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Tower Ridge

IMC assault 2010

The Route

At 1,344 metres (4,409 ft for oldies) above sea level Ben Nevis is the highest
mountain in the United Kingdom. Tower Ridge is one of a multitude of ridges that
tumble out from the North East side of the summit plateau. Tower Ridge is probably
the most famous of these and is a must tick for aficionados of Ken Wilson’s
Classic Rock tome. It is about 820m (2700ft) in length if the Douglas Boulder is
avoided and around 1000m (3300ft) if it is included.

The ridge is located approximately 500m south of the Charles Inglis Clark (CIC)
Hut and terminates close to the summit of the mountain. The usual route up Tower
Ridge is a graded at 3S or Difficult depending on whether you scramble or climb
it. Few mountain expeditions in the UK can offer comparable amounts of the
exposure and length that make this route truly Alpine in character.

In winter conditions it is graded Scottish Grade IV, partly because most of its
difficulties, such as the Eastern Traverse and Tower Gap, lie high up on the
route but largely due to its overall length. For a winter ascent it is
recommended to allow up to ten hours as “all levels of difficulty may be
encountered depending on conditions”.

A number of distinct features appear on the ridge. In the order that a would-be
ascensionist would encounter them, they are:

1. The Douglas Boulder is the first major obstacle on the ridge. For fans of
suffering, this offers possibly the most arduous climbing on the route and is
only recommended for fast and/or experienced parties. It is easily outflanked on
either side by using the East or West Gullies; both of these go at a winter
grade of I and can be soloed with ease.

2. The Douglas Gap is where parties using the East or West Gullies join the
ridge. For the hardcore who have gone direct careful down climbing into the Gap
is required or more usually, (speed is safety) an abseil is used. Escape from
the gap is by a “tricky” chimney. From here it is possible to move together or
solo as the terrain is quite straightforward. However in poor conditions it
might require protecting.

3. The ridge becomes a bit steeper at the Little Tower providing the first real
barrier after the Douglas Boulder. The SMC Ben Nevis guide book suggests left if
the conditions are dry or with good ice but right if it is under heavy powder.

4. The Great Tower offers a second and some what more substantial rise of the
ridge. A direct ascent of the Great Tower is hard. But like the Douglas Boulder,
it can be outflanked by traversing a narrow ledge (the ‘Eastern Traverse’) on
the left hand side before climbing to its apex.

5. The crux is provided by the (infamous) Tower Gap, a small notch in the ridge
beyond the Great Tower. The Gap is around three metres deep but at this point
the ridge has narrowed to less than one metre wide and offers up views of
precipitous drops to either side, providing ample exposure. The Gap can be
avoided by an extended version of the leftward traverse that is usually started
prior to ascending the Great Tower, For purists, however, this is a no go area,
but it is worth knowing about in case of an emergency. This bypasses the Gap
from below, regaining the ridge at a higher point. An escape into the nearby
Tower Gully is also possible if taking this route. If Tower Gully is being used
to escape, please be aware of potential avalanche dangers.

6. Finally an easy ascent from Tower Gap to the summit plateau is the reward for
the faithful. Now relax, take a deep breath and contemplate your two to three
hour walk off. “No, absolutely no, I’m not tired or knackered at this point.”
You may have to repeat several times at this juncture.

Tower Ridge

Plan 9 from outer space

  1. Drag ourselves out of bed at the ungodly hour of 02:30hrs for an early
    breakfast & coffee. Wander about looking liking spaced out refugees for a while.
    More coffee. Set of for a day of high adventure.
  2. Arrive at the car park for about 04:00hrs, take a deep breath, shoulder our
    packs and set off.
  3. 07:00hrs be at the base of the Douglas boulder, gear up, check pace and
    conditions then make final decision on the start route. Option one is Direct
    Route, 215m,  (IV, 4)*, easy climbing to a high crux (allow 2 hours) or option
    two East Gully (allow 1.5 hours). Abseiling into the Douglas Boulder and escape
    chimney (allow 1.5hours). 10:30hrs
  4. Douglas Gap to Little Tower and possible pitching on Little Tower (allow 2
    hours). 12:30hrs.
  5. Little Tower to Great Tower (1 hour). 13:30hrs. (4 & 5 may go quicker).
  6. Check pace, time, well being of group and conditions and then consider options.
    Option one the usual Eastern Traverse (if time is later than 13:30hrs), option
    two, Recess Route, 45m (IV, 6) – grade implies well protected. Option three
    Pigott’s Route, 45m (IV, 4)* or the Western Traverse, 70m (IV, 4)**. Allow two
    hours. 15:30hrs.
  7. Tower Gap. Allow 1hour. 16:30hrs
  8. Get to the top of the ridge – allow 1 hour. 17:30hrs. Target time for actual
    climbing 10 ½ hours.
  9. Walk off – allow 3 hours Head torches and spare batteries a must. 20:30hrs. Areas
    where possible to make up time, walk-in, walk-out, Douglas Gap to Great Tower.

 What actually happened

08/03/2010 – Attempt 1 – (lessons learnt and how not to tackle a classic
mountain route)

In hind-sight an assault on a long route like Tower Ridge would best be started
the normal (easy) way. However being the fan of suffering that I am, led to a
decision to tackle The Douglas Boulder by its Direct Route (IV, 4). Everything
was going to plan, an early start and a good healthy slog up to the CIC hut and
it was game-on. However, I did reflect upon how menacing the visage that the
Douglas Boulder had presented on the walk, noting the mid-section appeared a wee
bit devoid of the lashings of snow enjoyed by the rest of the Ben Nevis North
Face. I had a moment of self doubt. Was I ready for a Scottish winter IV? How
hard could it be? What could possibly go wrong?

A quick sandwich, drink and gear-up and we were off for a day of high adventure
(much more than planned). Any initial doubts had now evaporated. A decent snow
ramp led up to the base of the Douglas Boulder. Adrian announced the first pitch
was described as easy and that he was having it. A belay was established,
everything double checked and Adrian was off.

The easy groove was a bit suspect, judging by the amount of debris cascading down
[AF: This was mostly ice cleared to find some protection], so Adrian
went off to the left onto more mixed terrain after a slight pause to reflect on
his situation, a bold pull was had and he was off again. Some time later the
welcome call of “safe” was heard. Now it was my turn, Adrian’s lead was quite
impressive as the mixed variation was no push over and felt quite technical for
what I was expecting. Once off the mixed ground a quick rising traverse led to
the belay point. Gear switched hands and it was my turn for pitch two.

The second pitch was fairly straight forward up to where it steepens and the snow
decided to impersonate candy floss. The first attempt to surmount this led to a
small snow collapse, an ice axe placement popping and a few choice words. After
a brief tussle a good(ish) placement was found and facilitated a bold high
stepping rock-over to gear and a belay. Once I was safe and Adrian’s belay
dismantled, he soon shot up the second pitch but was slowed up by the candy
floss section.

Again gear passed hands, a quick plan was formed for the next section and Adrian
was off again. Things slowed a bit at the base of the chimney. The route
steepened noticeably here. Adrian made one attempt to surmount the
corner/boulder. After getting a welcome piece of gear in he then down-climbed,
took a brief rest and then had another go. Finding a magic axe placement
combined with a high stepping crampon crunching smear for the right foot and a
bit of back & footing, he was up and over. Once established in the chimney
proper Adrian decided the next bit was emanating pure menace in our general
direction and generously gifted me with the next bit of leading. Luckily the
chimney is quite wide here and would allow for two people to stand side by side.

Following Adrian’s path into the chimney was no walk-over, that move alone must
be worth at least a technical 4. Gear passed hands yet again, a couple of deep
breaths and mental Hail Mary’s and I was off. No I wasn’t, um this looked
tricky. It was lucky that Adrian was there and able to offer moral support and
dry comments in my hour of need. Composing myself I then attacked the chimney
with an assortment of axe placements, manly pulls, another high stepping
rock-over and general off-width thuggery. These assorted techniques enabled me
to break through to the next tier of the chimney. No obvious gear, best press to
where I could get gear placed. More panting, power-grunting, cursing and
off-width shuffling gained good foot holds that in turn led to a good hand hold.
A good old fashioned bit of Victorian jug and pull climbing and I was on a good
ledge. Gear went in, and I relaxed to contemplate the next bit.

