Posts Tagged ‘choss’

Little Langdale

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Langdale PikesIt was looking for a while like there'd be hardly anyone on this meet, perhaps people were put off by the thought of Langdale crowds on an August Bank Holiday weekend. But after a flurry of late sign-ups it was almost a sell-out.

Saturday's forecast was for sunshine, and it didn't disappoint.

For many years I've meant to walk round the Eskdale skyline, but it's somehow never happened. So Carmen and I decided to take advantage of the weather and run an extended version of the route, starting and finishing at the hut. I say "run", but it was actually almost all walking! From part way up Wrynose, we headed up Pike o' Blisco, then across Crinkle Crags (there's definitely an extra crinkle every time I do this!) and Bowfell, over Esk Pike, and on to Scafell Pike.

Scafell PikeDespite being a sunny August BH weekend, there were surprisingly few people around, and we were wondering where they all were. As we approached the summit of Scafell Pike we got the answer, the place was heaving!

From here we descended under Scafell Crag, pausing to admire a hardy team of climbers on a very Upper Eskdalecold-looking Moss Gill Grooves. As we scrambled up Lords Rake and the West Wall Traverse we were on our own again. Then over Scafell summit, down the south ridge over Slight Side, before descending into upper Eskdale, across the Great Moss and over the col into Mosedale. We briefly considered dropping down to Cockley Beck and finishing over Wetherlam, but rejected this as we needed to get back to cook dinner before Annie starved to death! So we traversed to the Three Shires Stone, over Wet Side Edge, and down the valley back to the hut, where we were surprised to be first back!

Our route here for anyone interested.

The Coniston range from Pike o' BliscoMeanwhile, Alan did his own long run, starting up Wethlam, Swirl How and Great Carrs, before a descent to Three Shires Stone. From here, another big ascent over Cold Pike to Crinkle Cragsand a descent of The Band led to a pint or two in the Old Dungeon Ghyll and a return via Blea Tarn.

Steve, Rob, Luke and Mark spent the day climbing on Raven Crag, above the ODG. After a number of excellent severes, Rob and Steve climbed the route Rob had come for, Pluto (HVS ***). 3 Great pitches, a classic crack, an out there traverse and a lovely wall pitch, followed by a pint in the pub while waiting for Luke and Mark to find their way back down after an interesting choice of descent from their last route.

Inverno cruxOn Sunday, we headed for White Ghyll, with Rob, Steve, Mark and Luke. Always keen to try the obscure, I'd been looking for something from the Lake District Revival list. This crag provided the perfect route for me – Inferno (MVS), involving some back-and-footing at the crux. The first pitch looked a bit scrappy but the in situ heather didn't affect the climbing, which was better (and harder) than it looked. The long 2nd pitch provides the meat of the route, with steep parallel cracks leading to a niche in the overhang and the promised chimney practice. Pausing to clean the grass out of the cracks and place loads of gear, everything turned out to be a lot less traumatic than expected, with just a brief moment as the final pull onto the upper wall required unearthing some holds from behind the heather.

The rest of the route was a bit scrappy, but we topped out anyway. For future reference, an enticing diagonal line rightwards from above the crux looked a better option, and I later discovered is recommended in the new guidebook. Despite the vegetation, it's a really good route, full of character, and with a bit more traffic would once again deserve the 2 stars it used to get.

White Ghyll WallHaving humoured me by climbing a route from the choss list, Carmen now got her reward as we did White Ghyll Wall (VS 4c). I led the easy first pitch, Carmen led the crux second, I did the not so hard but quite bold final pitch. We finished the day with a repeat ascent of Slab Route 1 (Severe). A fine route, rather bold in places, Steve and Luke also climbed this earlier in the day.

Rob and Mark started with the excellent Slip Knot (VS 4b) before heading for Haste Knot (VS 4c). A nice first pitch despatched by Mark with ease then the meat of the route, the traverse. Rob's verdict – "Blimey, if you think Pluto is nuts this is bat shit crazy. Well protected with small wires but wild."

Blackpool Tower from WhitbarrowMonday was cold and grey, so we joined Peter, Annie and Steve for a short walk round, round, round, and finally up and over Whitbarrow. Highlight of the day was finding loads of wild damsons! Afterwards we popped into Ambleside to pick up our rewards for doing a route from the choss list – a free T shirt and chalk bag each!

Rob, Mark and Luke manage to fit some more climbing in, doing a couple of good short routes at a different Raven Crag, this one at Walthwaite, before rain stopped play.

