Tuesday, 2 October 2012


     I've visited a few of the crags in Farndale over the years but there's been much fresh development since I last climbed in the valley.  Round Crag has seen a spate of new routes and problems and two new bouldering venues have been discovered South of Oak Crag, dubbed the Duck Boulders and The Inbetweeners.

Upper Farndale from the Inbetweeners
     We bypassed the Duck Boulders and headed straight to the Inbetweeners, a great walk along good tracks and with fantastic views down into Farndale.  I have to say I was slightly underwhelmed by the actual rocks.  We wandered past a few boulders and craglets that might give some sport but the main area has a tall slabby wall to the right of steeper, more technical ground.  I got stuck into a sit-start on the left boulder that utilised a pinch and undercuts (The Pinch?).  It's one of those moves that doesn't feel possible when your sat gripping the holds getting ready to pull on but just about works if you put in the effort.  
The Inbetweeners
      With some sit starts, eliminates and a few lines left to be climbed the rock was good and solid but nothing screamed 'climb me!'.  The top-outs are apparently very slopey but I didn't get high enough to experience them.  There's a nice secluded feel and it's relatively sheltered but my verdict (until I visit the Duck Boulders) : It's a nice spot for a walk!

Info on these venues will be in an upcoming guide being produced by Betaguides.
Other info on Farndales crags available from climbonline.

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Castleton Rigg Quarries

    I was recently informed about some new additions to the climbs around Castleton Rigg.  Two quarries that I can't believe I haven't visited before.  Brown Hill is obvious from the main Blakey road (if you're looking for it) and Westerdale View is slightly hidden away in an area I thought I'd explored pretty thoroughly.  Including the main Quarry on the Rigg and Stormy Halls there's a decent amount of climbing to be had now, in a place that sees very few visitors.
Brown Hill Quarry
     At first glance Brown Hill looks a bit of a grotty hole but on closer inspection the rock on its main wall is excellent.
     There are some ok climbs that were originally done to the top and given trad grades but the good holds at 3/4 height are an obvious place to finish if doing them as boulder problems.  Although nothing sticks in my mind as particularly memorable the closeness to the road make it worth a visit.  The traverse was a bit problematic for me but it gives me a reason to revisit next time I'm passing.

Photos : Ste Phelps on Brown Hills main wall
Westerdale View
     Westerdale View faces West at the Northern end of Castleton Rigg.  Again it doesn't look incredibly inspiring due to a shatterd layer at the top but the lower moves are on good rock and offer a decent variety.  The big downward pointing flake has a great sit start beneath it, reaching out right for a slippery handjam.  Just right of this another sit start at a dodgy-feeling flake gives good sport.  Many easier problems could be worked out but there are currently only a handful of the harder ones documented.  I'm pretty weak at the moment, unable to summon the energy to top-out I didn't actually get up much today but had a decent session nevertheless.

Above : Ste Phelps at Westerdale View

Some info on these venues is currently available on UKC

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

In Search Of Emmerdale

     With a few days backpacking in the wonderful Dales on the cards a cursory glance at the OS showed a glaring omission in my Yorkshire CV.  Wharfedale cuts a huge glacial gash through the South of the national park and its upper reaches and offshoot valleys were virgin territory.  My obsession with a certain TV soap made the decision to go here even simpler, a few days relaxed wandering in an area where the hills aren't too big, there's plenty of pubs and none of the crowds of the Lakes.
     Setting off in the evening from Kettlewell we camped high on a level plateau overlooking the village, bustling with campers there for the scarecrow festival.
Above Kettlewell
     The hot sun woke us early and we wandered over the hill and down into the scenic Littondale, another characteristically flat-bottomed valley with a meandering river passing through sheep fields and meadows.  There's a lot of rock around here although lots of it above steep slopes.

360degree view of Littondale and Blue Scar (may take a few moments to load)
     Littondale used to be called Amerdale, a name that can still be seen at the confluence with the main valley and purportedly where the name Emmerdale came from.  Arncliffe lies in the heart of the valley and was the village, Beckindale, in the shows original incarnation.
The Woolpack
     It was strange to come across cattle on the high ground between Littondale and Malhamdale.  The upland limestone grasslands were historically maintained by mixed livestock grazing but the move toward sheep and commercial cattle breeds that don’t live well in upland areas have had a detrimental effect on the areas diversity.  For more info on this reintroduction check out The Limestone Country Project.
     There were no climbers at Malham but plenty of tourists.  The limestone pavement at the top of this huge crag is extensive, one of the best examples of such a feature in the UK. At the Lister Arms in the village I had one of the nicest beers I’ve ever tasted, Nutty Black brewed by Thwaites.  If you're into your ales by the way check out Dave Lozmans Taste Sensations Blog.  

