Wednesday, 21 May 2014

A Quick Trip to Yorkshire

Last weekend I took a short trip to Yorkshire with Anne Peale, Liam Ingram and Alex McMillan.
On the way down from Edinburgh on Friday night we stopped at a crag in Northumberland which none of us had been to before, called Widehope. This crag is just a bit further down the valley from Redheugh, which I was at the day before, and is also composed of the same cross bedded Carboniferous Fell Sandstone.
Redheugh turned out to be quite soft and snappy in places with lots of sand on some holds, however we did climb some nice problems such as Horned Arete, Widehope Arete and Chicken.
Widehope Arete (Photo Credit: Alex McMillan)
Horned Arete (Photo Credit: Alex McMillan)
Saturday was going to be quite a warm day, so after consulting Oli Read on what might be a good crag to go to we decided upon Simons Seat, close to Skipton. Simons Seat is a grit stone outcrop sitting on top of a hill. Simon Seat is composed of Carboniferous age Millstone Grit, like that found in the Peak District. More accurately it is of late Mississippian age. It was quite interesting to notice the difference in the rock from one side of Simons Seat to the other, with a well sorted sandstone on the South which contained lots of concretions, and a more poorly sorted pebble rich sandstone on the North, which also appeared to show less concretions. Further north again at Lords seat the pebbles seem to disappear again. I spent too much time climbing to really gather enough information to indicate what the cause of this difference was.
Simons Seat (Photo Credit: Alex McMillan)
I did most of my climbing on the Southern side of Simons Seat. Here I climbed the classic E3 Ill Bet She Does, which takes a line of chicken heads up a steep wall, and a font 7A called Galaxy, which takes a line of good chipped holds up to a horn. Below Galaxy I found a block which showed signs of some sort of trace fossils.
Trace fossils in a block 
On the north side I soloed the classic line, and apparently the best E2 in Yorkshire, A Question of Balance. This route takes the right arete of a steep slab after an initial steep jamming crack. We ended the day on Lords Seat, however a lack of skin stopped play a bit here.

Oli on Ill Bet She Does
Liam on Dog Lead
A Question of Balance
Chilling at Kilnsey (Photo Credit: Alex McMillan)
That evening we ate at the Nelson Inn, near Harrogate, and then headed over to bivi underneath the overhangs at Kilnsey. Kilnsey is composed of the Garsdale Limestone Formation, of middle Mississippian age. Anne, Liam and Alex had all just come back from Kalymnos so were feeling pretty psyched for sport, which Kilnsey is quite well known for. Liam kept on claiming that he is in danger of becoming a sport climber, so naturally Anne and himself started the day on a classic E2 called The Diedre. Alex and I attempted to climb some of the shorter single pitch routes. Having spent most of my time recently climbing on sandstone I found reading the limestone quite hard. I had a good attempt at a 7b called Witches Brew, however in the end Alex and I only managed to get up The Diedre clean.
Alex on The Diedre
This trip was really a trip around the Mississippian, a sub-period of the Carboniferous, sedimentary succession of northern Britain, with the deltaic Fell Sandstone of northumberland being oldest, followed by the limestones at Kilnsey and then the younger Grit of Simons Seat. By the Carboniferous Scotland had already joined to England following the Caldeonian orogney, Arthurs Seat in Edinburgh was an active volcano and the North Sea had not yet rifted. The British Isles sat much further south than they do today. To the North of the region existed highlands providing the sediment for the sandstones. The rocks we climbed on all represent different depths of water, with the limestone being deepest, grit shallowest and the fell sandstone somewhere in the middle.

Friday, 16 May 2014

More Geology than Climbing

I made a short evening trip to Redheugh in Northumberland yesterday. I had hoped to try some of the harder problems there, but I wasn't really feeling it. So despite a nice few problems such as Easier, which is a quite scary font 6a, I spent much of the afternoon checking out the geology. The sandstone here is Fell Sandstone, deposited in a deltaic environment, similar to that of the current day Mississippi delta in America.
Trough Cross Bedding
A bit more trough cross bedding
The cross bedding in the previous two pictures are formed by river channels depositing sediment so building up layers. I didn't have a hand lens with me so I couldn't really tell whether there was any grading but it did give a hint of slight coarsening upwards. The orientation of the cross bedding shows that the palaeo-flow direction was in or out of the crag, however just from this information I couldn't tell whether it was going into or out of the crag.
Iron Concretion, formed diagentically by fluid flow 
Trace fossils
I quite like fossils as they give a sense of what was happening when the sediment was being deposited. The trace fossils here are long thing traces on the left hand side of the small block. These are probably burrows, possibly formed by a worm. 