More photos here


If you go down in the woods today … an exploration of Guisecliff

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Ever since I first read about Guisecliff (almost 20 years ago!) I've meant to go there, but have somehow never made it despite its being less than an hour from York. It has a reputation for dirty, vegetated rock, as it faces north and trees grow right up to the foot of the crag, so its proximity to Brimham means I always end up there instead. The only person I know of who has climbed at Guisecliff pronounced it horribly dirty, and left without doing a single route!

Anyway, I found myself on my own a couple of weekends ago, with time on my hands, so I thought I'd go and see if it was worth a proper trip sometime. The following might be of use to someone who's not been before.

The guidebook recommends North Buttress (nearest the car park) for a first visit, but I decided instead to walk to the far end and then back along the crag, visiting each of the main buttresses as I went. Things didn't start well, as attempting to follow the guidebook directions to No 2 Buttress ('below the TV mast') led to a few small broken quarried rocks, with nothing even approaching the promised 20m cliffs. I eventually gave in and walked towards what I assumed would be No 3 Buttress – however, it turned out that No 2 isn't below the mast at all, but several hundred metres to the west, so I soon found myself at No 1 Buttress. This was surrounded by shrubbery, but had more clean rock than I had expected, and there were a couple of lines at least that looked worthwhile.

No 2 Buttress was much better – far more rock than vegetation, and most of it relatively clean looking. Most of the obvious lines were far too hard for me (E2 to E6!), but one in particular that stood out was the massive chimney of Illusion – HS 4b and no stars, but just cries out to be climbed! I'd taken a rope and some gear, with a view to possible setting up a top rope and shunting some routes. However it quickly became clear that this was not practical, as finding the tops of the routes from above would be difficult and possibly dangerous, with lots of hidden crevasses. So instead, I set off to solo a route at the left end of No 2, called Letterbox Climb. No stars but described as 'worthwhile' – like most of the lower grade routes, the description has been copied unchanged from one edition to the next ever since the 50s, possibly because they haven't been reclimbed!

Graded Diff in the guidebook, but it's surrounded by brackets to indicate it's not been checked in recent years. Of course I didn't let this put me off, nor the fact that it took a line up the most vegetated part of the buttress. I took some gear, and also dragged a rope up just in case. It turned out to be a good route, better than it looked, and the gear was handy to protect a couple of exposed sections. The top part, of which the guide simply says "climb the recess and go through the letterbox slot", was unprotected without large gear (which I didn't take). So I went round it onto the moor, almost fell down a hole, and set up a top rope which I then shunted. Very traditional at the grade, ie a bit of a sandbag – maybe VDiff 4a/b (easier for the tall).

After this minor trauma, I carried on the walk along the base of the crag. The book suggests this is a bad idea due to dense vegetation and that approaches from the top are preferable, but since on the walk in I'd failed to spot most of the landmarks allegedly marking the descents I decided to go with the jungle bashing option instead. It turned out to be fine at first, with each buttress having a path (of sorts), and only the short sections between buttresses requiring care.

No 3 Buttress looked promising, but the left half (with the easier lines) was very dirty. A starred HS looked good but the guidebook description has said "needs cleaning" for the last 20 years, and I don't think anybody has bothered! The right half is clean, but steep and loose-looking. After this, it was quite hard work to reach No 4 buttress, but it's not far.

No 4 Buttress includes the striking crack line of Roc's Nest Chimney (HS 4b), which demands to be climbed (though may currently contain an active kestrel's nest). But the once-starred corner of Dhobi (MVS) to the right is now green and mossy with a very large (empty) nest at the crux bulge.

No 5 Buttress started disappointingly, with Hawk Slab ("the best Severe on the crag") completely invisible behind the vegetation (though subsequent reading of old editions of the guidebook suggests I may not have been looking in quite the right place). But farther right, Jezebel (S **) looked pretty good, as did the adjacent VDiff, HVD, and VS.

Next came Comet Buttress, which contains two *** HVSs, a *** E4 and a *** E5. All looked a bit grubby so would need some cleaning (a stake at the top allows an abseil approach for this). As well as the abseil, another possible descent at this point is to down-climb Scissors (Mod). This area can be seen from the cliff-top path as a flat earthy platform standing out slightly from the main cliff.

The next section is The Long Wall, and here it became very slow and laborious to get along the foot of the crag. Unfortunately approaches from the top are also few and far between, but except for the E5 leader, there was very little to attract a return.

