ideas of what High Sports should be like.
We started heading back to Plymouth at 5ish and Simon hit the road hard. He claimed aggressive driving keeps him awake – well, whatever works I guess?
I’d like to say thanks to the drivers and everybody else who made it such a good weekend. It was soooo much fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite there being far too much “pull my finger” action.
I would also like to congratulate Milton on driving to and from the Peak District without getting his car stuck against a tree and/or the floor, although it turned out he drove the best part of 700 miles without road tax.
Thanks for a good weekend guys, bring on Snowdonia!