Author Archives: carolineg

Classic Tick Day

Caroline Goldsworthy – November 2008

Later, on reflection and in hindsight, it’s often difficult to remember what exactly made you think something was a good idea in the first place. For me, the idea was to string together all four of Ken Wilson’s Classic Rock ticks on the Idwal slabs and walls above and complete them in one day’s outing. How I came up with this gem I cannot in all honesty remember but I knew that in Andy I had the perfect partner in crime and abject lunacy to undertake such a project.

As soon as I put the plan to him he was bursting with such enthusiasm and ideas that I began to wonder what I was about to unleash. I can only liken it to pressing the button and then, as you watch the cloud swell and continue to mushroom, wondering if pressing the button really was such a good idea after all!!

So the plan was set and in the weeks that followed the Classic Rock book was read thoroughly; we also studied three different guidebooks and one map (waterproof naturally). And then at last we had a finalised plan.

On the day itself we awoke at 4am like a couple of excited schoolchildren, but decided to stay abed until the allotted hour of 6am. A rare sight for an IMC meet greeted us as we emerged from our tent – IMCers were up and about; but rarer still, the sun was desperately trying to break through the clouds. Porridge was made and consumed, sandwiches packed and everything received a last check. And then we were off.

We arrived at the Ogwen Cottage car park at 07:16 – OK so the plan had slipped a bit, but it then took us less time to walk in than anticipated and we were cragside at 8am and seriously concerned that we would be excommunicated from the club for such keenness.

I elected to lead the first pitch of Hope as a) I had done it before and, more importantly, b) because I had seen the twin cracks at the beginning of the next pitch and had decided they were ideal for Andy!

Bearing in mind that things had not been going too well so far this year I wasn’t sure whether the slab start was the best idea, but I went for it anyway. And of course once that first piece of gear is placed the world seems a much sunnier place.

The first pitch was dispatched fairly quickly and Andy came to join me on my party ledge. We swapped gear and Andy set off on his pitch.

I must add at this point that the “bursting-at-the-seams-with-enthusiasm” persona was not limited to me. I began to wonder what I had agreed to as Caroline proceeded to organise the day’s assault on Cym Idwal with military precision. I was surprised that she had not brought along a Nobo Flip-chart to further enhance my briefing. I was getting concerned, very concerned, for our future with the IMC for not only were we planning arrive at the base of climb by around 08:30 hours but we were also planning to be back at car in daylight! As it turned out we were early, arriving at Cym Idwal at about 08:00 hours. After a quick gear faff (it’s tradition) Caroline was off, gliding up the first pitch. The race was on; looking back a swarm of climbers could be seen converging on the area.

A quick gear swap and I was off up the highly polished twin cracks that Caroline had generously presented me with as my first lead of the day . These turned to be quite pleasant with holds just where you wanted them even if one or two required a bit of a stretch. I arrived at the belay alcove and set-up ready for Caroline to attack the cracks which she did in fine style. So at this point I’ll hand you back over to Caroline.

Then came the third pitch. Quartz. Some sharp. Some polished. Some crumbly. Gear placement is not difficult on these classic routes. In fact it is trickier to find a gear placement that hasn’t been used time and time again. I was enjoying myself so much that I think I went past the belay ledge and kept going until Andy pointed out that I was rapidly running out of rope. I scouted round for a suitable nesting spot and prepared to bring Andy up. Another gear-swap and then Andy started the final pitch.

The third pitch as a “second” was a right little piece of sheep dung as the rope decided it wanted to nest in the crack just where the route turns a corner. No amount of “nice” words, threats of torture or bribery would persuade the rope to slither out of its little hidey hole so I had to climb up to free it before moving on. Luckily the second rope behaved itself.

The final pitch went on for ever and a day, turning out to be much longer than the view from below implied. However Caroline soon joined me on the more than ample ledge below Holly Tree Wall. We had a bite to eat and then Caroline was champing at the bit to crack on with Lazarus.

