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Northumberland in Winter

The most popular venue in Northumberland is Bizzle Burn in the Cheviots. 

Winter climbing in Northumberland is not a new pursuit, the ice falls that form on Cheviot during extended periods of cold weather have long been an attraction to local climbers. However, following trends in other parts of the country, there has been some recent exploration of the higher crags of the area resulting in some routes of a more marginal nature. Typically, these are mixed routes requiring an extended spell of very cold temperatures to make them viable.
While this style of climbing may be acceptable on the hard rock of the Cheviot massif it will never be so on a sandstone crag, no matter how thick the build up of ice. Climbers are asked to act with a responsibility to others and to future generations If you want to use axes and crampons do it on the Cheviot crags when there is sufficient snow and ice, otherwise go to Scotland!

There is no record of the first winter ascent of the Bizzle Burn and undoubtedly there have been other exploratory, and unrecorded, climbs in the Cheviot Hills. However, most of the mixed routes described below were first climbed during a stable period of cold weather at the beginning of 2003.
Richard Pow and Rick Barnes started the ball rolling early in January by climbing the obvious, and well iced, line of Cool Alligator and several variations on the small icefalls to the left of the buttress. At the same time on the opposite side of the valley, Scottish climber Graeme Little was soloing two obvious lines on Peake's Buttress; the right-hand ridge and the central gully via an entry from the left.
This was sufficient to stir Tim Catterall into activity when he soloed seven lines on and around Peake's Buttress in one day, including variations and a direct start to the lines climbed by Little the previous month. Three days later Tim returned with Richard Pow to make the first ascent of the hard Dogs of War.


Appproaches and Access
Access to these routes is as described in the Henhole section of the Northumberland Guide except for the Bizzle Burn. For this it is better to take the left fork in the road at the community hall and ascend the valley from Dunsdale. Note that the Estate will not issue permits to drive up the valley if there is snow on the road. Away from Cheviot itself the only other decent ice might be found at Linhope Spout (NT958171). This requires a prolonged spell of cold temperatures to freeze properly and even then it is likely that the plunge pool will remain a danger to a falling leader.

The Henhole

Alt 610m

NGR NY920838
South/North Facing

Rowen Buttress
Jacob's Bladder III,3 12m
Climb the large icicle that forms to the left of Jacob's ladder in hard winters.

Henhole Wall
Cool Alligator IV,5 23m
Start as for the summer line of Alligator Crawl and follow this until it moves left at the junction with Yellow Slab. Instead, continue straight up on vertical ice to reach a series of grooves leading to the top.
To the left of this buttress several worthwhile icefalls often form and provide a variety problems and an afternoon's sport.

Peake's Buttress
The North facing buttress on the opposite side of the burn from Henhole Wall
Note: These climbs should only be attempted if the turf is hard frozen; the Turfulator also needs a build up of ice on the first wall.

Titus Torquous IV,5 54m **
1) 26m. Start 10 metres left of the central gully. Climb a rightwards slanting, steep ramp to a ledge system, traverse right into the central gully and follow this to a steep step and belay.
2) 28m. Climb the step above and follow to a constricted chimney, which slants up left. Technical moves lead to a grassy ledge. Follow the groove above to the top. The chimney represents the crux and is hard to protect unless well iced.

Turfulator IV,5 52m **
1) 24m. Start directly below the central gully. Technical climbing on ice smears and turf leads to a ledge at the bottom of the central gully. Follow the gully to a steep step and belay.
2) 28m. Climb the step and follow the gully until blocked by an overhang, make an exposed traverse right onto the crest of the buttress and follow the obvious turf line to the top.

Timmy Tiptoes IV,3 30m
Start in a recess to the right and lower down than the central gully. There is a flat grassy ledge at 3 metres. Climb up onto this using good turf. Follow steep turf to a small triangular recess. A hard move out of this leads to a turf line, which is followed rightwards and then back leftwards to a large ledge left of the pinnacle. The route can be finished here by traversing off right along the ledge or continued up the buttress behind at III,3.

College Burn
College Burn upper Falls III,2 25m
The upper fall, 100 metres higher up the burn past Henhole Crag can be climbed on either the left or right side. This is dangerous unless the plunge pool at the bottom is well frozen. In very hard winters the whole fall will form reducing the grade to II. College Burn upper falls ice slabs
There is some slabby ground on the same side of the stream as Peake's Buttress and a little below the upper falls. Several routes at Grade II can be climbed here; they vary from between 15 metres to 20 metres.
There are also some excellent icefalls that form directly left of Peake's Buttress in a hard winter, Although short they are quite steep and give interesting ice bouldering.

Bizzle Crags

Alt 550m

NGR NT895215
East Facing

Dogs of War VI,7 26m **
The route follows an impressive corner just left of the obvious undercut section in the middle of the front face. The route is both technical and strenuous. Climb the corner with increasing difficulty until below the overhang. Hard moves left lead to a ledge and a rest. The overhanging upper crack will test your belief in your own immortality, with the crux where it should be at the top in a very exposed position. The belay totally relies on the turf above the route being hard frozen. This is the only possible belay, Warthogs essential.

Bizzle Burn Waterfall II/III 22m
The waterfall lies below and to the left of the crag in a small amphitheatre, and comes in condition fairly quickly. Once past the main pitch it is worth continuing up the line of the stream to numerous small but interesting ice pitches.




Bizzle Burn





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