2014 Christmas Meet – Dartmoor

There was food.  Lots of food!

Here’s Max’s report:

The weather forecast was looking quite good for the weekend in Dartmoor. Sunny but rather cold.
I headed down Friday afternoon with my friend Liz, with a stop for a couple of hours of mountain biking north west of Yarmouth on the way down. It was a fine clear evening with great views across Portland harbour.
Anita had arrived early with a car-full of food, and wood. By the time we arrived the fire was going well and the drinking in full flow. I added the 3 turkeys I brought to the stack and settled down for a few beers.
Saturday was forecast to be sunny but cold. We thought the Dewerstone would offer less exposed conditions than the Tors, but with the risk of being damp. Driving over, the car said it was 2°C and there was much talk of maybe we should have joined those mountain biking. We arrived at the main crag which was in the shade (which meant it was cold and damp), so decided to head for the upper crags. These were above the trees and in the sun, and to our surprise we were down to base layers and climbing on reasonably dry rock. Still cautious of damp rock, Alan, Anita and myself opted for the HS ‘Fly on the wall’ which proved a pleasant climb. After Swanage the previous Saturday this was making two days of warm climbing in December, fantastic.
After that my friends Matt and Charlie arrived so I did a route with them. Charlie had only done a little roped climbing and a bit of scrambling in North Wales before so we opted for Needle arête, a VDiff  up  an impressive exposed arête. Charlie climbed it with only a little help. Not bad for a 6 year old climbing in trainers!!
With limited time we headed down to the lower crags and Julian and myself headed up the classic 2 pitch HS Central Grove. It started drizzling near the start of the first pitch, but by the first belay we were back in sunshine.
Back in the car it still said it was only 6°C in the car park. Amazing what a bit of sunshine does.
Luckily those out mountain biking were back earlier and when we arrived dinner was cooking and the tables laid. Some interesting ‘Lord of the Rings’ themed costumes appeared and the room was quickly filled with various strange creatures (so a normal Wessex meet).
Eating began far earlier than is usual on the Xmas meet. Quite an achievement with 22 people to cook for with only two ovens.
After three starters, two rounds of the main course,  Christmas pud, and After Eight mints, we retired to the lounge for cheese and biscuits, and some port.
Being completely stuffed, sitting down and relaxing would have been the things to do, but Alan brought out the Jungle Speed (google it if you don’t know). Played by ‘the rather athletic Wessex rules’.
Sunday was not an early start, as we had a lot of leftovers to deal with, including 1½ turkeys!! A few large breakfasts and much sandwich making dealt with most of it.
With a rather colder, windy and showery day, climbing was not a good option and we all headed off for various walks and further mountain biking.
Thanks in particular to Anita for organising the hostel and food, and Henry for stepping in as head chef, but to everybody for making it a fun weekend.

Here’s Norman’s account of the climbing on Dewerstone:

Whilst it was a beautiful day, a hard frost and the car thermometer reading 1°C at the Shaugh Bridge car park did not bode well.  However, the oracle that is Steve Newman enthused about no wind and sun on the upper buttresses so we walked along to the crag and he was right. Alan B and Norman W started the day on Needle Buttress with a combination of the Camel (HS) with the classic Needle Arête (VD), as an alternative start to avoid the luxurious growth of moss on the thin and unprotected first 10m of the Camel.  Max, Anita and Julian started with Fly on the Wall (HS), one of the classics of the crag, on Raven Buttress.  Steve and Pilar started with Needle Arête and then we all swapped around.  Max’s friend Matt joined us with his six year old son Charlie and they ascended Needle Arête.  Alan was conned into having a look at Silken Thread, VS in the old guide book but now HVS, by Norman with a comment like  “I led it 20 something years ago, really nice route, well protected”.  What I had forgotten was that the crux is some thin moves up a slab that now it was out of the sun did not inspire confidence in the feet and that the gear is not that good…  I must have been bolder back then!  A tactical retreat was made in good order, and we descended to the main area where Max and Julian were finishing with Central Groove (HS), whilst Matt and Anita ascended another classic, Colonel’s Arête (VD), in the gathering gloom.  An unexpectedly excellent day on the crag to set us up for Christmas Dinner.

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