Trad climbing in a winter heatwave

We don’t think winter heatwaves are a good sign for our planet, but nevertheless, when the weather is right, you have to make the most of it. When the warmer weather hit, we headed to the peaks for some classic grit climbing at Stanage Edge (video at the end of this post).

a view of the rockface lit by the sun. There are lots of boulders below.
A view of the rockface with the 3.5 mile long gritstone edge in the background.

We working towards being better and bolder trad climbers and more often than not it’s a real head game. Trad climbing or ‘traditional climbing’ is a style that involves placing your own gear and protection in the rock face. There’s no fixed protection or bolts so you have to wedge small pieces in cracks in the rock, thread ‘slings’ through holes and try not to fall off!

Placing a nut in a crack on limestone.

Usually in climbing, the grades are only down to how difficult a route is, but in trad climbing, how well a route is protected is factored in too. Up until now, the routes we have been climbing have been low or ungraded on the technical side and up to HVD (hard very difficult). This means the climbs are usually straightforward and well protected. Our aim has been to move up to the next grade and beyond which is Severe (S), Hard Severe (HS), Hard Very Severe (HVS).

a page of the guide book with names of routes, grades and some symbols that depict scary, pumpy or slopey.
A page of the guidebook. It gives a description of the route, the grade and symbols give extra info such as slopey, pumpy or a bit scary!

At the end of last season we’d just managed to creep up to Severe on Limestone in Symonds yat. The rock type affects the style of climbing and on limestone there are lots of pockets, crimpy edges and polished footholds. A month or so later and we headed to the peak district for some gritstone climbing. Grit is characterised by very grippy but slopey holds, large cracks that require ‘jamming’ and sparse protection. We decided to take it easy and stick to HVD or lower while we got ourselves used to grit again.

lauren reading a guidebook while john prepares some kit
Sport climbing at Horseshoe Quarry in 2018. Lauren reads the guidebook while John gets the equipment ready.

Come end of Feb, the heatwave happened and we drove to the crag to make the most of it. Joined by our friend Anita, we picked a bit of wall from the distance and picked something to climb, well, Anita did and she chose a Severe to start with (Wild west wind). We were arguing about who should lead it and in the end, it looked like Lauren’s sort of climb so she went for it and it was ok but the first half was completely unprotected. This is where the headgame comes in. The technical grade was 4a and what would usually be a warm up with the safety of a rope, but without it, it feels a lot different.

Anita is standing close to the crag and is looking down.
Anita standing near the edge at Stanage

John led a route of the same grade with an awkward bulge and struggled to find the awkward cam placement early on the route. Lauren was pleased John led that one as she had to take a rest when seconding it!

John climbing in front of a sunset. he is feeling for a foothold,
John on a boulder at Stanage far right

So, it’s early in the year and were on the severes already. Looking forward to more climbs!

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