Forecast looked better East for the first few days and as we were leaving Aberdeen at the late hour of 1pm we decided to stop of at Limekilns for a few routes on the way down to Northumbria. Hurrah, been wanting to climb at Limekilns for the past couple of months now to bag a couple of the VS's there. It was now or never time for my next VS!
Chris's wife is studying Hypnotherapy at the moment and I eagerly offered to be a guinea pig in my quest to get a better head for pushing myself on lead. It was wonderful and the imagery that Sue helped me to create was very powerful and had me feeling confident and keen to get these VS's I wanted to do. Limekilns is a very steep Limestone outcrop in Fife, next to the Forth Road Bridge but it's very out of the way and sheltered in some woods and is quite lovely. It's also quite hard with nothing apart from one chossy Severe, that goes under VS. John started the holiday with a good lead of DT's and Chris followed by an equally good lead of White Ensign. Both these routes utterly killed my weak arm and I was hesitant to try my VS after that, in the fear it was going to be too pumpy. But Chris reassured me that Red Flag wasn't as strenuous as the other VS's and you could see by looking up that there were more rest points than the other routes. Took me a good few tries to get it cracked though. I was up and down like a yoyo at first, just quite unable to suss the starting moves! Chris told me to jam my foot in the crack but that seemed to send me off balance. After several attempts and lots of cursing, I took out my bit of gear and climbed down in disgust! Chris then showed me how he meant to do it, and I realised that I had been trying to jam the wrong foot in! One more go then, and holey moley I got it! YES! Up to what I thought was going to be a rest point but is really a quite awkward position and faffed with getting a semi blind placement before moving on and the rest of the route was straight forward enough.
That was it, tea time and time to go. A couple of hours saw us down at a braw campsite called The Beachcomber, just South of Berwick. Was a pretty nippy night and we were up early to check out Kyloe (Out) What a superb wee crag! We all fell in love with the place immediately, even me who got the traditional Northumbrian sandbagging on a slabby V.Diff (had chosen this for the reason it was a slab because my arm was still really sore from the day before) Hah! The gear is awful, apart from one nut placement in the crack and the top of the slab is run out on a couple of 4b ish type moves, not what I wanted for a warm up! John did a route called Wilfred Pickles and Chris did the 2nd best HS ever (the best one being Cave Route at Huntlys of course) called Deception Crack, a real *** classic, awkward and udgy HS. This killed my elbow on second and I had to give up climbing for the rest of the day and went of photo duty instead. John led Slab and Groove and Chris led Slab and Wall, both VS's and both going up a totally run out slab and up to a steep, pumpy wall above. John then led an HVS called Gargarin's Groove and Chris led Chris's Arete (well he had too) and got a sandbagging! I finished off on a delightful wee Diff with a pretty steep and holdless jamming crack to finish off the day and we headed back to camp for muchos wine and ale.
Next day we checked out Bowden Doors and WOW! What an intimidating wee crag! The routes are steep as get oot! I was ahead of John and Chris and was noseying at a crack line thinking hmmm that's probs around HS/VS when they came up with the guide and turns out it was a V.Diff!!!!!! 'Kin hell! Chris started off on this one and right enough it wasn't as hard as it looked with lovely positive holds the whole way. Still just steep enough to hurt my arm though and I dejectedly decided no more climbing for me for the rest of the trip. I felt half gutted, half determined to rest my arm so it was fit for winter and I continued to feel this way to varying degrees in each direction for the rest of the holiday. It was very hard watching Chris and John climb and enjoy their routes and some routes they did looked just fab and I was in mental turmoil a lot of the time. I didn't really want to hang about getting down about it, so went for a long run instead.
Northumbria is a lovely part of the countryside, with rolling hills, bridal paths, rights of way all bounded together by ambling, hedgerowed, country roads. And along these rights of way, and paths I ran until I found myself at Cuthbert's Cave. The story behind this cave is that St Cuthbert, the Bishop of Lindisfarne who was associated with the Celtic Christian Lindisfarne Gospels and in the conversion of Lindisfarne from Celtic Christianity to Roman Christianity, seeked solitude as a Hermit in this same cave.
After running for around 5k I came across the cave and had a wee nosy. Folk have obviously made some kind of pilgrimage here and there are crosses made from tree branches, twigs and vine adorning the cave ledges. There is also alot of graffiti which is a shame but sign of the times I guess. I was wondering more about the bouldering potential of the cave than any spiritual matters, lol! Maybe I should have left an offering and prayed for healing for my arm, oh well hindsight and all that.
