June Norway – Lofoten trip report

Last month I spent a week in the Lofoten Islands, way north of the Arctic Circle and so at this time of year 24 hour sunlight! I was very lucky to be working there on this, my first visit. Thanks Martin Moran!  I was paired with a young keen and very strong climber that I’d worked with during a winter course for Moran Mountain. Tom had started climbing over the past couple of years while working full time as a mechanical engineer, he studied engineering while on an apprentice scheme so missed out on the university climbing experience I was very lucky to enjoy, with the time, available climbing partners etc. that went along with this.  And what a location I had, Bangor university in North wales! … Anyway back to a short write up of Lofoten in June.

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First of all we were going to be sharing transport and accommodation with John Lyall and his client.  They were there with more of a mountaineering theme to their trip, and had already spent a week in Lyngen, a Norwegian mountain range in the far North of the country. -To be able to ask John for ideas meant our week was guaranteed to succeed. John has worked in Norway for years and is generally a fountain of knowledge and wisdom -without going overboard with compliments.

So the trip…

Arriving Saturday evening, forecast for the week dry till Wednesday. And unseasonably cold according to anyone familiar with Lofoten in June.

Day 1 Arrived in the early evening in Solvær, in the eastern and most accessible area of the Islands, around 2.5 hours drive from Harstad/ Narvik airport in Evenes.  And with the forecast in mind we were dropped off in Svolvær to climb the Svolværgeita (Goat of Svolvær) that evening!

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The Svolværgeita with the 3 star Forsida route marked

It features the leap of faith between the horns at the summit, this tradition was started back in the 1930’s by a guy called Arne!  But now since a rockfall sometime in the winter of 2006/7 the leap is now wider and the landing smaller than it used to be.  As we were in a rush that evening and it being super windy on the summit I decided on just a careful abseil, we had enough excitement just climbing the classic 5 pitch Forsida at 5 + or Vs 5a.  -Arriving back in Svolvær around 10 pm. The sun still high in the sky!

 

 

Tom descending from the Svolværgeita

Tom descending from the Svolværgeita late at night

 

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Svolværgeita summit topo showing the leap of faith between the two horns

The view from Svolværgeita on our first evening

The view to the west from beside the Svolværgeita 

Day 2 Dropped off by John and Richard to climb at the classic cragging venue near Henningsvær, Gandalf. It was a chilly breezy morning so this crag was chosen for its sunny aspect, and sheltered location a short walk from the road.  The crag features multiple 3 star 3-4 pitch routes on perfect granite from vs up to much harder.  We were keen to get warmed up for the following day when we hoped to tackle the intimidating 12 pitch classic Vestpillaren route on Preston.

Gandalf cliff with the grooves of Gamel Rev & Tromso Express visible

Gandalf cliff, with the grooves of Gamel Rev & Tromso Express the rightmost grooves visible

Here at Gandalf we climbed three great routes, all around E1, all top 50’s in the rock fax guide. Tromsø ekspressen Norwegian 6, Gamle Rev 6 and Gun’s and Roses 6- which we thought hat the toughest pitch; a short steep but with excellent crack with jamming and laying away with a nasty ledge to land on if you fell with rope stretch.

Day 3 The last day forecasted not to rain for the week…although we did have a shower the day before which wasn’t forecast…

Vestpillaren on Preston, top route of the week

Vestpillaren on Preston, top route of the week

Preston, just round the corner from Gandalf is the local mega crag, with the classic Vestpillaren route which thought the Rockfax Lofoten guide book is mentioned again and again.  All he profiled local climbers choose this route as their favourite must do route for the visitor.  It is graded at Norwegian 6 with 12 pitches of climbing, 5 pitches of 6 or 6-, 4 of 5 and a couple of easier stretches.  It is sustained in its steepness for almost the whole way and feels huge whilst on it. Views all the way up are amazing, looking out to sea over the western Islands and towards the Sun in the evening. Perfect rock all the way, cracks lichen free and quick to dry -luckily for us- due to its popular status.

