Twistleton Climbing – Should Have Stayed in Bed!

31 05 2015

Bank Holiday Mon 25 May 2015
I have spates of everything going wrong for me and need to learn that, when I’m in the middle of one of those, I need to stop doing anything at all and preferably stay in bed! This was one of those days…

No photos for this one
Our climbing club were going to Twistleton Scars near Ingleton for their Bank Holiday climbing – Twistleton was somewhere I hadn’t climbed yet but was dying to visit and, luckily, I wasn’t due to work that day. The limestone crag varies between about 20-50 feet high, is probably about a mile long and is literally riddled with routes of all grades from mere ‘Moderates’ upwards to the E numbers.

I carefully packed everything I’d need the night before as I was due to catch the early train to Ribblehead – as it was a Bank Holiday I couldn’t face the traffic. I was taking a bike on the train and, as I didn’t know how many bikes would be on the train (only 2 are allowed per train), I decided I’d need to take one of the fold-ups as they are classed as ‘luggage’ when folded. Unfortunately, my trusty fold-up is in Cumbria at my caravan for the summer so I approached my Dad as he has borrowed Richard’s. As it happened, there weren’t any other bikes on the train so I could actually have taken my normal road bike.

I went up to collect the bike the night before and we tried in vain to pump the front tyre up. As we didn’t have the correct pump (that is in Cumbria too), we were trying to use the old-style pump which had the wrong fitting. In the end, in despair, I asked my Dad to pop across to any cycling neighbours he knew about and borrow a modern one. He came back with a huge contraption which I couldn’t figure out. In further despair, I took it across to said neighbour but her husband was away and he was the one who did the tyre-pumping in their house so she didn’t know either. In the end, she held the pump hard onto the valve while I pumped away and got it nearly hard enough (now, now folks!) – it would have to do…

When the alarm started to go off at 0800, I groaned as I’d just come off three early shifts which always tire me out – I’m definitely not a morning person. At 0830, I dragged myself out of bed, grabbed a quick orange juice and then the bike to ride the two miles over the hill to the station. At that time of the morning, I didn’t notice how the bike was…

I arrived in decent time for the train, boarded it and rooted some breakfast out of my pack. A quick digestive biscuit and a nectarine were my lot before I felt full. I’d decided I’d probably go down to the snack wagon at Ribblehead for a coffee and to see if there were any helpful cyclists with the correct pump for my softish front tyre.

The train rolled into Ribblehead station bang on time and I started to wheel the bike down the platform as I watched the train head off over the famous Ribblehead Viaduct. Suddenly, I realised I had nothing on my back – oh no! my rucsac full of expensive climbing gear was aboard the departing train and wending its way over the viaduct as I watched – my phone was in it too! What a truly awful feeling that was! 😦

The helpful people in the station tearoom lent me a phone and did their best to look up numbers for me but I couldn’t get an answer off anyone – after all, it was a Bank Holiday… I rang the signalman’s enquiry phone on the platform but all he could do was give me another number to ring which wasn’t answered either.

We worked out the time that the train would arrive back at Ribblehead after its long journey to Carlisle – 1315 – a three hour fifteen minute wait. I hoped the guard wouldn’t throw my pack off at Carlisle into the ‘left luggage’ department as he was supposed to.

Rather than sit around waiting, I cycled the four miles down to the crag to let the rest of the club know that I wouldn’t be attending after all 😦 The ride was against a pretty strong wind all the way and I made heavy weather of it. After stumping uphill to the base of the crag, I located my fellow club members, told them what had happened and then rode the four miles back uphill to the station – at least the wind was behind me on the return journey – much easier.

After 1315 precisely, the train arrived back from Carlisle and I rushed breathlessly up to the guard as soon as the doors opened and told him I’d left my pack on the train. Fortunately, he’d realised I’d probably come back for it and had left it where it was – phew. I rushed on and grabbed my pack, hustling a young child down the carriage in front of me because he was dawdling. I thanked the guard and jumped back off and checked the time of the train I’d originally been going to get back after the climbing – 1742. That meant I had more or less four and a half hours – worth cycling back down to the crag…

With a groan at the thought of the slog against the wind again, I set off. I’d noticed the bike had been making a creaking noise – by now it was becoming very bad and was a definite cracking noise – it sounded to be coming from the crank. As the bike is a twin of my hard-working fold-up which did the Munros with me and hadn’t done anything like the same mileage as mine, I didn’t see how it could be having a problem – but it was. Also the back tyre had joined the front in now starting to lose pressure.

