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:
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.
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!
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)
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!
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!”.
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 😀
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.