Stanage Plantation – A Meeting With The Beast Of The Crag

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The otherside secret side of Stanage: Plantation

I’d confidently say that Stanage has got to be the most popular crag that there is in the UK. It literally has hundreds (probably thousands) of routes on offer for everyone to enjoy, from first time beginner trad routes to some scary looking E’s to test yourself on. You can most certainly bag plenty of stars here too, if that’s what your into. Most routes are top 50 or get 2-3 stars, especially down at Stanage Popular. However, with 4km worth of wonderful gritstone you can most certainly escape the crowds that flock to Popular and take a stroll down to Plantation, which is exactly what we did last Sunday and it was well worth wandering down for.

As you can see from the picture above, Plantation has loads of trad to get yourself stuck into with plenty of slabs, aretes and cracks on offer. Also, there’s plenty of quality looking bouldering here too! These two boulder problems saw plenty of action throughout the day and rightly so:

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The diagonal sloper that is Not To Be Taken Away (f6C)
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The notorious Brad Pit (f7C)

So after doing my usual eye balling of a new crag, now it was time to decide what we were planning on taking on for the day ahead. Personally, I had my mind set on Goliath’s Groove (supposedly the best route on the crag at HVS 5a) and The Right Unconquerable (HVS 5a) – both top 50 routes. I find that whenever you go to a new crag, you pretty much want to tick off the top 50’s to begin with not just because they’re top 50’s, but when you see these climbs in person, it usually makes complete sense why they get this status just by looking at them.

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Andy keeping his head cool on Hot Spur (HS 4b)

To start off the day Andy took on the slabby and short lived Hot Spur, which has a wee-bit of a committing final rock-over move to finish the route.

After this it was time for me to decide what was going to be my first route of the day. I usually start with something that looks a bit comforting to get my mind and body warmed up. Initially I was thinking of Bridge’s Variation (VS 5a) as it looks like a sweet wondering slab route – something i’d pick most days! However, as soon as I saw Goliath’s Groove on the way over, the beast must have cast a spell on me or something because I decided i’d get stuck straight into it!

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The almighty Goliath’s Groove crack standing proudly above Plantation

Just look at that route. Pure perfection surely for any crack climbing addicts out there? Ironically, I haven’t done that many crack climbs and the ones I have, I usually get shut down pretty harshly on them and this one was going to be no exception! I’ll be honest from the get go: I knew this was gonna be an extremely challenging route for myself, so I only have myself to blame for what came next 😀

As I approached the initial crack I soon realised that the first few meters is off-width. I was naively excited about the prospect of climbing an off-width and my curiosity grew even more when I tried the first couple of moves before racking up; it begins with a really good knee bar – I believe Goliath put this here to just grab the attention of punters like myself thinking it’d be easy, all before spitting them out later on whilst gobbling their gear! (there’s plenty of gear to be found inside the guts of Goliath)

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I casually jumped down to my bag and started racking up eager to get stuck in. After reading the description it pretty summed up that there’s three ways to do tackle this first section: crack, bridging and/or lay-backing. In my head, I was totally set on the idea of getting stuck straight into the crack with my whole body, so this meant that my whole rack was on my right side of my body. I wanted maximum jamming potential!

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Moments later, I was out of breath and completely shut down by the absolute thrutch fest of this off-width approach. That good knee I talked about before is awesome, but only for the first move or two! Then the crack widens and you start to slip and slide in every direction in that crack as you desperately try to get any purchase with your left knee, foot and/or ankle – you begin to tell yourself “please, give me something to work with!”

Also, to make things even more desperate on this off-width approach, there isn’t any cheeky holds out right for you just to help you boost up the crack – it’s pretty much a glass window out right. I think Andy thought I was line dancing up there with my right leg!

5 attempts of the off-width approach left me feeling utterly battered and I had the cuts and bruises as my reward. Now my energy was rapidly depleting along with the psych to take on Goliath, then Andy decided he’d like to step up and try a lay-backing approach. He pretty much skipped up the damn thing without too much hassle!? Unfortunately he left all the rack on the ground though. I don’t think he was expecting to march up the initial crack all the way up to my cams and just above to the crux so smoothly. Unless he secretly wanted me to jump back on on lead. After he came down, he kindly suggested that I should give it a try! I thought to myself “Oh great, I haven’t really ever done that much lay-backing and i’m absolutely shagged, but why the hell not, i’ll give it a try!”.

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First attempt, I pretty much slipped off lay-backing straight away. Second attempt, I managed to get above my cams. This was great progress, but then my arms decided that the pump was too much and I took a fall that shot the ropes right between my legs :/ After one last break, I took a deep breath and decided to give it one last shot, give it absolutely everything I had on my 8th attempt on this god damn beast.

