Friday, 20 April 2012

Return to Harborough

     Looking out of the window this morning things were looking up.  The walls of the buildings were dry but the forecast of dinner-time rain drove me with urgency back to the limestone of Harborough.

     The rock is magnesium limestone and is really well featured.  The bottoms of the routes are very polished and slippery but the rock and holds improve with height.  I don't know of any other venue quite like it with its little cave and ‘dolomitic’ pinnacles.  The outlook would be nicer but for the noisy factory right below the crag.

     It felt good to get some metres in and feel a bit of exposure, though I kept to easy stuff and didn’t go too high.

     I stayed in the Steeple Area as there were other climbers around the corner and I always feel like a show-off soloing things other people are using a rope for.  This did mean I missed out on climbing on a large part of the crag.  

     Particularly memorable were Concave Wall and Spider Chimney, this being quite an adventure for its size.  Is the top chock-stone safe?  There’s only one way to find out!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Cave Life

The dark clouds that have been chasing all week finally overtook me yesterday, punishing me with hail and forcing me underground.

No chance of any outside rock being dry since. 

It has made me value my squalid hole however dank and smelly it may be.


My second day in here now.  Golumnesque, I cling to the walls and attach myself to the roof living only in the beam of my head-torch.


It’s by no means dry in here.  
Moisture seems to seep out of the rock, coating it in a slimy film.


Parts of the walls and ceilings are black from fire.  The hole has been lived in, I hear, for thousands of years.

I check for occupants regularly and crap in a bag as not to anger whoever may return......

Monday, 16 April 2012

Slabs n Slopers at Cratcliffe

     Cratcliffe is situated right next to Robin Hoods Stride. The main face can’t be seen from the top approach but the boulders are obvious, I’d noticed them yesterday but didn’t have the time or energy to walk the 200 metres to see what they were like.

     At the Middle Boulders, slightly hidden in the woods, there wasn’t much in the easier grades and so I only did a few problems, some nice outings up a slab and a twin arêtes problem that was great.
     Taking a walk down to the main crag I found it reminds me a lot of Danby, it’s hard to move around at the base and the boulder problems seemed green, uninspiring and didn’t have the best landings.  Walking around in the jungle I couldn’t find many of the established problems but there are lots of mossy blocks that look like, if cleaned, they would provide some sport.  The crag itself was impressive and clean (unlike Danby) with some inspiring looking lines of a good size, I didn’t even consider donning the helmet though and headed back out into the sun to the main attraction, the Top Boulders, which are just above the main crag.
     The Top Boulders offer a great circuit of excellent grit, perhaps a bit softer than other venues and so well weathered.  It meant it felt quite friendly on the fingers.  The best problems required a bit of proficiency at padding with some great slabs and arêtes.  The best thing about this place was the landings, 90% were completely flat.  The only bad point would be the chipping that has occurred here.  Obviously the ‘old timers’ deemed this an ok practice in the past; the problems are still good though if you have the strength of mind to avoid the man-made holds.
     I had a mega-struggle up a V0- on Pink Slab.  Described in the guide as an ‘easy mooch’ I got  to the halfway break and didn't feel as if I could climb back down, it felt too high and too hard.  I committed to the top moves and was lucky to find they weren’t too difficult. I kept failing on the other lines on the slab due to the height and it wasn’t until I noticed the ‘real’ Pink Slab that I realised I was in-fact on Blind Pocket Rib, a V2 5c described as ‘scary and sustained’.  Too true!  After managing some other problems which should have been harder than they were I think the grades here may be a bit soft.

     The climax of today, and my last problem before I left, was on The Egg.  The main arête on this boulder is a slopey horror show and took me a while to work out.  Once I’d learned I could trust my feet, pressing down on nothing to gain a bit of height didn’t seem too bad and, slipping all the time, I just managed to top out.  Excellent.

     I have found myself gravitating more and more toward the slabby lately.  I like to hang around and think about the climbing and not be worried about how much strength I have left in the bank.  I guess it's a vicious circle though, avoiding working the arms isn’t going to make me any stronger but steep bouldering just makes me feel weak and rubbish.  Days like today are better for the ego.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Robin Hoods Stride

     Robin Hoods Stride is a popular tourist spot just a few miles West of Matlock.  It sits on an obvious hilltop with little walls and towers surrounded by a field of good sized boulders.
     After getting slightly confused with the layout I found the obvious Dorsal Fin, a fine boulder with a bit of everything.  A few slabby problems on pockets, a little crack and a classy groove made a good warm-up before a kindly gent pointed us towards the Lower Boulders I had been looking for.  I told him my criticisms of the guidebook only to be told that he had in-fact helped to write the thing.  A sharpish exit was called for over to Kaluza Klein, another Hard Grit line that it was just nice to stand underneath and look at in awe.  Below this is a fine layback crack that goes at an amenable grade and was super fantastic!
     Down at the lower boulders I climbed a nice airy highball called The Staircase (as the name suggests it weren’t that hard) and some great slabs on slopers and high committing steps.  The rock was quite smooth in parts and was warm in the sunshine but the friction still felt great and the occasional small pebble helped with progress.

