Monday, 1 August 2011

Lawrencefield Quarry

 As you approach Hathersage from Sheffield, is a little gritstone surprise hidden from view and not far from the well named Surprise View.

  Lawrencefield Quarry is part of Bole Hole quarry. Bole Hole Quarry is responsible for creating a mini population boom in the area as the mining "shanty" town of Grindleford became a home for many hoping to make money from the sale and production of grit millstones.

  The millstone industry came to a sudden halt leaving many quarries abandoned. Many of the signature peak millstones lay wayward by the paths that approach Lawrencefield from Grindleford, forgotten remnants of a once booming industry.

  All was not at a loss though because when the time came to build the Howden and Derwent Dams, the silica and feldspar composition of the millstone grit at Bole Hill had the advantage of hardening after weathering and thus was chosen by masons to be the material of choice.

  I mention the above because Bole Hole Quarry covered Padley Gorge, Yarncliff but most importantly our topic for the day, Lawrencefield.
View from the top of Great harry

  Climbing here is great fun, and it can be perfect hideout from the crowds.  To approach park at Millstone Car park just before Surprise View, cross the road and follow the path until you see the kissing gate and head down hill. An easy approach. Perfect for hot days thanks to the shelter, provided to you by Oakley Forest.

 One warning though the ants are big and the pond provides for the MIDGES!! Yep thats right I said pool. there is a little pool here, famous for swallowing up gear and stories of people plunging forth and skinny dipping to retrieve gear. (Dipping not recommended.)  On the plus side there is little wind for those cold days and easy shade for the hot.

 There is more than a handful of classic routes here, The jam-tastic Great harry VS 4C, the bold Once Pegged Wall(direct) HVS 5B or the easy Three Tree Climb HS 4b, all really good climbs, or if your feeling exceptionally bold then head out onto Suspense E2 5c.

 Another good picnic venue and a good crag to head seasonally. Just be aware of the insects and sheep this is their house.

Crag Summary

 Well sheltered and quiet with plenty of varied climbing to keep you busy, from slabs to cracks to corner jams. A very close and easy approach(with an ice cream van in the car park). Approachable on foot via either Hathersage or Grindleford. Can be quieter than Millstone and definitely more so than Stanage.


 Midges in late season and ants, BIG posturing ants. Can get hot on the back wall and gear can get lost above the pool.

& a few Pics

Shaking out , jamming up then pulling through the crux on Great Harry VS 4c.

Roadside bay, wet!

The pool in winter rain

the cracks of Once Pegged Wall

LawrenceField Quarry in winter

Nailsbane  HVD

Friday, 15 July 2011

Keeping it tight, GRIGRI 2

   There is many belay devices out there today, and the range of auto-locking devices is also growing. A belay device is pretty much necessary on any rope climb, be it sport, trad or indoors. They are all pretty cheap until you get to the premium section of the shelves in most local stores. Ever since an instance involving a rope burnt belayer, and me hitting the deck, I've always kept an auto locking one to hand.

  First it was the GriGri 1, the grip was tight and the device was heavy, we got it after realising the big weight difference between me and my fiancée(at time of writing), if I fell at any speed it instantly meant that any rope slippage was just going to escalate. This only happened once or twice before we found ourselves coughing up eighty pounds for this beast.

 After training and practice we got the hang of it, as it turns out you pretty much use it like a static belay device. Simple! Long story short, after much use it got stolen... Yep, some people decide to take what is not theirs. So a trip to the shops landed us the GriGri 2, a much smaller and lighter device was the first and obvious thing that we noticed.

 The most annoying thing was having to prise open the packaging, extremely annoying but maybe I'm to much of an oaf, so I just talked it with brute force until it came loose. A full set of instructions explain that this works just like the first one but on a wider range of rope sizes; from 8.9mm to 11mm  instead of 10mm to 11mm.  My current rope is a Beal Top Gun 2 which is 10.2 mm together with the GriGri 2 the pairing seems perfect, providing smooth 'paying out' motion with less locking then the GriGri1 when paying out slack.