Who’d of thought it, I had made it to the first crux buldge lay-backing and got my left foot in that beautiful pocket out left for a semi-rest to place some gear above the buldge. At this point though I realised I was completely destroyed from all the previous attempts, but I wasn’t giving up for anyone or anything! I pretty much did the rest of the climb in a world of pump and have ached for days as a result. I’m gonna use Steve McClure’s favourite word here: if it wasn’t for my ‘tenacity’, then there would have been absolutely no way that I would have managed to scrape my backside up this route 😀

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Goliath’s pain list

 On a final note: here’s my pain list for you to take to the crag, see how you score after an appointment with the beast. I think you should give the off-width approach a good shot or two 😉

Anyhow, thank you Goliath, you absolute monster.

N.

 

Holcombe Moor – Keen Enough To Try And Beat Storm Katie

I surprised even myself with this spontaneous trip. Better yet, I wasn’t fortunate enough to beat that beast of a storm called Katie, I took a right belting from it! The price you pay for some climbing if you think your smart enough to beat an incoming storm – no regrets 😀

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Getting the damp treatment that I deserved

The not-so-adventurous day started with me sat at home pottering around whilst occasionally flicking between the weather app and the Lancashire Bouldering guidebook every hour or so. I noticed every time that I checked the weather, the storm that was predicted to hit Manchester at about 11am kept getting pushed back and eventually I said to myself: “sod it, even if I get caught in a bit of rain, at least i’ll have gotten outside and attempted some climbing”. Ironically if I had actually gone to the crag for 11am, I probably would have come away completely unscathed from my cheeky bouldering session.

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I’ll be honest, this is the gem that drew me in: The Slab
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Post-slab session with powder everywhere!

I was very intrigued by this boulder. A slab boulder that is near home – yes please! As you can see, I gave it a right good sesh in the time I had. It was still quite damp though, so I pasted chalk left right and centre 😀

On the main slab itself, there are some interesting problems ranging mainly from 6A-6B+. Unfortunately I couldn’t quite get the 6B+ (Come All You Disgraceful), as it’s quite a tough sit-start (something i’m not great at with my daddy long legs!), but the rest of the problems were quite enjoyable.

Considering that it was raining pretty heavily the night before, most of the boulders on top of a Holcombe Hill were pretty dry. This is mainly because they’re on top of the hill and in direct contact with the gods of wind. I’d say storm Katie was adding at least a grade to every problem that day though! She was sending a right blasting to anyone who dared venture outside that day.

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Check out this short lived fist crack! Slit Slat Slot (4+) – Yes and yes.
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The results of a damp and muddy fist jam sit-start

I had to jump on this, cracks are always just so inviting. The delicate slab was out and the crack climbing was in! It’s a short lived crack, but it’s quite amusing. I bet it’s pretty sweet playing around on this when it’s not seeping though.

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Peel Quarry

There’s a few boulder problems around the base of Peel Quarry and near the quarry ranging from 4’s-7A+ that can be done and look pretty decent, but it needs a bit of a gardening attention; there’s quite a few overgrown thorn bushes guarding some of the problems. I’m most certainly keen to come back with some sheers and gardening apparatus at some point to open this place back up for business again 🙂

Moreover, there’s definitely routes / short solos going up Peel Quarry too for you trad heads, but I can’t find any topo drawings or guidebook information that relates to the climbs on this buttress. There is some route information on UKC and I have no idea were it’s come from, i’d love to know who and were this information has come from! Some keen locals maybe?

Anything else on offer? Well, as a matter of fact, i’ve only covered half of the hill. According to the Lancs Bouldering guidebook there is a fine selection of low ball boulder problems on the other side of Holcombe Hill called Holcombe Boulders. I’ve personally never seen these boulders / problems, but I have seen a photo of Heel The World (6B), which is one of the problems there and it looks pretty inviting. Can’t beat a good climbing photo to draw you in right?

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Storm Katie on the horizon

Well, i’ll finish on some wise words: next time you see a wall of grey heading your way, think twice about carrying on your adventure on the hills! You might be in for a right treat!

N.

Cadshaw Quarry – That One With Plenty Of Bouldering On Offer

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Capturing a one-off “summers day” this March at Cadshaws Small Quarry

 

I’ve been meaning to get a write-up done for this little gem for the past week or two. So, what’s on offer around here? Well, there’s plenty of trad routes and bouldering to throw yourself at! There’s the Cadshaw Small Quarry, Cadshaw Main Quarry and Cadshaw Castle Rocks. In particular today though, i’m going to talk about the small quarry, which hosts plenty of friendly bouldering to all, from short problems to some highballers. Maybe not so highball if you end up landing in the pond – soft landings all day long.

 

In total there are 23 problems in the Lancashire Bouldering guidebook for the lower tier. In the back of my mind, I had a little challenge for myself for a bit of fun: how many could I do in one session? Was it possible to get them all? Considering i’ve never climbed at this quarry before, it seemed like it would be quite the challenge as they would all have to be on-sights, flashes or red-points.