First tick completed we were ready for something to eat and had a quick snack while we perused the start of Lazarus.

It was my lead, but I messed up somehow and got myself in to a position from which I could not continue. The ledge below had become very crowded and some bloke was shouting his head off at something. At me apparently. I was off route. I belayed from where I was and Andy joined me to take over the sharp end. At this point some random bloke decided that he was leading Lazarus and started climbing towards us! His friends told me later that every time they go out with him he annoys everyone else on the crag. I cannot understand why they continue to climb with him but can only applaud their loyalty.

A wee bit of confusion was had in the start gully, Caroline was going the right way then some “gimp” started giving (unwanted) route advice which meant Caro’ was directed off route. The belay was set-up on second step of Start Gully, where gimpo had directed us. The move to start the second from this position was more like a 4c move as opposed to an un-graded (technically) Severe. A couple of up-and-down moments and I off. The random bloke who was making an effort to join me on Lazarus took the rather unsubtle hint that I wanted him **** off and elected to do another route nearby. The traverse bit is exceptional value at this grade and I can see why this is in Ken Wilson’s Classic Rock.

At my turn to second Andy’s pitch I had a mammoth struggle. The section that Andy had led I couldn’t climb and because the rope had got wedged in somewhere Andy could not take it in to protect my falling. Another climber downclimbed his own route, un-wedged our rope and I was able to do the move with a little help from my friend. I have no idea who the chap was but he has my most grateful thanks.

The Arête was my lead. We had watched some people previously coming in from the right and working left to the arête. Closer inspection revealed why. Guidebook consultation demonstrated that this was the designated route. At least I would have some gear placements. This route is extremely good value for VDiff. Towards the end I reached a section that was quite tricky. There was no gear and while I could get my hand on the hold, and the hold felt very positive, my back was screeching in protest. In normal circumstances I would have been able to stand on tippy toes, reach the hold and then smear like crazy to move up. My lower back was telling me in no uncertain terms that this would not be happening today thank you very much! I downclimbed a short way and stood and surveyed the situation. Ping! There it was. A small intermediate foot hold. Now if I could just get my foot on to that… As I topped out in whale-like fashion I felt a tremendous feeling of relief and achievement. The photo says it all.

As we made our way towards Grey Slab we decided that enough was enough and that it could wait for another day. A good decision as it turned out as the lads who had gone over to it told us that there were two teams on the route already and neither team were climbing very fast.

We returned to the foot of the Idwal Slabs and devoured the food that we’d left there.

Paddling in Llyn Idwal a short while later we decided that it had, after all, been a thoroughly good day out!


By Caroline Goldsworthy – June 2006

“I will be at North Burbage car park at ten on Friday, c u there!” That was the penultimate text I received from Adrian Berry, a top climber and climbing coach who I hoped was going to have an impact on my climbing grade, get me off this plateau and start moving me towards the magic Es.

Of course, it didn’t start there… it started Bank Holiday weekend in Derbyshire where a number of us collected to celebrate the coming of (middle) age of a certain Mr Bayley. The margaritas of the previous night had proved somewhat potent and Sunday found the team too hung over to do a great deal at all. Beryl and I took the hound for a much-needed walk and the ‘boys’ decided to stroll from Hardhurst to Hathersage as concerns were expressed over not being fit to drive! Super fit Ian took in a sub 2-hour mountainous Buxton half marathon showing us all up in good style. Nice one Ian!! J

Later in the day we all convened in the Outside café and whilst chomping through the excellent coffee cake I noticed a poster advertising a climbing coach who could help improve your grade. I was tempted… He didn’t look too ropey either which helped in the decision making process. Details were duly taken and later fuelled by food and alcohol I sent the man a text and he responded the following day detailing costs etc. I was more than tempted… Exchanges of e-mails the following week left me burrowing into guidebooks in a desperate attempt to come up with the perfect tick list. I sought the opinions of fellow climbers on as to what I should consider for a first E1 lead. Opinions didn’t differ greatly from my own and so finally – I had my list…

I mailed it to the man who said that it wasn’t what he was looking for and could I please tell him what sort of routes inspired me. I felt about 12 again having had homework returned covered in red pen!!

