Fri 20th Sep - Sun 22nd Sep, 2019
Roaches KMC First Ascents meet
Meet Report – Roaches 20-22 Sept 2019
Members: Emily Pitts, Dave Wylie, Colin Maddison, Mary Stuart, Andy Stratford, Dave Rainsbury, David Shotton, Meirion Tanner, Ding Koy, Jack Buczko, Caro Churchill, James Meakin, Adam McCudden, Ged Farmer, Peter Schofield, Roger Dyke. Guests: Lorenzo Daguilar, Steve Lopacki, Paul Barber, Paul Lonsdale, Fergal Mcculloch, Natasha Hirst.
Special documentation: Paul Evans’ colour guide for the weekend, “KMC 75th Anniversary 1944 – 2019 Roaches and Hen Cloud First Ascents”
Special accommodation: The BMC’s Don Whillans Memorial Hut, with its cave-kitchen.
Colin, Ding and Dave Shotton were the first to arrive on Friday to a beautiful, if windy, September afternoon. Heading over to the Skyline Colin led the team up KMC14 and KMC 15 - Karabiner Slab VS/HVS and Mantleshelf Slab HS/VS, doffing their caps to the boldness and ability of our pioneering members. Then ambling back to the upper tier David S led Colin and Ding up the classic KMC04 Maud’s Garden VD before returning to the hut to find Dave Wylie, Dave Rainsbury and Roger taking it easy after removing a small garden from the hopper of the lower-roof drainpipe. And executing a long-overdue repair to the handrail of the Hut’s spiral stairs. Does every visiting party arrive equipped with threaded rod, an M10 tap and a blow-lamp? Very satisfying to have the engineering so solid that even ***** and ***** could launch themselves upward by a hearty tug on the rail.
Saturday dawned a brilliant sunny day, and stayed that way till dusk. Lovely sunshine all day, warm, and a gentle breeze (well, not so gentle sometimes on top). What a welcome contrast to our 2018 weekend!
KMC04 Maud’s Garden VD and KMC03 Beckermet Slab VD 4a were prime targets in the morning. Among the many leads of Maud’s Garden were Dave Shotton, Ding (twice?), David R (his first time on it) followed by Dave W (his 10th time on it!) and Jack: and finally Emily followed by Natasha, Lorenzo and most notably Peter Schofield who claims (A) to be noticeably older than Roger, (B) to have only climbed via ferrata for the last many years and (C) that this would be his last trad route. Well, if it was your last trad Peter, you certainly went out in style: a very steady ascent of the whole route, including the awkward boulders up from the ledge and the exposed arete at the top. First class exit, man!
Jack led Emily and Natasha up Beckermet Slab, then Ding led the route by the high start and brought Dave Shotton up the hard way (via the lower start - up the rising traverse), which inspired Steve to lead Caro up it also by the hard way. That lower start surely merits more than VD?
Meanwhile, a few meters to the right, KMC05 Broken Slab was climbed conventionally by Andy and Colin, then top-roped by… Emily, Adam, Jed, Fergal, Steve, Caro and Lorenzo.
Over to the left, KMC02 Demon Wall VS 4c was climbed by Colin and Andy; the lower section meriting a G4 gardening grade before the bold and bulging finish (further cap doffing to members past).
Dave W, Dave R and Jack popped over to Skyline, where Dave W led KMC19 Crack & Recess originally Diff (hard) and Jack led KMC20 Zig Zag originally VD (hard). Both of these had had tricky starts and modern wimpy climbers would probably give both of them somewhat higher grades.
The (rarely climbed these days) KMC06 Central Massif HD was climbed by Andy followed by Colin and Mary; the latter complimented by the leader for her footwork (praise indeed from the ‘Master’) – then led by Adam followed by a small team who agreed it was not going to be voted Best Route of the Day.
Damascus Crack was assaulted by Steve, followed by Lorenzo and Caro.
KMC08 Technical Slab HS 4a ***, the bold Bowden Black classic, was led by Andy, and seconded by Fergal and Meirion.
KMC07 Rotunda Buttress VS 4c with its technical top was led in good style by Meirion, followed by Andy. Then they moved couple of metres to the poorly-protected Batchelor’s Buttress HVS 4c, where Meirion made another steady lead (those lads could climb way back then – but by now we are out of caps to doff).
Meanwhile Colin took Mary and Roger up the (also poorly-protected) Heather Slab S 3c, then Mary up Inverted Staircase and Right Route.
Down on the Lower Tier Dave R and Emily took the honours for the most photographed team (several hundred by Dave W on overdrive) with their ascent of Peter Harding and Bowden Blacks’ super classic KMC01 Valkyrie VS 4b 4c. Emily, that was bold stuff. I’ve always reckoned seconding the second pitch is bolder than leading the first – and I speak from having taken a lead fall on the first pitch one damp day.