Above we managed to tick off Willy Visits The Square World (f5) and This Game Of Golf (f4). Most of the climbs on the lower tier are between f3 and f5+ with one f6A+ and one f6B to tick off. Willy was an enjoyable problem; a reachy move from the underclings to the top. On the other hand, Golf wasn’t the easiest f4 i’ve ever done. The chaps had a few tries first and I watched them figuring out their crimpy sequence that was going to allow them through the problem. I found a good foot hold or two then got involved with the crimps and made my way up it. Nice problem, just a little harder than we were all expecting I think.  Another problem that’s not pictured but worth mentioning was In Praise Of Idleness (f4+), which is on the first main block and is a sweet arete problem that almost saw me barn door off the top move – well worth jumping on that one!

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More Magic (f4+) on the arete and Maf on Great Wall Of France (f5+)
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Getting to grips with the slopey crimp on The Wall Of France

You should of seen my face light up when we ended up on a slab! Absolutely wonderful wall to jump on (yeah i’m bias, I like my balanceee stuff). First up we all managed to get More Magic done fairly easy, but it wasn’t without a bit of a shock to the system. The last good hold for your right hand is slopey shallow mono, but I think you have a good hand hold for your left, then balance up to the jug – great stuff! Better yet was The Wall Of France – an absolute corker that will test your balance and rock-over abilities.

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The blank top section of Great Wall Of France
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Ya damn right that’s a mono for each hand!

Ok, so we thought that one mono and good hand hold finale on More Magic was pretty gripping, that was flipped on it’s backside when we realised that do this final move on The Wall of France an even more shallower mono was needed! We tried a few different options but this worked for me, maybe there’s a better option? Anyhow, my sequence was a captivating one! Each hand on a mono and then bring your right leg up high to a really good foot hold, suck your bum in and balance your way up on just one mono now to keep your balance inline with the rock, then take a deep breath and grab the top – what a move! Took me a a little while to commit to this one, so thanks for the patience spotting chaps!

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A fellow climber came along to try his luck on In The Blood (f4+)

It may not look it, but it certainly did feel highball some of the problems down were you see everyone stood in the picture above. I actually spotted a stake in the top of this wall, surely that backs up my claim to this wall feeling high, maybe i’ll come back with a rope or more than just one mat 😉

So, by the end of our little afternoon session, we managed a total of 16 out of 23 problems in the lower tier. I was well chuffed with that! Even better, stuff to come back to at a later date. Then we rushed back home and I shot off to to work. I was a bit gutted by this bit! It was such a glorious sunny day – not one to be spent indoors, that’s for sure.

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Picture pinched from Lancashire Rock Revival

One last thing I wanted to mention was there is an upper tier too. I personally haven’t sampled the bouldering up here yet, but it sure does look like there’s some good problems on offer. The great thing about Lancashire is that there’s always some esoteric climbers around that don’t mind getting their hands dirty for a bit of neglected rock.  Here we can see just that, some keen Lancashire folk have got stuck in and brought yet another boulder back to life for us all to enjoy. I really can’t thank these people enough and i’ll be hoping to get more hands on this year with some of my local crags. Mucho thanks to the Lancashire Rock Revival team / followers for keeping the esoteric alive!

Oh and it’s unbelievable how fast the weather has been changing in the UK as of recent. If you see any dry/sunny weather windows on the rise, make sure you seize the opportunity to get outdoors!

Best of luck and see you on the rocks,

N.

A Day Of Bold Slab Climbing: Froggatt Edge, The Peak

Myself and Andy decided a spontaneous trip to Froggatt Edge was in order since our trip to Pembroke with the club this weekend had been cancelled due to the swift news of incoming heavy rain, speedy winds and potential thunder storms. At the time I was really gutted about this news as Pembroke looks amazing and I totally wanna go abseiling into some sea-cliffs to find out i’m on the wrong route (probably happens a lot to new comers)! But ya know what, i’m just as happy now that i’ve finally been introduced to the almighty Froggatt Edge!

I soon came to realise why Froggatt Edge is the second most popular crag amongst the Eastern Edges. The first being Stanage, of course. The quality of lines ooze out in every direction! Especially if your into your slab climbing, which fortunately for me, I very much am, but there was a nip in the tail to come.

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The incredible Sunset Slab – Top 50 (HVS 4b)

Once we arrived at the cliff face, I started with my usual routine whenever visiting a new crag, which is to have a quick dash up and down to see if anything stands out (this is after pocking my nose in the guidebook the night before, of course).  Unsurprisingly the three routes I had read about all stood out like sore thumbs that needed my attention: Sunset Slab, Three Pebble Slab and Tody’s Wall.

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Does it look run-out? That’s because it is!

I’m not going to lie, I almost wanted to jump straight onto Sunset Slab as I knew there would be a queue for it later in the day. I was so drawn in by it, it looked beautiful and I can assure you, it is! Fortunately Andy stepped in and we headed up Sunset Crack (HS 4b) to begin with, which is right next door to it. I’m glad we did because my fingers were freezing and I needed to switch my mind and body into climbing mode. There is absolutely no doubt about it, you need to have a cool head on your shoulders when you lead Sunset Slab, as I think falling from the last few moves could result in a ground fall or very close, mostly depends on if your belayer is sprinting off the cliff to take in slack. It may not look that run-out in the photo above, but I think those bomber cams are placed at about between 1/3 third height going on 1/2 half way of the route.