Something I found 
The Holly tree and Cave 
On my way back to the car I had a quick climb at the Caller Boulders. These seem to be quite neglected and the Main Boulder was totally overgrown, and despite being quite steep didn't have any chalk on them! I climbed two very sandy problems and returned to the car just as it was getting dark.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Sports Nutrition for Mountaineering

I received a selection of sports nutrition products this winter from High5 to test out while climbing.
High5 makes energy packed foods for high intensity activities, and recovery supplements such as protein for after. These sort of items are usually associated with things like Triathlons, not mountaineering. Im not trying to say climbing and mountaineering isn't hard, but I don't really think they are generally in the same league of intense exertions of energy as triathlons, although I suspect some people may disagree with that. Also, not trying to take anything away from triathlons here, but mountaineering is probably more mentally demanding. Hard climbs cannot always be overcome by shear brute force and excessive use of energy, and this is especially the case in mountaineering.
Energy Gels
I decided if I was to properly test out the usefulness of sports nutrition in Scottish mountaineering I would have to have a rather big day. I have a few of these things planned in the Scottish mountains, some involving an arbitrary number of routes and others of more historical significance. In the end I settled upon attempting to climb all the major ridges on Ben Nevis in a day. This involved over 2000m of climbing, at least the same amount of descent and lots of walking. I managed it, well within a day (see my article from earlier), using an arsenal of sports nutrition.
During the day I consumed the High5 products; EnergyGel, EnergyGel Plus, IsoGel, IsoGel Plus and EnergyBar.
Each of these energy snacks work in a slightly different way. EnergyGel's are your standard energy gels designed to give you lots of energy. You are however required to consume a lot of liquid to be able to use these, which isn't always possible while climbing. IsoGel's are a bit like EnergyGel's, however they also contain some liquid, making them suitable for use without consuming much extra. I generally find it quite difficult to drink much water whilst climbing, therefore I think IsoGel's are probably the better of these two for a mountaineer. They are also slightly easier to consumer due to them being a bit runnier.
EnergyGel Plus and IsoGel Plus are like the conventional gels, but with added caffeine. Im not massively convinced by them. They might be useful to give you that added kick at the end of a day, but the caffeine does seem to do something slightly unpleasant to the taste. I would still choose the standard gels over these.
The High5 energy bar, imaginatively named EnergyBar, is a dense chewy sort of snack. I found it quite hard to eat and a little bit unpleasant. I have no doubt it contained lots of useful energy, and that others may find it quite nice, but for me it was a no!
In my opinion the standard IsoGel could be very helpful for climbing trips. Its energy giving and slight thirst quenching properties would be useful for someone like me who prefers not to take a water bottle with them on routes. There has something to be said for having a full stomach as well so I do like to take something on the lines of a sandwich too (ham, cheese and mustard for me).
The future of mountaineering nutrition?
Different things work for different people so go out there and try things out, but definitley give High5 IsoGels a go.
At the end of the day I was tired but I didn't have any cramping muscles, so I guess the energy gels and bar did their job quite effectively.

Some new, Some old

It has been a while since my last post. In this time I have been attempting to climb as much as I can to get some mileage in preparation for the summer. Over this time I have also been doing my final exams, which are a lot less stressful than people might make you think. With almost all of the work which goes towards my final degree already handed in the pressure has been kinda off really. Despite this I have spent much of my time in Edinburgh, making lots of trips to the citys local crags.
Most of my time has been spent at Agassiz Rock, a small but steep crag composed of Pyroxene Andesite in Blackford Glen. Agassiz rock is a pretty famous locality thanks to the Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz who interpreted the striations on the rock surface as being created by ice. If you are interested you can read about it here. After a bit of time working out how to use the Scottishclimbs wiki grid topo of this crag I managed to climb lots of problems here. My best effort has been the Low Traverse, weighing in at font 7b. This is quite long and probably deserves something like a 7c sport grade too. My usual warm up here is the problem Last Gasp, which is a long pumpy font 7a, which also gets a 7c+ sport grade apparently! So maybe the training is paying off.
Craig at Agassiz
Further down the glen from Agassiz Rock is Corbies crag, the neck of an extinct volcano and of the same unit which Agassiz Rock is composed of. I had never climbed here despite often walking past it to climb at Agassiz. There are a few easy routes which make for a nice way back to the flat from the glen. I climbed a very nice Mod called Retromingent Ridge, which I can highly recommend, and a Diff which follows a gorse filled gully, called Sunny Scoop, which I can't recommend.
Other local Edinburgh adventures include a quick trip to Traprain Law, where I climbed a few routes I hadn't done before with Elaine, and a couple of trips to the Salisbury crags, where I also managed a few new things.
Elaine on Great Corner Direct, Traprain Law
Further afield I made a quick evening trip to Oxen Wood in Northumberland, which is only really worth an evening trip. There isn't anything very hard here, although there is a nice font 6c, called Oxen Wood Traverse, which is probably worth seeking out.
Oxen Wood
Oxen Wood Traverse
Again in Northumberland I made a very unsuccessful trip to Bowden where I managed to climb a grad total of nothing, and a wet afternoon at Heckley, near Alnwick, where I managed a few nice things. Heckley is a bit of a strange crag as there was a f5+ which I spent a while trying to do but to no avail, but then I managed to flash a few 6c's. I can only think that some holds must have broken. The dead rabbit at the base of it added to the atmosphere.
Greg on Staggered, Bowden
Andrew on Vienna, Bowden
Dark Times at Bowden
Heckley in the Rain
Further south in Yorkshire I had an afternoon soloing at Scot Crags in Scugdale, where I managed to climb 60 routes! Most of the routes I climbed were between HS and HVS, however I did also tick a few E numbers, including an E4 which you really wouldn't want to fall off!
The Prow, Scugdale
So yes that has been my life recently. Hopefully I will be able to make some bigger trips soon which merit their own post, so you don't have to trawl through an essay to see what I've been up to!
Also here is a song I like: Metric-Waves