  I've heard that the GriGri can cause gear to rip out due to the sudden locking of the belay; so far I haven't found this to be a problem on Trad but my belayer is pretty good at rocking in to give a softer catch anyway. Add this to a multi-pitch climb and I instantly feel safer knowing my light weight belayer can rest assured the GriGri will hold up if they we're to be pulled off their stance.

  All in all a good investment, perfect for sport, and even Trad with a good belayer. Light weight and easy to use this is definitely a step in the right direction for Petzl.

To back this up I read an article a little while ago where a climber was injured and his belayer was also hit by rock fall and knocked unconscious the item saving him was a GriGri 1.

  A few words of caution: This is not a hands free belay device and should be treated as a standard belay device. And finally this requires appropriate instruction before use it is not Newb friendly.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Up High on Stanage High Neb

High Neb Buttress
Stanage Edge Part 3: High Neb

 High above the fields of bracken and beneath the wings of gliding birds of prey, stands High Neb Buttress the Highest point of Stanage Edge, here lies a sea of scattered millstones, regular Nesting restrictions and my first outdoor experience.

A quieter part of the edge in comparison to the rest and a longer walk in, Coincidence, I suspect not.  But due to it's exposure and altitude this is also quick drying, which is good as the main 'Tick' here ,High Neb Buttress VS 4c, is a classic grit slab with a little of everything.

  As with all of Stanage there is classics here at all grades. Approach from Dennis Knoll and either follow the causeway to the top or take the short-cut over the fence(Don't do this in spring). Once on the rock rack up and enjoy, as stated early High Neb is a must but why not give the overhanging Jeepers Creepers E1 5b a try. Or go for something easier like Cave Buttress S4a. Norse Corner Hs 4c is also an enjoyable corner to bridge and work you way up.

  There is a lot of grit here and less polish than most all in all making a fun day out , getting up to 20 meters is good fun  but as you start higher already it makes  the journey that little bit more satisfying.

There is more Crag at the even quieter Stanage North but as yet I'm still to make it there.

  Crag Summary
Quick drying and quieter this can be great location for a day of ticking off some classics.


 Seasonal nesting can make the approach long and the wind that dries the rock can get pretty strong up here. The car park also gets full pretty quick due to it's small size.

A few pic's

The Saddler on Norse Corner Climb

Jeepers creepers E1 5b

The Approach

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Planting roots and getting boulders.

Goliath's Groove HVS 5a
STANAGE EDGE part 2: the plantation.

  Stanage Plantation has been popular for a long time, especially for it's bouldering dating back to the first recorded ascents in 1976 right up to modern test pieces, like the ever popular Bard Pit.
 Recognisable from a distance by the tree line that hides the boulders from those that approach from Stanage Popular, and best approached from the Plantaion car park(tea and cake available here). Follow the bath from here and it's a short uphill walk to the boulders and a scramble to routes that over look the Pebble below.

  The boulders can be busy on weekends so bring a rope and try some single pitch routes, you will find this crag can be quieter than the popular side.... Marginally.

looking down Hollybush Gully Right

  If you do find yourself here to lay siege to the walls of grit then there is more grit classics here like the bold Goliath's Groove first ascended by Pete Harding in 1947, and for a HVS 5a, it still stumps the best of us(I have fallen off the bottom a few times now). Here you also find Holly-bush Gully Right and although the holly bush is now gone this route can make a perfect first lead on grit, a lovely warm up with a little traversing, opportunities to jam and even a slab inside the gully.

one stuck Danny
 I can recommend against any grit Chimney though after my experience on Helfenstiens struggle only VDIFF, and only possible for the skinny. With so many climbs here to try there is no need to waste you time, and if you do get bored there's  always the beck and call of them boulders like Not to be taken away (v4).

 One of the climbs here to be found on my wish list Tower Face Direct, E2 5b, hopefully my first lead. it was an amazing second and very bold, I will have to wait for my next visit for that one.

