2006/12/21 Record of climbing in Peak District/Roaches (by Masa)

[Japanese / English]


Peak District/Roaches/Lower Tier
Adam W, Graeme, Masa
2006/12/21 (day trip)
Roaches/Lower Tier
  1. Chalkstorm Area/Prow Corner (VD 12m); Leader Adam, 2nd Graeme, Masa
  2. Chalkstorm Area/Prow Cracks (VD 10m); Leader Graeme, 2nd Adam, Masa
  3. Valkyrie Area/Valkyrie (VS 4b 15m, 4c 25m); Leader Masa, 2nd Adam (→ give up),(Graeme (1st pitch only)


Valkyrie in Roaches has a good reputation as one of the best routes in grit, often being compared with the route of the same name in Froggatt. It is the two pitch route and is famous with its magnificent and very exposed second pitch.

So I gave it a try. After all it is only VS. I shouldn't have a trouble. That is what I thought. Then it turned out to be the epic ascent for me! (And it took by far the longest time, over 4 hours? My apologies for long belaying and waiting, Graeme and Adam!)

The first pitch, which I heard is easier (4b), was found to be rather awkward. A cracked bulge was hard to pass. There isn't any nice foot hold. Up and down, up and down, from right, from left — I think I tried that kind of sequences at least four times.

The crack may be of use for jamming, but I haven't made jamming for a prolonged time, being obsessed in indoor climbing these days, even though I am fond of jamming (which doesn't mean I am good at it, though). The crack is about the fist size, but is not so perfect, as is usually the case. But I couldn't think of any better way, so I finally made up my mind and tried the fist jam, weighing nearly the full body weight. Worked! Glad that I had taped up my fist.

The rest is alright, and finally reached the belaying ledge for the first pitch. Graeme and then Adam seconded. Graeme said that he had used an undercut, which was a bit obscured, to get over the bulge. I didn't see that — perhaps that is why it was awkward?

Now the second pitch. Traversing first along the flakes to the rib and climbing it up. The initial move of stepping off the (belaying) ledge is a bit scary, but OK. Before I moved further, Adam shouted at me Needs both ropes to be threaded through quickdraws (to save from a big swing for the second when he falls). True! I hadn't done any multi-pitch route with two seconds for ages, and the need slipped off my mind at that time during the nerve-wrecking traversing... Thank you, Adam. So I like and trust you as a climbing partner!

Then traversing into the next flake. It is OK, but a problem is the big chockstone for an ideal protection is behind and out of reach, once I have completed the traverse. As a result I had to move back, throwing myself in the air, to thread a sling. Fantastic exposure. Exciting!

Now the line is beginning to get slightly vague. I see the rib to reach, and the flake I am on is extending left-downwards. In my memory of the description of the guidebook, it looks like climbing down along the flake a bit to start traversing to the rib, and so did I. The face between the bottom of the flake and rib looks a bit featureless, though. By a close look, I have found a couple of little features in the middle (rather than the bottom) part of the face. Hmm, then probably these are (hand and foot) holds? It is possible to stand on it by rocking-over, but what are the following few moves to reach the rib?
There is a horizontal crack farther up there, but that doesn't look a good hold. The rest looks rather featureless. A problem is, once I rock over to it so as to give a try, it won't be easy to reverse the move to come back, if I find the following moves are too difficult or unsecure.

Anyway I am a bit tired by then standing on the slanting part of the flake for a prolonged time with one foot twisted and jammed for stability, so I climbed up the flake again to reach a more comfortable place to rest. Now I see another possibility for traversing: nearly direct traverse to the left from here. Hand holds for the first 1 metre is all right. I am unsure, however, how good the horizontal crack is for the rest as hand holds. And anyhow there is not much foot hold. May I give a try? Trying to reach... A bit far. Yes, surely I can reach it by rocking over, in other words by a slightly dynamic move. But once I do it, it is hard to reverse the move. That is the problem.