We arrived there mid morning, and a party was already started on the second pitch, one of the guys fancy dressed in a pink Tutu!  So after waiting a while we gambled on no one else arriving as the weather wasn’t perfect, and headed to Hennisgvær to do the tourist thing to kill some time.

We returning an hour or so later and got started.

Straight away it’s an intimidating wall to start on, the first pitch is graded 5+ and feels like you already are really committed, even though a short way off the ground;  damp corner, traverse, steepness, exposure and knowledge that this is a relatively easy pitch on the route, of which there are 11 more to go. At the end of this pitch the bolts marking the belay were round the corner out of the crack, involving a short crimpy traverse, feeling un-reversible and unlikely for the grade. I decided not to go for it and instead belayed in the crack, and after getting settled spotted old bolt holes -the old belay point… I could only imagine that the new bolts round the corner were put there to prevent people descending getting in the way of climbers on their way up the crack.  A little happier now that I’d done right, Tom on his way up smoothly.

Pitch 2. grade 6- The big pitch for me, I was beginning to have my worries about my abilities for the later pitches, which are graded a little harder than this one.  I reversed a short section, the section connecting a hollow flake with a thin crack, Tom shouting up that I shouldn’t feel like I have to do it.  Thanks Tom, a slightly different line to the right, a better handhold; a small crimp swapped for a pocket, another wire, knowing that I had another possible ab point coming up (the first three pitches up to the Storhylla ledge are equipped with bolted chain belays so easy to escape from).

Pitch 3. 6 I’m climbing better now, and / or the angle has just pushed back a little allowing me to relax on the foot holds a little more.

Highlights of the rest of the route….

Pitch 7. 6 Superb in balance groove climbing, good gear all the way and a phenominal semi hanging belay.

Pitch 9. 6 Amazing! Easier angled leaning groove with padding and your shoulder/ hand on the left hand wall, repetitive and quick to climb, great gear, amazing moves, totally the best pitch of the route, I want to write a kiss right here to that pitch! Xxx

Tom on the superb slanting groove pitch on Vestpillaren

Shaky pic of Tom on the superb slanting groove pitch on Vestpillaren

Pitch 10. 4+ Rain shower!  But this quickly drys with the stiff breeze that’s chilling us for the final pitches.

Pitch 11. 5 Damp scary Traverse for Tom because there’s no fixed peg at the top of the groove anymore, a little broken rock where it could have been.  Small wires and cams were useful but not as good as the peg would have been.

10pm ish.  And the top!!  Amazing views before the clouds and drizzle roll in permanently wetting all the rock for the night.  Tom has fun in his Adidas flat shoes on the wet descent, lichenous rocks, earthy path, steep grass.

The view to the north west from the top of Preston after our ascent

The view to the north west from the top of Preston after our ascent

Another amazing view from the summit of Preston

Another amazing view from the summit of Preston

We didn’t see the guys ahead of us again after our first pitch, they having sped up just where we did on pitch 3.  We did see a group of people on the summit of Festvâgtinden which is the Peak above and to the side of the crag, which must have been them and some of their mates perhaps.  We went down the short way, down from the col to the SE, as the clouds and Tom’s shoes made everything a little treacherous.

An amazing day, arriving back at our lodge at nearly midnight, John and Richard still up and having also had a good day.

Our hands after Vesterpillaren

Our hands after Vesterpillaren

The rest of the week…

It rained heavily the next day and we did very little, reading and resting. The next day, still wet, a little coasteering behind where we were staying at Sandvika, a walk up Fløya in the afternoon -the peak above Svolvær. -With more great views…

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Svolvær from the walking peak Fløya

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Tom on the spectacular ridge of Fløya

The final two days we had a day in strong cold winds having a go at the classic Lundeklubben 6 on Storefestvåg, climbing with wooden fingers.  After the first pitch retreating and bouldering for the rest of the day on the Preston boulders and coastline.  And finally some cragging at Paradiset in between showers, Tom by this time leading and ready to buy his own rack when he returned.

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Tom at Dammen, Paradiset on our last day

It was a great week thanks to Tom, John, Richard and Moran Mountain!  Hoping to team up with Tom somewhere in the mountains or sea cliffs before the end of the Summer.