I tried the direct way at first but after two snow bank collapses; I tried to
out-flank the route by going left up a rising snow bank. Mixed climbing up a
short corner followed, from this I pulled up onto a snow-bank to what appeared
to be easy ground and a block advertising a hex placement that only Carlsberg
could have dreamt up. Once I was established on the snow-bank (about 60-70º) I
realised the snow was in poor condition. However a couple of moves would bring
the block and good gear into range. Careful plunging was employed to gain height
“oh fudge cakes”, or words to that effect wafted down to Adrian [AF: Fewer
syllables were actually heard
] as the snow-bank under my feet
collapsed. I was saved by plunging the ice axes in with two points of contact
per axe. I was able to re-establish my feet and try again and again and again.
Whatever I tried I just could not gain the block, it was a classic one step
forward, two steps backwards scenario. I dug some snow away looking for decent
holds but the rock was smooth underneath.

I reviewed my options: down-climbing would be problematical at best and probably
involve a controlled fall. Looking about, it seemed possible to traverse right.
Leaning out right I found a single good axe placement and good snow for a foot
hold. I gingerly tapped a step in at full stretch. I tried to rock-over, “oh
fudge cakes”, I couldn’t commit to the move. This was damn scary but strangely
exhilarating. Moving back, the snow bank shifted again, “oh fudge cakes”, even
if MR were called (yes, I did briefly think of this scenario) the snow wouldn’t
survive that long. “Oh fudge cakes”, what had I got myself into. The move right
seemed the only possible way to make progress.

Carefully reaching over and placing my right boot into the kicked in step I then
plunged the left axe low and close to my body to use as a push down hand hold.
Pushing down and reaching up with the right I found a solid hook in some frozen
turf that was welded to the rock. Ever so slowly I rocked up and over. I hardly
dared breathe as I was now a very good distance above the last piece of gear and
nothing felt 100% secure. More globules of turf and careful calculated moves led
to some steep slightly over-vertical rock and good gear, “phew.” I exhaled with
relief and could breathe again.

From this point on the climbing got progressively harder, possibly as I was
tiring or the relentlessness of the route was beginning to tell. Or then again
maybe it was just plain bonkers hard. More torquing moves, awkward gear
placements and long run outs ensued. This climb wasn’t going to be seduced into
submission without a pitched battle. By this time my clothing was soaked in
sweat from both the exertion and the adrenalin coursing through my system. The
climbing was becoming the scariest, most desperate, sustained and strength
sapping that I’ve ever been involved in; it just wouldn’t give up. But neither
would I, I was committed and focused.

Every time the promised easy ground was within reach, it evaporated before my
eyes as I pulled up, tricked by evil foreshortening again. By this point I was
fully focused and engaged with the problems presented by this route in a way I
have never been before on any other route or type of climbing. Every time I was
confronted with an impossible move, a bit of lateral thinking found a workable
solution and another piece of spartanly placed gear. My axes were used for
torquing from all angles: the point, the shovel bit and hammer all saw their
fair bit of action. At one point even the handle was employed.

On the way I passed more than one piece of in-situ gear left by persons unknown.
What tales of woe might they have? I knew that this wasn’t the correct line and
I was in a groove line heading generally up and left. I tried several times to
go right and rejoin the route proper. Each time the way was barred. But
continuing up and left I could still see some in-situ gear and crampon scratches
ahead. Someone had climbed it so it was possible.

After placing my first tri-cam and pulling up I found an in-situ nut. Forget
abstract notions like ethics I’m having that, and with wild European abandon I
clipped it. As I pulled up onto the next tier of rock, the quick-draw I had just
used clipped into my crampon! This arrested my forward progress halfway through
a high-stepping, nerve wracking hard move. A sideways shuffle and I was able to
jam the hammer of my ice-axe into an accommodating crack and hang off this
whilst I freed the crampon with the other axe. At the point of giving up the
cursed quickdraw dropped free. The rope felt tight, a quick check with belay
confirmed I had plenty left, couldn’t see where it was dragging, I wasn’t sure
what was going on, but as I pulled up it seemed to correct itself.

A couple of stepped blocks led to a small rubbish snow bank in the corner.
Hooray! Above the next set of hard moves the angle eased and juggy holds were
mere metres away. After several inventive axe placements and failed attempts I
found, what felt like, the right sequence.

A thin crack in the initial corner presented a good placement. Double stacking
the axes I pulled through to another and yet another good slot. Reaching up I
got a lateral torque with the right-hand axe. Stepping high I smeared my right
crampon into the smooth corner. Delicately I brought up my left boot and found
something small to stand on. Straightening up and reaching through with left axe
I couldn’t find anything. “Oh fudge cakes”, I said, not for the first time on
this climb. As I contemplated how to get to the jugs, I heard a gut wrenching
ping as the right axe popped out of its placement.

Time momentarily stood still, “oh fudge cakes”, “oh fudge cakes”, “oh fudge
cakes”, then I was flying out and down. I initially hit solid ground in a semi
face-plant position, heard some metallic clanking and mildly bounced into space
again. I began thinking I should have by now stopped, “oh fudge-cakes”, I really
should have stopped by now. After bouncing down several snow slopes and rock
bits spinning around, I ended up in a semi-inverted position, having enough time
think though what would happen if the gear failed and how far I would go; I came
to a grinding halt. Silence. Am I damaged? Is anything hurting? Did the gear
hold? Will it keep holding? A multitude of thoughts barraged my mind. I righted
myself and conducted a mental system check of my body. No, nothing obvious hurt.
Then a few aches and pains announced themselves. My head had cracked against
something but my helmet had taken the brunt of the impact. I could feel that
some ribs were now or were going to be bruised. “Oh fudge-cakes” I said for the
last time that day as a tentative voice came up from the belay “Are you all
right”? The in-situ nut and my first tri-cam placement had held.

Adrian: My reverie was broken rather suddenly by both ropes tumbling
down to below my feet, along with sounds of movement from up above. My thoughts
had time to catch up with events as I took in an armful of rope and locked the
belay, just as the rope that had tumbled down shot upwards with alarming
rapidity. Holding the fall was easier than I expected, but given that it had
happened over an extended period of time, I knew even then that Andy must have
bounced off the rock a few times before coming to a stop. It was only after
everything was still again, that I watched as first one, and then another item
of hardware sailed over my head. The ice axe embedded itself in the snowfield
below the chimney and what I later realised was a crampon came to a stop right
at the bottom of the snowfield. There followed an eternity of silence, which
lasted for two maybe three seconds…

“Yes” I replied, “I think so”. Looking back up to see how far I had fallen I
realised this was the biggest lob of my climbing career. My heart shrank when I
looked up and saw the amount of rope between me and the gear. I had climbed some
distance above my gear in an all out attempt to reach the easy ground. In hind
sight I had missed an obvious gear placement in my focused drive reach the
aforesaid easy ground. Reflecting on the length of rope above me I estimated the
fall was 8m to 10m in length or around the height of an average two story house.

“Do you want to carry on”? Adrian asked. I looked up and couldn’t face doing all
those moves again. I had given it my best and my best wasn’t good enough. Part
of me felt I had let Adrian down as this was now in effect a wasted day and he
wouldn’t be able to experience the moves on this pitch. “No, lower me off”, I
replied “I’ve had enough”. I hadn’t realised how exhausted I was until I
stopped. My forearms felt like jelly and sweat was running freely down my face.

A second system check revealed I had lost my left crampon and my right ice-axe.
Adrian gently lowered me down and I retrieved what gear I could as I descended
to the belay. We estimated that I had spent 60 minutes possibly longer to climb
approximately 25m – 30m. By the time I arrived at the belay I was in a post
traumatic adrenalin endorphin rush Zen like calm. Adrian wisely took charge of
setting up a lower-off and we talked each move through (more important for me,
cheers to JB for that tip). As I abseiled, off I retrieved my ice-axe from the
base off the chimney and my crampon from the bottom of the 2nd pitch. Adrian had
dryly mentioned seeing items of gear fly over head at great speed.

On reaching the bottom of the climb I reattached my crampon and waited for
Adrian. Adrian arrived and the ropes were pulled through with no further ado. To
save time I trudged off down the slope dragging the rope behind me. Wow, they
actually straightened out as planned and stayed tangle free. As we coiled the
ropes I found some damage about 1.5m from one end. It looked like one of my axes
had made a determined attempted to saw through the rope. I assume this is what
snatched my axe out of my hand during the fall.

All that was left was the long walk back to the car and a stop off at the Fort
William Morrison’s for some food and a bottle of single malt.