As the crowds started to arrive after we finished Sunset Crack. Now was the time for me to decide if I was going to go for it or not before it got swamped. I wouldn’t usually go for bold routes, but I do love slab climbing, so I thought i’d give it a shot and just ‘sample’ the moves – I thought to myself: if I needed to back out, I could reverse the moves (I hoped!). As I headed up the route, a few more crowds flocked below to chit-chat about the route and how bold it is, I tried my best to block them out and go into climbing mode. I placed the cams (my last pieces of protection) and felt solid to move on; they both scored 5 out of 5. After doing a couple more moves I began to realise that the cams I placed were no longer in view. I asked Andy what would happen if I was to fall on the next few moves, which I thought was going to be the crux. It would certainly involve a cheese grater slide down the slab and a potential ground fall? I didn’t fancy the idea of that, but the next few moves didn’t look too bad and I could see good foot holds and smears and before I knew it I was flowing into move after after move and had topped out!

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Next up Andy got his bold cap on too to tick Allen’s Slab (S 4a)

This is another good slab route and is great value for the grade. You head up the jumbles of rock that is the Gamme (Vdiff) then begin your expedition on Allen’s Slab by traversing across and up the ramp, place your last runner for now and then begin to slowly edge your way across the exposed traverse on crimps until another piece of gear can be chucked in just in time for the top-out. Great fun! It’s a nice finish heading straight up on the crimps too.

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Long John’s Slab (E3 5c) & Downhill Racer – Top 50 (E4 6a)

If you fancy something that will really test your slab skills to the max, then check out these beauties! Not gonna lie, Long John’s Slab really grabbed my attention and I actually quite fancied giving it a go, but the first runner is after the crimpy technical crux bottom section and quite high. Also, if you don’t have a bouldering mat (which we didn’t) then your really in for bad time if you land on the those boulders! Supposedly bouldering mats lowers the grade though, so you can decide for yourself if your grade orientated or not. I know what i’d opt for 😀

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The main event of the evening folks! The one and only: Three Pebble Slab!

This is THE climb of Froggatt: Three Pebble Slab (HVS 5a). A Joe Brown offering which was done way back in 1948 when it did actually have three pebbles on the route! Now it’s more like one pebble slab unfortunately, but still an absolutely amazing route which will most definitely test your mental and smear skills. I had heard so much about this climb from Dave and Andy that I was really excited and terrified to see and/or possibly consider doing the route. Moreover, both of these chaps have ticked this one off their lists, but made it quite clear that they had very fond memories of the route and Dave even went as far to say he didn’t fancy leading it ever again.

So, was I going to lead it??? Well, after I looked at the route, I thought it looked like a do-able route for me and the top section didn’t look too bad (stop reading now or skip this next paragraph if you’ve never done the route and fancy the on-sight, I certainly don’t want to spoil anything for you!)

Ok. So I racked up a total of 6 cams, a couple of draws and some slings on my harness – a very nice lightweight rack may I add. I could see there was absolutely no gear on the top slab section, but it can’t be that hard up there can it? I did the first section enjoying the moves, placed 3 bomber cams in total, then headed up towards the rock-over move. I rocked-over and slowly edged over towards what looked like a jug, it is, but a bit slopey. Then I got into a good standing position and looked straight up at the slab. I quickly realised it was more blank looking then I was expecting it to be! There is a brilliant slopey crimp for your right hand above the jug (which is now your foothold) and then nothing really to sink your fingers onto after that. I knew at this point there was no return! It was either I go up or stand around and fall because i’ll get too tired (Pretty much the exact words Dave used one time and now I can see why!). I took a mental note of how far the cam was away from me now. Would I hit the deck? Maybe. Can I do the next move? Not really sure! I took my time to put myself into a few different body positions, I soon realised that I kept putting my left foot out way too far to a better looking foothold, but eventually opted for a closer smear that I didn’t trust as much, but I knew it wouldn’t throw me off balance. Andy shouted up some encouragement as he knew I found the sweetest spot i’ll find, which really helped me commit, but oh sugar! Before I knew it I was putting pressure on my left foot smear and edging up. Oh crap, oh crap. Relax! Right foot edges up to a smeary foothold too, I slowly poke my head upwards to reach out for the left hand crimp, I grab it. Not as good as I was hoping for, then reach for the finger lock above it with my right hand. “YES!” I acclaimed, I knew I had it as soon as I had that finger lock, because I didn’t have to trust friction as much anymore! Haha. Wow. Just incredible! Probably too much detail, but for anyone who has done that route, will most certainly be left with fond memories like I have!

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Three Pebble Slab letting me pad my way to safety

In the end, I didn’t do Tody’s Wall – Top 50 (HVS 5a). I think most of my mental energy had been zapped by the two amazing bold slab routes: Three Pebble Slab and Sunset Slab. I was over the moon managing to tackle these two climbs and I couldn’t recommend them enough to anyone who fancies channeling into their inner zen.

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Photo taken from UKC – Tody’s Wall

Until next time Tody’s Wall! I’m coming to get you and all your thrutchy moves! I can’t wait 🙂

Thanks for tuning in!