 

 

 

 

Crawling on the edge on Blàbheinn

This morning I woke up to my 1st day off of a few this weekend without a plan for the very wet weather that was forecast everyday this weekend on Skye. So to avoid spending half the day inside looking out of the window putting off getting out, I thought I should just get up with Anni my girlfriend, drive her to work -she could avoid waiting for the bus in the rain, and then I could go straight to Blàbheinn to do a small scramble I’ve wanted to to do for a while.  It’s one of the finishing options onto Blàbheinn after finishing the Clach Glas traverse, but too scary sounding to do onsite with clients on a days work.

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The Left-Hand Ledge route description – it wasn’t kidding!

I got out of bed with 5 minutes to get dressed, quickly grabbing the last of the bread, an apple and banana.  My rucksack and boots were already in my van.  I dropped Anni off and drove down the Elgol road to the parking beside Loch Slapin.  It wasn’t as hard as I expected to force myself out of the van and onto the path.  The cloud was hanging low on Blàbheinn but it would be easy to find my way up towards the putting green by just walking up the scree slopes beneath it.  I had an idea to do the East ridge of the East face at ‘Moderate’ getting me to near where I wanted to be but the visibility was so bad that I couldn’t begin to find the start of that route and the guide book said it took 3 days for some old school dude called Sidney Williams to find the way on the first ascent, and the guide adds ‘not to be underestimated’ so I let go of that idea.

After about an hour and a half of quarter of walking up the scree passing many fine looking gullies and walls and bumping into the Great Prow I arrived at the top of the 5m wall on the Clach Glas  – Blàbheinn traverse.  I was quite nervous as I’d found the RH option to the 5m wall quite challenging making me feel a bit smaller and less significant.  Maybe this really would be scary!

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Intimidating territory to be walking beneath, it’s quite a mountain

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And there it was the ramp line I’d been eying up on my way to the other finishes on the CGB traverse.  The ramp was great, unexpectedly made of grippy un-shattered sound Cullin Gabro.  Easy walking / climbing up this.  The drop to the left getting bigger all the way up.

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The drop at the top of the ramp, whoa!

And then it was the Ledge to do and the sharp rocks to crawl on, apparently more difficult with a large rucksack, large rucksack – check!

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The ledge and the way onwards, not too bad but the drop to the left was terrifying!

And the next bit was the worst, an off balance smooth corner to climb with the huge drop to the left.  Tempting loose handholds were everywhere becoming possible footholds, this was not a worn popular way!

But I made it obviously and it was yes probably about moderate but with a very big scary factor.  I will only do this again in the dry! But very glad I did this, back for a decent breakfast and new running shoes in the post, the best way to start a bad weather day with nothing else planned!

Overdue update!

Left it a long while since posting, so here is a quick round up since my last entry in 2014!…

Spring 2014 on Skye working for Skyeguides.co.uk (April – Early June)

What was left of June and July working at Glaramara Outdoor Centre, Borrowdale The Lake District (climbing, mountain walking, orienteering, ghyll scrambling all with 9-11 yr olds)

-Where I met my awesome girlfriend Anni XX

August- a weekend in Norway climbing Stetind with James, Shaurya & Paul And to then the Alps, first the Ecrin, La Meije, then Chamonix La Verte, then multi pitch cragging in Cham and Finale Ligure Italy.

September / October – Back to the Lakes for a little work at Glaramara then Skyeguides till mid

October. November – Deer stalking on Skye followed by Christmas tree harvest on the Black Isle.

December – Anni & I move north to Aviemore for a few weeks before Inverness until mid January.

January / Feb / March – Fort Augustus Based working for Moran Mountain in the North west Highlands. Passing my Mountain Instructor Certificate (MIC) in late Feb at Plasybrenin in Glencoe.

Here in Fort Augustus till June where I’ll be working for Moran Mountain and Skye Guides in the the North west Highlands and trying to get rock fit for the summer meanwhile.

Alpine Start in the Cullin, grippy wet stuff and first Neist hit of the season.