Roger drifted along the Lower Tier at just the right time to take a top-rope from James on Prow Corner Twin Cracks HVD 4a, which James and Paul had popped over to after climbing Inverted Staircase, Chicken Run, and - wait for it – Maud’s Garden.
Thus an excellent day merged into a deep red sunset. But alas red sky at night brought no further delights as dawn heralded a damp and dreary Sunday. Colin and Dave R got as far as uncoiling a rope before drizzle discouraged them, while Dave Wylie, Dave Shotton, Ding and Roger put waterproofs on and traversed the Roaches ridge as far at the ice-cream van (hot chocolates all round) at Roach End. Then back to the Hut to finish the clean-up (top marks to Emily and Ding) and drift away home.
How had we done against the target Paul had set us of twenty KMC “first ascent” routes on the Roaches proper? Well, we didn’t score 20/20… but we did hit twelve of them. Strangely the 8 that were overlooked included 6 Diffs.
Hen Cloud? Well, if it had been dry on Sunday……
Full Weekend Meet Friday 20th – Sunday 22nd September 2019
Many years ago – most likely 1972 – I was at The Roaches with Bowden Black one dull November day. We were prowling Skyline looking for something suitable for the damp conditions when the drizzle arrived. We dived into a little cave where we were joined after a few minutes by a pair who’d been on a nearby route. Bowden asked “Did you like that route?”, prompting a lively discussion about the detail of the route. “ How come you know it so well?” one of the lads asked. “It’s one of my routes” said Bowden. “I did the first ascent.”
That was by no means the only route at The Roaches that was pioneered by Bowden and other KMC members. In the 1940’s and early 50’s KMC members opened up many of today’s classics, including Technical Slab, Maud’s Garden…… We even had a hand in the superb classic “Valkyrie”.
This weekend, we’ll celebrate their contribution to UK climbing, hopefully by repeating the routes but failing that by drinking to our predecessors’ memory.
We’ll be staying in the Don Whillans Memorial Hut, skilfully integrated into the lower tie of the crag. There are 2 dorms, a total of 12 places. Lots of info about the Hut at www.donwhillanshut.co.uk
It’s £24 a head for the weekend, best payable by electronic transfer to KMC Account 11838301 Sort 16-22-27 and email to Al or me. Failing that, cheque or cash to R Dyke. Payment in advance is the only way to be guaranteed a place. If you’re on the Intend to Attend list and haven’t paid yet, please do so now…..
If you decide to come for just the day and not stay, that’s fine. We residents will treat you to coffee & tea, then in the evening you can treat us to supper at the pub.
There is a lot to do at The Roaches. My 1968 guide lists 162 routes. The 2004 guide (I don’t buy them very often) lists three times that number
One of the best Diff’s here is the meandering one-and-a-half pitch “Inverted Staircase” with its tunnel finish - but it's not a beginner's route.
More conventional routes include (in order of increasing difficulty to me) :-
“Right Route” just VD – you can skip the rather bold 2nd pitch.
“Pedestal Route” HVD
“Jeffcoat’s Chimney” VD
“Tealeaf Crack” S 4a – easier than it looks, but I have fallen off it even so.
“Black Velvet” HVD 4a – 24m in one pitch.
“Black & Tans” S 4a. 4a – same start, bold top pitch.
“Right Hand Route” S 4a – ask me how to avoid the 5a start.
“Damascus Crack” HS 4b - superbly protected (but only if you put runners in, as Neville once reminded me).
“Aqua” VS 4b – it’s just a laugh. Take an ice-axe to clean the crack above the crux.
“Runner Route” HS 4b – nice gear just when you need it, but nothing before that.
“Jelly Roll” VS 4b– fabulous finish, that I only managed with help from James last week… If you can get out of an empty swimming pool onto the end of a diving board, you’ve no problem with this.
“Crack & Corner” S 4c, 4a(?!) has the same finish and a nicer, harder start.
“Technical Slab” HS 4a needs nerves of steel. And little else.
“Rotunda Buttress” VS 4c is another of Bowden’s routes, and has a superb finish.
To the R of Rotunda “Batchelor’s Buttress” VS 4c taken direct is excellent.
On the lower tier, “Via Dolorosa” VS 4c,4a,4c is a 3-star, 3-pitch route, and it’s neighbour ”Valkyrie”,VS 4b, 4c is a must, of course.
If you’re into HVS and above, you don’t need any guidance from me and you’ll relish “Saul’s Crack”, “The Sloth”, “Roscoe’s Wall”….
For something easier and more direct, to give newcomers a top-rope on, “Breakfast Problem” VD and its neighbour “Days Gone By” share a stonking belay on top of Alpha Buttress.
Or there are the nicely-sheltered cracks at the RH end of the Lower Tier around “Commander Energy”, if they haven’t been bagged by a Group.