As I sit in the car watching the rain lash against my windscreen in a very soggy Dartmoor (our replacement holiday after being blown away from North Wales by not one, but TWO storms last week), I am reminiscing about a contrastingly warm and somewhat midgey trip to the Roaches just a couple of weeks ago with SCC. This was our first official weekend meet following Lockdown, and we were a tiny bit apprehensive about how it would work out. Paul had the forsight to book the entire Hazelbarrow Farm campsite for the weekend, which included the use of the bunkhouse for socialising in the evening, in case of inclement weather. This lovely site is just a stone's throw from a plethora of climbing options at the Roaches, Newstones, Baldstones and at Ramshaw rocks - all within walking distance! Which is useful for an August trip with parking at a premium - apparently we weren't the only ones planning on a weekend escape to the Peak District.
Chris and I arrived at around 9pm (after the usual, mad post-work dash) only to be met by legions of midges - the downside of a lovely still and sutlry summer's evening in the Peaks! After hastily erecting the tent we took refuge in the car, beer in hand, until the midges retired for the night. Not before they had feasted merrily on my accidentally exposed lower back whilst we put up the tent - lessons were learned! After a couple of beers with the others we headed to bed for a not-so-early night ahead of a days' climbing at the Roaches.
We woke to the pleasent pitter-patter of rain against the tent - only to realise once we were fully awake that this was in fact the sound of midges trying to get in for their breakfast! But with the heat of the morning sun producing the usual boil-in-the-bag effect familiar to those who habitually sleep in too long, we had to make a dash for it. On the count of three we fled to relative safety by the camp fire that Rob had already lit to keep our unwelcome visitors at bay. At about 8am we received a text from Jo and Steve to let us know they were on their way to the crag - whilst most of us were still in our PJs! Once breakfast was out of the way and we were finally left in peace by the midges we got on with our day.
En-masse, we ambled up to the Roaches upper tier (around 20 minutes on good paths) and went our separate ways up the rock. Chris took the lead up Heather Slab, a somewhat run-out but pleasent Severe 3c whilst I selflessly continued to feed the midges at the bottom whilst belaying. However, I was rewarded with a lovely breeze that chased my tormentors away once I'd followed him up - not to mention a spectacular view from the top.
I then tottered up Maud's Garden (HVD 3c), a three-starred route I have looked at many times in the past but usually a queue of like-minded folk ahead of me has left me to find a less-popular line nearby. It was worth the wait, with a fairly bold start up the slab and a tricky chimney near the top (cue much dithering and grunting), both of which made the experience feel more severe than expected! But then, it has been a while since my last grit-stone adventure (thanks coronavirus!).
By this point George had joined us and was champing at the bit to get up something a little more challenging than I could follow him up, so I relinquished my climbing buddy and volunteered Chris for the job! I think he rather enjoyed Crenation, a bold E1 5a which both of them managed to make look much easier than it sounded. In turn, I borrowed Jon so I could tackle the very fun Fern Crack - which has a steep and juggy start with excellent gear (if you're strong enough to hold on whilst you place it - if not (like me) just keep going til you can put the weight back on your feet - you will be rewarded by a brilliant thread eventually!). This is followed by a slightly awkward rockover onto a rather green looking slab without much to cling to other than your hopes and prayers. Overall a very satisfying route that was over far too soon. Looking back I wish I'd squeezed in Black and Tans, another on my wish list that I think most of the other meet attendees managed to fit in, but it always seemed to have someone waiting for it when I looked over. So that was it for us - time to head back to the campsite for dinner. Jo and Steve's early start meant they managed at least 6 routes to our 3 that day and definitely earned their chippy tea; mine was less-well earned but just as much enjoyed.
Fortunately the wind picked up on Saturday evening and we were able to enjoy sitting outside without being eaten alive by the local wildlife. However, as the sun dipped below the horizon several of us retreated to the warmth of the bunkhouse for shelter from the increasingly chilly wind (there's no pleasing some!). A few beers were consumed and most of us headed to bed for a relatively early night in the hope of getting in a full day's climbing at Ramshaw Rocks on the Sunday.
With the wind building in strength throughout the night, plans were swiftly revised in the morning and we set our sights on a repeat visit to the Roaches instead. It's not like we were going to run out of top quality routes after just one day! As most of us were checking out of the campsite we drove to the crag - fortunately the cafe near the bottom of the Roaches had opened up a field for parking (at just £2 a day - so it amazed me that some people (not club members I hasten to add) still insisted on parking on the sides of roads and were duly rewarded with parking fines by the end of the day!).
On the Sunday Chris and I entertained ourselves with some of the shorter routes on the lower tier - Prow Cracks being a particularly enjoyable excursion! During a brief interlude I sat watching Tom squirm and thrutch his way into the squeeze of Sifta's Quid (a hillarious cross between caving and climbing that is probably more fun for the spectators than the climber! Seeing is believing, see piccie below), and Catherine rocketing up her second ever lead like a pro (whilst making some excellent shapes, also see below). I was busy capturing these two memorable events, when someone rudely got in the way of my photo - that someone turned out to be none other than Johnny Dawes! I said hello and had a quick chat about midges (which somehow lead to me telling him that he climbs pretty well for a midget - a compliment he seemed to take as it was intended!). He then offered his services to SCC in the form of training (which Chris is in the process of organising so keep your eyes peeled for upcoming info on that) and proceeded to give Chris a bit of an ad-hoc lesson in hands-free climbing (see pic below). All in all, a pretty memorable weekend!
I'm back in the car now having had a scramble about a very damp Dewerstone with Chris, gazing longingly at the glisteningly wet rock and hoping for a dry spell before heading home - in either event, I can't help but feel lucky that climbing draws us to visit such beautiful locations and allows us to see them from the unique perspective of the climber.