N.

Back On The Ropes Outside: Giggleswick South, Yorkshire Dales

Im not 100% convinced that my photos will do this crag the justice that it most certainly requires, but i’ll try my best to help your minds explode in excitement with words, so that’ll you’ll grab your boots and head there for yourselves to see why this is a really good crag to climb at.

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The day started in standard climbing club tradition; plenty of brews and full english breakfasts floating around in the sweet little town of Settle.

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Gigglsewick South is super convenient for the modern car driver, as it’s just outside of Settle. The crag is literally a few minutes walk up a hill from a lay-by. Bonus points to the climbers (Katie and Stephen) who are rocking the colourful trousers, it’s all about the colourful pants.

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Our first buttress to get the day started was The Garden Wall as it was (1) in the sunshine (yes I said it… sunshine! in February) and (2) has a good handful of 5-6s to get our muscles flexed and warmed up.

I should probably take a step back right now and tell you a bit about the crag: Giggleswick South has around 150+ sport climbs to throw yourself at, ranging from 5 to a lot of 6s and a handful of 7s. So it makes for a great venue for pretty much all climbers for the day and is all along one path (for any beasts reading this, do read on, i’ll go into the 8s later on). Additionally, it does sport some trad climbing too, which is on the upper tier, but we all got stuck into sport climbing for the day.

This was one of the buttresses I was really looking forward to: Sector Bonhomie.

Above is Dave making his way up a top 50 climb (Bonhomie 6a+). Definitely a good climb with an interesting variety of holds and moves at a generous height of 15 metres.

Nigel Baker cruising his way up his own funky route: Feline Fun (6b)

I was really fortunate to be climbing with the one and only human guide book: the man himself, Mr. Nigel Baker. An absolute pleasure to climb with and better yet, pretty much established most of the routes here with a few of his climbing buddies, so if I was ever stuck, i’d have the encouragement of Nigel telling me to keep moving forward until  I reached some magical jug that would appear from somewhere! And who’d of thought, they would appear (eventually!). Feline Fun was a great route with a memorable two finger pocket move!

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Sarah capturing me Prowling Around (6b)

This little gem had to be my favourite climb of the day. It has a spicy traverse near the top of the route on crimps to get you above The Tiger in the Woods (7a). I went first on this route and Nigel said he couldn’t really remember it, so it felt very adventurous and a bit committing.

Right, time to inform you beasts what else there is here for you. First of all, there’s a top 50 (7b) to be had in Giggleswick South called Silent Laughter. Moreover, once you’ve dispatched of that and you feel like you want something more challenging, it may be best for you to head over to Giggleswick North to jump onto the Hollywood Bowls crazy cave. Get ready to pull yourself up some steep overhanging terrain with grades range from high 7s to 8s.

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Photo taken from Google (copyright of Catherine Speakman photography)

Crackin’ photo and pretty awe inspiring steepness, eh?

So, all in all, Giggleswick really does have something for anyone and everyone! It made for such a great day out for the club and me and Nigel managed to get a nice 11 routes done in one day! I think there was around 16 of us from the club at the crag, but it never felt crowded at any point in time, as we pretty much had a buttress each! Overall, I highly recommend this venue if you fancy a fun day out to pop off plenty of routes on quality limestone.

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Oh, and a word of warning to finish on: be careful if you ask for a large portion of chips from the local Settle chippy! My stomach almost exploded!

Happy climbing peeps!

Naf

First slice of outdoor climbing for 2016 – Burbage South, Peak District

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Standard UK winter

 

So yeah, this picture pretty much wraps up our UK winter so far and that makes for miserable conditions to go climbing!

On the other hand, I shouldn’t complain too much as I am still recovering from an A2 pulley injury on my middle finger. It’s my first finger injury, i’ve rested it for about 8 weeks and I can confidently tell you that it sucks getting a finger injury!

Anyhow, swiftly moving onwards. So what I actually wanted to chat about today is this place:

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Burbage South, Peak District

I’ve heard the name Burbage South mentioned a lot in the world of bouldering, but hadn’t ever been there until recently. I can confirm that it is well worth the hype that it gets. Dozens of boulders to throw yourself onto and if your lucky enough, big fat puddles to land in too! Well, that was at least the case for us as we did go after it chucked it down all night. On the bright side, it’s a pretty fast drying venue.

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They kinda look like bullet holes?

Well, that’s because they are! Who else other than a climber would find beauty in a boulder that has bullet holes in it or should I say holds for us to climb?

The first boulder we jumped on (pictured above) was Pock Block. Great boulder with a handful of climbs on it.  We did Pock (V2) to start with, which is via the bullet holes and has seen many sends. Whereas, some of the other gents in our party had a shot at a blank looking slab known as Scratch Scoop (7a)!

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The Briquette

Some great little gems going up The Briquette, definitely worth doing a few routes up this boulder. There’s even a no hands challenge up this if your feeling brave enough? We certainly gave it a try 😀

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The Brick saw a lot of action from Ian

Joking aside, it really did. The Brick was were most of the action happened. Now there really is a lot to have a go at on this boulder and the descent could probably be classed as a route too, so you’ll get plenty done on this one!