Limestone pavement above Gordale
     We found shelter for the tents just above the drop down into the impressive Gordale Scar and the following morning hopped our way over the limestone pavements back in the direction of Malham Tarn to join a Roman road rising and falling all the way down to the village of Kilnsey.
Kilnsey The Crag
     Kilnsey crag was as impressive as I expected.  The overhang is massive and after a pint of the sheep we sat in its shade for a cuppa before making our way back up-valley.
     I love the freedom of carrying everything on your back and just bedding down when it gets dark.   I’ll have to make an effort to do this more often.  

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

DVD Review - Life On Hold

  'This isn’t so much man vs rock as a gritstone spooning session'
Read my full review of Life On Hold here

Monday, 16 July 2012

Stoney Wicks

     A quick trip to Stoney Wicks to take some pictures today.  Facing South East, Stoney lies higher and just East of Barkers (The Quiet Side of Scugdale, May 2012), clearly visible from the track that runs along the top of the edge, jutting out of the hillside.   The rock is fantastic, solid and harder than the rest of Scugdale.  I'd say it's a shame it isn't bigger but the height and general friendly feel of the place make it a great place to go on your own.  You're almost guaranteed solitude and the views down Raisdale into Bilsdale give a different perspective from the other crags in the dale.

Stoney Wicks - LHS
    I've visited here lots over the years, a few years ago I made a paper miniguide I titled Stoney Wicks and Beyond as many problems were unrecorded, indeed the right-hand-side of Stoney didn't even get a mention anywhere.  I wanted some new pictures to make a printable guide I can put on here but the panaramics didn't work out quite as well as I'd hoped so another visit will be needed before I can finish it.

360degree view from the RHS of Stoney

the view across to Barkers'

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Lazy Days - Park Nab

     Park Nab sits prominent on a hill above Kildale, a sandstone outcrop with a great outlook over a quiet, scenic part of the moors.  The climbs aren't very big but there's some good-looking lines here, Longbow being the obvious challenge, plainly visible from the road.  
     I had one of those days on Monday when climbing is just good fun, I spent a lot of time just lazing about in the sun enjoying the views with the crag to myself.  And on a Bank Holiday!  I did most of the easy climbs, many more than once, using the bouldering mat to cover up any pointy rocks.  Going above my comfortable bouldering height and being alone I felt it prudent to break out the helmet.
     I've been enjoying playing with Movie Maker so I took some footage trying out some different angles and playing with the fade effect which I may have over-egged a little.  It's still just a collection of climbs, missing a narrative.  Hopefully an improvement on my last vid though.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Scugdale 360

     Had a bit of time on my hands today and so I made an interactive panorama of Scugdale.
     I'm pretty chuffed with it but have put it on a separate page as it is a couple of megabytes and loads automatically.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Day's End Buttress Topo

     My first attempt at a pdf topo.  Thought it would be interesting to try and make my own little guides to some of the places I visit.  Obviously they'll never be of the same calibre as betaguides or climbonline but I enjoy stuff like this.  
     Constructive criticism is appreciated.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Quiet Side Of Scugdale

     A little video of some problems at Barkers' Crag at Scugdale, Days End Buttress and Ampitheatre Buttress.  Although close to the 'popular' end of Scuggy it's always quiet at Barkers' and it's a rarity to see anyone else there.
     Had a good day on my own today, you wouldn't normally see me with my top off but it was so hot I was absolutely dripping.  Not the best of days for climbing to be honest, all the handholds felt really slippery and insecure because of the heat.  The last problem, Tall Tales, a route I did in 2010, is my only new route at Scugdale.  I've failed to repeat it on my last few visits so was surprised today with conditions being like they were.  If your wondering why I'm in my underpants it's because my jeans just wouldn't give me the flexibility to reach the first foothold.  I failed five times with trousers on, took them off and got it first time!
     I don't take myself too seriously, all the routes are pretty easy by today's standards and I put music over the top to break the silence.