On latter reflection we noted the following points for future reference:

  • On the approach the climb looked “lean” and in hind sight wasn’t in proper
  • Snow conditions at the top of pitch two should have warned us to bail out there
    and then.
  • If you can’t stick to the route proper don’t go off route to out-flank it unless
    absolutely sure of what is ahead.
  • Mixed climbing would appear to be far harder than comparatively graded ice/snow
  • Fully iced up cracks would have made this route so much easier.
  • If pushing the grade (winter) research the route first.

Quotes about Douglas Bolder – Direct Route

“Note: May become very difficult in lean conditions” – Alan Kimber, Cicerone
Press Limited (2002), Winter Climbs: Ben Nevis and Glencoe

UKC Quotes:

“Andy led most of it, nails for the grade”. Reference to Andy is not me!

“Attempted West Chimney variation IV, 4. Lots of powder and minimal frozen turf
made it interesting for the grade. Leader backed off near the top due to lack of
gear at crux section. Abbed off route”.

“Took ages”!

“Anyone else find this outrageously under-graded”?

And finally after consulting the mighty guide book it appears I had strayed onto
parts of Down to the Wire (V, 6) in lean conditions. What actual grade I was
climbing at is anyone’s guess?

09/03/20010 – Attempt 2 – How do a classic mountain route

After the previous day’s adventures it was decided we would take a suck it and
see approach to the next day’s activities and see if any injuries would
belatedly announce themselves to me.

I woke at some ungodly hour the following morning, trundled down to the dining
area and had a hearty breakfast. A quick check on the weather and conditions –
today would be good, tomorrow rubbish. I went back upstairs and informed Adrian
I had a plan. Adrian arrived downstairs to hear my plan which in a nut shell was
Tower Ridge, now or never, let’s do it. We reviewed our gear and considered the
route, the load was lightened and we took Adrian’s 50m ropes. We started late
but made a lot of time up on the walk-in and were at the base of the climb
sometime between 10:00hrs and 10:30hrs.

A quick solo up Douglas Gap East Gully (I) and we were at the base of the
“awkward” chimney. Still a bit shaky from the previous day I almost backed out
of leading it but Adrian talked me round and it was felt best to get it out of
my system. The chimney succumbed fairly quickly after I realised there was a
nice chunky hand hold to be had out left and got stuck in with some hefty boot

Adrian soon joined me at the belay and we decided to move together with Adrian
in the lead. Up the ridge we went, taking the first steepening on its right
flank. This started with a small ice pitch and thereafter was consolidated snow.
We stormed up this, stopping at the first levelling for a quick break and photo
call. I probably ate something; I usually do given the slightest opportunity. I
took the lead again taking The Little Tower on its left flank which included a
small icy pitch at a slightly steeper section. At a small levelling I found some
good gear and set a belay up, as it was not obvious what was ahead. Adrian led
off and was soon near the base of The Great Tower.

Before I set off, a guided party caught-up to us. The guide asked if he could
pass us. I foolishly agreed as I wanted to stop for a sandwich anyway. Off I set
soon joining Adrian on a nice level area and tucked in. Adrian asked a good
question when I told him what I had agreed too, “why”? I had no good answer
other than I did not want another team hanging off our coat tails. After a
longer than expected wait disaster struck as a “fast” party barged through and
took up position at the Eastern Traverse belay. “Oh fudge cake”, or words to
that effect I thought. Then the guide came bundling through and climbed past the
“fast” party who hadn’t managed to start the Eastern Traverse yet.
[AF: We later realised that these parties had sneaked up on us by
eliminating the Douglas Gap via the eastern slopes which are striaghtforward in
the conditions of the day. That’s perfectly fine, but it fooled us into thinking
they were moving very fast.

Eastern Traverse
About to follow Andy into the unknown on the Eastern Traverse
By this time my patience was wearing thin, with Andy out of sight and stuck for ages
behind a slow party struggling to get up the Great Tower.
Andy remained commendably sanguine throughout all the long waits. [AF]

Prior to this we had been on target for a six hour ascent time despite taking it
easy and stopping for minor photo shoots… Oh hum, after a protracted wait the
“fast” party cleared the Eastern Traverse. Game on again. Adrian blasted up to
the Eastern Traverse’s starting point and established a belay. I led round the
Eastern Traverse and soon caught up to Team Speedy at the exit chimney. I
quickly belayed Adrian up after Team Light Speed had cleared the area. Gear was
exchanged and Adrian led out of the exit chimney which included a very
committing pull on a single axe placement; with the required commitment and
skill Adrian pulled up and off he went. When I followed the stiff pull still
felt committing as a second. Good lead Adrian.

After joining Adrian at the belay my heart sank, Speedy Gonzales and co were
huddled together in Tower Gap, by the looks of it they were having a moment or
maybe an hour! Getting impatient I sauntered down to Tower Gap just as the
leader got the nerve to exit the gap. At last the leader set his belay up and
the second then spent about 30 minutes making an easy bit of climbing look like
a grade VII epic. Getting even more impatient, I loudly mumbled “for fudge cakes
sake how hard can it be” or words to that effect. In the end I climbed down in
to the gap to give a hint to the Frank Spencer of the winter climbing world. As
I set our belay up dithering second was still in the Gap, scratching his way to
sanctuary. In the end he managed his escape. God only knows how.

Adrian was soon in the gap and we again switched gear putting Adrian in the lead
for the exit, which he quickly and competently dispatched. He swarmed up the
slope to the final levelling and belayed me up to join him. Then we moved
together up the final rise to summit at almost 18:00hrs exactly. Right on queue
the clouds descended and we had to navigate off the plateau the traditional way.
Not bad as I had budgeted up to 10 hours for an ascent and it had taken us 7 ½
to 8 hours to do.

Adrian worked out a bearing and a guesstimate pacing to get us onto the exit
bearing from our position and, wow, within a pace or two we landed bang on top
of one of the summit cairns, from here navigation was quite straight forward. We
decided to walk straight to the youth hostel; Norman would give Adrian a lift
back to car park the following morning to collect his car.

We arrived back to the hostel at about 21:15hrs. Norman’s friend Gill had cooked
a stir fry for us which down rather well with some single malt and red wine.

I will never let a party pass me again on a winter route, if they get held up
tough luck. They have a few options: get fitter; get up earlier to beat me to
the route or pick another route altogether. Letting the group through added an
extra two hours to our summit time.

However, on a brighter note the route was truly epic on an Alpine scale. We had
great conditions, weather, views and we climbed well together. This was one of,
if not the, best climbing experiences I’ve had. Also this was the first “big”
winter/Alpine style routes either of us had done without a guide, so the sense
of achievement was immense. This day will live us with for a long time.

Bring that glass of single malt on and a goodly portion of haggis, neeps and
tatties from The Clachaig Inn if you get down in time, which unfortunately we

Ben Nevis across Observatory Gully
Looking across Observatory gully to where the big boys play.
Probably it’s the Orion Face where a party are nearing the top.


Mountaineering Council of Scotland
Ben Nevis Navigation:

– Sunset








11h 10m 07s




11h 14m 46s




11h 19m 25s




11h 24m 04s




11h 28m 43s




11h 33m 23s




11h 38m 03s

Guide Books:

Richardson. S., Hudson. M., (2002), Ben Nevis – Rock & Ice Climbs,
Scottish Mountaineering trust.

Nesbet. A., Anderson. R., (2006), Scottish Winter Climbs, Scottish
Mountaineering trust.


O.S. 1:50,000 Sheet: 41

O.S. 1:25,000 Explorer: 392

Harvey’s Superwalker: Ben Nevis

Harvey Ben Nevis Summit: 1:12,500 scale (useful for showing the
summit area)

Sources and recommended reading:

Wilson. K., (2007), Classic Rock, Batan Wicks, London.

Gresham. N., Parnell. I., (2009), Winter Climbing, Rockfax

Barton. B., Wright. B., (2000), A Chance in a Million – Scottish
Avalanches, Scottish Mountaineering trust.

Daffern, T., (2002), Avalanche Safety, Batan Wicks, London.

Twight. M., Martin. H., (1999), Extreme Alpinism, Climbing Light Fast &
High, The Mountaineers, Seattle.

Early season grit and determination

Martin Stevens – May 2010

Friday April 16-Monday April 19 2010.