Lots of V0-V2s, so beginners can have a great time around this area too.

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But hey, if your looking for some added spicy to your bouldering, then why not add in a sit start to make it a v4.

Overall, I think Burbage South is a great venue and I would highly recommend it. It accommodates for any climber at any grade, which is always super handy especially when everyones at different levels and might fancy a challenge.

I already can’t wait for the next adventure! Here’s hoping that there will be another dry spell coming our way soon. Gotta be ready at a moments notice!

Happy climbing peeps.

After 6’ish years, I finally made a visit back to The Lake District. This time to tackle Helm Crag

I’ve been contemplating not writing up about hillwalking as i’ve very little experience in this area and have wondered if i’d actually make it sound any good! Oh well, here goes nothing!

Back to the start of all this: I’ve been wanting and waiting for a long time (about 6 years) for the opportunity to go back to The Lakes with someone who was keen for an adventure and that’s exactly what happened the other week. I was over the moon when Andy asked if I wanted to go do some hillwalking with him in The Lakes.

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The unmissable, Helm Crag
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This beauty lying just beyond a stroll outside of Grasmere

Grasmere is a lovely little village that is situated pretty much slap bang in the middle of The Lakes. Once you arrive there, Helm Crag proudly sees you arrive and greets you with a “come and summit me, if you dare”.

Helm Crag has a generous elevation of 405 metres, so it gives you a bit of a gentle work out for your thighs. Interesting fact: this is the only Wainright fell out of 214 fells in The Lake District that Alfred Wainright did not summit and I was very curious to see why he hadn’t summited this fell, but I of course had to wait and see what beast was awaiting our arrival.

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Wonderful views to be had in every direction on our approach to the summit of Helm Crag

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When I began to think that we were at the summit of Helm Crag, it was to my surprise that there was more to go and the terrain started to become more rockier/scrambled rather than paths and steps, which was fine by me! I like a little bit of a scrambling.

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Still not the summit 🙂
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Scrambling across the ridge line
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Found ya!
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Joe attempting to summit Helm Crag in the soggy conditions

Ok. So now I could finally see why Wainright had not summited this last fell. It involved some scrambling/rock climbing to actually reach the true summit of Helm Crag. It was said that he had never climbed before and didn’t fancy the idea of climbing to reach the summit. I think he also was scared of heights too.

Being the daft plonker I am, I decided i’d have a crack at it too, even though it was soaking wet, pretty polished and still raining!

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Summit of Helm Crag

To be fair to myself though, the thought always goes through my head anywhere I go for the first time “will I ever get this chance to do this again/be here again?”. It’s a bit of a travellers mentality I think. Also, I didn’t force myself up there by any means! I slowly assessed each of the climbing moves before committing to actually climbing all the way up there, if I felt there was going to be any moves that I couldn’t reverse, I wouldn’t have committed to getting to the summit.

It certainly was an interesting proposition doing it in such damp conditions though. After recently finishing Joe Browns The Hard Years, maybe I was too inspired to have my own little epic involving some wet crack climbing. I found a few wet jams to be had, but I didn’t have any steel nailed boots on! 😉

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In a matter of moments, Helm Crag had become submerged in fog!
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No longer beautiful views of The Lakes, but a layer of fog that shall most certainly limit our vision on our descent

I really was amazed that in a matter of a few moments, the weather had changed so fast! When I was on the summit, I could see Grasmere in the distance and enjoyed the surrounding views. However, when I descended the summit and looked around, I could no longer see the wonderful views!

It’s truly incredible how nature can just throw these elemental changes at us so fast when out in the wild and how we deal with these situations are very important. Fortunately, we were descending back down the same way we ascended, so we didn’t really have any issues getting back down. We just took our time and stayed within each others line of vision.

It really was a brilliant day out and I very much enjoyed the company of Andy, Joe and Lester! I really can’t thank them enough for getting me back to the mountains 🙂

For anyone thinking of heading to The Lakes, I really couldn’t recommend it enough. It’s truly a beautiful place and i’ve hopefully given it some justice with my pictures, even on a soggy Novembers day! I never knew, but recently I found out that there is a bus service (stagecoach) that runs from Windermere all the way through the lakes up to Keswick stopping at various places along the way, including Grasmere. So if your interested in visiting the lakes and don’t own your own transport or can’t jump a lift with someone, then use good ol’ public transport system! It can be done, you just have to get yourself to Windermere and get the bus from there 😀

Make sure you bring some warm clothes and plenty of waterproof gear.

Enjoy the winter people!

Naf

 

 

Troy Quarry & All Of Its Cracks

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My first sight of the marvellous Troy Quarry, Lancashire

I literally could not believe that this was going to be the quarry that we were climbing in today, i’ve never seen anything quite like it. I mean, check out how beautiful that is above! That lovely bowl of water sitting there peacefully right next to all those wonderful walls of rock. If your not careful, you could probably just peacefully sit there and enjoy the tranquility of it all.