A further problem soon manifested itself. The seats on the foldups, as they are forever being unclipped and slid down to fold the bike up, are quite bad for gradually lowering as you ride. This means you periodically have to get off and put the seat back up to the correct height again. However, the seat on this bike, instead of gradually losing a couple of inches of height, started to suddenly go right down to the bottom while I was riding along. This probably looked hilarious to following drivers seeing me suddenly shoot downwards and end up pedalling with my arms in the air and my knees up to my chin, but I really didn’t appreciate it!

I eventually reached the foot of the walk up to the crag, cabled up the bike and puffed uphill to join my fellow members once again. Unfortunately, they were just leaving the really nice part of the crag they’d started off on and which I’d really wanted to have a go at. I queried whether they were moving onto much harder stuff now but they said some of the folk further along the crag were tackling a couple of V.Diffs – ideal for me. I was feeling pretty knackered by now though with all the stress and cycling…

I sat at the foot of the two climbs which were right next to each other and soon, the couple on the right-hand climb, which looked really nice and very easy, asked if I wanted to go up after them – I said I did. The left-hand climb looked quite a bit harder to me as it had a bulge partway up and I’m not great at overhangs at the best of times, never mind when I’m already knackered.

Unfortunately, the couple on the left-hand climb finished first and asked if I wanted to come up. I wavered as I really wanted to do the right-hand one first but, ultimately, I wanted to try both so I said yes. That was unfortunate as the pair on the right-hand climb had packed the rope up and moved on by the time I reached the top of this one.

I set off up easily and reached the step underneath the bulge in less than a minute. Here I fished around, trying this and that for handholds but not being happy with anything which was high enough to allow me to progress up the bulge. I stepped up onto a foothold for my right foot and could see a foothold for my left foot but I needed higher handholds and the only ones I could find were downward-facing. As my footholds were only very slight and quite slippery I knew that, if I slipped off a foothold, I’d then lose my grip on the handholds and fall off.

I fumbled around for ages but in the end decided I needed to step back down to the step I’d started out from but could I heck find my original handhold (or any other hold) for my left hand. In the end, I spun around and fell off. I only fell a few inches as the rope was pretty tight so I quickly got back on again.

In the end, I found my original right-hand hold and eventually found something I thought I could use for my left hand and made the required step up. I was now just below the bulge and my arms and legs were feeling tired. Getting round the bulge needed a strong pull from my arms though. Also, the day was so cold, my left hand was now frozen and I had to keep rubbing it on the seat of my trousers to warm it up.

I found good handholds higher up and heaved hard on my arms, smearing my feet up the slippery, smooth rock below the bulge. Luckily, I was then up above it. I felt completely knackered though so I had to have a little rest.

Amazingly, I was ready to continue in less than a minute and studied the next section. I’d been told by the other couple that there were great handholds above the bulge – they weren’t kidding. They looked positively man-made – like something you’d find on the climbing wall. There was a long thick flake went almost to the top and it had huge round waterworn holes cut in it so you could see the main rockface behind – amazing!

There was plenty of choice of handholds and I soon made it to the top of the climb where I breathlessly thanked my belayer and went past him to untie. The walk along the top of the crag and back down to the foot was delightful on a grassy track and provided much-needed warming.

As I’ve said, I’d missed the nicer climb next door to the one I’d just done but someone said they were going further round to do another V.Diff if I wanted one. Feeling tired, I asked how long a climb it was and they said it was less than 20 feet – ideal πŸ™‚

A pair were just starting out on the climb I’d just done so I waited to watch how the lady who was leading tackled the bulge – I have to say she had to think about it for a while. I then went round to join the others, both of whom wanted to lead the next climb.