 As with any piece of Stanage I could list route after route and tell you tall tales to go with them but instead here a couple of pictures... none of bouldering yet though I will update when I finally have some.

Crag Summary

Easy access with lots to do.Dedicated car park with coffee stand . Lots of classic routes from 8meters to 20 meters.

 Some minor scrambling required for access to Trad routes. Can get busy particularly on the boulders.

A few Pics

Dave seconding Chris's ascent of Tower Face Direct
For epic scale..Stanage plantation is the wall to the left the Woods

A few of the lads bouldering

moments before I found out i wouldn't fit through that hole

Jenny Top roping  Hollybush Gully Right (First ever outdoor climb)

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Oh Great & Popular Stanage

Rich, on Mississippi Buttress, on a quite day.

  Stanage; the grit heaven of the eastern peaks. It doesn't really need much of an introduction, tales can be overheard in any local pub around the peak district, tales of friendships and success, of messages of loss and defeat.

 Due to the colossal length (4 miles of crag in total )and the huge history behind the single pitch crag of all single pitch crags, I will have to review section by section. Lets begin at the most popular end.... Stanage Popular.

 The popular end is aptly named for you will seldom climb alone, but with so many routes you can never walk far before finding a route to ascend.

  With an easy approach and designated free parking, the car park can fill up quick. I recommend setting off up early and parking up while everyone else is having breakfast in Hathersage. Failing that walk in from either Plantation car park or even the long walk from Hathersage (about 25 minutes). The wind can be brutal over the top but the local forecast is generally accurate. One bonus, Grit has so much  grip you can climb it wet.

  Millstone Grit has a long and full climbing History dating back to the 1890's when land owners restricted access to pioneering rock climbers, who had been known to bribe gamekeepers with barrels of beer or simply sneak through the Grouse hunting grounds to get in a route.

The Popular Section but Officially the whole crag spans six kilo-meters
  However after the war climbing really picked up due to the opening of access to the land, this gave way to such Legendary figures as Joe Brown (CBE). Later in years the like of Johnny Dawes have also set many routes here inspiring further generations to come along and test their metal.

  If you find yourself in the region then a trip here cannot be missed if not for the climbing then at least for the epic vista's, which at times can be breathtaking. New to the area? Make your start at Outside Café in Hathersage, there will be plenty of help and fellow climbers to join in with your day.

 The rock itself is a porous sedimentary rock and it's friction has helped Englishmen from the early days to current times. Originally it was used to grind flour, mash wood into a pulp or sharpen blades. The Gritstone has provided friction for many uses and today it's as if climbing shoes were designed for this rock. It's failings lay beneath the crust, it is soft and brittle, once the surface is scratched, damaged or simply worn, the rock can polish quickly.

 There is so much Classic grit climbing here at all levels from bold slopping holds on slabs,like Hargreaves Original Vs4c,  to overhanging jamming routes like Flying Buttress Direct E1 5b.  There is just so much to do here that on this section of the crag alone I don't think I will ever achieve it all. The routes can be polished in this area particularly on low grade classics. Yet with climbs like Bishops Route; only S4a yet full of variation in moves and styles of rock this climb can be done over and over again, each time finding a new move to get myself up there.

  Looking for something a little harder then try your hand at Mississippi Buttress VS 4c, don't forget to look behind you for foot holds, A great classic route a jug-tastic holds not common on grit follow by great value hand jamming and awkward moves around the bulge(crux).

 Once again there is so much climbing here that you can never run out, the only downside would be if you had the need to get high... The crags here range from 8m to 25 meters tops but they are all packed with value.  The only other possible downside can also be the crowds and lack of parking on busy days. Even on hot days bring a wind proof jacket belaying on top can get breezy.... Typical England really.

Crag Summary                                                                 & A Few Pic's  
The view from a top out on Stanage
 Hundreds of classic climbs and easy access by bus/train or car, lots of other climbers for the sociable climber. Easy route finding and lots of variety. Great Country views and an epic feel to the whole surrounding.