Friday morning started far too early with a 6am departure heading for the Peak
District. Adrian drove non-stop to Hardhurst Farm. Mist on the A14 gave way to
pleasant sunshine in the Hope Valley and to let the day warm up we chose to
pitch tents and brew tea. With impeccable timing Andy and Dan arrived. Text
instructions to Dave were, ‘look for the four Vaude tents in a row and we’ll see
you at Bamford’.

Before long the happy team of five were enjoying the delights of Bamford’s rough
grit. I have recollections of a fine ‘first of the season’ lead of ‘Ammo’ by
Dave, being pleased with a solo of ‘Sunnyside’ and a roped ascent of
‘Moglichkeit’, of seeing Dan committing to horizontal contortions on ‘Adjacent
Slab (Direct)’ before slinking off onto ‘Hypotenuse’ to circumvent the
problematic crux and of the sheer pleasure of being outside on gently warm
gritstone in superb conditions. Andy & Dan later talked of ‘Green Parrot’,
‘Vertigo’, a couple of instances of ‘leader discretion’, ‘Bamford Rib’ and ‘Twin

Making a full day we walked away about 7.30 and got back to the campsite to meet
Martin H. and Guy who’d had limestone adventures at Wildcat, including ascents
of ‘Golden Yardstick’ and ‘Nine Lives Wall’. Ian turned up having travelled by
train and Bob made his own way from parts northern.

A cold night, certainly frosty and a reported -3C.

Saturday promised good things weather-wise, and apart from a gentle wind blowing
chill air from the north it didn’t fail to deliver. We all headed for Burbage
North and started out at ‘The End’ and gently worked our way back towards the
bridge. Perhaps it was the weather or something in the water but there was an
outbreak of easy soloing on the amiable blocks and slabs before ropes (and in
many cases helmets too) were produced. The winter had taken its toll, despite in
many cases plenty of wall sessions and there was more than one or two slips but
all minor and uneventful and in a couple of cases I understand shrewd
mountaineering judgement (and a certain amount of cowardice disguised as such)
was employed in deciding not to continue with some lines. The winter too had
taken its toll on some kit – one does kind of expect the lobes of a cam to move
when the trigger is pulled rather than a mere flexing of the cam stem. Being in
extremis at the time didn’t help the quality of the language used to express
displeasure at this state of affairs.

Good ascents of ‘Rose Flake’ (mixed degrees of success here [Ignominious
retreat in my case – Adrian]
) and ‘Greeny Crack’ (some ascents less
incident-free than others, I’m told), ‘Long Tall Sally’, ‘The Fin’, ‘Amazon
Crack’, the ‘Studio’ climbs, ‘April Fool’, ‘Wobblestone Crack’ (a tricksy,
slippery early foothold caused some consternation), ‘The Be All’ and the
splendid ‘Brook’s Layback’ amongst routes attempted. [I thought it would be
good to try latter route in big boots. Floundering is the apposite word – Adrian

Another late finish for some – others made it to the café before closing.

Sunday started cloudy but with the sun valiantly trying to break through after a
warmer, due to the cloud-cover, night.

Complex packing and gear options as decisions were made as some planned to stay
until Monday and send excess kit home with those planning on returning that
evening but eventually cars were loaded and the teams scattered to varying
crags. Adrian and Dave took Ian under their wing as, ‘it was time he learnt to
lead’ and headed to Birchen along with Bob and myself. Andy & Dan headed to
Stanage for a visit to Stanage End, taking on ‘Crab Crawl’, ‘Cripple Crack’,
‘Marble Arete’, ‘Old Salt’and ‘Cosmic Crack, their day highlighted by
‘Steamin”. Martin H. & Guy headed off to Ravensdale, where, once having found a
parking spot (why do 4×4’s need three parking spaces?), they managed ascents of
‘Conclusor’, ‘Mealystopheles’ and ‘Impendent’ (accurately described as
“gritstone jamming on limestone”).

Bob and I managed an easy day with ascents of ‘Sail Chimney’, ‘Trafalgar Wall’,
‘Emma’s Dilemma’ and ‘Victory Crack’ before Bob headed homewards. Joining forces
with Dave he and I managed ‘The Prow’, ‘Tars Wall’, ‘Stokers Hole’, ‘Emma’s
Delusion’ and ‘Promenade Direct’ and saw Adrian do very well on ‘Barbette
Buttress’ before he & Ian headed home, Ian having popped his leader cherry with
‘Yo-Ho Crack’ and ‘Tar’s Arete’.

We made the most of the day and managed bit of crag-swag too. So well did we
manage to make the most of the day we managed to miss last food orders at the
Travellers Rest by a mere 2 1/2 hours! Andy, Dan & Guy managed to find an Indian
dining experience of some note in Hope – a mix of fine linen and plastic cutlery
with construction site ambience was reported.

A rainy night didn’t auger well for Monday and three full days of climbing had
taken its toll. Overnight rain and a damp, grey start to the day, with a
corresponding lack of enthusiasm saw us slow to get started. A café breakfast
was followed by loading kit for four, and four people into Andy’s car.
‘Gear-shop (Direct)’ was followed by ‘Tea & Cake’ and an easy journey home.

Many thanks to Andy for organising and to him and the others for a grand weekend
and an excellent start to my 2010 season.

Thanks also to those who contributed detail and corrections and who otherwise
assisted in the cobbling together of this article.

Adventures In The Cold

Work starts on the new IMC climbing dictionary

Jeremy Hall – March 2010

I would like to start by defining a few terms which we are all guilty sometimes of taking for granted.

ice: noun frozen water, a brittle transparent crystalline solid (Oxford English Dictionary Ninth Edition)

climbing: present participle verb to climb ascend, mount, to go up, especially using one’s hands (Oxford English Dictionary Ninth Edition)

ice climbing: Lord into thy tender care I commit myself, especially using one’s axes (English Common Prayer Book, King James 1 edition)

This definition of ice climbing only occurred to me retrospectively when I was already safely back at Wythmoor Farm tucking into a king prawn boona with friends and loved ones, (well Steve, Martin, Eddie, Phil, Maddy, Al, Annie and Tom). Nevertheless, I confess that the Good Lord had not been far from my thoughts a few hours earlier amidst a fumble of gloves, axes, loops and gear high on the frozen wastes of Blea Water Crag.

“Will this runner never go in? Please go in Mr Runner. You are very small and could easily fit neatly into this teeny- weeny crack.” Fumble, fumble. “For God’s sake get in there you horrible little………!” Far below a lonely ice screw winked, next stop oblivion.

How did I get so high so quickly? Ah, that is how it is on the beautiful frozen Blea Water waterfall this Saturday morning in late February.

Why have I gone left and not right as I should have, this Saturday morning in late February on the menacing frozen Blea Water Waterfall? Ah, that’s because you are stupid and now you have to traverse and have you ever traversed before on a grade iii/iv ice climb? Well, no actually.

Have you ever been ice climbing before? Well, er, hum, no.

Then you will need to use all your experience of leading multi-pitch rock climbing. Won’t you? Yes, well, good idea, only, this is actually my first ever lead in a multi-pitch. Of any kind.

I turned to my last remaining hope- poetry;

The grim Reaper’s icy sickle
It is upon my brow.
The nut will not go in the rock
And I do not know how.


What is that upon my brow
The Reaper’s icy sickle?
The nut will not go in the rock
And I am in a pickle

Either way it worked and before long Steve was beside me making the belay position just that little bit extra safe and Martin was once more singing to Eddie.

A 200m, five pitch ice climb on the north east face of the crag. There’s so much more to tell. Steve’s bravery. Eddie’s steadfastness, Martin’s calm re-assurance. But I had better go and do some work.

One last thought. In the BMC Summit 57 spring edition it was reported that at the recent Kendal Mountaineering Festival, Alain ‘the human spider’ Robert, the Frenchman famous for solo climbing skyscrapers was asked what was the most shocking thing he had ever seen happening inside one of the many buildings he’d climbed.

“I once saw something absolutely horrible through one of the windows,” he said. “It was a bunch of people sitting in front of their computers having a boring life.”

As I say, back to work.

The Lakes in Winter

Two IMC trips to the lakes

Part 1: January

Several groups headed north: Adrian, Eddie, and Sheila travelled in the morning
and did Striding Edge on Friday; David Coupe who organised it turned up that
night with Lafi, Mike and partner.