The last five days have been action packed again with sport climbing in wester ross on Goat Crag, exploring Duncraig crag, exciting work again for SkyeGuides.co.uk with a 4 am start for the corrie Lagan Round and the Dubh Slabs in the wet.  Climbing at Neist Point and a sunny day yesterday shunting -again, at Elgol’s School house buttress yesterday where I met the owner of the cottage on the beach there, on who’s property part of the crag is, and it turns out his son Alex Matheson climbed the first ascent of “Afterburn” and “Overdrive” with Andy Tibbs.

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Richard and Greg swarming up An Stac after our 0415 start on the Lagan Round to avoid the rain due in a couple of hours time

 

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Richard & Greg arriving at the summit of An Stac!

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Greg, abseiling down the Inn Pin, still dry and it stayed dry till coming down from Banadich.

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Selfie on the boat from Elgol, about to get wet underpants on the ride over…

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Wetness on the Dubhs but not many types of rock you could do this on…

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Sgurr nan Eag, and made it back to Glenbrittle for half five, right on schedule for our pickup

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Ian R Craigie on three star pumpy Wish you were here

ImageMe finishing off with the awesome Piggy Bank

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My self on Have a nice day, we did.

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Ian  on Hurracane Hideaway

The last ten days, a mixed bag of weather…

Last week on Skye started with some horrendous weather, anyone who ventured out even briefly to the shops last sunday got drenched. The weather from then on was difficult to predict even with three forecasts, scuppering most peoples ambitions in the hills.  But of course we still needed to get out, I was working for Skyeguides.co.uk, a good but challenging week.  Clach Glas Blaven on super wet sunday  with Pete, & Rachael and a make the most of the weather traverse course with Graham, finishing with a successful traverse with Ulrich from Bavaria.

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Graham and me on Sgurr na Stri, some say the best view in the Cullin, we did it’s brilliant south ridge

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Ulrich early on day 2, somewhere on Mheadaidh mid way through our successful traverse, Loch Coruisk behind

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Graham’s dramatic pic of me on Naismiths Route, on the Bhastier Tooth

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Friends Oliver & Jo from Cumbria with us on Sgurr na Stri!!

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Blaven with Graham and myself

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Acres of Gabro on the south ridge of Sgurr na Stri

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Someone’s holiday art at the beach by Carmasunerie

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More Elgol evenings : – )

 

 

Success! Traverse with the Dubh Ridge for Skyeguides.co.uk

Had a great three days with two brothers from down south this week, our first day on the Cioch with an ascent of Eastern Gully.  Then the next day a boat in from Elgol for day 1 of our traverse via the Dubh ridge to start.  A long hot day 1 got us to our bivi on Ghreadaidh and a thankfully cooler, misty but dry day 2 brought us to Gillian and back to the Sligachan Hotel for beers.

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Piers on the Dubhs

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Sgurr du Beag after the “doing the Dubhs”

 

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Arrival at our Bivi

 

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Mheadaidh on the morning of day 2

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Lotta Corrie Route on Am Bhastier

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Happy People on Gillian!

 

Skye one week in, sun sun sun! almost…

I will have been here on Skye for a week this evening, really enjoying the lifestyle, working for Mike Lates of Skyeguides.co.uk has been great as per normal with three adventurous days on the hill so far. Around this two full days personal climbing and two shorter sessions.  Great weather up here and looking to continue, touch wood.  Looking forward to a Skyeguides traverse course starting tomorrow…

Below; A short video of a coasteering reccie this morning at the bottom of a friends garden!

Pictures from the past week…

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Garry, final climb up to Gillian on Pinnacle Ridge

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Garry on the Inn Pinn, a quick spring squall arrives just on time

 

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Elgol evenings :-)

 

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Mike on Ogmorian at Suidhe Biorach Elgol

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Me on the short hard crux of Veritas Splendour

Below… I got finally pointed towards the amazing and humungous holds of Mothers Pride by Mike

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Late evening “but definitely worth it” shunting session at School House Buttress Elgol

Below… Martin on the super sustained jamming crack of Road to Ruin at Kilt Rock, an Ed Grindley route graded E25b put up in 1983 during the new routing frenzy on the Skye sea cliffs whilst Ed was doing lots of E4 first ascents, we thought it was pretty tough for the grade, lots of fist pulls and for much of the route thats all there was! Martin also led Frisky for Whisky and I led the friendlier Internationale and the brilliant ultra sustained Fi Fo Fum a little further north at the Tempest area. Shaping up to be v good season!

