How not to climb at Ilkley
Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Not really a caving adventure but a trip of such incompetence that its story must be told.

Nadia and I caught the 12:32 train for Ilkley. It was an absolutely glorious day and the views were spanking. It was a proper early December day, and perfect for grit climbing: sunny, really clear but very cold. We walked up the hill and got to the Cow for about half 1. Id never been to Ilkley before, so I didnt really know where I was going. I recognised the Cow from watching a video of Jacob Cook (LUUMC, absolute crackpot) climbing New Statesman (E8 7c) but I didnt really know anything of what the other routes looked like or what the grade was like here. I wanted to give Nadia a chance to lead something for the first time, so I was looking for something easy and inoffensive. The buttresses looked quite a long way away, and with only a few hours til dark I settled on staying at the Quarry and trying Wellingtons Chimney, graded a diff and with quite a few gear placements. We looked about, but couldnt find a route that looked like what I thought to be Wellingtons Chimney according to the Topo. I decided we should just get on with it, and, seeing what looked to be an easy line up a chimney in front of me, decided that it would do as Wellingtons Chimney for the day and started getting kit sorted. Nadia racked up, had a refresher in gear placements after her practice at setting up a belay at Almscliff before, and set off. We double roped it as the gear was quite zigzaggy, which turned out to be a very good thing.

Nadia made steady progress up the easy gully, and got a lot of gear in. Soon she reached the cruxy section of the route and it transpired that this section was not designed with short people in mind. Also, the route was green as fuck and had quite a lot of pigeon poo on key holds. Nadia gave it a good shot, but eventually it got the better of her and she slipped and fell. Not particularly shaken, she downclimbed and I grabbed some of the rack and headed off up, still only in my trainers. I arrived at the crux and discovered that Nadias topmost gear placement was a pisspoor cam placement which had walked a good 10cm(!), meaning that the lower cam had taken quite a bit of the fall. Quite glad of the double rope system, I attempted to reposition the cam in a better crack. The cam continued to walk, so I replaced it a number of times. By the sixth time, I had placed it such that when it walked (again) it overcammed. Extremely annoyed with myself at having lost Peacheys cam, I placed a nut in the crack instead and tried to climb up. This was not very doable in trainers, however, as the wall was bare of any footholds and smearing in trainers on a face as green as that was not doable. There were some tiny pebbles which would have been sufficient in climbing shoes, so I downclimbed, feeling very stupid, put on my rock shoes and reascended. I topped out in a reasonably desperate, thrutchy manner and made a small hole in my down jacket. Cocks. There was an excellent unquestionable anchor at the top (huge boulder) so I lobbed a big fig8 loop round that and belayed Nadia up on second. It is worth noting that Nadia did very well at lead belaying me considering she was learning on the job. Nadia was unable to remove the nut I had placed near the lost cam, so I decided to abseil down to it and get it back. Nadia went back down to get the dibber, headtorch and my prussic loop so I could make a deadman and get it back; however, she forgot the prussic loop and headtorch. By this time it was getting dark so I tied a knot in the rope where the gear was, abbed down to it and tried to get the nut out. It turned out I had placed the nut extremely well and it would not budge. After 10 or so minutes of trying, I dropped the dibber which made me very sad. A rock and a snapgate made a makeshift dibber, and eventually the gear shifted. Tired and extremely annoyed with myself, I abbed down to the bottom where I found the dibber. Nadia derigged the belay and we packed up and headed off, with me feeling quite dejected at having spent so much time doing fuck all and losing cams to what I thought was a diff. I resolved that caving is where its at and decided that I would go climbing with people who knew what they were doing more before trying to teach other people what to do. Overall, though, we still had fun and Nadia did very well for her first time leading, having not even lead in the wall before.

The next day, feeling sure we had been cheated in some way, I looked back at the guidebook to see if we had done something wrong. Looking at the topos, it suddenly hit me: I had been looking at the North Side topo of the quarry rather than the South side, where Wellingtons chimney was. A bit of deduction lead me to conclude we had instead been trying V Chimney, graded a VS and described thus: easy climbing up the gully leads to a desperate, thrutching finish. I could only laugh hysterically at my own incompetence. This did make me feel a lot better about the amount of time it took me and Nadia to piss about on it. Im now reasonably confident that, were we to actually climb something of a grade less than HS, we would have pissed up it. A return trip will be made to climb Long Chimney, A Climb and possibly Josephine. I am the king of incompetence.