Free guides to all of Scugdales crags available from climbonline here

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Ravensdale / Stoupe Brow - East Coast Bouldering

Barry and Bervert (the boulders) looking out to Robin Hoods Bay
One of many failures
Barry - The biggest of big moors boulders

Left - Easier problems on the Little Boulder

Right - A great crack on Bervert
Steven doing a new problem on the Smugglers Block
Blue skies and good rock
     Ravensdale aka Stoupe Brow is high above the coast with a great outlook.  It's got two of the biggest boulders on the moors sat beneath a large cliff which has seen some development relatively recently.  It's also about a 2 minute walk-in/bushwhack.  Too much exercise is bad for me when it's hot and today was pretty warm.
     There were some great problems here on Bervert (the smaller boulder) but also on some of the other boulders that litter the hillside.  There were many failures for me but that only gives me a good reason to return.
     The seagulls didn't appreciate us going near the cliff today, unloading the occasional 'dirty bomb' as they tried to warn us away from their nests.  Ste managed a new line on the 'smugglers block', a short slopey lip traverse which I should have been able to do but couldn't.  The crack on the landward side of Bervert was a particular highlight, though apparently meant to be a sit-start it was great from standing.  I'm not a big fan of sit starts, most of the time they are all about strength rather than technique.  That's my excuse anyway, one of them, there's plenty more where that came from......
Photos and Video : NEClimber and Steven Phelps
A free guide to climbing at Stoupe Brow is available from climbonline here
A guide (50p) to bouldering at Stoupe Brow available from betaguides here

Monday, 21 May 2012

Back To Basics At The Stones

     The Wainstones are one of the more popular venues in North Yorkshire for climbing and bouldering.  With it's towers and the unique Sphinx there's nowhere else quite like it on the moors.  The rocks face a multitude of directions meaning it's easy to get out of the wind or find some shade and it's got a wide selection of good-sized routes across the grades all on good rock and many with decent protection.

    The crag was looking very atmospheric today with low cloud sweeping across the hills.  There were no views but there were also no other climbers.  The walk-in was cool and enjoyable, about 20 minutes from Clay Bank car park.

     I'd only led one climb this year and that hadn't gone too well.  Running through the basics and doing some easy routes was a perfect refresher, starting off with Wall and Ledge, an easy slabby scramble.  My gear placements were terrible but that wasn't too important, it's going to take a while to get anywhere near slick again.

     It was Dave's (BimbleBritain's) first day on the trad and he did well following me up Groove and Crack and so we decided to do Ling Buttress.  I had a little bit of a wobbler on the moves out of the niche, they felt much harder than I'd remembered, but fortunately it's one of the best protected routes at 'The Stones' and Dave's belaying seemed pretty good.

All in all a rather good day!

Photos : NEClimber & BimbleBritain

A free guide to climbing at the Wainstones is available here

Monday, 7 May 2012

Momentum Bouldering

     It's nice to see a grass roots business springing to life in Yorkshire in these austere times.  Gareth, the founder of Momentum Bouldering, works in his kitchen in the little village of Austwick in the Yorkshire Dales, a seemingly unlikely business premises when you consider the products he makes.  Creating a new range of chalk bags, buckets and bouldering mats, his ideas are to create top quality products, rugged and functional and using only the best materials.

Momentum was featured recently on UKClimbing.

VIDEO : Behind Every ChalkBag Lies A Story

     Having recently checked out some of Momentum's prototype mats I was incredibly impressed.  Not only were they looking and feeling great but it was good to hear about the effort that has gone into research and development, in particular using different foam types that will set them apart from many other mats.  More technical talk can be found on Momentum's Blog.

     Check out the website for their full product range :

Support Local Business!
Momentum Bouldering are also on Facebook and Twitter
A short film of Gareth falling off at Brimham whilst testing his mats is here

Friday, 20 April 2012

Return to Harborough

     Looking out of the window this morning things were looking up.  The walls of the buildings were dry but the forecast of dinner-time rain drove me with urgency back to the limestone of Harborough.

     The rock is magnesium limestone and is really well featured.  The bottoms of the routes are very polished and slippery but the rock and holds improve with height.  I don't know of any other venue quite like it with its little cave and ‘dolomitic’ pinnacles.  The outlook would be nicer but for the noisy factory right below the crag.

     It felt good to get some metres in and feel a bit of exposure, though I kept to easy stuff and didn’t go too high.

     I stayed in the Steeple Area as there were other climbers around the corner and I always feel like a show-off soloing things other people are using a rope for.  This did mean I missed out on climbing on a large part of the crag.  

     Particularly memorable were Concave Wall and Spider Chimney, this being quite an adventure for its size.  Is the top chock-stone safe?  There’s only one way to find out!