The main event on June 6th was Vikki & Paul’s wedding, but in the background, me and Steve Wilson made our first (failed) attempt on our Crookrise Challenge of each leading 5 routes onsight in a day. That particular debacle was written up by Steve under the guise of the Crookrise Chimneython, but having licked our wounds, we set July 4th as the date for the return match. Things didn’t start too well with morning drizzle and mist to valley level. Several phone calls between Silsden and Saltaire, plus weather input from “our man in Embsay” lead to a much delayed start time. Being keyed up for this event and not wishing to go off the boil, I decided to warm up with some power ironing – 10 immaculately pressed shirts later and with the weather improving, Steve set sail from Saltaire. Resurfacing work on the A59 at Draughton didn’t help our cause, so we didn’t get to Embsay reservoir until just gone 12.30.
Things didn’t pick up on the walk-in, which was humid and airless, and to compound matters, we had both brought full racks – I drew the line at Camelot 4 and Hex 9, but Steve went the whole hog with his Camelot 6 – a marvellous device which I’m sure will come in useful on his next visit to Utah, but weighed heavily on the trudge up to Crooky.
With 309 ticks in my UKC logbook, over 70 different routes, it wasn’t going to be easy for me to find 5 reasonably graded routes that I hadn’t done, but with the new guide in hand, the Trigpoint Buttresses beckoned. Strangely, none of the routes up here are even listed on UKC, and although access isn’t the easiest with 45 degree heather, fallen trees and heavily disguised sink-holes to negotiate, we made it to the foot of our chosen buttress at 1.30. My choice of warm-up was Avoidance (S 4a) and while I geared up, Steve gave it a good looking over and advised that I wasn’t likely to find much polish on this one! Sure enough, the rock was perfect and with a breeze now blowing, friction was good. It may not make it onto my list of desert island climbs, but it’s not a bad little route – worth seeking out if you want to avoid the crowds or just humanity in general.
Returning to the fleshpots of the main crag and with the clock now showing 2.30, Steve led off up Flake (S) on Slingsby’s Pinnacle, which involves 10m of climbing but never more than 2m from the ground as it makes a rising traverse that culminates with an awkward move that lands you onto the descent path – very quaint.
Next up for me, Central Route (MVS 4b) on Heather Wall, another one missing from the UKC database. Delicate slab moves lead past a detachable flake to a small roof, install Camelot 4 then go for it to reach the comfort of a layback flake. More good gear then a couple of rippled breaks lead to a pleasant top out. Highly recommended.
With plenty of lush vegetation around, moving along the bottom of the crag wasn’t too easy, but it did provide Steve with ample opportunity to snack on bilberries, so with purple stained hands he forged a path up to Narrow Crack (MS), quite a popular route by the standards of the day, with 9 UKC ticks, although I contributed the last one back in 1998. Steve tried various methods to get established, including one that gave a creditable impression of the highland fling, before finally deciding on a layback approach that did the trick. Having abandoned all large Camelots, Steve looked distraught when he had nothing big enough to protect the not so narrow upper section, so with an under-sized cam scratching two of its lobes on the sides of the crack he launched upwards. Fortune favoured the brave and he was rewarded with a bomber DMM offset to protect the final move, without which, had he slipped, then it would have been the fast track to bilberry heaven.
4 routes down and 6 to go, so with the sun firmly in the Western quadrant, and Steve having told his wife that he would be home for 8.00, it was time to get a move on. So on to a route with the imprint of the CMC on it, Straight Crack (HS 4a) last logged in 2014 by Sam Yeomans and Vikki Bassek (nee Haydock) and with 8 UKC ticks to its name. While climbing this I was moved to recall an ascent of Hank, at Attermire, that me and Vikki were sandbagged on (thanks again Erica), and where Vikki’s language deteriorated to the level that you might expect of a squaddie in the trenches. Well now it was my turn to curse and swear, with my head jammed under a roof, grass for my left hand, heather in my face, unable to see my feet and my backside stuck so far out it was casting a shadow over Skipton. Upon shouting down for guidance, Steve suggested that I slither up the heather ramp to my right, and finding that the heather had better holding power than the grass, I took his advice. Imagine my surprise when arriving at the top of the ramp, I spied a faint path heading off right along a ledge. Still being only halfway up the crag I turned my attention back to rock and carried on up the crack above me. With the vegetation now behind me it was a delight to be on clean rock, but it felt hard for 4a, and coming across some chalked holds, I began to have doubts about being on the correct line. A few more thin moves saw a relieved Brayshaw arrive at the belay. Steve agreed that the climbing seemed hard for the grade and a more detailed consultation of the guidebook showed that my rightwards slither had taken me onto Knuckle Crack (VS 4c) which sports a heady 13 UKC ticks and is approached by walking along a heather ledge. Steve was delighted at the thought that I’d done two routes for the price of one, but I was dismayed at not having actually completed Straight Crack. Either way, the entire venture had used up far too much time and a check of the watch showed it to be 6.50, with only a valid 5 routes completed. At this pace, we would have to climb till midnight to get the challenge done, so with Steve’s 8.00 home rendezvous in doubt, we set off for the next route.
Face, Arete and Wall Climb appears in my log three times, and traditionally was given a grade of V Diff, a grade adopted by UKC, but the new definitive guide gives it a much more sensible S 4b for the opening face moves, that variously saw Steve frowning, cursing, then muttering that he coudn’t do it. Time to man up Steve. Heel hooks and flagging weren’t affording much progress so Steve resorted to the final solution – flanking. He brightened up on the easier arete and wall and pronounced it a pleasant climb – in its top two thirds.
“Our man in Embsay” popped up to ask how we were getting on and informed me that he and his buddy had just soloed 12 routes in 15 minutes. I told him to get lost before heading back to Straight Crack for a final reckoning. We walked along the heather ledge to the foot of Knuckle Crack, where Steve took a belay and I made a reverse slither back in to the hideously constricted position that I’d been so grateful to escape from only an hour ago. Several cramped contortions later and I’d got a wrist locking jam above my head for my right hand and a reverse press for my left which gave me enough levitation to do something smeary with my feet and escape the darkening confines of the cave. Relieved that I would never have to come this way again I made my way more easily to the top of the crag. A questionable ascent perhaps, having done it in two parts, and interspersed with other climbs, but I’m logging it as an onsight and will not return.
It’s now 8.50 and Steve’s family are sending texts about beer waiting for him at home to try to tempt him away, so again it’s only 7 routes completed and we’ve failed the challenge. I don’t know about Steve, but I certainly feel older for the experience, and I’m definitely not wiser because we’ve agreed to go back for a third attempt. Watch this space………..