Now I look at the whole face again, seeking for the best line to traverse. Starting from the bottom part of the flake looks after all the best. And I thought it is most similar to what the topo describes. So I climbed down diagonally along the slanting flake. The bottom part is OK, but not the best place, to have a rest, so it is better to be quick. This time I spotted the undercut. This undercut is really good. So, if I reach the rounded bottom part in the face with my left foot, which is a big reach, and IF it is good to hold the weight, then it will be fine. The problem is, as is often the case, I am not entirely sure how secure the rounded part is as a foot hold, in other words, the amount of the friction there. Because the hand hold is the undercut, if my foot slips, that will be it. And to transfer the weight to it is still a bit reachy move, requiring a bit of rock over.

I still don't fancy the big reachy move, ie., dynamic move. By a further close look at the face, I found a tiny feature to use as a foot hold. Using it, and using the pebbles as a hand hold for the right hand for a balance, I stepped over to it. Reached the rounded part with my left foot. Slowly moving my weight. Good. I can do it. Now change the hands. Reaching the next hold with my left hand.

After another couple of easy moves, I finally reached the rib. The exposure of the moves was fantastic! The last protection somewhere close to the top of the flake had been bomb-proof. In that sense, it was protected. However, because of the direction of the rope, it was not wise to put another gear after the top of the flake, which means the last pro is quite a bit far behind, and accordingly once the leader falls, s/he will suffer from a large swing. A good test of the nerve.

Now ideally I should wait to put another gear until I climb a bit higher up, considering the rope flow. But the first part of the rib climbing seems a bit tricky... So I arranged a gear with a very long extender (over 2 foot).

Which is the way up? The left-hand side looks a bit blank. The right-hand side has a vertical crack. Is this the way? A problem is, there is not much hold apart from the crack and the crack itself is off-width. I gave a number of tries to work out the moves to climb up the crack, but finally concluded this is not the (easiest) way up. A good thing was, at least the rest at the bottom here is good.

Traversing leftwards to see the left part of the rib. Yes, I find a couple of features, and so it seems possible to climb up there, being different from the first impression. To climb up, I need to traverse 1 metre to further left, though, which I did, to a much more unstable ground with both of my hands on the slightly rounded finger holds. After the initial couple of moves, the rest of the rib looks all right. However, the initial couple of moves ARE the problem.

Now I found the rope drag is a real problem, because I passed the rib! Rubbing on the rib by the rope is causing a serious rope drag. I keep shouting Keep a slack to Adam, while I was dragging a rope a bit by bit by the right hand, in an exposed and unstable position holding on a rounded finger hold with the left hand, to gain the enough slack to climb the first bit of this part. That does mean once I fall, the length of fall is larger. Scary...

The main weight of mine is on my right foot now. I can see the horizontal break 15cm up the finger hold I am holding now. Is it good or not? That is the problem. Most of British climbers could simply reach it from where I am standing. But I can't.

A simple solution is to rock over to the left to a rounded hold, where I am putting my left foot on, giving up the good right foot hold. Could I hold my balance in the move? Is the rounded foot hold on my left foot good enough? Perhaps, I can keep my balance for a short amount of time while I reach that horizontal break. However, I can't tell from below if the break is a good hold or not. If that is bad, I may need to climb down, which would be a serious trouble once I did a bit dynamic rock over.

My body is pretty stretched, holding onto rounded finger holds, and I have kept this posture for ages by now. But I have not yet made a decision to make a rock over. I really don't know whether the break is a good hold or not. Is there any different solution?

Slowly and carefully moving my face to have a look down, while holding my balance, I found a little feature for my right foot. Although it is far worse than the current one, I do need something above it to do a secure climbing without a dynamic rock over to reach the break. So, I now see the safer sequence, expecting to reach the break in a static way without making the dynamic rock over.

Left foot back on the safer hold. Put my right foot on the little feature. Put my left foot again on the rounded hold. Yes, it is all right, I can do it. And I finally reach the break, ... and it is good! Relieved.

I have to fight again against the ever-increasing rope drag, which is tremendous now. I ended up using the full-body friction on the rock to prevent from being peeled off in a deseparate effort. But I managed to sustain the balance and to pulled the rope.