I went with Steve C and John Buchan on the Friday. Our adventure started on the
Thursday night since John was detained (wind turbine work) off the Essex coast.
We finally left about 8.30pm, but being late meant that we wouldn’t make the
camping barn until it was locked up, so we threw in a couple of tents and warmer
sleeping bags. We expected heavy rain in the NW later, so the prospects didn’t
look very inviting, but we phoned the barn on the way up and thankfully they
agreed to leave our ‘dorm’ unlocked. We finally arrived at Sykeside camping
barn, just below the Kirkstone Pass on the North side close to Brothers Water,
at about 1pm.

As the forecast predicted the weather on Friday looked good. Not quite cold
enough for Steve and John to head off in search of ice, so we decided to have a
go at Pinnacle Ridge on St Sunday Crag, conveniently very close.

St Sunday Crag
The group of three on the skyline are almost certainly Phil and party descending.
Taken on the way down from Strididing Edge on the same day.

To get to the start involves a walk up Grisedale, a steep walk up the NW side
below St Sunday Crag, and then traversing along below the crag to find the
start. This required crossing, and sometimes avoiding, several thawing and dodgy
looking steep snow slopes, which if slid away could dump you at high speed
amongst piles of boulders at the bottom. We should have heeded a guide-book
remark: ‘Unless you already know what you’re looking (and even if you do
frankly), it’s hard to discern the correct line of Pinnacle Ridge among the
jumble of buttresses and gullies overhead’
. So having traversed below the jumble
too far and then having to come back, we finally agreed that we must be at the
start since there did appear to be some of landmarks of the route above. Once
ascending the route and looking back you realise that the easiest way to
identify the start is to look directly across the valley where there is a
distinctive sheepfold at the bottom near a junction with (marked in the 1:25000
map) Nethermostcove Beck, from which you could even take a bearing.

Then it was climbing up heaps of flakes and blocks (the 1:40000 Harvey/BMC map
has a simple geological map on the back which shows that these are Andesite
lavas and sills). We got the rope out for the crux, the steep left wall of a
recess. This was followed by the pinnacled crest, often exposed on either side
and with great views. A final short snow slope led to the summit ridge of St
Sunday Crag (this slope avalanched about a month later and swept two climbers
down 750 ft, suffering serious injuries. See Grough Article,
so it looks like our caution on the lower slopes was justified). From there it
was a simple walk down the ridge in the evening sun.

The weather held on the Saturday, and Steve’s suggestion was for some gill
scrambling. Conveniently nearby is Link Cove Gill at the head of Deepdale, a
grade 3 with *** for quality, ‘one of the Lake District’s most entertaining
gills’. So it was waterproofs and harnesses on in case needed. In these
conditions it was best described as a ‘mixed route’ – rock, snow, water,
vegetation… Great fun.

After a bite for lunch we finished by scrambling up Greenhow End above, and on to
the east end of Fairfield, with a fair depth of snow on the top. On the col
between Hart Crag and Dove Crag in the far southern distance the clouds parted
to let through a shaft of sunlight to shine on a straight ribbon lake that we
were seeing directly along its length. Although surprised, I guessed it must
have been Coniston, which the map later confirmed. We could also see the end of
Windermere to the SE (I wonder what is the maximum number of the lakes – not
tarns – one can see from any one point? It must be at least 3, since surely one
can see Derwent, Bassenthwaite and Thirlmere from Skiddaw?)

The descent via Dovedale was entertaining, our feet breaking through and sliding
down deep or steep areas of thawing snow. And I’m sure that it was a beautiful
and impressive tree-sized juniper that we passed, although Steve was not

By the Sunday my heels were trashed, as John put it. Resurrecting my old stiff
leather boots for feet that I hadn’t used for years on feet that hadn’t even
been in a boot for many months was always going to be risky. So Steve and John
went off to do a v.diff in Langdale (Scout Crag?) whilst I relaxed in Ambleside.
But in any case we all had a great 3 days.

Part 2: February

Thanks to Maddy and Al had for arranging this trip, staying at Wythmoor Farm
Camping Barn near Kendal. Those who also went were Steve, Jeremy with daughter
Annie and partner Tom, Martin H and Eddie, but unfortunately John, Suzanne, and
Thomas had to drop out.

The weather forecast looked good for the Friday as well, so Eddie and I had
decided to travel early, and Martin H joined to drive us, leaving at 5am from

We got to the Lakes late morning. Martin suggested Blencathra to get high quickly
and survey the extent of the snow, so we bypassed the bunkhouse and carried on
the M6 North to leave it at Penrith, and started walking at noon. The route that
we took was Hall’s Fell, the most direct South facing ridge to the top. Quotes:
‘Hall’s Fell that ends well’ (Martin) and ‘Halls makes you breathe more easily’
(Phil). We reached the snow at 500m or so and followed the rocky crest of the
ridge, only putting on crampons less than 100m from the top, where we had fine
views to the South and West. Even at this distance Derwentwater appeared to me
to have signs of ice on the surface, but I could not convince Martin. The route
we took later to the bunkhouse passed Thirlmere which was frozen for most of its
length. Strong evidence! Not really surprising since it had been so cold now
since late December.

The accommodation was a recently converted barn with a very large and high main
room, with the sleeping areas arranged as two raised balcony/platforms at the
sides, and a few settees and a table under one side that constituted ‘the
lounge’. At the back was a large kitchen area. The under-floor heating was
driven by a ground source heat pump. Considering the outside temperature and the
height of the barn, it worked quite well, but you could not sit still
comfortably for long periods. When we arrived it was about 9° C., and by the
time we left it had risen to a balmy 13 degrees!

Saturday morning was bright and very cold, so it was fairly certain that there
would be some ice to be had. Martin had his eye on a gill above Bea Water at the
head of the Haweswater valley; Steve and Eddie were keen and Jeremy persuaded!
There were many other possibilities there for the rest of us, so after a few
hasty fittings and repairs to some old spare crampons that Martin had brought,
we all headed there, a short drive up the M6 followed by minor roads to the end
of Haweswater, along which to its SE side the road was dodgy in places due to

Whilst the gill gang of 4 headed for Bea Water Gill, I led the others over a
horseshoe route, up the long ridge over Rough and Riggindale Crags, High Street,
Mardale Ill Bell, Harter Fell and back down from Gatescarth Pass.

The gill gang didn’t appear by 5pm, it was clouding in, and there was no phone
signal, so we left a note on their car and headed out of the reservoir valley,
also trying from the landline at the Haweswater Hotel, and finally making
contact once we had left the valley. Steve and Jeremy had got down first but
Martin and Eddie were some way behind. They topped out at 6pm, so had an
interesting walk down in the dark. Their full illustrated story was shown at the
IMC slide show in March.

Overnight there was some snow. On Sunday Jeremy, who had had plenty of excitement
the day before, headed home with his daughter (who had hurt her back) and
partner, whilst the rest of us headed for Langdale with our sights on Jack’s
Rake (grade 1 in summer). The roads were very slippery from the camping barn to
Kendal (I don’t think that frequent expletives from Martin who was driving were
a reference to cow dung on the road), and it started to snow more heavily. But
the outlook suggested it would ease off so we headed on up from the Dungeon Gill
Hotel, donning harnesses and crampons at the base of the Rake. Although the snow
had stopped (and no wind) it plastered the Rake, quite deep in some places, and
higher up it looked like icing sugar had dusted the boulders. Stiffened muscles
from yesterday were well stretched and a rope only needed once for security. A
great wintery scramble and a fitting end to memorable weekend.

