070518 Birchens

Overview - Chris (my brother) was back for the week, so we had to get somewhere! Rain throughout the week wasn't looking good, and it was misting for the first few routes, but the near-gale winds blew the clouds away and we ended up with a glorious afternoon of sun. Birchen is my usual soloing ground, but I'd been looking to get to Birchen with a rope and a decent partner for a while. There's a good list of HVSs aournd the Sail Buttress area, and I decided they weren't for soloing a while ago. It felt quite reassuring making this list on a day when I felt cr*p start to finish with flu... I guess that's what addreniline was made for!

Sail Buttress (2* HS 4b):

Seconded Chris - A nice easy, but fun start for Chris getting back into leading. Apparantly the long can just step into the far scoop and make a long rockover, whilst the rest of us have to make do with smears inbetween! Correctly starred and graded.

Roger the Cabin Boy (1* VS 4c):

Seconded Chris - After the success of the first one, I suggested the direst finish. Took him a while to commit to the move up and out of the groove, but eventually overcame. I could be convince of it being a few 4c bridges and then a 5a rockover, but then I did it solo, so I would guess a very easy 5a move.

Orpheus Wall (2* HVS 5c):

Lead - Wasn't feeling great all day, hence wanted to jump on the main challenge after the quick warm-up. The first few moves are not to be sniffed at, but the main event is well worth it. Great gear placements (yes, getting worn, but the upside is that they're really obvious), and then an awesome move which requires lots of body tension and pulling power (though perhaps not via the immediately obvious hold). Put that move, even with the same gear, after 10m of climbing, and you'd get good E1/2.

Monument Gulley Buttress (HVS 5b):

Led - The easiest of the HVSs listed here. Just as I was about to start, I had to take a moment for an impromtu telephone job intereview, so getting back on was a "let's try that again..." Good nuts to the big break, and good gear there too, if a tad too far under the overhang. The next move is a joy - just keep your body as far away from the cracks as possible. And to the top. Just about merits both grades, but could do with a star. Chris seconded.

The Keel (HVS 5b):

Led - Got very confused trying to climb this one, but I blame my brother. He gave it a go first, and ended up with a foot in the pocket left. Extemporisation around this solution netted me nothing, up to the point of quitting, at which point I give it one more shot, using the method that looks obvious from the ground. It's a harder move than on MGB, but might be a good one to do before Orpheus Wall.

Ratline (2* HVS 5b):

Led - Hmmm, this gets E1 in the old RF and the UKC databases. I think the difference may be made as to whether you get gear in the flared vertical flake. It's quite an off-balance move up and on to the upper slab, and gear in the flake would've been a big psycological boost. Without it (i.e. gear out wide, each side, in the horizontal break), as I did, I would suggest a soft E1, and definitely deserving of the stars if you start up the groove on right. Chris seconded.

Topsail (2* VS 4c):

Led - A quick repeat to put a toprope up for dad to have a go. Good route, fun small swing into space, and well graded. 'Nuf said.