Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Shropshire Lads, plus a mini gear review: DMM Renegade Harness and Aero Quickdraws

The Shropshire Hills
Released from family responsibilities for a day, I arranged with Tony to meet at Nesscliffe - perhaps Shropshire's 'proudest' crag. Having done Red Square a few years back, there's not much in the main sector easy enough for me to realistically try, but up on the Far Buttress I had heard that Batman (HVS) was a good climb. Whilst waiting for Tony to arrive at the cliff I floundered about in the rhododendron bushes trying to find the Far Buttress from the main sector - eventually stumbling over the large and obvious path that takes you easily and directly there.

Batman HVS, the quiet end of Nesscliffe
We both agreed the bouldering looked great too, but wanting to find some lunch sooner rather than later we limited ourselves to climbing Batman. It's rare I find routes that I think are easy for grade - a side effect of punterdom I suspect - but in this case I was pleasantly surprised to find it rather straightforward even with no warm up. But unless my climbing takes a remarkable turn for the better, that's probably Nesscliffe ticked for me!

The big cliffs of Llanymynech - spot the climber
We then headed towards Llanymynech, stopping on the way for a rather pleasant and reasonably priced pub lunch in Knockin, reminding me of just how bad roadside food options are in Finland in comparison.

Tony was pretty impressed on arrival at Llanymynech - it is a big crag and the length of the lines makes up to some degree for the slightly iffy nature of some of the walls. We started on two 6a lines on the left of Foreigner Walls which were fine, then Tony got on the rather fine Smack the Juggler (6b+).

Tony's first Llanymynech route, some slightly chossy non-descript 6a, but still all good fun.
He slipped off the onsight but got it on his first redpoint attempt. I actually got through the crux seconding on my first go, but ran out of puff higher up so did it with one rest. One to add to my ever-lengthening list of climbs-that-I-really-should-do-properly-one-day.

Unknown climber on Smack the Juggler 6b+

In the same vein, having watched another team on the rather wonderfully positioned Bah Bah Black Sheep (6a+) at the far side of Grid Iron Wall, I wanted a go. I did reasonably well until the inevitable arm pumpage made me wimp out of a minor run out above the crux. After a little rest on the bolt and giving myself a stern talking to over being such a wuss, I pulled back on and finished. Tiger Tony, of course, then cruised it but I used the excuse of wanting to show him the rest of the quarry as an excuse to put it on my aforementioned list to come back to, rather than putting the effort in and trying a second time to lead it cleanly.

Same unknown climber on Bah Bah Black Sheep, 6a+

We then headed to Welsh end of the quarry and Bay Wall. I remember cruising routes there last visit, and Tony indeed shot up the first route he tried that I had identified as a 6b, commenting he couldn't really see what was different about it to the other 6as we had done. I then headed up what I believed to be a 6a only to grind to a halt and then fall off a bit where I couldn't really work out what to do next. After lowering off, we more carefully checked the topo and realised that, yes, incompetent my guidebook reading was to blame so that Tony had indeed cruised a 6a and I had fallen off the 6b. Ooops. Tony then shot back up to my high point on the 6b before pulling a couple of great long reaches through the crux to finish. Then I, not wanting to finish on a low, battled up the not terribly great 6a (Summer Bay Babe) that Tony had already done.

Some not very good 6a on the Bay Wall at sundown
The sun was setting by this point and it was time to start our respective drives homeward, but I suspect we will arrange a rematch at Llanymynech in the future.

The DMM Renegade 2
The miniature gear review bit is just that the lovely people at DMM, deeper into darkest, craggiest North Wales, had asked me if I wanted to try some of their new products and this trip was the first chance to try them out. I've been a big fan of their Renegade harness since I reviewed it for UKClimbing quite some years back now and it has been my go-to harness ever since, being used probably on average once a week for nearly five years. My original is very grubby and a bit fluffy but still going strong, but nevertheless I was honoured to be asked if I would like to try out the new version in fetching red and grey. Putting it on was like meeting an old friend, it seems to fit me well and is as comfy as the Mk I. The Mk II keeps the design fundamentals like the floating waist padding and seven gear racks; but as some people claim to hate the slightly forward slanting gear racks on the Mk I, the Mk II has more traditionally oriented ones. I never found the first design a problem, but can happily report the new ones work great too. I need to wear it more but first impressions are the Renegade II is a great all-round harness with the few issues from the first version now resolved.

DMM Aero quickdraw
The second thing to try were some DMM Aero quickdraws. I've never tried Aeros before - DMM's slightly more basic plain-gate krabs. They aren't the lightest by a long stretch, but they sit in the hand well and both Tony and I felt they clipped as nicely as his swish BD sports quickdraws. Both ends have keylock gates making them great for clipping and stripping plus DMM are now using the same redesigned bent gate on the cheaper Aeros as on their more pricey plain-gate models and I think it is this rather well shaped and featured gate that really makes the Aeros easy to clip. They seem to be available for as little as 12 quid looking online, and in economical packs of five, and I suspect will serve well as hard-wearing sports 'draws, although I can't see any reason why they couldn't make up part of your trad rack of quickdraws either.

You can watch DMM's product videos for the Renegade 2:

DMM Renegade from DMM Climbing on Vimeo.

And for the Aero krabs/draws:

DMM Aero from DMM Climbing on Vimeo.