Whillans Brown Tick List

Andy’s tick list

Route Grade Crag Guidebook Page FA’ist FA Led
Bilberry Crack VS 5a Bamford Eastern Grit 86 Brown 1952
MAy35 E6 6b Bamford Eastern Grit 88 Brown 1958
Pensioner’s Bulge VS 4c Baslow, Eastern Grit 314 Whillians 1965
The Thorn HVS 5a Beeston Tor Northern Limestone 183 Brown 1954
Orpheus Wall HVS 5c Birchen Eastern Grit 339 Brown 1950
White Rose Flake VS 5a Brimham Rocks Northern England 145 Whillians 1950s
Ribbed Corner D Burbage South Eastern Grit 228 Brown 1951
Gog Arete V0 5a Burbage South Eastern Grit 226 Brown 1951
Goliath, E4 6a Burbage South Eastern Grit 231 Whillians 1958
Lethargic Arete S 4a Burbage South Eastern Grit 224 Brown 1951
Magog HVS 5b Burbage South Eastern Grit 226 Brown 1951
Emerald Crack E3 6a Chatsworth Eastern Grit 352 Brown 1957
Puppet Crack HVS 5b Chatsworth Eastern Grit 350 Brown 1951
Sentinel Crack E3 5c Chatsworth Eastern Grit 350 Whillians 1959
Angular Crack VS 4c Curbar Eastern Grit 286 Brown 1948
Avalanche Wall HVS 5a Curbar Eastern Grit 301 Brown 1950
Baron’s Wall HVS 5b Curbar Eastern Grit 298 Brown 1950s
Birthday Groove E1 5c Curbar Eastern Grit 294 Brown 1950
Deadbay Climb HVS 5a Curbar Eastern Grit 288 Whillians 1951
Deadbay Crack E1 5b Curbar Eastern Grit 288 Whillians 1952
Deadbay Groove E1 5b Curbar Eastern Grit 288 Whillians 1954
Elder Crack E2 5b Curbar Eastern Grit 302 Brown 1950
Green Crack HVS 5b Curbar Eastern Grit 304 Brown 1957
L’Horla E1 5b Curbar Eastern Grit 304 Brown 1957
Maupassant HVS 5a Curbar Eastern Grit 304 Whillians 1955
Short Slab HVS 5a Curbar Eastern Grit 286 Brown 1950
Sorrell’s Sorrow HVS 5a Curbar Eastern Grit 290 Brown 1950
Soyuz E2 5c Curbar Eastern Grit 292 Brown 1950
The Corner HVS 5b Curbar Eastern Grit 298 Brown 1955
The Left Eliminate E1 5c Curbar Eastern Grit 307 Brown 1951
The Peapod HVS 5b Curbar Eastern Grit 307 Brown 1951
The Right Eliminate E3 5c Curbar Eastern Grit 307 Brown 1951
Tree Wall HVS 5b Curbar Eastern Grit 289 Brown 1954
Two Pitch Route VS 5a Curbar Eastern Grit 292 Brown 1950
Wall Climb VS 5a Curbar Eastern Grit 298 Brown 1950
Fox-trot HVS 5a Den Lane Quarry Western Grit 286 Brown 1961
Brown’s Blunder VS Dove Dale Northern Limestone 188 Brown 1950
Pickering Ridge VS 4a Dove Dale Northern Limestone 192 Brown 1950
Pickering’s Overhang E1 5b Dove Dale Northern Limestone 192 Brown 1950s
Southern Rib HVS 5b Dove Dale Northern Limestone 188 Brown 1950s
The Groove E2 5c Dove Dale Northern Limestone 191 Brown 1950s
The White Edge E3 6a Dove Dale Northern Limestone 191 Brown 1950s
The Wong Edge E3 6a Dove Dale Northern Limestone 191 Brown/Whillans 1950s
Venery HVS 4c Dove Dale Northern Limestone 188 Brown 1950s
Hanging Crack E2 5b Dovestones Edge Western Grit 248 Brown 1957
Ace of Spades HVS 5a Dovestones Quarry Western Grit 250 Brown 1957
Tiny Tim VS 4c Dovestones Quarry Western Grit 250 Brown 1957
Beech Nut E1 5c Froggatt Eastern Grit 282 Whillians 1951
Broken Crack VS 5a Froggatt Eastern Grit 279 Brown 1948
Brown’s Eliminate E2 5b Froggatt Eastern Grit 282 Brown 1948
Cave Crack E3 5c Froggatt Eastern Grit 272 Brown 1950
Cave Wall E3 5c Froggatt Eastern Grit 272 Whillians 1958
Chequers Climb VS 4c Froggatt Eastern Grit 283 Brown 1949
Chequers Crack HVS 5c Froggatt Eastern Grit 283 Whillians 1951
Great Slab E3 5b Froggatt Eastern Grit 281 Brown 1951
Hawk’s Nest Crack VS 4c Froggatt Eastern Grit 272 Brown 1948
Heather Wall HVD 3c Froggatt Eastern Grit 274 Brown 1940s
Janker’s Crack HS 4b Froggatt Eastern Grit 283 Brown 1948
Janker’s End VS 4c Froggatt Eastern Grit 283 Brown 1948
Janker’s Groove VS 4c Froggatt Eastern Grit 283 Brown 1948
Joe’s Direct Start V2 (5c) Froggatt Eastern Grit 280 Brown 1950s
Pedestal Crack HVS 5a Froggatt Eastern Grit 282 Brown 1948
Sickle Buttress Direct VS 4c Froggatt Eastern Grit 279 Brown 1948
Skogul S 4a Froggatt Eastern Grit 273 Brown 1951
Slab Recess Direct HS 4c Froggatt Eastern Grit 280 Brown 1948
Strapiombo E1 5b Froggatt Eastern Grit 270 Whillians 1956
Sunset Slab HVS 4b Froggatt Eastern Grit 271 Brown 1948
The Big Crack E1 5b Froggatt Eastern Grit 282 Whillians 1955
Three Pebble Slab HVS 5a Froggatt Eastern Grit 276 Brown 1948
Tody’s Wall HVS 5a Froggatt Eastern Grit 274 Brown 1948
Valkyrie HVS 5a Froggatt Eastern Grit 278 Brown 1949
Central Crack HVS 5b Gardoms Eastern Grit 328 Brown 1956
Corner-crack D Gardoms Eastern Grit 322 Brown 1951
Gardom’s Unconquerable VS 4c Gardoms Eastern Grit 327 Brown 1950
Undertaker’s Buttress VS 4c Gardoms Eastern Grit 326 Brown 1951
Wall Finish VS 4c Gardoms Eastern Grit 328 Brown 1956
Whillans’ Blind Variant E1 5b Gardoms, Eastern Grit 327 Whillians 1951
Bachelor’s Climb VS 4c Hen Cloud Western Grit 101 Brown 1952
Bachelor’s Left Hand HVS 5b Hen Cloud Western Grit 101 Whillians 1950s
Bulwark E1 5b Hen Cloud Western Grit 94 Brown 1950s
Delstree HVS 5a Hen Cloud Western Grit 97 Brown 1950s
En Rapple HVS 5a Hen Cloud Western Grit 97 Brown 1961
Hen Cloud Eliminate E1 5b Hen Cloud Western Grit 100 Brown 1950s
Main Crack VS 4c Hen Cloud Western Grit 97 Brown 1950s
Reunion Crack VS 4c Hen Cloud Western Grit 97 Brown 1950s
Second’s Retreat HVS 4c Hen Cloud Western Grit 100 Brown 1952
Curving Crack VS 4c Heptonstall Quarry Northern England 54 Whillians 1961
Forked Lightning Crack E2 5c Heptonstall Quarry Northern England 55 Whillians 1961
Surform E1 5b Higgar Tor Eastern Grit 216 Brown 1958
The File VS 4c Higgar Tor Eastern Grit 216 Whillians 1956
The Rasp E2 5b Higgar Tor Eastern Grit 216 Brown 1956
Skylight VS 4c High Tor Eastern Grit 218 Brown 1957
Great North Road HVS 5a Millstone Eastern Grit 246 Brown 1957
Plexity HVS 5a Millstone Eastern Grit 239 Brown 1957
The Mall VS 4c Millstone Eastern Grit 248 Brown 1957
Brown’s Crack E2 5c Ramshaw Western Grit 110 Brown 1950s
Don’s Crack E1 E1 Ramshaw Western Grit 110 Whillians 1950s
Prostration HVS 5a Ramshaw Western Grit 110 Brown 1950s
Ramshaw Crack E4 6a Ramshaw Western Grit 113 Brown 1964
The Crank VS 4c Ramshaw Western Grit 107 Brown 1950s
Altar Crack VS 4c Rivelin Eastern Grit 69 Brown 1940s
Crack One S 4a Rivelin Eastern Grit 64 Brown 1950
Crack Two S 4a Rivelin Eastern Grit 64 Brown 1950
Ebenezer’s Staircase VD Rivelin Eastern Grit 66 Brown 1940s
Red’s Slab HS 3c Rivelin Eastern Grit 59 Brown 1952
Roof Route HVS 5b Rivelin Eastern Grit 68 Brown 1950s
The Original Route E2 5c Rivelin Eastern Grit 63 Brown 1954
Ackit HVS 5b Roaches (Lower) Western Grit 68 Whillians 1958
Choka E1 5c Roaches (Lower) Western Grit 78 Brown 1958
Crack of Gloom E1 5b Roaches (Lower) Western Grit 71 Brown 1958
Dorothy’s Dilema E1 5a Roaches (Lower) Western Grit 70 Brown 1951
Matinee HVS 5b Roaches (Lower) Western Grit 72 Brown/Whillans 1951
Rhodren HVS 5b Roaches (Lower) Western Grit 78 Brown 1958
Slippery Jim HVS 5b Roaches (Lower) Western Grit 66 Whillians 1958
Teck Crack E1 5c Roaches (Lower) Western Grit 68 Brown 1958
Joe’s Hanging CrackE3 E3 6a Roaches (Lower) Western Grit 69 Brown 1950s
The Bulger VS 4c Roaches (Lower) Western Grit 76 Brown/Whillans 1951
The Mincer HVS 5b Roaches (Lower) Western Grit 75 Brown/Whillans 1951
Valkyrie Direct HVS 5b Roaches (Lower) Western Grit 72 Brown/Whillans 1951
Aqua VS 4b Roaches (Upper) Western Grit 84 Brown 1954
Saul’s Crack HVS 5a Roaches (Upper) Western Grit 62 Brown 1947
The Sloth HVS 5a Roaches (Upper) Western Grit 89 Whillians 1954
Don’s Delight E1 5b Stanage End Eastern Grit 108 Whillians 1962
Terrazza Crack HVS 5a Stanage End Eastern Grit 108 Brown 1952
Jeepers Creepers HVS 5b Stanage High Neb Eastern Grit 120 Brown 1958
Quietus E2 5c Stanage High Neb Eastern Grit 118 Brown 1954
The Knutter HVS 5b Stanage High Neb Eastern Grit 115 Whillians 1962
Centaur E1 5c, Stanage Plantation Eastern Grit 140 Whillians 1958
Count’s Buttress E1 5c Stanage Plantation Eastern Grit 126 Brown 1950s
Crescent VS 5a, Stanage Plantation Eastern Grit 141 Whillians 1959
Esso Extra E1 5b Stanage Plantation Eastern Grit 140 Whillans 1957
Mangler E1 5c, Stanage Plantation Eastern Grit 141 Whillians 1959
Namenlos HVS 5a Stanage Plantation Eastern Grit 148 Brown 1950
Overhanging Wall HVS 5a Stanage Plantation Eastern Grit 144 Brown 1950s
The Little Unconquerable HVS 5a Stanage Plantation Eastern Grit 151 Brown 1951
The Right Unconquerable HVS 5a Stanage Plantation Eastern Grit 151 Brown 1949
Tower Crack HVS 5a Stanage Plantation Eastern Grit 140 Brown 1950s
BAW’s Crawl HVS 5a Stanage Popular Eastern Grit 155 Brown 1953
Cleft Wing VS 5b Stanage Popular Eastern Grit 154 Brown 1953
Cleft Wing Superdirect VS 4c Stanage Popular Eastern Grit 154 Brown 1958
The Dangler E2 5c Stanage Popular Eastern Grit 178 Brown 1954
The Nose VS 4c Stanage Popular Eastern Grit 158 Brown 1954
The Unprintable E1 5b Stanage Popular Eastern Grit 178 Whillians 1952
The Z Crack VS 4c Stanage Popular Eastern Grit 178 Brown 1952
Whillans’ Pendulum and Black Magic HVS 5b Stanage Popular Eastern Grit 171 Whillians 1958
Frisco Bay VS 4c Stoney Middleton Northern Limestone 46 Whillians 1952
Glory Road VS 4b Stoney Middleton Northern Limestone 47 Brown 1951
Golden Gate HVS 5a Stoney Middleton Northern Limestone 46 Brown 1950
How the Hell VS 4c Stoney Middleton Northern Limestone 43 Brown 1950
Morning Crack S Stoney Middleton Northern Limestone 43 Brown 1950
West Window Groove HVS 5a Thor’s Cave Northern Limestone 179 Brown 1950s
Knobblekerry Corner VS 4c Tintwistle Knarr Western Grit 216 Brown 1951
The Old Triangle HVS 5a Tintwistle Knarr Western Grit 214 Brown 1951
Ceiling Crack E2 5c Widdop Northern England 59 Whillians 1955
Blue Lights Crack E1 5b Wimberry Western Grit 231 Whillians 1948
Freddie\’s Finale E1 5b Wimberry Western Grit 228 Brown 1948
The Trident HVS 5a Wimberry Western Grit 230 Brown 1948