I replied telling him of my desires to climb a millstone crack and my fear of roofs and he responded with “fine, cracks and roofs it is”!!

So here I sit in the George Hotel in Hathersage, fed and watered (well that’ll be water post Divine intervention), and worry about what awaits me the next day. I had watched part II of the Neil Gresham Master class and am terrified that the first part of the day will focus on leader falls and how to cope with them. I know it’s something I need to work on; but all in
good time please??

As is expected of one’s friends I had received a fair amount of teasing about this course of action. My non-climbing girlfriends came up with comments from “does he do extras” to “do people know you’re meeting a strange man in a car park? Is he kosher?” The boys restricted themselves to requests that I text them to let them know which ward of the Royal Hallam I
was in.

Friday morning dawned clear and bright however, evidently a good day was in store. Adrian drew up and once introductions were taken care of, we walked to the crag. I was talked through a warm up routine and filmed doing some gentle bouldering and then we moved to a slab with a few dimples. Adrian taught me to squeak my boots and then he bouldered with tennis balls in his hands. Then it was my turn. Hummm… After a couple of half-hearted attempts I was excused tennis balls and attempted the route again. This time I was more successful but was unable to let go and jump down to the bouldering mat. This was overcome by donning the approach shoes, getting to the top of the boulder, hanging over the edge and then letting go and dropping. Ugh!! But I did it three times to make sure that I could cope with it. Adrian assured me that the first day of the course I am due to attend in Kalymnos would be dedicated to falling. Something to look forward to then, I thought. J

We next went to a trad route and I led a steep overhanging brute of a route called Mutiny Crack. It’s graded HS in the current RockFax but it is tough at that grade. It is VS in the BMC guide. The pro is good, but there are three overlaps to subdue and it is as pumpy as a very pumpy thing. Much whimpering and thugging finally led to success and afterwards Adrian spoke to me about the merits of taping the hands for crack climbs and of loose chalk.

A trip to Outside was agreed upon and we trooped off back to the car park. On our way we were approached by a lady walker asking if we could help rescue a lamb from a ditch where it had become trapped. Upon arrival at the scene Adrian simply stripped his shirt off, stood astride the ditch, plunged his arms either side of the lamb and hauled it out. The very grateful lady walker helped him clean his arms and we went shopping.

The next venue was Froggatt and we arrived at the foot of Three Pebble Slab, a route I love and have wanted to lead for many years.

Three Pebble Slab
Three Pebble Slab
(click on image to view in Flickr)

Adrian took me through the process of building up for a big lead. I checked the route, thought about what gear I would need, calmed myself with the breathing mechanisms we’d discussed in the morning, I squeaked my boots and was eventually ready to set off. I muffed getting to the first horizontal break but did it again and was soon at the second one; I placed a small cam and moved up to the pocket. I had thought it was a #6 nut but it’s a 4 and thankfully I had put a 4 and a 5 on my harness. When I did this before for some reason I put the cam in first and then had problems placing the nut; so wised up this time, I placed the nut first then the cam, clipped each to a separate rope and once the gear was placed I concentrated on the move. Gingerly, and with heart in mouth, I put my toe in the pocket and reached up for the break. Now I was standing above the gear and this next move was the one I had failed on before. I put my right
foot up for the rock over and could not get my weight over. I tried again, still couldn’t do it. I looked down at Adrian. “Try not putting your foot so far over.” he said “I know it’s a big ledge but just put your toe at the edge of it and try again.” I did as I was told and miraculously the rock
over worked, I got my weight over and my right hand crept onto the hold that had been for so long, tantalisingly out of reach. I stood on the ledge and faced the final black slab above. Gretel-like the route was clearly marked for me in the chalk of previous ascensionists. Again the
breathing and calming, and then I went for it. With success so nearly in my grasp I knew I was going to get to the top and practically yodel, but on arriving at the summit of my route nothing was further from my mind. I just stood there, shocked and looked down at Adrian. I wanted to shout for joy but the shock of actually achieving what I had wanted for so long had left me speechless. It was like I was in a dream and to a certain extent it still has not sunk in.

