Colin, who is responsible for introducing me to rock climbing, was keen for a few hours cragging at Windgather rocks on the edge of the Peak District. So we headed out in reasonable weather to an empty crag, bonus :-)
The wind was howling up there, but the rock dry and the views as splendid as ever.
We geared up quickly and I checked with Colin he had all the correct gear before I set off to lead the first route. Harness, helmet, warm coat & gloves were all yes's. Belay plate? Oh now where have I put that came the reply! Left it at home no doubt. However, Colin has been climbing for so long now, he was brought up on the waist belay. As I felt totally happy about the routes we were climbing, we continued and a waist belay employed. This is the first time I had seen this method used for a lead climber, and was suitably impressed by the speed and efficiency of it. Of course Colin is an old hand with such a skill so no need to be worried, in fact the system gave me more confidence than more modern methods, in some cases at least.
To give a little background to this. Windgather was the first place I tried out rock climbing (it is a perfect venue to take beginners) and it was Colin who was then providing me with a waist belay, albeit I was a 2nd on that occasion so on the safer end of the rope. I still look back to those days and draw from the experience they provided. Seeing Colin at the top of the crag sat in a grassy hollow and not actually attached to anything whilst providing me with a belay. I was falling off quite a bit and that's good proof the method works well, but like with most things, only works well when employed in the correct manner. And certainly it's an area to be extremely cautious of, that of not being attached to anchors whilst belaying. Thankfully Colin knew exactly how to use these skills to best effect.
Whilst the waist belay is no longer (or at least very rarely) used in rock climbing, it is still used on scrambling terrain and can provide an excellent and very quick way of providing additional security to a fellow scrambler. So a skill well worth learning.
Wanting to keep the 'old school' theme alive I decided to revert to old fashioned rope work on a couple of occasions, so instead of tying back the rope to my harness with clove hitches, used tied off half-hitches directly to the belay loop. This may have been the first time i'd done this, as a clove hitch is quicker and less cumbersome. But this set up certainly felt nice and secure and if nothing else, added a sense of nostalgia to this memory lane outing.
We climbed about 8 routes before the rain came. Neil arriving just prior to the rain - maybe he fetched it with him?!
We duly retreated back to Neil's place in Whaley Bridge for tea and biscuits, thanks Neil :-)
Shame the rain came when it did, but hey ho, still a grand day out on rock.
Maybe some of the skills we used, or indeed some more up-to-date techniques are of interest and you'd like to learn more.
Please feel free to get in touch. We provide skills courses and guided climbing / scrambling days in the Lake District, Snowdonia, and The Peak District. During December & January we run similar rock climbing & scrambling courses out in Costa Blanca, Spain.
And we promise never to forget the belay device!