Andy’s Woodie

The OCD world of Andy’s climbing training

Andy Hansler – December 2009

First, what the heck is a woodie and how on earth can it help with climbing? A woodie is best described as a freestanding frame that facilitates a wide range of training techniques. These go beyond pull-ups which many people wrongly assume is a woodie’s primary and only function.

It is designed for tendon-friendly muscle-strengthening endurance exercises. These target the fingers, arms and back. It will work these areas in a similar way to as if the climber were on steep rock, and is therefore an ideal training medium if your aspirations are for climbing in this direction.

What it will not do is improve your footwork, unfortunately, you’ll still have to go to the rock-gym or, heaven forbid, climb real rock to achieve this.

The aim is to build up to being able to complete burns of between 4 to 10 minutes separated by 10 to 15 minute breaks. Depending on how you attack the workout session, you can work your aerobic endurance and/or gradually push your anaerobic threshold further. What this does aerobically is to increase your endurance and thusly increase the time taken before the dreaded anaerobic pump sets in. However by using this device you can hang in there once the pump sets in and see how far you can push it in a fairly safe environment, crash matting is advised. I have commandeered Caroline’s boulder mat for this purpose.

Once you start to get a feeling for just how long you can actually “hang-on” once pumped, when you’re on real rock you will see a decrease in the panic / stress that can accompany this sensation.

In short, a woodie can be used to develop endurance and strength in the upper body, especially the forearms and fingers. It is not used to develop power.


  • It is free standing, hence no need to rebuild your house (important if you are renting and prefer not incur the wrath of your landlord).
  • It is relatively cheap; you can keep the cost down by making your own wooden holds.
  • It requires only basic woodworking skills and tools.
  • It can be built well within a single weekend (ideal winter project).
  • It is relatively small so should fit into a spare room.
  • As it is in the house and not a cold garage, you are more likely to actually use it.
  • It is very versatile and can be used for a great many exercises.

Materials required:

  • Two 7-foot 4x4s; kiln dried (if you weigh less than160 pounds these can be reduced to 2x4s). These are used for the vertical supports.
  • A minimum of two pieces of ¾-inch plywood are used for the horizontal cross members. These are sized (minimum) of 8 x 42 inches, mine were longer as I was making a custom version, as opposed to the standard one that is shown in Eric Horst’s book Flash Training. It was this book that inspired me to build my own woodie.
  • Two 48-inch 2×4’s, these are attached to the vertical 4x4s to stabilise the unit.
  • Four 31-inch 2x4s. These are used to support the vertical 4x4s to the bottom stabilising beams.
  • Four 90 degree Teco (or similar) plates to secure the vertical units to the lower stabilising parts (easy) or if you are more skilled use a mortise & tenon joint with two coach bolts per side.
  • Fixings: approximately 25 3-inch drywall screws (wood-to-wood joins), 25 1.5-inch drywall screws (Teco plate to wood joins) or use coach bolts long enough to run through 4 inches of wood.
  • Finally, T-nuts and fixings.

PhotoSet on Flickr

The woodie could be made narrower to hold just a fingerboard if you’re quite pushed for space. Anyone wanting to make one who would like further advice or assistance, I’m only an email / phone call away.

Sources / Further reading:

Horst. E. J., (1996), How to Rock Climb: Flash Training, Chockstone Press

The above book is out of print but is readily available on Amazon, or mine is available for a short term loan.

Winter Training Schedule (Krug Style)

Or Why do they always have such bad years?

Pete Krug

Adrian asked for some hints for a winter training schedule to help those who are
unable to get away over the winter months. In this article we will focus on the
four main areas: strength, stamina, flexibility and coordination.

Losing strength gained over the summer is always a worry. However, this is the
easiest of all to correct. Here we present some progressive exercises. They will
take a couple of hours most nights, but the effort is well worth it. Unlike many
other training regimes there is no real reason for building in rest days. Start
with a glass of wine. If right handed, hold it in your left hand, raise to the
lips and drink. You are strengthening both arms and fingers. Repeat with a fresh
glass in your right hand. After this comes comfortably, move onto half pints
(beer, cider or wine). Finally, make the big push to pints. At this point, wine
should be moved out of the training schedule. Success in this training regime
will be seen in the development of that all-important “one-pack”.

