Posts Tagged ‘Agden Rocher’

March winds and April showers

Monday, August 8th, 2011

After a few days of sitting in the office watching the sun out the window, the weekend forecast promised flooding on a Biblical scale. This duly arrived on Saturday, but Sunday sounded slightly less bad, with the chance of some dry weather before the rain returned in the afternoon. So we decided to risk it.

Despite lots of rain down the M1, and some more on the roads as we approached the crag, Agden Rocher was dry when we arrived, and mostly sheltered from the strong winds. As always, we were the only people there (the crag has a reputation for looseness which is only partly deserved).

We started with The Whittler (VS 4c *), which has a hard but well-protected start, giving much opportunity for faffing (which was duly taken). As Carmen passed the initial overhang, it started raining, but she persevered anyway, with some bold climbing up no-more-than-adequately-protected wet rock to a small cave where the rain got heavier so she stopped to belay. By the time I joined her it was dry again so she led the 2nd pitch as well (I've previously led the route). A really good climb, surely worth a couple of stars.

The sky was black again so I went for an easier route, Harlequinade (VDiff). Nobody ever climbs this, and you can see why. It climbs a crack behind a tree, and the crux is getting to the start of the crack, up loose vegetated choss. The crack itself is quite easy and involves battling with another tree. Two other climbers passed by as I was setting off, strange to see anyone else here, let alone in these conditions – shortly afterwards they wandered back again, presumably headed home as the rain started. By the time I reached the top it was raining hard, and there was no cosy cave to belay in, so I got more than a little wet. Just like mountaineering, only with added trees.

We decided to call it a day, but kept the harnesses on just in case we could find a dry route under the trees. We could, and even better it stopped raining and the sun came out, and the wind meant that the crag dried really quickly. So I led Hagg (HS), up a fine corner with some worrying rock but solid enough if you avoid the perched blocks of doom near the top. It finishes with an exciting step right across the void. I later discovered the new guide describes the route as "dangerous", but it's not really (though don't come crying to me if you try it and it falls down on top of you).

Next Carmen led the fine arete of Bianco (VS 4b *), a minor classic that would have queues if on a more popular crag.

To finish, I went for Derision (S). We climbed this on our first visit to the crag some 8 years ago and thought it a good route. The new guidebook reckons it's poor so I thought I'd better have another look to make sure. The first third is indeed fairly poor, with lots of turf and some crumbly rock, but it gets much better after that and the last section is excellent. It was graded VDiff first time round, but I wouldn't argue with HS 4b.

A nice late-Spring day, can't wait until Summer arrives…

Ambassador, with this crag you are really spoiling us…

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Still suffering after last weekend's run, we couldn't face the early start needed to join the others in Grindleford for 9am. So a very lazy start saw us arrive at Agden Rocher at about 12.30.

Agden where? No it's not the best known crag in the Peak District. But unusually for me, it's not some scrappy little choss-pile either. In fact, it's probably the most under-rated crag in the Peak. This is largely due to the 1983 guidebook, which gave it a worse write-up than the (genuinely bad) Stannington Ruffs. 'Rockfall is probable', 'climbs rely on suspect rock', 'changes in grade will occur with time', 'the top is rubble merging to grass', and so on.

The reality is rather different. Although there is some loose rock, there's far less than at many popular limestone crags, and the chossy topouts on parts of the crag are no worse than those at Millstone. To its credit the 2005 guidebook goes some way to putting the record straight. 'Plenty of sunshine', 'position and outlook unrivalled in the Peak'. Sadly, it gives a very abbreviated coverage of much of the crag and many worthwhile routes are described as 'poor'; but it's a start!

The New Foggy Dew - the suspect block in the bottom leftWe'd been many times before and already done most of the 'classics', so we started with the first decent-looking route we came to, "The New Foggy Dew" (Severe). This replaced "The Foggy Dew", an old Diff that was lost in a rockfall sometime in the late 70s, and starts below an alarming-look semi-detached block before moving right beneath it as quickly as possible. The block is mentioned in the 1983 guide as 'about to disappear' but it's still there 26 years later, so is presumably more solidly attached than it looks! From here the route steps back left in a fine exposed position before continuing direct to the top of the crag, with a though-provoking 'sting in the tail' to finish.

By now it was clear that the forecast sunshine had been and gone while we were still asleep, and the wind was more than a little bracing. But despite this, I headed for Double De-Clutch (VS 4c *), a fine looking arete. 20 minutes later and only 3m from the ground, I finally admitted defeat, as I couldn't do what was presumably the crux, so I finished up the adjacent corner of Disappointment (VDiff) instead. A suitably named route in the circumstances, though with some surprisingly good climbing. Carmen seconded up the arete I'd backed off, and made me feel better by finding it tough.

By now it was getting cold, so I stepped down a gear with Agden Arete (HS 4a), described as 'poor' in the new guide, but I've learned to ignore such things. And it turned out to be a very nice route – too disjointed to be worth a star, but with some interesting climbing. After a hard start, it was a pleasant VDiff – maybe HVD 4b overall.

Finally, in attempt to get out of the wind, I led Square Chimney (VDiff), the original route of the crag first climbed in 1914. It turned out to be no more than Diff, which was just as well, as the long-threatening clouds arrived in force and we were duly rained off the crag.

We'll be back for more before too long, and I'd recommend the crag to anyone interested in some quality climbing off the beaten track. We've done loads of good routes at VS and below, and for the non-punters among us there are many more starred routes from HVS up to E4.