The guy did the main lead and put lots of gear in for his partner to just clip into for her ‘lead’. When he’d finished, he pulled the rope up, abseiled back down to join us and then she set off up, clipping in all the way.

She soon reached the top… Unfortunately, she then realised she hadn’t taken any gear up to secure herself so that she could top-rope me up. As I was freezing cold with sitting waiting, I volunteered to nip around to deliver the required gear to her. He said I didn’t need to do that and attempted to scramble back up to her but there wasn’t really any sensible route to go up without a rope.

She eventually said she’d found a sling which would do and secured herself. I wasn’t keen on having to remove the gear so the first guy said he’d go up again as it was only a short climb. Another problem surfaced however… now our belayer above said she couldn’t quite remember how to belay us from above – ooo-err!

He shouted up advice and still prepared to reclimb the route. After much clinking above, she said she thought he was now okay to come up so he set about reclimbing the route and removing the gear. I was glad I hadn’t continued up next to remove the gear as he had quite some trouble getting it all back out so I don’t think I’d have managed.

After he reached the top, there was much conversation and more clinking. I waited below, by now shivering hard – I’d been sat around for an hour now. Eventually the rope came back down and I tied in and set off up myself.

The climb was fortunately pretty easy and nice and short so I was soon up it after having a little trouble with the awkward start. Unfortunately, when I looked at my watch as I untied, I realised I just had an hour to go until my train so said thanks and told them I’d have to hurry off for the train.

I shot off to the foot of the climb, ungearing on the way, and changed my footwear. Then I shot off down the hill to the waiting bike. I now only had 40 minutes! I uncabled the bike and leapt on and set off back up the road. By now the crank sounded truly terrible.

I didn’t want to stress the crank any more than I had to as the noises sounded pretty fatal really so I got off at every hill and walked up. I was walking up the really long, big hill on the main road when I noticed a car coming down towards me with it’s left indicator on telling the following cars to pass. She seemed to be stopping to talk to me…

She asked if I was having trouble – I said the bike had developed a bit of a fault and I was tired anyway so walking up the hill but only had another couple of miles to Ribblehead Station where I was getting the train. She kindly offered to put my bike on her bike rack and drive me to the station. Thinking she was going the opposite way and that I would be inconveniencing her, I stupidly said I’d be okay but thankyou. It was only as she drove off that I realised she must have already passed me in the direction of the station to see I was walking the bike instead of riding and that she must have turned round. My too-late thoughts were confirmed when she again passed me going up the hill towards the station.

Oh well… I reached the top of the hill and got back on to creak and crack my way on to the station. My seat shot downwards again… this time, it wouldn’t tighten up at all – I was seatless! 😦

As I fiddled and faffed frustratedly, seeing that I now only had 15 minutes left to the train leaving and I was still more than a mile away, I had a stroke of luck and the second kindness of the day. A gentleman cyclist coming the other way appeared right at that moment, stopped and asked if I was okay. I explained my seat problem and he nipped across the road with his toolkit. Within less than a minute, he’d tightened my seat (if you’ll pardon the expression) and I hurriedly thanked him and shot off stationwards yet again.

I pedalled furiously, ignoring the cracking sounds from the crank and arrived at the station with just five minutes to spare. I’d have been fine for a bit longer though as this train was running quarter of an hour late as one of its engines had broken down – I wasn’t to know that though. It was amazing how many people arrived five minutes or more after the train should have gone!

When the train rolled in, I sank gratefully into my seat (keeping my pack with me this time instead of on the overhead luggage rack!) and raided my pack for some more food. I was mentally and physically exhausted. On reaching our station, I couldn’t face trying to walk home so dumped the lame bike in the Sunny’s garage in town and rang my Dad to pick me up. I told him he’d lumbered me with a wreck of a bike!

While he came to pick me up I availed myself of the fish and chip shop next door to my garage – mmmmm – just what I needed!

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20 responses

2 07 2015
bowlandclimber

That was quite a day. Good on you. The climbs at Twistleton tend to be well polished. Will follow your cowardly adventures.