When you are comfortable with this level of exercise, you can move onto the more
demanding exercise which combines strength and stamina. This exercise is
commonly known as Christmas shopping. Start easy, perhaps simply walking around
town on a Saturday afternoon. This will help with developing the infamous
Mountaineering plod. Imagine that instead of walking through town at everyone’s
snail pace you are actually staggering under the weight of all that ice-climbing
paraphernalia through thigh depth snow. Build to buying a few presents for …..
before finally building to presents for me…

Flexibility then comes with the fixing of Christmas decorations; although flexing
the plastic in the pre-Christmas shopping frenzy is a good start. Do not shirk
if your mother or small son asks for a decoration to be placed in an awkward
spot – use this opportunity to balance with one leg on the curtain rail and the
other smeared on a nearby wall.

Christmas day itself is a good time to start the co-ordination part of your
training. After dinner, don’t slump in front of the Queen’s speech, but put on
that Slade CD and start dancing. Get a woman to show you how to start. Stomp
first with the left foot and then with the right. Repeat. As you get confident
with these first steps, attempt to do them in time with the music whilst belting
out “Mama weer all crazee now” at the same time (assuming that is the song

Finally, climbing requires a partner and it is at this time of year that you can
build up the social skills to ensure that you are never short of a partner. A
good way to achieve this is to head to the local climbing walls on a Sunday
afternoon for a chance to gossip and make new friends. It can be worthwhile
taking a pair of rock boots and even a climbing harness to such events so that
you are clearly identifying with the climbing community.

As a postscript, perhaps someone can write a return article that explains why
people stop going away camping over the winter season.

Lundy 2009

The return to Lundy, was it still as good?

The three year wait was finally over – we were once more off to Ilfracombe, eager
with anticipation for the IMC 2009 Lundy trip. At the risk of being branded a
lazy so-and-so, I refer the reader to my article written after the 2006 trip
The Magic of Lundy.

The BIG question – would this tiny island be able to weave its spell a second

The climbing was brilliant with only a few repeats and plenty of new
cliffs/routes visited. Great Lundy adventures were had with some tough pitches
culminating in a prusik escape from a wet Hot Rod in the intermittent light
rain! Other memorable routes include Alouette (* S 4a) Shamrock (*** VS4c,4a,4c)
for the right reasons and Solitaire View (* VS 5a ma!) for the wrong reasons.

We also explored the island a bit more, including a walk up to the North Light
and right back down the east side of the island, taking time to sit and watch
the seals watching us.

The answer to the BIG question – an emphatic “Yes”. It took a little while to hit
me this visit, but I put that down to the pace of life immediately prior to the
visit rather than to the island having lost any of its Magic. Once the Magic got
me again it was just as compelling as I remembered, and by the time it came to
leave it was with the same mixture of emotions and a hankering to return before
the usual triennial anniversary.

In celebration of Harrison’s Rocks

Jeremy discoveres the joys of Soft Southern Sandstone

Let’s face it, Harrison’s Rocks isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. All the climbs are
top roped, many of the popular routes are worn smooth and it can get very busy.

But sometimes it just isn’t possible to go climbing for the entire weekend.
Sometimes the Peaks seem just a little too far away for a day. And when all you
have is a twenty five metre rope and a harness but you’ve still got to climb
something; then Harrison’s Rocks, less than two hours from Ipswich, rise up the
list of preferred locations like a cork in a bottle of champagne.

On a sunny crisp Saturday in mid October Dan, Ala and I found ourselves in the
aforementioned predicament and set off for the Rocks. And what a great day we

I think the three of us took it in the spirit of “outdoor practise” and the very
fact that it is all top roped meant that we moved quickly from climb to climb,
therein getting lots of practise.

Harrison’s Rock is soft sandstone and many of the faces are covered in a very
fine film of sand making it feel as if you have a million tiny ball bearings
beneath every hand and foot. Consequently, holds can be difficult to maintain so
balance and precision is needed if you don’t wish to find yourself sliding
slowly but surely sideways, down and eventually off.

Traversing is particularly difficult on these soft rocks and Zig Zag (4c) as the
name suggests provided a test of sideways moving skills and balance. Ala deftly
climbed to the top but Dan and I were found wanting at the first time attempt
when we both came off in slow motion.

We started the day though on Long Layback (4c), a terrific climb recommended by
Martin and my particular favourite of the day. Funnily enough it is one long
layback and definitely a climb to enjoy as a lay back, although climbable using
other (perhaps unorthodox) techniques as Dan and Ala proved.

We moved from North to South during the day and next stop was Isolated Buttress.
Yes you have guessed it. Isolated Buttress is a buttress which is isolated. It
provides about a dozen great climbs. A considerable inconvenience however of
climbing on the Buttress is the descent off it. Getting to the top, I discovered
to my horror that the buttress it is a little more isolated than it really
should be. A very large step or small to leap is required across a ravine where
a slip would probably mean certain death. Other than that the descent is fine.
In the prosaic spirit of naming at Harrison’s, I think it should be re-named the
Inconveniently Isolated Buttress Across the Ravine of Probably Certain Death.

We did two climbs on the buttress; The Isolated Buttress Climb (4b) and the
strength sapping Birchden Corner (5b). The Corner is a bulging arête with no
resting points and is a real test of endurance, a very satisfying move left just
below the top makes the effort all worthwhile.

The final highlight of the day was Unclimbed Wall (5b), which for all we know
does remain unclimbed. A sheer smooth face with few good anythings. We all got
to the top but agreed that we all took so long and spent so much time dangling
on the rope recovering strength that it couldn’t really count.

The rocks weren’t busy, the sun was shining and other climbers were friendly. We
shared ropes and luncheon with teams from London, Lithuania and Russia. All in
all a great day out. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but as far as I am concerned a
bottle of champagne for Harrison’s please.

In search of Dragons

A new member finds hazards not usually mentioned in the guidebook

I know what you’re thinking, “What’s the use of searching for dragons? All the
dragons were slain long ago, in the olden days. You won’t find any dragons now.”

Well my friend, allow me to contradict you, for I have been in the presence of
dragons and I know them to be alive and as fearsome as ever. What is more I know
where they live; on Carreg Wastad, the eastern wall of the Llanberis Pass, in a
grey, mysterious and distant land they call Eryri Cymru. (Just off the A5.)

Three of Ipswich Mountaineering Club’s elite three man teams had been assembled.
The lead team Clare, Ala and Jeremy and support teams of Phil with Adrian and
Cathy with Eddie.

The great wall of the Carreg towered above us, its top lost in a swirling mist.
The rock was dark and wet. I stretched out my arm and with my open palm touched
it and trembled. Yes, dank and cold, but something else besides; I touched
eternity. I heard the rock on my hand moan, “I have always been here and will
always remain here. The mist, the dragons, have always been here and will always
remain here. You too have always been here, waiting. Now it is your time. Go.” I
also heard another voice that day. “Come on, don’t just stand there, flake the
rope,” it was Clare.

And so with vorpal swords, nuts, cams, two 50m half ropes and a winkle picker we
set forth in search of dragons.

Clare was magnificence itself, making light where there was darkness in the
opening chimney. A right to left traverse followed, and the first pitch was

“Ah, ha. I was right, there are no dragons,” I hear you cry.

But hold my friend, for there are some things I did not tell you. You cannot just
go in search of dragons, for dragons won’t simply let themselves be found. The
dragon will choose the day and it will choose the ground on which to reveal

On this day, Sunday 5th July, the ground was a small narrow ledge on Carreg
Wastad. As we clung to the rock, huddled together there was a terrifying roar
and out of the mist emerged the beast; the mighty rib itself, hanging in the air
as if suspended by the very squall above.

Drawing breath to match fire with fire, Clare once more led on. Ala too set about
the dragon. Momentarily silhouetted , she then was over and ascending, leaving
me alone with the ancient reptile.

As behind a cloud the sun still shines, so too are brave men to faint hearts.

“Dragon, rib? Rib, dragon? You are but one! ” I cried.

So to the echo of my battle cry I went forth upon the rib of Crackstone Rib on
Carreg Wastad in the land of Eryri Cymru.