“Summer Sessions”

With Alan not working at the moment he always seems to be badgering me to go climbing during the week. So Thursday night we made a plan to climb on Friday. with both of us wanting to sport climb and the hot weather making it rather difficult to climb hard, we had to make some sacrifices. Like getting out early and arriving at the crag before 9am. The plan was to climb a route called Academic F8a. It’s a short bolted route tucked away in the Sea Walls section of the Avon Gorge. Due to it’s short, bouldery nature you need quite good conditions to climb it, hence getting on it early before the sun comes onto it. I had one go on the route about a month ago. I was working down the gorge one evening and I had ask my wife Heather to come and meet after work so I could try it, hoping for good conditions. It showered a couple of times during work but it didn’t really come to anything. At 8:30pm when the session had finished I was talking down the top ropes and it started to rain again. By the time I got down to the car it was still raining, I grabbed my stuff and proceeded to drag Heather up the wet grassy slope to the Academic. Most of the route is fairly overhanging and stays dry in the wet. I racked up and pulled on. I got through the start ok but fell off towards the end of the crux sequence. I pulled back on did one move then attempted to pull round the lip. This was incredibly difficult as the hold on the lip was soaked and it was still raining. So I threaded the bolt just below the lip and stripped my gear out and packed up and went home.

We arrived at Avon at 8:45am and the conditions seemed good. I remembered most of the moves so dogged up putting the draws in, checked a couple of moves, brushed a few of the holds then climbed to the peg just over the lip and lowered off. I asked Al if it was ok to go for a burn while I was half warmed up, he said go for it. Theres a tricky traverse just after the start, that seemed to go ok. I pulled onto the steep and started through the crux, this felt a little tricky mainly due to the fact I wasn’t really warmed up. I got through the crux and pulled the lip. Brilliant now all I’ve got to do is to finish up an E2. This in true Avon style is about double the height of what I have just climbed with no gear. The climbing was fairly easy but just a tad run out. After getting down I talked Al through the sequence so he could go for the flash. Unfortunately  he dropped it on the tricky traverse near the start. He carried on and got to the crux. He had a little trouble figuring out the moves and ended up using a slightly different sequence to me through the crux but didn’t quite get one of the moves so he lowered off at the peg and had a bit of a rest. While he was resting I noticed the reason why he was having a bit of difficulty pulling through the crux. He had no skin, his finger tips were just weeping sweat. No wonder he was struggling. After a bit of a rest he pulled back up the rope to crux, applied some liquid chalk and waited for that to dry. Once it had dried he pulled on and did the move first go. After playing around on some of the other moves he concluded that it was starting to get warm and he didn’t have enough skin. So he sacked it off and pushed on up the E2 to finish and stripped the gear out.

Al Stripping the draws out of Academic

Al Stripping the draws out of Academic

While we were packing up we were wondering what to do next. I had mentioned to Al about a three bolt F8a/b called “The Prince”. So we went over and had a look. Stupidly I let Al manage to convince me to have a go. I pre clipped the first bolt and proceeded to fail on the first move. After about 2 minutes of trying the move I deemed it to hot and greasy to even think about pulling on the holds let alone doing it.  I lowered down and Al tied on. After having a bit of a play and getting pretty excited he also agreed it was a bit to warm. So we packed up and headed into town for a coffee.

By the time we had got into town it was roasting and we pretty much decided that we weren’t going to climb until the evening. But I couldn’t help think it would be a waste of a day so I dragged Al back to Avon with the intension of doing “Think Pink” E3 6a, an Avon classic. We got to the bottom of the route and Al started moaning that we had to climb a HVS to get up to the belay of think Pink. There was a bit of arguing on who was going to lead the HVS pitch and the Think Pink pitch. so we flipped a coin for it. I called tails and won so Al started to rack up. Before he started I asked him if he knew where he was going. All I got back was “yeah, yeah I recon”. After climbing about a quarter of the route Al shouted down; “I’m pretty sure this isn’t HVS”, so I checked the guide. In true Al fashion he was off route, he  was two routes to the right on “Krapps Last Tape” E3 5b. “Oh that isn’t so bad” was the response it got from him when I shouted up with what route he was on. He carried on and headed for the belay spike. When he got there he pushed on a bit further and took a belay at the two staples just after the start of Think Pink. When I arrived up there with him he said he choose to belay here so he could see me on the next pitch. This turned out to be not one of Als best ideas. Those bolts are there for a reason and the reason is, there’s a hard move just above them. When I got to this move I was definitely aware that if I were to fall off I would land on Alan. So I sucked it up and made sure I didn’t fall off, once I clipped the peg above I felt a bit happier. The rest of the route was good, tentative moves up the groove until you reach another bolt where the groove sort of peters out. After another hard move and a bit of gardening I arrived at the belay.  Al made quick work of it and after a transfer of a few bits of gear he set off on the last pitch. This consisted of clean hard limestone which started up a short crack and moved on to a little wall to finish. It was a shame it was so short. After abseiling down we packed up our stuff and headed back to the van, picking a few blackberries on the way. After dropping Al off I headed home for a late lunch.

After a spot of lunch and a bit of hanging around for heather to finish work, I was back in the van heading out to cheddar. An hour and half later we arrived, the traffic was horrendous. We headed up to the quarry for heath to do a few routes and wait for Al. Once Al arrived we headed Unknown Bay to go and try Will Stanton F8a (before the hold broke). I think it’s F8a+ now. I had one session on it last week where I worked out the moves and had one redpoint attempt on it. It was quite a hot that day so I didn’t have anymore goes. I warmed up going bolt to bolt putting the draws in, the crux felt a lot easier due to the cool evening temps. Once I got the draws in Al had a go on top rope and managed to do all the moves. By the time he was down I was ready for a burn. The start felt good, I got through the small traverse and into the roof just below the crux. After a little shake out I pushed on, I started through the crux sequence feeling quite tired and dropped it half way through.I lowered down and checked the time. It was 845pm and the light was fading, I knew I only had one go left but the question was could I recover enough in 20 mins. The answer was no, It got to 9:10pm and I still felt tired. I had no choice I had to pull on. The start felt hard but I managed to get through it and into the roof, a quick shake out and I was going through the crux, this time I got 2 moves higher but powered out 2 moves from the jug. I stripped the route, packed our stuff and headed to the crow for a much need pint of Thatchers Dry.

A much-needed pint in the Crown

The Following day I felt wasted, after a lazy morning and a good breakfast I was back in the van heading back out to cheddar again. This time it was for Heather, as she didn’t get much done the night before. We headed to Arch rock, I put the draws in “Off The Wall” F6b for Heather. After  falling off about half height and working out the crux she got to the top. While she was resting I decided to remind my self of “All Hands To The Pump” F7b. The last time I climbed it was about 6 years ago and it was just as good as I remembered it. Following that Heather had a quick top rope on it, she climbed the bottom section really well but struggled on the reachy crux higher up. obviously Heath needed another rest before she was ready to get back on Off The Wall so I went up “Playboys” F7b+, another route I havent done in about 6 years. Once I was down from that Heath was ready to go for “Off The Wall”. She was a little nervous before she started but that just because she hasn’t lead a route outdoors in months. She climbed the bottom well, got to the rest before the crux and took a minute to compose.

Heath chilling out before the crux on         “Off The Wall” F6b

Heath just starting the crux sequence on "Off The Wall" F6b

Heath just starting the crux sequence on “Off The Wall” F6b


Once she had done that she smashed the crux and kept her cool for the top wall. She lowered off with a big smile, we packed up and headed to the Crown, again….


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