The exception was Shelter Climb (Diff *), which I briefly tried soloing but decided it was too committing for a solo visit so backed off. Seemed good though, possibly VDiff but might have been easier if approached with confidence, something to go back for. Early editions of the guide suggests a start up the (now tree-shrouded) slab to the left of the cracks, however the cracks were rather good and a more obvious line.

Passing Needle's Eye Buttress (or possibly Needles High Buttress depending on guidebook), I'd been considering a solo of The Intestine (Moderate) which squirms up the back of a cave, but one look at the dripping orifice and I moved on. The 1956 guide grades this as "Moderate technically, but Severe on the nerves" so I'm quite glad I didn't bother! The intriguingly-named pinnacle of the Aiguille des Moutons (VDiff, "may seem hard for a short man") was just about visible through the trees above.

Next comes North Buttress Block, which is very clean and very steep. I couldn't make out the line of The Chimney ("the obvious fissure on the left") so it's probably behind some trees, but Double Top (HVS 5a) looked particularly fine, and particularly hard! And a couple more E4s for the hard man.

The final area is North Buttress, which is the only one with a well worn track all the way there. Unfortunately, it was also by far the dirtiest, wettest, and least appealing on the entire crag. I suspect that this is one of the main reasons for Guisecliff's poor reputation – the buttress is the closest to the car park, the easiest to find, and is recommended by the guidebook for a first-time visitor. If I'd come here first, I don't think I'd have gone any farther! There were several good-looking lines, but all were so filthy and/or vegetated that they'd require major cleaning before being climbable.

A few small isolated rocks and pinnacles remained, but all too short to bother anyone other than the dedicated boulderer.

The the best time to climb would probably after a short dry spell in the autumn. Summer (in theory) is warmer and drier, but also more humid, more verdant, and with more biting insects. Spring would be good, but is nesting season which could put quite a few areas out of bounds (there were raptors flying around at least 3 parts of the crag). A good hard winter could be an ideal time to visit some of the more vegetated parts of the crag!

Although the crag looks to be at its best for the mid-E grade climber with a sense of adventure (and willing to spend time cleaning/gardening/excavating the routes), there seems to be enough for mere mortals to justify at list one trip.

Some more pictures to put you off further are here.


Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Another large block joined the others at the foot of the crag. I moved up gingerly, reluctant to test the next handhold in case that too came off. "Below!" I decided to save my breath and only shout out when there wasn't any danger of rock fall. So everything went strangely silent.

Why was I here again?

After over 30 years of total neglect due to access problems (the landowners didn't want anyone climbing there, and the crag is in plain view of the farm in the valley below), Orgate Scar is finally open again. The left hand end of the crag is on Open Access land, and the BMC have managed to get agreement to climb on the rest from the start of February until the end of July each year.

The last guidebook talked of 'fine lines', and described it as a 'major crag'. So last Saturday, half a dozen intrepid explorers/gullible fools made the 90 minute journey to Marske, near Richmond. It's a 20 minute walk across sheep-grazed grassland to the crag, which is blessed with glorious views over lower Swaledale.

It took us a while to find our bearings, during which time Carmen and I climbed a loose unprotected Severe chimney, mistaking it for Chockstone Chimney (VDiff). By the time we got to the top, the others had found the real Chockstone Chimney, so we climbed that as well, finding it to be fairly solid and only Diff. The area around this route appeared to contain the greatest concentration of clean looking rock so we stayed put.

Several lines were climbed, most of them being on good quality rock, though with some vegetation and some loose sections, as you'd expect on an obscure crag that's been neglected for a few decades. In general, there was less vegetation than expected, and on the best lines probably less loose rock. But this was more than made up for on the chimney crack of Owake ('Severe')…

"Below!" I shouted again. Another head-sized rock had been dislodged by the rope, trailing uselessly below me via several pieces of imaginary protection. Luckily Carmen was belaying safely round the corner. I looked up again. The end was in sight, only a few feet above. And miracle of miracles – a short crack, both sides of which were firmly attached – some reliable protection! I carefully topped out (all the rock on the ground at the top was also unattached) and brought Carmen up.

A major crag? Well, no, not really. But a very good minor crag. Some fine lines? Certainly, the best routes could hold their own on any low-grade Yorkshire limestone crag. Some awful lines as well, but with one exception we managed to distinguish between them in advance! Grades were mostly roughly right, though a lot can change in 30 years so they shouldn't be relied on too much.

After initial misgivings as we arrived at the loosest most jungly end of the crag, I think everyone had a good time. I'd certainly go back, though I suspect that between us we did all the best routes.

