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.