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Six days in the Costa del North Wales…

More holiday times,… I had a gap before heading north to Skye (this easter weekend) and with a good forecast,  friends in a similar -after winter, pre summer rush period, I hoped I could scrape together a great week in North Wales.  I did!  And am now getting ready for my next vacation due to last until early June on the Isle of Skye!

There was Llanberis slate, Tremadog, Lleyn Peninsular Adventure, Road biking, Gogarth and Rhoscolyn DWS finished off with managing Ivy League without a rest this time once back in Kendal.  Good times.

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Konrad in Australia on “A Grand day out”

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Luke about to do battle with the Chiselling in Dali’s Hole

 

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The Trefor Granite Quarry on the Lleyn Peninsular, though largely closed by the 1950’s it supplied the granite for the Curling stones in the 2002 Winter Olympics, was opened originally in the mid 19th century and exported granite via boat from the coast.

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But waiting to be converted into a Villain’s lair…

 

 

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The imposing buttress along the coast with adventure route Avernus HVS 4c *** Trwyn y Gorlech

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The view halfway up, 4b lichen covered wall, then its a 4c corner pitch round to the left

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Shags /Cormorants?

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Sun, grass and sea!

 

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Lovely sunset lit walk back o’er the top

 

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Liam at Gogarth, Main Cliff Upper tier, Winking Crack pitch 1

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Me just about to start the off width at the top of winking crack, happily equipped with a size 6 WC friend

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Liam jammed in the winking crack! Waited for years to do this route!

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Liam on the final crux pitch of “Gogarth” on the Main Cliff at Gogarth

 

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The next morning, high tide at Rhoscolyn, Finally did the amazing deep water solo, Electric Blue :)) This is the view from the top.

Another round of the passes on my bike, a good day!

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-And! finally managed Ivy League at Scout Scar “clean” on my shunt on the morning of my return to Cumbria.

 

Scout scar shunting and final touches to my camper

After returning from some New Forest DofE work I’ve been filling some time finishing my camper -still loads I could do… but its good enough for the mo and I’ve visited Scour Scar above Kendal a couple of times trying out shunting -which is great fun, just like Dave Birkett said, bouldering on a rope .

 

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Sh**e everywhere…

 

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Finished complete with folding out table!

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Ivy League at Scout Scar

 

Just back from a gd weekend in the Peak District

After spending ten days non stop renovating my new van into something habitable for April / May on Skye and beyond I headed down to the Peak for some fun. Saturday at High Tor where we climbed Robert Brown E3,5c,5b Nightmare of Brown Donkey’s E3,5c,5c and Sam led Flaky Wall E4 6a. A Brilliant Day, such a good crag.

Sunday was a morning session at Rubicon Wall where Sam nearly got his first in a session 7c and Zeitgeist 7b (a bit dirty) and I nearly got the classic Rubicon 7a cleanly done but not quite. After Lunch I headed out on my road bike for a circuit from Cressbrook towards Buxton, Bradwell and back, lot’s of folk out on their bikes or out for a walk. V summery. I then thought it would be wrong to head home without making the most of the last couple of hours of daylight so headed to Stanage for a couple of Solo’s at the popular end of Stanage. V Satisfied I drove back to Cumbria. I’m back to work this week finally working on a DofE Silver training in the New Forest for Sam Sykes Ltd. My season on Skye is just around the corner.

No pics from me this time as I forgot my camera this weekend, properly on holiday -as per normal but properly!… so heres a topo pic of part of the main Face at High Tor from the new Peak Limestone Rock Fax guide -showing a selection of routes, many more on the ground, Nightmare of the Brown Donkey’s starts as for No.2 and then trends up left towards the impressive looking overhang beneath the abseil tree.

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