After a few days of high pressure and fine, freezing but dry days, the jungle drums started with rumours of the news that every Peak-based climber is waiting for. No more “fake news” and false starts, “It’s IN”!
Final confirmation came through on Wednesday morning in a WhatsApp from Sam, complete with incontrovertible photographs evidence…
Yup, you guessed it… New Mills Torrs is IN condition. Undeterred by the “-3C max” forecast,
I headed over. Sure enough, my favourite perma-dry crag was true to its other defining feature. South facing and sheltered it’s the perfect winter suntrap.
Mather Crack was the obvious candidate for first trad route of the year
… which left a handy top rope down the super-direct start to The Arête (Siege Tactics?) – rude not to use it.
Sam followed with a lead of Electric Circus (well worth the 3rd E-point on the day)
… and a final blast up Short Circuit completed a very satisfactory start to the 2021 Trad Season (and all local, socially distanced and fully covid compliant!)
Meanwhile, reports on the other iconic February Peak venue suggested we’d made the right choice:
By Friday it was clear that some winter action was definitely on the cards, but further reports from The Downfall suggested it wasn’t quite there yet… Instead, Bill and I went for an adventure up Wilderness Gully, which was in excellent nick.
We even managed a little play in the Chew Road Quarry on the way down.
With the weather gods continuing to smile (contrary to the forecast) we reconvened for more fun in Wildboar Clough the next day. Unsurprisingly, we weren’t the only people with the same idea, but parties were either speedy or gracious and we were up and down in a couple of hours.
A couple of fun icy steps around two thirds height gave food for thought, and topping out into the face of the 50mph storm-force winds made for an atmospheric and memorable experience!
All good things must come to an end, and the Big Freeze was forecast to become the Big Melt as temperatures would nose above zero on Sunday before soaring into double figures in the following week. Phew, time to pack away the spiky toys for another year and enjoy a rest day – that was until Dave phoned. Did I fancy an evening dash up to The Downfall? Don’t be daft, was my immediate response (it was 3pm on the afternoon after our Wildboar Clough trip). However, it did look like an early start the following day (Sunday) might just beat the melt-down – we’d just need to man up to contend with the 60mph gusts and wind chill down to – 15C!
Sticking to the valley bottom kept us out of the worst of the wind and we puffed our way up the riverside path to the foot of the Downfall in a pretty respectable 80mins.
There were three teams in situ, but no one queuing, which was a very welcome surprise, and the base of the waterfall was pretty sheltered into the bargain. Result!
Dave led us bravely up the left hand line (rarely “in”) – you can make out a rather bold soloist on the 2/3 height ledge in the shot above.
A fine lead with a couple of committing steep pulls on already deteriorating ice.
Followed by a quick zip down from a handy situ rap point.
Excellent sport, and all the more satisfying for being snatched in a brief window!
Many thanks to all my “single accomplices from another household” (Sam, Bill and Dave) – it’s the first February I’ve spent in Blighty for a few years. Whilst I can’t say I’m hoping to make it into a habit, the last week certainly goes to show you can have a lot of fun if you pick your day and have a motivated companion.