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Preston Mountaineering Club

Newsletter extracts

Northumberland Meet June 5th/6th 2004

Three go wild

by Mike Pringle

Well perhaps not wild, maybe more a little risqué with the odd naughty joke or subtle aside to pass the time driving to Northumbria.

Despite forecasts of good weather it was just Ian, Laura and myself who ventured out of our hovels for the yearly sally to the North east. We set up camp in Wooler, last year surrounded by ancient motorcycles wheezing past with appropriately ancient riders in period riding costumes. Not so this year! The farmers daughter was to be wed that Saturday so we had a circus sized marquee in the next field for the celebrations.

“Oh well, so long as they don't play rap music or that dance stuff that sounds like my washing machine on a slow spin!”

“Is that rap with a capital C?” came the reply.

We settled down for a little post drinkie kip to wake to a light drizzle so no need to rise early. Just as well as both Laura and I had really bad heads. I forced a morsel of bacon sandwich between the lips while herself just went back to bed and stayed there all day even failing to finish the Telegraph crossword!

Ian is made of sterner stuff and bounced happily around suggesting we go climbing... well you can't disappoint such innocent enthusiasm so a handful of Brufen tabs another tea and we hit the road for Berryhill crag.

We had neither of us climbed there so we followed the guide book access rules and asked a chap painting the farmhouse if the farmer was about to get permission to climb.

“He's dead and his wife's in Scotland ” came the blunt reply.

“Difficult to ask him then“ said Ian quietly, tongue firmly in cheek.

Five minutes of a walk and we are at the foot of the crag and are mightily impressed with the usual undercut starts and sandstone fins.

Electing to start on Easten arete, I suspect because there is a piccy in the guide for Ian to point to [editor's note: Yep!] , he lead off. Admitting to a little nervousness on the first route of the day, don't we all suffer that?

A delicate pull on sandstone incuts and into balance on a wall leading right till stood on one small foothold with thirty feet of nothing below and not much gear. I say thirty feet it feels more. Pull round and up onto fins no more than a couple of inches wide but a foot or more long, steep but holds aplenty to the top. That's one route, now what.

Sauntering round we spy a route called the flutings at V Diff, below Ian's normal standard but it looks so good we admit to feeling ‘strangely drawn' to this climb. It's a delicate start on small finger and footholds leading to a break and then straight up. It must be good by all the delighted cries I can hear from above announcing, “Look at the holds up here”. I refrain from pointing out that I shortly shall but am presently holding this rope thing.

Suitably warmed up we head for Western Arête at VS. Ian jams up the initial overhanging crack to arrange protection at the start of the traverse to the arête proper, if he slips it'll not help but I don't mention that.

There's a tiny finger hold which helps you lean across to a small pocket big enough for two fingers which leads to another very small hold. All the while the feet are disappearing under the rock in front of you and then with a final fumble round the corner a series of monster jugs become available before gravity gets too involved. I remember thinking... “ I'm buggered if I'm coming off now “ and you know, with a heave and a pull the crux is past leaving a gentle wall to the top.

We did several other routes until we put up a top rope on Marcher Lord, VS 5a. Imagine Right Unconquerable with dubious looking pro and you'll understand. The Good Doctor romped up in fine style vowing to lead it on some return trip. I didn't feel like seconding, my headache having taken its toll, my excuse, so I'll have to go and second it won't I.

The traditional fish supper and drinks, joined by Ian's brother Stuart, though L and I are on soft drinks only and retire early. We are pleasantly lulled into sleep by the band playing in the marquee. They're actually quite good!

Next day, Ian and Stuart head for Kyloe where I know Ian wanted to lead Tacitation HVS 5a. [ editor's note – it was excellent! So were the other 7 routes. Typical Northumberland climbing, which have so much in 15m! Somehow, the routes pack in about three times a typical Stanage climb into the same height!]

Stuart leading Litany, MVS, 5a, Kyloe Crag

Laura and I set of for a 12 mile training trot over the Schill, a walk which starts from Kirk Yetholm. A place that seems as dead as heaven on a Saturday night. We quickly gained height, several times in fact only to lose it as we trogged over hill after hill after hill although the views are excellent if a bit hazy. The valley breeze is quite stiff up here so when we reach the top of the Schill, we take cover behind the small rocky top. It's so sheltered that the sun is quite warm and after some cheese sarnies we both nod off, quite unexpectedly. Still the rest is good. Although we wake a little chilled and quickly set off for the valley, all downhill no more up.

Back at camp we'd arranged to meet at about 5'ish. A flurry of text messages revealed that the brothers Bradley were aiding a stricken climber who had failed to negotiate a tricky mantle and plummeted to earth with alacrity. Ian drove the fallee and his car back to Wooler where the climber was to ring his wife for assistance. Stuart following behind. It appears he had fallen on his heel and was reduced to hopping with the aid of a stout stick although nothing seemed broken a trip to casualty, not passing go or collecting 200 pounds, seemed on the cards.

So with climbs climbed and walks walked and good deeds done we set off back home our journey only interrupted by a really tasty dinner at a welcoming hostelry.

We shall return!!


Ian and Stuart Bradley, Laura Semple, Mike Pringle