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Rab Wash

When the weather is good there is no better place to holiday than the UK. In fact, last week the weather was pretty terrible, but the UK still made for a pretty amazing place to be. We took a week off up in the Yorkshire Dales, and I honestly believe it rivals any other European destination I have been to for sport climbing. The views are stunning, the sheep are cute, the routes are world class and the pub does good grub. What more do you need?

Looking at the forecast before we left I armed myself with every piece of Rab kit I owned, just in case. And the constantly changing conditions meant it all came out of the sack at some point during the week. One minute it was t shirts and sunbathing, the next it was sheltering from the rain in a waterproof or keeping toastie warm in a downie. Even my Vapour-rise Pants got a look-in and they don’t normally come out until at least November. I love my Rab was definitely the motto of the week.

To go with the kit was our massive (and I mean MASSIVE) tent. You can fit our car inside it. Twice. Great for hiding out in a downpour, even better for getting one back on the midges by denying them their evening feast when you get back from cragging.


And so to the climbing. I had been really excited about trying the classic 8a+, Supercool, in Gordale, but a quick session on it changed my mind. It is a stunning route, but the crux is desperate for the short and I wasn’t in the right mind-set for a siege. Full respect to Ruth Smitton, Ako Shillitoe and Lucy Mitchell who are all smaller than me and have ticked this route. I turned my attention to another classic of the grade, GBH at Malham. This route is fantastic! 23 metres of almost non-stop climbing without any rests to speak of, encompassing everything from heel-hooks and two finger pockets to massive throws between good holds and balancy intricateness on your feet. This left hand wall of Malham is a very special place, and all the routes from the 7a on the left to the hard 8s on the right are worth seeking out.

Three days on the route left me thinking I was close but no cigar. Hard moves around a small roof in the middle kept spitting me off, though the top wall above that (for me at least) is much easier and so I was hopeful that once through this section the rest would fall into place. It was all down to the final day of the holiday which dawned a shield of grimness with torrential rain and gale-force winds. It was definitely the kind of day you really should stay in bed, but there was no chance that was happening with unfinished business at the Cove. As predicted, it was equally as unpleasant at the crag as it was in the car park with freezing temperatures and rain swirling in and hitting you in the face at regular intervals. But with rain and wind comes something totally magical – the oft talked about, but rarely experienced, sticky damp. For anyone who has not experienced this phenomenon it is hard to describe just how cool it is. The exact right combinations of dampness and breeze cause the rock to become super-grippy. Your shoes stick to everything like glue and so the moves are ten times easier. It feels like cheating. Warming up the crag was sticky damp and I felt invincible. GBH was going down! First redpoint of the day, however, the balance had tipped somewhat over to the damp side of things and it didn’t go too well. Unable to face sitting around in the wet waiting for another go, we decided to bail. I’d like to say I’m disappointed, but in all honesty it is hard to be when you have experienced sticky damp even for just a moment. It’s the coolest thing around, even more so because it is so elusive.

So it is back to the training board now with GBH firmly in my mind as a route I’d like to finish off this autumn. Fingers crossed for a wet, windy, sticky damp October!

Jules Littlefair