I was navel lint for what remained of the day. I could not get myself on to the block at Tody’s Wall – just didn’t trust my gear. So I need to go back and get that done. Adrian showed me how to tape my hands for crack climbing and I struggled on an evil crack climb, trying to learn crack
climbing techniques (a project methinks!) and finally he soloed Long John’s Slab to put a top rope up for me, but I think the old bod had had it for the day. I spent what seemed like ages dangling on the end of the rope but I’m blowed if I could reach the next crimp. I was very disappointed with myself.

However, despite being disappointed with my efforts later in the day, I have to say the day as a whole was well worth it. I learnt so much, much more in that day than I have in the past 5 years, and I achieved my goal.  Adrian is a really good coach, explains things well, is pretty patient and
makes you believe in yourself. He gave me some things to work on and I will definitely be going back for another session.

Adrian can be contacted via his website at

Thanks, Adrian for a fabulous day out, I could never have done 3PS without your guidance and making me believe in myself.

Adrian Berry soloing Long John Slab E3 5c

Chalking it up to experience

By Caroline Goldsworthy – June 2006


I tried to bite back a scream as yet another lump of chalk responded to my weight by hurling itself into the abyss.

“Take in.” I yelled at my climbing partner high above me. Nothing.

“Take in!” More insistent this time. Still nothing.

This time I screamed. A screech from the depths of my now terrified being.

“Taaaake innnnnn!!” He took in. The green rope was now pulling me off of the cliff face and I had ample amounts of the blue rope, sufficient in fact to make a jumper!

“Take in on blue.” The green rope became tighter still – the blue sagged at my crampon-shod feet. An interesting combination of razor sharp metal and my lifeline – the rope!

“Take in on bluuuuuuue!!” The blue rope moved a little, at least now I wouldn’t tread on it. I moved up the grey and white face of the cliff. My progress marked by yet more rocks and boulders scattering as I passed and flinging themselves onto the beach and surprised onlookers below.

I reached the next point of protection. A warthog hammered into the chalky rock. I inserted the pick end of my ice axe into the head of the warthog and tried to twist it so that I could remove it. Not a hope. “F***, f***, f***” I imagined how proud he was of how well placed the equipment was. I imagined how good he had felt whilst hammering it in with his new lump hammer. I then imagined how good that lump hammer was going to look carefully placed in his skull!

Extracting Gear
Extracting Gear
(click on image to view in Flickr)

I tried twisting the warthog again. I couldn’t quite get the leverage on it due to the proximity of a piece of flint. I leaned my face against the cool chalk, and swore and cursed him. I cursed his strength for getting the warthog in so deeply, I cursed him roundly for how gripped he must have felt when he placed it and I cursed myself for being such a girlie prat and not getting a grip on my own fear. “Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death. I shall face my fear. I shall let it wash over me and through me…”

I took a deep breath and focused the anger on removing the warthog. Finally it came loose and I clipped it to a loop on my harness. I reflected on fear and motivation and asked myself what so many people have asked me in the past; “Why do you climb?”

Caroline on Saltdean Slab
Caroline on Saltdean Slab Grade II

I have never found a clear-cut answer to this question. All I can say is that it makes me feel alive and, let’s face it, there’s nothing like staring death in the face to make you feel alive. It feels good to sit in the pub later on and to relive the tense moments of the day with a cold pint of beer in front of you. I used to know someone who said it made them feel proud to have done something exciting during the day. Of course, these are not the only motivations; there are so many other things too. Feeling the early morning sun on your face; enjoying a fantastic view from the top of the crag or cliff; spending time with good friends in silly and often quite dangerous situations. It’s not being in danger that drives you so much as the feelings afterwards when it’s all over and “it wasn’t quite so bad” and having friends with whom to share those feelings.

