Monday, 6 April 2009

Up The County

Tuesday and Wednesday last week turned into a mini-trip to Northumberland with The Lodger, Andy J, Sam & Lu. Four crags in two days plus a dawn photo session can't be bad, in fact I'd say the Belford-Bamburgh area is perhaps the best in the uk if you want to combine convenient landscape photography and bouldering.

Tuesday started at Shaftoe; a new crag to me and great to explore in sunny breezy weather. Surprisingly its gritstone, a little soft and scrittly, reminiscent of Brimham in its rounded sandiness. Its a big, fairly complex area, though one impression was reiterated as we checked out the various areas: its either too high or not high enough. The grades also seemed to be wildly to cock; I warmed up by flashing a 7b+ in my trainers and Lu slipped off the topout of an 8a on her first attempt. No doubt its a fun area if your relatively local though, some great features in the rock and fantastic views north to Simonside.

A very pleasant drive along quiet roads took us north, passing an amazing amount of outcrops, to the bunkhouse at Preston ('The Joiner's shop' - recommended), and then for a last light session at Bowden. I wanted to get a good photo of what is probably the best problem in The County - The Crack, which Andy and I had previously done but Sam hadn't. Sam was first up on his second go, Andy lapped it several times, and I managed to struggle up in between trying to catch the light bursting through layers of clouds. In The Peak I think this would get 7b+ or 7c, a similar standard perhaps to West Side Story and of comparable quality for certain.

Dawn Wednesday saw me at Bamburgh beach and a frustrating sunrise - two minutes of contrast as the sun broached the horizon, then overcast. Flipping between my Mamiya 645 and the new digital body was a struggle and in future I think concentrating on one or the other is required. The beach here is probably the most popular sunrise photography location in the country - four folk out this morning - but having shot it in soft light before I packed up, sat and soaked up the sea air and the bobbing Eiders for a while and then headed back.

Most of the day was spent at Kyloe-in-the-woods where none of us managed anything of note. More than a little fatigued we agreed to check out Hepburn before heading home. Another nice looking crag on a quiet hillside, plenty of good lines in the mid grades, but nothing to tempt us to stop. Further right there was more lurking in the woods. A few giant slab extemes lost to moss, and a perfect highball block with a cracked arete - Northern Soul. A stone cold classic at 7a, don't miss it if you're in the area.

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