However, as soon as my eyes spotted the cracks of various shapes and sizes running across Troy, I soon realised that I was overwhelmed with excitement and choice – I literally felt like a kid in a swanky sweet shop. As per usual, I had plenty of ideas of what I wanted to climb from reading the guidebook, but I genuinely find that the best thing to do whenever I go to any new crag is to march around and see what inspires me 🙂

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Directly in the middle is Right Siamese Twin (S 4a)

After a stroll around, I had a few ideas of what I wanted to climb – probably too many ideas to be honest! I decided to jump on Right Siamese Twin to get the day started. I always like to start on something that I think i’m going to climb comfortably, this is mainly to warm up my body up and (most importantly) my mind. Also, it looked like a great crack climb with some nice jams 🙂

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This was a pleasant and interesting surprise

Since coming back to the UK, I think i’ve finally come to terms with using these handy stakes at the top of climbs as anchors, but I’d certainly never seen this before: sport climbing bolts drilled on top of the crag for use as anchors. I say sport climbing bolts, as that’s the only place were i’ve ever seen these type of bolts being used. Nevertheless, they seemed just as reliable and helped us make nice and strong anchors.

When we got back to the bottom of the West Face a group of kids and instructors decided to take over the whole section that we were climbing in. At first it really killed my mood to climb, but that soon span around when Andy decided that we’ve move to another wall and that he’d jump on the sharp end.

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Andy getting sneaky on Little Sneak (VS 4c)

It had been a few years since Andy had lead a VS and I’m super happy to say that he didn’t seem to have any problem at all whipping up this one! I’m sure he’ll be back on track to tick plenty more VS’s in no time. Next up, Sharon confidently seconded her way up the sneaky climb. Then with the fuel of psych that she just gathered, she decided that she’d like to get a lead in too and breezed up One Way Street (S 4a).

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Pretty much directly up the middle is the cracks of Rapunzle (VS 5a)

 Whenever a climb has a long description and some stars in the guidebook, it’s usually for good reason. I can confidently say that the stars are well deserved for Rapunzle. This is a great VS climb that has plenty of gear and a cheeky committing crux. All i’m going to say is i’m glad that i’ve been getting at pinches 😀

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Now for the main event! The grand looking South Face of Troy

This wall is bound to impress anyone who’s looking for some tougher climbs. I’d say this is the wall to jump on for anyone who’s climbing between VS – E3, this wall truly has some great looking climbs! I was personally eyeing up Grane Wall (E1 5b). A two star E1 that snakes up a fine looking crack – it certainly does look pretty tough, but fun! That’s one for me to add to my “to-do-list” for a later date 🙂

To wrap up, this is a truly marvellous crag that we’re so fortunate to have in the Lancashire area and offers us so many good climbs at a range of levels from the adventurer to the person who’s looking for their next challenge. I seriously couldn’t recommend you enough to have a nosey at Troy, if you haven’t been before and do it whilst you still can!

Winter says hello:

The days are getting shorter,

The days are getting wetter,

And the days are most definitely getting colder.

Happy winter climbing!

Naf

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Oh and check out this awesome boulder that is slap bang in the middle of the quarry, i’m sure that plenty of fun could be had on this!

Back To Brownstones Quarry For Some Reet Good Bouldering

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The impressive Ash Pit Slabs – Brownstones Quarry, Bolton, Lancashire

Well, were to start? I can pretty much happily start off by saying that Brownstones is the place to be! It’s been and will most definitely continue to be, a popular Lancashire bouldering venue for good reason.

Way back in 1947 was when Brownstones started gaining life with the Lancashire Caving and Climbing Club recording around 50 problems via their climbing journals. Today though, there’s 170+ boulder problems, so that’ll fill your boots for a little while, don’t you think. Better yet, it appears that people are still putting up new problems – check out the wonderful Lancashire Bouldering website (www.lancashirebouldering.com) for that additional good stuff

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Welcome to outdoor bouldering were sometimes you’ll climb with your bum on a mat, just like Niomi here 😀

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Other times, you might sneak up the rock to look for handholds on your blank looking project  (Boopers 6a)

It’s all very different bouldering outdoors (obviously). I say that because I’ve spent way too many years pulling on plastic indoors and still laugh to myself at the fact that climbing outdoors is so very different. There’s no more wonderfully coloured handholds leading you from the bottom to the top. Don’t get me wrong, this is not to say that I no longer like climbing indoors, it’s just that I love the feeling of creating my own journey up the rock and being outdoors 🙂

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The recently chalked Blurt (5a) caught the attention of my eye. This is boulder problem tests your sloper skills and is a fun little problem.

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Obscenity (5b)

I surprised myself by sneaking up this one! The slightly highball (at least to me) that is Obscenity. It’s probably around 6 metres in height and certainly tests your crimping skills. I thought it was going to take me a while to figure out the beta on this climb, but on my second attempt, I soon realised that I was at half height. When I realised this, I then decided to myself that I would try and keep my mind cool and attempt to steadily creep up a little further into the unknown. Before I knew it, I was topping out! And it was a bush-free top-out! (this made for a nice change).