Back at Bowden, John was preparing for a lead of Tiger Wall, a scary VS when this older dude came over wondering if we were anyone from Aberdeen that he knew. He seemed to know some Aberdonian 'names' and I'm sure he said he was Simon Richardson, though I might have just made that up, certainly John thought he wouldn't be as old as this guy. Anyway, we named him Doctor Gloom as he was happily chatting away about folk falling and breaking their ankles at the crag, just as John was in earshot and going for the crux moves! Cheeky auld deil, sure he did that purposely!
The evening saw Chris drive us down to the North Lees campsite under Stanage. I swear I will never camp here again, it's an awful campsite! Muddy, on a hill and filled with billions upon billions of outdoor groups (yes, I'm an unsociable cow at times, but I like company when I choose it and not when it's forced on me) but guess that's campsites for you. Next day we took a walk up to High Neb area and Stanage End area and Chris started off the day on a Severe called......................, which I seconded with twinges. I was in a foul mood at the start of the day, stressing about my arm. I'm getting numbness in my good hand and twinges in the forearm too and thinking it must be coming from my neck, rather than being Tennis Elbow, yet the pain in my elbow and the movements that bring it on are classic Epicondylitis signs! Electric shock tingles down the back of my hand too and shoulders and neck achy. I'm stressing that it's getting worse and what that might mean, I'm worried that if I apply to Uni with neck problems ontop of my iffy back, that I will get refused a place. To compound things, my water bottle took the oppurtunity that morning to empty itself in my rucksack and soak my climbing shoes, harness and jacket and then my harness got all twisted and my arms ached trying to undo the mess. I threw the harness down in disgust and had to slope off for a private moment of dispair before pulling myself together. I decided to wander off along the crag in search of a suitable line that avoided Grit thuggery, laybacking and chimneying, not an easy thing at lowely grades! All the lines that appealed to me seemed to be VS and harder and my arm cringed at the thought. Eventually I found one called Kelly's Crack that seemed to fit the bill. A ** V.Diff up a corner where I could bridge my way up and use bucket handholds and ledgy footholds. It was a lovely wee Diff and my arm coped just fine with it, infact belaying at the top was more painful! And I climbed it just as it started to rain, so the timing was not the best, but ok.
The rain didn't stop all evening and Chris and I retired for tea and cake in the Outdoor shop in Hathersage whilst John went for a run. It rained and rained all evening and we went to the pub later on, the Fox Inn I think it was? I had a glass of red, John had 3 pints and Chris was driving so had the non alcoholic option. By the time we left the rain had stopped to a wee drizzle but still the next morning dawned grey and dank. This is not my idea of nice rock climbing weather but the boys are determined to get some more grit action in. Chris is loving the Grit and ecstatically said if he weren't already married he would marry this rock! Later on he wanted a divorce after getting a good sandbagging on a HS, lol! I think he even swore which was unlike him as he is usually very polite. I missed his foul language however as I had decided to go for another run from Stanage Popular where we were that day, right along the top edge, to High Neb area and up to the Trig point. Dunno how long a run it was but it was nice going and Chris had redeemed himself on another HS and John had led an HVS.
Much deliberation ensued later that afternoon and several plans were formed, with a final forecast making us decide to head back up to Northumbria and Kyloe. I was glad to escape North Lees and determined that no matter how painful my arm was the next day, that a full dose of painkillers was in order as I just needed to climb something! That evening I was having foolish fantasies of a VS called Trinity, whose guide description states, 'the top layback over the bulge spits of many an aspiring leader!' Probably not the best idea when even V.Diffs are hurting and getting you pumped! One can dream though, it is a lovely looking line and when I'm better it will be mine, oh yes!
Chris started off our last day on a Severe called Twin Cracks and had a bit of a 'mare on it, but took it well. Then John led something hard, I'd lost count of what he was doing as it was all too hard for my arm to second. Chris led a VS called The Glade which was nice and one I'd feel comfy leading. The bottom moves going over the overhang are ace, though the slab above feels a bit sketchy! And this is followed by good use of an oak tree to get up the final wall. I wanted to lead something and had chosen a V.Diff called Fakir's Crack and it was a right Fakir!! I ended up backing off as the gear placement was awkward, the holds were pinch grips and my arm was seriously hurting. Did a much more pleasant V.Diff called Meeny instead and did it with a different finish. Chris led the VS Direct Finish to the Diff called Xmas Tree Arete which meant we had all had a go at leading the steep Diff (aye) jamming crack at the bottom, John when he did the HVS next door. The VS variation is fab and takes you laybacking on stupendous jugs up and over an overhang, amazing and one I'll defo lead next time. John cruised up an E1, and then did another E1 which pumped him out a bit and that was us for the day.
Kyloe is a gorgeous crag, lovely rock, lovely lines, lovely situation, just lovely (can you tell I like it :o) And thus began the long drive home.