Learning about Type II fun – A trip to the Peaks in Storm Noa

April 19, 2023



Any climber that chooses to take their craft outside in the UK will sooner or later learn all about the joys of Type II fun.

This is the sort of fun that you laugh about afterwards and that creates awesome memories, but during is more a feat of endurance than pure joy. Think running a marathon, climbing a mountain and the like. Pain and suffering are guaranteed, but so is the feeling of accomplishment.

Climbing outdoors in the UK also requires a good level of skill, some perseverance and an ability to embrace suffering – and more often than not, results in Type II fun. For all the blue sky days where your friends lounge around in the sunshine, cheering you on with a beer in one hand as they work on their tans, there are days where the wind bites, where it hails and freezes your hands on the rope, where you can’t even find the crag in the first place and where you really wish you’d stayed home with a nice cup of tea.

Last week in the UK, storm Noa rolled over right after Easter. Which was unfortunate for three women who had booked a campsite in the Peaks, keen for a girl's trip to sample some gritstone and enjoy some of the glorious rock the region has to offer.

Loren, Holly and Charlotte were warned off going, after being told the wind would be too strong and that camping would be so unpleasant, it might put them off for life. But undaunted, they decided to go anyway and see what they could send.

With very mixed levels of experience, it was a baptism of fire in many ways. Charlotte had been climbing for a few years, but most of her outdoor experience was garnered with groups of guys who took the lead. Holly was a relative newbie who had only bouldered at Happy Valley locally, while Loren was somewhere in between.

The three girls set off armed with a tent, a guidebook, plenty of psych and four bottles of rather dubious quality wine - their very fair excuse being that when it was two bottles for £10, what else are you supposed to do?! They made it to the campsite in one piece and given the howling gales decided to erect the tent first to make sure it would actually withstand the weather. That feat achieved, they set off to attempt to do some climbing.

The sun was miraculously out, so New Mills Tor was first on the list thanks to a very friendly local at the outdoor shop who was happy to pass on some tips. But the rock there was wet, and having been schooled on Southern Sandstone, all three were wary of touching any rock that wasn’t in perfect condition. The wind was howling round as well and although the crag seemed sheltered, 40mph gusts weren’t a recipe for much more than retreating.

The good news already was that this girl’s own adventure was yielding some interesting discoveries. Having very little to no experience in the peaks meant plenty of exploring, and plenty of laughs. Loren’s care to not even tread on any moss lest she incur the wrath of a team of SSSI experts who could be hiding around any corner, ready to jump out and lecture her on the importance of protecting the environment was one source of amusement, as were the attempts to walk in a straight line as the gusts got stronger and they took it in turns to act as wind breaker.

Having pottered to the infamous Stanage to have a look at the conditions there, the three retreated to their tent. Given that sipping a nice cool glass of wine around a campfire in the gloaming light after a day in the sun is slightly more romantic than necking a bottle in bed whilst wearing every item of clothing they’d brought, they sensibly decided to save their drinks for day two – although whether they would be celebrating sends or drowning their sorrows remained to be seen.

Robin Hood’s Stride was on the agenda when they finally managed to de-thaw themselves enough to crawl out of the tent and get going, and despite managing to make the walk in slightly longer than necessary, they soon arrived at a jumbled collection of boulders. There were plenty of puddles roundabouts, but some of the boulders were dry – helped no doubt by the wind that had finally started to die down. The skies were leaden though, so they knew they had a narrow window of opportunity to climb.

Loren managed to top out her very first outdoor boulder on the second day, a fine line called Dorsel arete. Having only previous climbed on Southern Sandstone, which had made her worried about pulling too hard on holds and paranoid about damaging the rock, this was a major achievement. She had sensibly scoped out the downclimb first to make sure she was happy to give it a real go, and midway up found herself with a move that would be hard to reverse out of. It was commit or give up, and as someone who finds the head game aspect of climbing the hardest to work on, committing and topping out was a serious undertaking.

But interestingly, she credits her top out not to her improved ability nor the grippy nature of the rock, but to the company she was with. With no ultra strong guys around, she found the pressure was very much off and the relaxed atmosphere made her happier to just go for it with no fear of being laughed at or judged.

Climbing is a fantastic sport for mixed ability groups in that everyone can get on something, but sometimes that can shake out with the climbers on the lower grades feeling a bit deflated by comparison. But with three girls of roughly equal ability, no pressure to project and an attitude of we’ll just see what we can do and enjoy it regardless, the result was all three managed to top out multiple lines and leave feeling exhausted but happy.

“Experienced climbers, especially guys, don’t always understand how anxious you feel if you are the weakest in the group,” Loren explained afterwards. “They are all happy to jump on anything, whereas so many girls worry about falling, about injuries, about being the weak link. Although plenty of guys try and be supportive, it doesn’t always take away from the fact that you feel like you are holding them back. But in a group of just girls, we all felt so much less anxious and as a result, were so much more willing to jump on and try with no fear of judgement if it wasn’t for us.”

As for the group’s pre-trip plan – summed up by the mantra ‘climb, climb climb, drink, drink, drink’ - that went in the bin thanks to the weather, with trying to regain feeling in their toes far more important than anything else.

But all three now very much have the outdoor bug, and all three now having gained some crucial experience. And more importantly than that, they discovered how good climbing can be as a group of girls.

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