An ease came finally. The final part of climbing the rib is fine. I reached the top. Bravo!! I have made it!

To belay the seconds from here was another story. In fact, it took so long time to do this route that some time after Adam started seconding, Graeme shouted he had to give up seconding due to the late time. Indeed it was 4 o'clock, just 15 minutes or so before the sunset, while I started climbing the route some time after 12 o'clock. I knew it took ages, but I didn't realise it took such an extremely long time. It was definitely by far the longest time I have ever spent in a single/two-pitch route. Good lord that my stamina lasted for that long. (No surprise I felt exhausted in driving back home after the day and suffered from the sore muscles in the following day.)

Graeme managed to escape from the belaying ledge unroped. Since Adam was not happy to keep going, being afraid of the potential swing, I ended up belaying him with an additional Italian hitch, as well as the main rope through the magic plate simultaneously (Black Diamond ATC Guide, which in fact made a debut for the self-locking mode on this day, and I actually really appreciated its functionality, which is advanced further than the legendary Petzl Reverso). And finally I had to lower him down after the sun was set.

While we were struggling, Graeme came up and abseiled to take out a gear that Adam had left. I abseiled, too, after lowering down Adam to take out another two gear left. Finally I went up to the belaying place again to take out the anchors, with which I had belayed Adam, while I was belayed by Graeme from the edge of the top plateau, because the ground is not perfectly secure in the dark.

It was a pitch dark at six o'clock by the time we finished everything. Six hours (ish) later since I started the route... Sorry again for the long belay and waiting, Adam and Graeme!

This route is VS (4b, 4c), whereas the RockFax guidebook also mentions lots of people think HVS is more likely. I am not sure about it to be honest. Today's condition was definitely not the best. Although it was cold (4 degC) and was not raining, the rock was a bit green and the air was foggy (dump).

Reading the RockFax page afterwards, either the final move in traversing to the rib or the first move to climb up the rib appears to be the crux, the former of which is seemingly more likely to be for most of people, though. Both of the moves were quite tricky for me.

I personally felt the former one was a 5a/5b move. But I didn't trust the friction. If I could, for example due to the condition of the rock, the move would have been easier. In addition, the RockFax guidebook mentions a hidden foot hold. To my pleasure, I didn't know that, which would have spoiled a fun, and so I neither found nor used it as a result. Judging from the comments appearing in the RockFax database page, things are easier with the use of that hold.

As for the latter one, I personally felt it was a 5b move. But the reason I made up that move was I hadn't known if the horizontal break is a good hold or not. With this knowledge, 5b move would not be needed. Or if the friction is more reliable, again 5b move may not be needed. Moreover most of people but a few shorts should be able to simply reach the hold from the safe ground. In that case I wouldn't be surprised if the move is just 4a or something.

The route is really exposed. But the protections are a bomb-proof, although a large swing would be inevitable once the leader fell.

So, after all, how about the given grade of VS? Is it appropriate? Both the British adjectival and techinical grading systems are based on the on-site ascent, as far as I understand. If a crucial hold is well hidden (for that grade), that should not be taken into account in considering the technical grade (of that grade). In this case, I did not notice the hidden hold. The ground there was a bit unstable (at least in today's condition), therefore to seek for a hidden hold from the unstable ground, where the leader has no knowledge about its existence in the first place, seems to be a bit harsh for the grade 4c. Without it, grade of 5a would be more suitable even for the people with the standard height (and reach). If the ground was more stable in terms of friction, such as on a perfectly dry and cold day, I don't know, possibly (hard?) 4c would be all right. If so, VS is understandable. If not, HVS would be more suitable.

Anyhow I really enjoyed the route. Tremendous exposure with not great but reasonable protections. I had to seriously search for the best line from a couple of candidates, which gave me an impression of the original idea of adventure in climbing. The moves, which first appeared to be quite hard, turned out to be negotiable after a close inspection. So this route offered me a very good fun. I would say Valkyrie in Roaches is one of the best routes I have ever climbed.

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