Tag Archives: St. Montan

With only a Shunt for company

Crag shot of St. Montan on a beautiful spring afternoon

Crag shot of St. Montan on a beautiful spring afternoon

With all the regulars are away at the moment, it was me and the Shunt today at the local haunt, St. Montan. Spring is finally here, and it was a fine afternoon, although April is proving to be much more showery than last year.

 

Self belaying (also known as self-lining) was on the menu, as free soloing wouldn’t really go down well with my wife, plus I would be rubbish at it. The basic concept is climbing on a fixed line whilst belaying oneself. The rope is attached at the top of the crag and the climber is attached to the rope via a device (a Shunt in my case), which automatically locks onto the rope in the event of a rest or fall.

 

Simple, surely?

 

It was was first time using a Shunt in anger, as well as on my own, so I was feeling slightly nervous. Strangely enough it brought back similar feelings to when I was tramping around Scotland in January in preparation for my WML – the feeling of being slightly on the edge and needing to watch one’s back that little bit more carefully.

 

There were a pair of climbers already at the crag, and in the vicinity of the climbs I had earmarked, so I set myself up, trying hard to look like I knew what I was doing, never mind the climbing. Despite setting the Shunt upside down initially, and wondering why it wouldn’t lock, the setup was straightforward and it was time to climb.

 

Shunt setup - rope represents the fixed line; silver karabiner attaches to climber; cord is to release mechanism (e.g., for abseiling)

Shunt setup – rope represents the fixed line; silver karabiner attaches to climber; cord is to release mechanism (e.g., for abseiling)

It’s quite a novel sensation self-lining. It’s not quite top-roping and it’s not really leading or soloing – obviously – but there are some similar elements. The Shunt slides along smoothly when you make upward progress. However, there is the awareness of climbing above ‘gear’, as it were, and so the instinctive desire to whip it up to avoid shock loading (of you fell) can make the process a bit disruptive. Overall, I was getting the hang of it and making progress by the end, but moving routes was a faff.

 

When I got home I was pretty full of myself, but a bit of nosing round the internet reveals that Petzl issue a number of ‘dire warnings’, as Needlesports laconically put it, about self-lining with the Shunt. More nosing reveals that really there is no ideal autoblock or device suitable for this kind of climbing. All a bit depressing and slightly worrying, although Andy Kirkpatrick seems to have some time for it.

 

So, plenty of food for thought – more than I had anticipated – but still great to get out after a long climbing drought.

Categories: Blog, Personal, Simon, Sport climbing
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Sport Climbing, France | Les Dentelles de Monmirail

The striking limestone teeth of Les Dentelles de Monmirail

The striking limestone teeth of Les Dentelles de Monmirail

Matt and I headed deep into Provence for my first taste of a crag other than the short, but sweet, St. Montan. Les Dentelles de Monmirail are a parallel series of toothed ridges that rise to the south of Mont Ventoux and provide several hundred quality limestone sport climbs.

 

To our surprise, in the shadow the north aspects, snow lingered from the storm two weeks ago. There had also been recent hard frosts, judging from the frozen ground and ice on small puddles in the carpark. The wind was also blowing, making the ambient temperature of around two to three degrees distinctly unpleasant.

 

We warmed ourselves on the south aspect, which was nicely sheltered from the wind and cold. Ravens circled and swooped in the eddies calling with their characteristic ‘puk, puk’, and it was necessary to strip down to the t-shirt.

 

We ticked three climbs on the beautifully sunny south aspect, a 5b, 5c/6a and a 6a+. All were good climbs, made us think and employ good technique, but as with many of the sport climbs I have done to date, were rather forgettable. In retrospect, the climbs tended to be reduced to the challenge of a couple of moves.

 

In contrast, there is nothing like having a full-on fight on a trad climb or winter line in Scotland to etch an experience in your memory.

 

Our last climb of the day was a multi-pitch on the north aspect (5b, 5c). We were brought back to reality – that it is still definitely winter – by the cold, wind and chill. I lost the feeling in my fingers and we had to rush to get back home, so perhaps didn’t get the best of that part of the crag.

 

A day of many contrasts once again!

 

More photos on the Facebook page.

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To Opposite Extremes

James on La Gravité Abolie 6c

James on La Gravité Abolie 6c

James, Matt and I got out for some sport climbing yesterday. It was the complete opposite of six weeks in the Scottish winter – jeans, t-shirts, sunshine, dry rock!

 

I think we were all pretty rusty, especially me, but pushed ourselves in the time we had. We warmed up on Perlin Pinpin 5c, then Matt and I took it up a level on La Grande Dalle 6a, and the main event was James finishing a mini-project La Gravité Abolie 6c.

 

Two routes each, so not bad for half an afternoon and everyone went home happy.

 

Check out more photos on the Facebook page.

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