Welsh hill forts, Blencathra and falling. A busy week in the outdoors this week.
Wednesday was a short walk in the Clwydian Hills along Offas Dyke path with my daughter, Hannah. I come from Chester and went up Moel Famau numerous times in my childhood but wanted to avoid the crowds this time. So we parked near Moel Arthur and headed north along Offa’s Dyke Path over Moel Arthur and on to Penycloddiau. Both of these are iron age hill forts with Penycloddiau being one of the largest hill forts in Wales but Hannah was not impressed. I think she had been expecting something like Caernarfon Castle and was disappointed at mere earthworks. This was my first visit to Wales since lockdown and it was good to be back in this magical country where I spent a lot of my youth and which I am still very fond of. We had tantalising views over to the mountains of Snowdonia, but they will have to wait for another visit.
On Thursday evening I headed over to the Lakes and had a quick ascent of Blencathra via Sharp Edge. It had rained most of day but had stopped mid-afternoon and I reckoned that the rock of Sharp Edge would be dry by the time I got there. I was right and I had an atmospheric scramble along the edge on dry rock, mist swirling round my feet in the evening light with not another person in sight. Up and down in just over 2 hours, fastest I’ve ever done it in.
Friday was spent rock climbing at Castle Rock in Thirlmere with friend Clare. I don’t climb much these days and it shows. My gear is bombproof but I don’t have enough confidence in my climbing ability to go for the bolder moves. I led a V Diff and a Severe. Clare led 2 Severes and then a steep VS. Clare has done a lot of sport climbing and struggles with placing gear so her climbing style tends to be bold climbing with little gear. This was my undoing when seconding the VS. The initial climbing was well over to the right of the rest of the route and was very steep. I was almost up the steep part and was holding onto a bit of gear for a rest. The gear popped out of the crack very unexpectedly and I went flying backwards with what seemed like a lot of slack rope, taking a huge swing over to the left, bashing into various bits of rock as I went. I don’t often fall off and this took me completely by surprise. Fortunately my helmet protected my head but I bruised my shoulder and was unable to pull myself back onto the route as the rock at that point was devoid of holds. Clare had no idea what was going on as she couldn’t see me and could barely hear me. Eventually she heard me yelling for “slack” and she lowered me to the ground. I contemplated climbing the route again but realised that it would be hard with a sore shoulder and if I fell off on the steep bit I would take another huge fall doing further damage to myself. So I untied, tied the ends of the rope to a nearby fence to stop Clare pulling them up and ran up the descent path to tell Clare what had happened. She was rather surprised to see me appear up the descent path! I was happy to abseil off and get the gear but Clare wanted to second the route so I took over the belay at the top while she ran down and climbed back up. No real harm done in the end and my shoulder will be fine in a few days. In fact everything felt a lot better when a friendly dog at the bottom of the crag cuddled up to me and gave my bare feet, legs and hands a good lick 😀
Maybe it is time to give up rock climbing. I am 47 and have a busy life as a mum and self employed accountant. I love so many mountain activities – hill walking, scrambling, backpacking, alpine mountaineering, winter mountaineering and rock climbing, but I don’t have the time to do them all properly and that’s where it gets dangerous. If I had to prioritise, then rock climbing would be bottom of the list, especially rock climbing at crags rather than a good day out in the mountains. It’s hard to contemplate giving up something that has been part of my identity for so long. Maybe I just need to find some climbing partners who are happy climbing mountain V Diffs rather than pushing their grade on roadside crags.