     The highlight of the visit was Short Arete, quality moves up the sloping left arête of The Green Boulder.  Surprisingly I found I had incredible trust in my feet today despite most of the footholds being ‘non-holds’.  I was so chuffed to get this second go I did it another 3 times without difficulty after I’d sussed the sequence.  It’s always easy when you know how!

     Some of the best looking lines were a little high for only one pad but I’ve had a great day bouldering at a venue I will have to return to with some more mats and spotters.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Meeting Heroes

     I have heard Black Rocks described as ‘rough, round, big, ugly, hard and unforgiving, everything gritstone should be!’ and by the looks of it this is an apt description of the main rocks which are in an imposing setting high above the little village of Cromford, looking like a turreted fortress and visible from afar.  After a rainy journey and only a few hours daylight left I ventured here to see if any of the bouldering was ‘in’.  Surprisingly the wind had dried most of the main buttresses and the clouds cleared to leave a lovely fresh evening with the added benefit of having the place to myself.
     Most people will be familiar with the film Hard Grit.  I was shown it when I first started climbing and for me it epitomised what hard outcrop climbing was all about, boldness, skill and the ever present possibility of a ground-fall.   The beginning sequence is of a climber attempting and falling from Gaia, a Dawes climb from the 80’s up a strikingly beautiful piece of rock.  The film closes with Seb Grieve’s first ascent, in 1997, of Meshuga, a huge rounded prow.  Hard Grit manages to capture the atmosphere around these climbs and the characters trying them.  It’s an unforgettable bit of cinema, pure climbing porn!  The reason I mention these routes is because they are both at Black Rocks.  Now, I have no intention of climbing these dangerous routes but just to go stand underneath them today felt like something of a pilgrimage.

     The bouldering here isn’t very extensive and many of the best looking problems were a little too highball but it was great to have an explore of the main areas and see the incredible rock architecture.  Classic gritstone arêtes, cracks and walls, all beautifully sculpted rounded features.  However, I intended on climbing something a little smaller.

     The Upper Rocks are described as ‘a fun collection of boulders’ in the guidebook.  Set slightly away from the main crag a fair amount of moss shows these aren’t climbed on often but at least a couple of the problems looked fairly well trodden.  After a few weeks without touching rock I was surprised to flash the first things I attempted, though not with ease.  Not trusting my feet I spent a fair amount of nervous energy feeling around on slopey top-outs for any semblance of a good hold with none forthcoming.  As so often happens, when I actually committed to the moves things went easily.

    Taking a wander down to the High Peak Trail I came across the railway slabs, two large, slabby trackside boulders.  Although the lines looked great, with lots of little holes to stick the feet into, the main slab is about 7 metres high and would require multiple mats to make safe.  The climbing was enjoyable until nearing the top I took a glance down at my badly placed pad and wished I hadn’t gone so far.  A tactical retreat was difficult, down-climbing slabs always is, but after reversing a few fluttery moves I managed to jump off safely.
     With the sun down the temperature dropped and a few attempts at a hard arête proved I wasn’t going to get anything of any worth done.  Still, I’ve met some climbing greats today and although I may never attempt to climb them they will always inspire and show me what is, ultimately, possible if you are willing to put in the effort and commitment.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012


Rematch, 15th March 2012

     The roof we cleaned and tried and I had described as 'impossible' has now been climbed at a grade incomprehensible to us normal folk and named Lumberjack.  A great effort!  Info on other problems done at this venue and a video of some of them (including Lumberjack) can be found on Betaguides Blog.   

Upleatham Daze, 16th March 2012

     The application has now been withdrawn for the turbines on Beacon Moor.  There is a new proposal to use a lower lying area nearer to Saltburn.

Sunday, 1 April 2012


     I had high hopes for the weekend which unfortunately didn't come off due to wrist pain.  I must have done myself a mischief at Bridestones but didn't feel any discomfort until the following morning.  Although still not 100% today I was eager to do something, the weather looks set poor for the week ahead and it was such a warm, still evening.  I've not been a fan of Ravenswick in the past but tonight the limestone walls were bathed in the last orange light of the retreating sun and for the first time the place actually felt friendly.  As usual I had the place to myself.

     The walls here are steep and the rock (disregarding the top of the crag) is generally solid, if a little dusty and as with most limestone it has a bit of polish.

     I started with a little warm-up, off and on using the bigger holds and concentrating on footwork and smooth movement with only maybe 30seconds or so between rests.  Despite this I found myself pumped almost instantly.  I sat and rested until it had eased but it happened again...and again.  I could feel it in my fingers as well as my forearms.  After a good rest I had a go at one of the traverses but only got halfway along what last year I was cruising with little effort.  The resting place I used to use to relax and depump I found useless today, I just wasn't getting anything back.

     Either I'm just having a bad day, am still recovering from some straining from the other day or maybe I'm just tired.  I don't know but it's certainly knocked me down a peg or two.  The only positive I can really take from today is that technique-wise I'm feeling like I am moving well.

     A bit of low grade soloing on the easier angled walls around the alcove made me feel a little better, able to hang around a bit more and enjoy the climbing while the sun disappeared.

A free guide to Ravenswick climbing is available here

A free guide to bouldering on Black Wall is available here

     To see what I've been upto at Dalby Forest today click here.