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12 07 2015
mountaincoward

The ones I did didn’t seem too polished and at least nothing much was loose as it so often is on limestone crags. I really love the crag πŸ™‚
Carol.

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13 06 2015
fedup

Calamity Carol πŸ˜‰ Sounds like one of those days where if it can go wrong then it will 😦 On a positive the cycling is good for your fitness. I think that the belayers lack of experience may have put me off a little!!! cheers Simon

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13 06 2015
mountaincoward

If it hadn’t been such an easy climb, I’d have been very put off. But the other guy had gone up to help her by then.

I knew it was a week or so of things going wrong so I really should have stayed in bed. However, it means I’ve done a couple more outdoor climbs which should help my confidence…

The jury’s out a bit on the cycling – I’m not sure whether it’s bothering my legs or helping them. A bit more experimentation is required I think!

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2 06 2015
the Severe climber

Well, that sounds like an adventure. The good thing about those, is that they do make for good stories (even if they aren’t always fun at the time). All the best

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3 06 2015
mountaincoward

Yeah, if it hadn’t all gone wrong, I probably wouldn’t have posted about it at all! πŸ˜‰

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2 06 2015
underswansea

Cripes what a day! Sounds like you got your exercise. I’d have skipped the fish and chips and headed straight for the boozer! Good to hear you made it through. Bob

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2 06 2015
mountaincoward

I was really in need of some nice, warm, junk food!

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1 06 2015
Blue Sky Scotland

I’ve noticed over the years bad things do seem to happen in threes. Either that or I count three bad things then ” magic thinking” improves my luck.
It was lucky that your bag was still there intact and you got home safely so good in some ways. I always found limestone climbing hard and gave up rock climbing over 5 years ago thinking it was a young person’s sport so I’m not surprised you were knackered by the end :o)

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2 06 2015
mountaincoward

Not so sure this was a three – there seemed to be a whole week of things going wrong – and that is usual for me. At least I recognise now when I’m having a ‘bad patch’ and try to minimise what I do to avoid some of it.

I had a lot of luck that day though, with two people stopping to help with my bike, the station tearoom people lending me a phone etc. so perhaps I shouldn’t say I was having such a bad day. It did feel like it though!

It was the cycling which knackered me more than the climbing… I find outdoors climbing fairly leisurely as you seem to spend so much time sat around at the foot of the crag.
Carol.

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1 06 2015
razzah

That was fun to read πŸ™‚ You were actually very fortunate in the end.
I left my pack behind at home once after a flight back from London, coming home and then straight back out again to drive 3.5 hours down to Ben Lawers. I ended up going to the outdoor shop in Killin and treating myself to a new pack rather than face the journey home without doing anything!

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1 06 2015
mountaincoward

I was fortunate – I realised that when I got it back the same day – and unpilfered! But I have 2 ice axes because I once forgot mine when I was heading to Mull and there was more snow than I was expecting – I’d rather buy extras than miss out on what I’ve planned!

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1 06 2015
McEff

I would have given up when I left my sack on the train, Carol. I would have ensconced myself in that little pub near the viaduct and got quietly drunk before waiting for the train home.
Cheers, Alen

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1 06 2015
mountaincoward

The thought certainly crossed my mind! πŸ˜‰

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31 05 2015
Paul Shorrock

Eeh, it’s good to see a lass having fun Carol πŸ˜€

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1 06 2015
mountaincoward

Well, I was for PART of the day πŸ˜‰

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31 05 2015
tessapark1969

Oh dear! That sounds a bit like one of my catalogues of disaster except swap bike for car.. I don’t think I’ve ever forgotten my rucksack, though I’ve certainly forgotten some of the necessary stuff to go in it!!

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31 05 2015
EchoohcE

Sounds like you got plenty of exercise Carol, I bet you could have done without the stress though. Were your legs alright?

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1 06 2015
mountaincoward

My legs were, surprisingly, okay. I was just really tired at the end of the day.

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1 06 2015
mountaincoward

Well, I remembered to TAKE my rucksack – just forget to get it off the train! πŸ˜‰ Yes, thinking about it, it does sound like one of your trips Tessa!

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