Routes climbed:
Feather Light Flakes MVS 4b **
Gossamer Groove VS 4c **
Impede HS 4a *
Evel Knievel VS 5a *
Yo-Yo VD *
Chockstone Chimney HD
Jack the Gripper VDiff (VS 4c in the guide!)
Owake VS 4a bag of crumbly shite

More photos here and online guide here

Ravenswick Quarry – North York Moors

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Left Unconquerable - Peri decides to layback the jamming crack, for reasons best known to herself! Last Tuesday the club made its first outing to Ravenswick Quarry near Kirby Moorside. Originally we had planned to climb at Peak Scar but the heavy downpours in the afternoon meant we had to find somewhere that was quick drying and Simon C suggested Ravenswick, despite having had poor reports about the crag (from Peter). Anyhow a larger than usual contingent turned up, Simon C, Carmen, Peri, Gordon T, Will, Dave D, Rob, Alan W and me (Peter E).

The climbing is steep and the gear is not very good and the top outs are in some places a mass of thorny bushes. Some of the group actually managed to lead routes but others were content to solo easier stuff and top rope.

Rob on Right Unconquerable - will that flake fall off if I pull too hard?

Will, Peri and Peter all climbed the first few moves of Tilted Crack (HS) to have a look at the rotten rock in the crack above.

There was a particular route Left Unconquerable (HVS 5a) on which Peter seconding, got very excited, the route is a complex series of arm bars,  toe jams and hanging on for dear life. As Peter approached the top he was heard to scream I'm coming (off) when he should have simply asked Peri for a tight rope. A couple of moves later the solid nature of the rock was verified when a brick sized hand hold separated from the rock.

Peri Crystal Wall - Severe My Arse
After the stress of Left Unconquerable, Peter and Peri moved to Stepped Arete (V Diff). The first piece of gear is a solid thread but after that the leader has to rely on two marginal friend placements.
Peri spent some time building up her confidence in the gear before moving up, seconds late she was on the ground sitting beside me as both the friends had popped out.


I think my poor reports about the crag were justified and there are far better places on the moors, although not many as quick drying as this.


Stoney Sandbaggery

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

After many years of excuses, and spurred on by a post on UKC, we finally decided to take a trip to Stoney Middleton, a big trad limestone crag in the Peak District.  Once one of the most popular crags in the area, changing fashions and a reputation for polished rock, mean that hardly anyone climbs there these days.  But go over the road to the bolted choss that is Horseshoe Quarry and you'll be queueing for routes…

Anyway, inspired by the tales of horrible polish, Carmen made straight for Parachute (VS 4b), described in the guidebook as possibly the most polished route at the crag, presumably on the basis that after this everything else would seem OK.  In the event it wasn't actually that bad compared with somewhere like Twistleton, and Carmen was soon at the top (after a teeny weeny rest to examine her reflection in the holds).  As we were finishing the route, one of the only 2 other parties at the crag that day arrived.  We thought they were climbing nearby until they turned on their head torches and disappeared down a hole in the ground.

Onwards to the Triglyph, three "unmistakable" crack climbs.  I started with the nicest looking line, a narrow chimney/offwidth which luckily soon narrowed further to become a jamming crack.  This was "How the Hell", VS 4b, and seemed quite hard for the grade, but great fun.  We then moved on to the adjacent route, Morning Crack, Severe.  Carmen had a go first, found it surprisingly tricky, and duly backed off.  I took over, found it surprisingly tricky, and even more surprisingly unprotected, but eventually made it to the top.  VS 4b we reckoned.  Both routes turned out to contain active jackdaw nests, luckily other than a bit of squawking these birds are largely unbothered by climbers.

A bit more wandering round (aka faffing) deciding what if anything to climb next.  Met the 2nd other party at the crag – a bloke top-roping a vegetated VDiff with his 2-year-old son.  Was tempted by a VS jamming crack but wary of getting out of our depth after the last 2 routes we decided to go home instead.  We also wanted to be up bright and early the next day for some more climbing, taking advantage of the forecast sunshine.

At 7.30 the next morning it was pissing down, and didn't stop until about 3.  So we went orienteering instead and got soaked, ideal preparation for next weekend's LAMM!

Footnote.  After a bit of discussion on UKC, it turned out that the topo in the Rockfax Stoney Middleton guidebook is wrong, and the routes we actually did were What the Hell (VS 4c) and How the Hell (VS 4b – no wonder it felt hard and scary for a severe!).