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

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