A few months after our last chalk climbing trip Craig was killed in an accident on Mount Shasta, and I had to face the fact that my sport, what I love most, what I really live for, is dangerous and can be, in the wrong circumstances, terminal. However, I was also able to take comfort in knowing that my friend died doing what he loved and he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I continue miss him as do many others, but ultimately his death did not stop me from climbing, because if it hadn’t been for climbing I would never have met him or shared the good times we’d had.I reached the top of the cliff with grit in my eyes and a mouth full of chalk and saw him there, smiling at me, cigarette on lip (he’d perfected this in recent weeks) and in that Californian drawl I shall miss he said, “Now, that wasn’t so bad was it?” And no, it wasn’t; not after it was all over and we packed the ropes up and walked to the pub. It wasn’t so bad after all.Dedicated to the memory of Craig Hiemstra; loved, missed but never, ever forgotten.

Caroline on Saltdean Slab
Craig on Saltdean Slab

Sea Cliff Climbing

This was to be Simon Curtis’s first trip to climb on sea cliffs and I knew he
was looking forward to abbing in and climbing out. Cattle Troughs was the chosen
venue and since neither of us had been there before we took a lot of care making
sure we abbed in at the correct spot. We faffed a bit at the top making sure the
rope wasn’t lying on anything sharp and then I chucked it over and clipped in,
made sure me prussic loop was all attached and saying, as I usually do “I hate
bl00dy abseiling!” I set off. Halfway I looked down to see the remainder of the
rope sitting on a ledge although some had slipped off the ledge and in to the
sea. So feeling cheered that I now knew I had rope for the remainder of the
abseil I was feeling a little chirpier. I went past a section of free abseiling
and thought how much Simon was going to enjoy all of this… Got to the bottom,
unclipped and tugged at the end sitting in the sea. And tugged again. And just
for good measure tugged some more. Nope, nothing doing there. It was stuck fast.
Called to Simon that he could come down and waited for his arrival. In the
meantime I went to look for the route out. By the time Simon arrived I was able
to report that we had two problems. One, that the abseil rope was caught and,
two that I hadn’t, as yet, found the route out. First things, first though and I
clipped back on to the rope to ab down a bit lower to release the end of the
rope. I slid in to the wide crack taking care to brace my feet against the walls
either side then, whoosh!! A wave wove its way up the crack and up my bum and
all over the rack hanging from my harness. Somewhat shaken and dampened by the
experience I scrambled back up on top the ledge where Simon was standing. Sadly
the rope was still stuck. Simon decided that it was his turn. He stripped off
his many t-shirts and clad only in harness, rock boots and trousers he clipped
on to the upper part of the rope and we waited for the ‘big’ wave to come again.
And we waited and counted and waited and counted… For some time there was no
large wave and so Simon decided it was time to go. He dropped down the front of
the boulder we were standing on and made his way into the crack and started to
pull the rope, as he did so another wave, larger than the first hit him with
some considerable force. All I could see were Simon’s arms and head and white
foam. Oh and a picturesque shocked expression!! 🙂 I grabbed the rope and he
scrambled out of the sea as I pulled for all I was worth. He was totally soaked!
I did what any decent person would do in these circumstances. I laughed and once
started I couldn’t stop. Sorry Simon! 🙂

He looked so dejected – worse than a wet cat. I went to look for the route
out and turning round to see how he was getting on, saw him standing wringing
all the water out of his trousers!! Just for good measure I laughed some more.
But give the boy his due – he led the route out rather than stand at the bottom
being cold and went on to do another lead with Steve C. Well Done Simon. Hope
you enjoyed your introduction to sea cliff climbing!!!

Looking for the tops of routes
Looking for the tops of routes

Looking for the bottoms of routes
Looking for the bottoms of routes