 Can be busy and with limited parking and the cow bell sound of hex's clanging. Climbs can be polished and rounded. Climbs are short and many require faith in friction. Can be covered in restriction around nesting season, climbing on these routes may affect overall access so please read signs and check BMC if unsure.
A distant Richard belaying Imogen on Flying Buttress HVDiff

Taking a pause on Hargreaves Original

Richard starting on Inverted V

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Wildcat Crag (Matlock Bath)

"S#'t, oh f#'k, arrrgggg, YES!"

 Struggle, followed by triumph, echoing from the lungs of an unknown climber on the route to my right.... "What route is that, hows it going?" I called across.
 "Juggy, well protected and damn exposed, I'm on Golden yardstick, it's amazing, " he panted " and it is definitely 5A."

  It was a great sunny day on Matlock, we had approached via bus from Nottingham, after an hour and a half from leaving home, and were half way up our first climb Lynx, 46m HS 4b. Possibly one of the best at the grade and so far one of my favourite climbs on the crag. Upon hearing the climber to my left and talking at the top I decided it was time to share with the world a "Wild Cat Review".

Wild Cat crag as seen from the foot bridge in lush green summer.

  Wildcat is one of my closest major crags, with really easy access due to a direct bus or train from Nottingham and Derby. One warning for sunny weekends has to be, be careful not to get stuck at the Cromford junction this can easily add 30 minutes on to your journey if you time it wrong.

  Matlock bath itself is full of bikers and sport-vest-top-wearing types taking their children for a day out. Thankfully this leads to lots of ice cream and fish and chips. If you do get peckish prior to or after climbing then scope out the 800 BC coffee house.

  Wild cat itself is a great crag. To reach it just take the most southern bridge across the river and turn right following the first steps up the crag until you see the dwarf sized arch signifying the entrance. Crawl through the arch and into the home of low to mid grade limestone heaven.

This is a high limestone crag and if something falls its coming with speed. Due to a lack of rock cragging traffic this crag has a tendency to be green and the less popular routes tend to be green and chossy(with loose rock).  However I have found that if you find a loose section of rock these can usually be avoided.

 The two main buttress's here are High crag and coyote buttress(other lesser ones are off to the sides).
  Some of the best limestone routes in the lower grades are here, with summer belaying shaded by the trees and mostly sheltered from the wind. Once on the wall climbing on this white rock can get hot come with plenty of water and cool clothing.

 Most climbing here is on average two pitches with great variation in rock textures from smooth to even a couple of pitted dolomitic style finger pockets, even sections of rough flint and sparking quartz.

 One of the best first routes here is Cat's Eye, a perfect start to any day(I've lead it three times now), with one of Wild Cats many unique cave belays (perfect for hiding from the sun or rain). The climb has a harder start and a really easy finish with great views of the river Derwent.

 After this head to High crag for Lynx, possibly one of the best limestone leads at HS 4b, with a tree belay in the shade at mid height, and a great photo position for "golden yardstick".  Lynx is a 46m route with a simple traverse and a great variation of rock. Beware of choss top of first pitch but all holds are either side of the choss.

  Golden yardstick is definitely on my tick list for my next visit and so are many more, but for now I can only sit and day dream about the climbs in my future.


View from near the top of Cats Eye
 Wildcat is a great introduction to multi-pitch limestone routes with lots of good routes, access via public transport is easy and with so many food and snack shops (800 BC especially) you wont go hungry. Great exposure and good climbing this crag is fun and full of variety.

 Lack of traffic has caused some routes to become lost and could do with a clean up to remove brambles and choss from routes. A little humming of motorbikes can be annoying but it is very easy to forget about when your on the rock. The down is long and there is only one. do not cross the right hand wall this is Illegal and the people that own the ground don't like trespassers.

A couple more pics.
Dennis Leading the 3c second pitch on Cat's eye
The second pitch of  Lynx Hs 4b, Lead by Dr Dennis.

Ahhh Shade.
Jenny approaching pitch 2

Monday, 4 July 2011

Hey rope drag. where are you?