It’s certainly well worth the 2 stars that it gets in the guidebook and I couldn’t recommend this climb enough to people. I think it’s well worth noting that it could be a 3 star climb with my beta…

On my first attempt, I found it to be quite a tight squeeze getting to that good crimp with the right hand and I somehow ended up with my bum sat on the rock next to the problem – I don’t think that would of counted or would it? 🙂

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Niomi getting her slab face on Slab Direct (4a)

So, this has been my second visit to Brownstones now since coming back to the UK this year and I already can’t wait for my next visit! This really is a special little crag that has numerous little gems waiting to be climbed. For some strange reason though, i’m still attracted to Digitation (5c) – it just looks hard, quite polished, super balancy and very blank – everything a climber truly wants.

Ideally I would have inserted a picture of Digitation right here. Looks like you’ll have to see it for yourself, or better yet, get it climbed 🙂

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A snapshot from my first visit to Brownstones with Dave in the Pond Area

Today I mostly climbed in the Top End and Obscenity Area, but the main areas are probably Ash Pit Slabs and the Pool Area.

Anyhow, if your keen on bouldering, then you should definitely check out Brownstones! It’s got a great range of grades that will be accommodating for any climber and as you’ll have seen or will see, it has a few different areas that provide a good variety of styles from slabs to cracks and everything in-between.

On a final note:

Brownstones Fist Jam

Here’s me getting my fist nicely jammed in the awesome Brownstones Crack – I love this climb, and yes, I was wearing a watch. I’ve since learnt that this is a not a good idea when crack climbing!

Thanks for your time 😉

Tonacliffe Quarry & A Mission To Climb A Chimney!

Whilst sat looking at my Lancashire Rock guidebook the other night, the idea stumbled into my head that I should see if it’s possible for me to visit all of the Rossendale crags (all 6 of ’em) using just public transport from Bury. Who’d of thought it, with a bit of typing and clicking around on the inter-web, I soon realised that I can actually get to 5 out of 6 crags without an automobile!

Bare in mind though, that these trips aren’t always super pleasant and may require multiple busses and a bit of scrambling around on feet. For instance, today it took me two hours to get to Tonacliffe Quarry (one-way). If I owned a car and one of those fancy GPS thingy’s, it would take 30 minutes according to Google Maps. Good job i’m committed to the ’cause of finding ‘new’ crags!

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Tonacliffe Quarry not at all looking green and wet from this distance

I was also inspired to come to this crag because I saw some pictures of two climbs on UKC that I liked the look of. First one being:

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Raise your hands for the almighty and originally named: The Chimney

It’s been a while since i’ve climbed a chimney and it looked like it would be a bit of fun. It’s not quite a full body chimney where you get all your bodily parts involved, but it was still satisfying my need to climb.

Also, I didn’t have partner to climb with, so I was looking to go somewhere that I could do some easy soloing, which is something i’ve never done before. Previously i’ve feared the thoughts of falling off with no protection, the heights, no margin for error and then the fact that there’s no one there to help you, but I figured that I would climb really slowly and confidently. Realising that I could down-climb any of the moves or escape the routes helped me to give it a try.

In the end I did four climbs which were:

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The Chimney, Beginner’s Route, Starter’s Route (with some bouldery start for fun) and the very green Groovin’

Without realising it, I was almost repeating Bob Whitaker’s day of soloing. He ticked off Shortie, Flicker, The Chimney, Beginner’s Route,  Starter’s Route, Pop and Girdle Traverse way back in 1978!

However, after you see my protection for the day, you’ll see why falling wasn’t really an option. Especially if I wanted to try anything harder…

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My professional bouldering Mat. I sell these once a year at a bargain price of 50p.

The other climb that grabbed my attention to visit Tonacliffe was:

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The short lived and feisty looking Hand-Jam Crack (VS,4c)

I was half tempted to jump on it and give it a try, but I decided that i’d leave it for the next return.

Moreover, i’d eventually like to come back to Tonacliffe with a trad rack and tick off a few of the climbs here. Overall, i’d say that if your a VS and/or HVS leader looking to get some routes done in your grade range, there’s quite a fair few nice looking climbs to get done here that have good cracks, aretes, small overhangs and slabs. To be honest, even if you climb harder, I think this quarry would make for a nice milage day out or if your feeling confident, why not jump on Tonacliffe’s test piece…

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The Apprentice’s Edge (E2, 6a)

It’s quite ironic how Millstone’s Master’s Edge (E7, 6c) was put up the same day!

I’d love to give this a try. It looks very technical and balancy! Supposedly, you head straight up that blank looking arete and place protection in Overhanging Crack to the right – it would make for a nice pendulum fall 😀

So there we have it, another Lancashire crag ticked off the long, long, long ‘to hit list’! Only three more quarries to climb at for the first time in the Rossendale area now 🙂

Cheers,
Naf

Ps. It provides a nice spot for some lunch too 😉

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