 Friction, our climbing friend. It helps our shoes stick to the wall and reduces our impact force on your  belayer.

  However for a lead climber and our rope it can be a huge strain, the friction adds resistance to our upwards motion. Imagine if every piece of placed gear on a zig-zaging route actually slowed you down; a common occurrence for single rope users like myself. This strain adds tension to the rope and not only wears the rope quicker, it also increases the impact force on that last piece of gear by a lot.
Not good if your struggling a crux with a marginal piece of gear in, pulling the rope and shouting, "Slack more slack!", just to hear "I have, pull harder".

  Some would say to buy a set of half ropes, yet there is a lighter and cheaper alternative.  THE DMM REVOLVER.

  This comes in two forms, wiregates and screwgates(there is a few other not so widely available designs), the wiregate is the most useful, so much so I went out and did Lynx (Wildcat crag, Matlock) with a 8 quickdraws upgraded with revolvers.
 Replacing the rope side of all my quickdraws with snap gates proved extremely useful, I was climbing in complete ease without any recognizable rope drag only feeling the weight of my gear on my hips.

  A couple of routes later including a few winding routes it was easy to see how much these little innovations were helping, even poorly placed gear was sticking as less rope drag meant less gear being lifted out of place.

  The locking karabiner is apparently more versatile due to doubling up as a light weight pulley. I couldn't think of myself using these to replace any other locking karabiner in my rack(for belaying or anchoring) I found them fiddly for attaching gear and only carry a couple for that day i need to haul up a bag.

 If your goal is a rope with a long life and lower rope drag, these are amazing.... However, please inform your belayer it is true that when you fall your rope and gear will now take less force, because your belayer will be fighting against it if you fall.

A happy leader on central trinity, back when I only had 2.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Harborough Rocks

  I write covered in well earned sunburn five days after a visit to Harborough rocks. 
 Enjoyable blue skies and a cool breeze blended with a view from atop buttercup covered hills of distant sail boats dotted across the Carsington reservoir and cool limestone at your back. Almost perfect if not for the drone of the brick works that all but fades into background noise as you enjoy your day.

  Peak Limestone is often talked about as Gritstones less favoured sibling, being in general smoother and more overgrown due to a lot less human traffic. The problem being more traffic equals more polished slippy routes, alternatively less traffic results in more green and in turn loose rock.

  Harborough Rocks however is very different; being atop a hill with no shade or trees results in a quick drying yet heavily weathered rock. The Limestone is dolomitic(softer magnesium based) in style with lots of holds, edges, lots of pockets and great jugs resulting in easy climbs. A perfect introduction to dolomitic limestone and a great place to practice gear placements and other techniques in a near safe environment.

  As a crag the climbs are short, ranging from 4m boulder problems to low 10m Trad routes. A perfect day out for people looking for a stress free day. Most of the lead climbing is easy ranging from Moderate to a couple of HVS 5a climbs. There is some really good climbing here and I personally found it all good clean fun.

Jennifer Leading Steeple Arête Vdiff
Harborough is a place to go with new people, to take the family, friends
or even people who "don't get climbing" to picnic or relax. There is plenty of room for kids to roam, at least compared with most crags. Let everyone else sunbath and eat the sandwiches while you climb, perfect. If it rains there is even a little cave to let them hide while you finish getting your gear.

For more information see:

Crag summary

The girls on the approach
With Harborough, you get what go for, good easy climbing with an easy less than 5 minute approach. This is not a place to go and push your grade rather a place to relax and enjoy doing what you love. Setting up anchors here is easy normally nothing more than a couple of slings needed. Great views and easy access by car and for families. a little pushchair lifting required.


A little constant noise in the background and no public transport access, one other thing I've discovered is this can be a popular crag for groups and abseiling practice due to its flat crag bases and easy anchor set ups. 

A few pics.

Me, leading Trident Eliminate HS 4B
Jamie Seconding Blinkers, VS 5a
Jenny Belaying after her lead on The Arete S4a
Placement and anchor practice
Starting early.

Jennifer placing gear on a cold January Sunday.