Climbing Guide to Houghton Graveyard

(From Climbing in North East England by Steve Crowe Bob Bennett and Mark Turner)

Houghton Graveyard © Steve Crowe 2002
Main Wall at Houghton Graveyard © Steve Crowe

Access maps ©

OS sheet 88 NZ345505
Aspect South East 
Altitude 110m
Approach time 2 minutes

Situation and Character
The crags are found between Sunderland and Durham in a former graveyard on the north east side of Houghton le Spring adjacent to the A690 Dual Carriageway at Houghton Cut. The faces of Magnesium limestone form part of the ancient reef deposit that also surfaces at Cleadon. The climbing is situated on the best and most impressive faces, which are also the first encountered as one enters the graveyard. The rock quality on these two faces is variable, better than it looks, but it is friable and does suffer from a powdery deposit. The walls are very compact and do not run to strong features or cracks. The steep bulging nature and small fragile holds provide pumpy climbing. Most of the climbs are bolted and other lines have a lower off to enable those eliminates to be top roped. This can only be considered a local venue.

The Graveyard was originally developed as a top-roping venue. Gavin Ellis and John Boyle recorded ascents of Abiotrophy and Revenge of the Body Snatchers. Michael Gardiner and Dave Stainthorpe added Pegasus and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey. Stephen “Woody” Fleming made the only recorded ascent before the arrival of bolts in the Graveyard, with the very bold solo of Roasting the Ox. Bolts began to appear during the 1990’s. From 1996, Steve Crowe and Karin Magog added Hallowed Ground, Depression and Creative Thinking.

Houghton Graveyard © Steve Crowe 2021
Houghton Graveyard © Steve Crowe 2021

Access and Approaches
From the main roundabout below the A690 Durham to Sunderland road, exit onto the B1404 towards Seaham and take the first left turn almost immediately into Elizabeth Street. Follow this uphill to give way at a crossroads and go straight ahead. (The crag is now visible on the hill behind the allotment gardens.) Take the second street on the left and at the end, turn right into Sunderland Street. Drive up the hill to the end of the street and park at the end adjacent to Hillside farm. A path leads uphill to the old cemetery gate. Turn into this and follow a short path into the graveyard. The first crag on the left is Lower Wall whilst above and behind is the Back Wall. 

Access restrictions

The land owners wish to make it clear that they have not given permission for climbing to take place at this location. At present the land is owned by the Parochial Church Council of St Michael’s Church, with the land to be maintained by Sunderland City Council from December 2004. Groups wanting to climb at Houghton Graveyard should write to The Reverend Dr Ian Wallis at The Rectory, Dairy Lane, Houghton le Spring. 0191 584 2198. 

Climbers are reminded that this is a burial ground and are asked to be keep a low profile as relatives do still visit the cemetery to look for graves. 

Climbers are reminded that they use the crag and the in situ protection at their own risk and may be asked to leave.

Climbers at Houghton Graveyard © Steve Crowe 2021
Houghton Graveyard © Steve Crowe 2021

The Climbs
The climbs are described from left to right.

The Lower Wall
Two walls divided by a deep chimney. The left flank is a steep slab with a prominent overlap at half height whilst the main wall is a steep wall offering technical climbing up to 10 metres in height.

Houghton Graveyard Topo ©

The Left Flank

1. Hallowed Ground F6a+
The central line of this buttress. Delicate climbing leads to powerful moves across the prominent overlap and up to a lower off at half height. 3 bolts to LO.

2. Alternative F6b Top Roped
It is possible to top rope an independent line about 2m R of the bolts of Hallowed Ground from the same lower off.

About 3m to the R is the prominent chimney/gully, which separates the Left Flank from The Main Wall.

3. Bushwhacking Blues F5 **
The right edge of the Left Flank, taking care to avoid the loose rock on the arête. 3 bolts to LO.

Main Wall
Just right of the prominent chimney/gully.

4. CreativeThinking F7b+
The steep wall following a line of resin bolts immediately right of the chimney. Strictly no bridging. 5 bolts to LO.

5. Revenge of the Body Snatchers F7b+
Start 2 metres right of the chimney. Fingery climbing eventually leads to a good hold 3m below the top, hard moves lead to the top. 4 bolts to LO.

6. Abiotrophy F7c Top Rope
Climb direct until a desperate move on a small under-cling leads over the small roof. Another hard move leads to the large finishing pocket. 

7. Depression F7a+ * 
Start just right of the bush. A hard start leads to hollow jugs and bolt. Delicate moves, keeping right of the next three bolts, lead to the
lower off. 4 bolts to LO.

8. The Petzl Hangers F7b+
The line of 4 Petzl hangers just L of the curving groove lead over a bulge to a chain. 4 bolts to LO.

9. Seven Sisters F7b * 
Follow the curving groove until a long reach up and left from a small pocket leads to a good small crimp. Very thin moves may lead direct to the lower off. 3 bolts to LO.

10. Evensong F7a+
About 1m R of the curving groove is a vague R facing “corner”. Four Petzl bolts lead to a single resin bolt. It is better to LO as for Seven Sisters. 4 bolts to LO.

11. Immortalised in Stone F7a
The short well-bolted line at the right edge of the wall, just left of (or under) the Ivy. Four bolts lead up first L then back R until a very thin move gains the twin bolt lower off. (Stud and three bolts) . 4 bolts to LO.

The Back Wall ©

Back Wall
This is an impressive face up to 20 metres high. The striking crack up the left end of the face consists of soft, loose rock and is not recommended. The Back Wall is split by a vegetated corner, which is towards the right side. The shorter right-hand wall has a fine arête overlooking the prominent corner.

12. Pinning The Tail On The Donkey 6a 
The poorest recorded route. It has only been top roped and is not recommended. Start at a lower level than the other routes to the left of a small memorial plaque. Climb the wall to the left of centre to a ledge. Continue up the wall above at its steepest part trending slightly left near the top. No bolts or LO.

The following routes all start from the ledge above the crypt. Pegasus and Myrrh both start at the left end of the ledge up a shallow groove behind the tree.

13. Pegasus F6c 
A top rope problem. Start as for Myrrh below the obvious scoop. Climb up the scoop. Pass to the left of the second bolt to gain a very blunt rib. Finish straight up the wall above. Sustained. No bolts to LO.

14. Myrrh F7a+ ** 
A bold start behind the tree leads to a technical finish on small holds. Climb the shallow groove for 3m step left then follow the obvious curving scoop sweeping back right to finish direct. 5 bolts to LO.

15. Good Friday F7a+ * 
A direct start to Myrrh. Start to the left of a black bulge at the base of the crag about 5m left of the corner. Climb up the wall to the left of the bulge via a prominent pocket then join Myrrh to finish direct. Originally finished further right closer to My Little Pony. No bolts in start.

16. My Little Pony F7a+ *** 
Start just left of the foot of the vegetated gully. Climb the wall to mid-height and move left through a weakness in the wall. Move back right where thin moves lead past the penultimate bolt. 6 bolts to LO.

The next route follows the prominent arête right of the corner.

17. Roasting The Ox F6b+ ** 
Start below the corner left of the narrow wall and the prominent arête. Go up the corner until moves on the right wall can be made towards the arête. Follow the arête mainly on its left to top out (or lower off the top bolt). 6 bolts to tree.

18. The Cat Crept into the Crypt F6b+
Left of The Sepulchre on the steep slab is a prominent crack. Climb the slab just right of this. Top Rope only.

19. The Sepulchre F6b+
Start below the right hand side of the steep slab up the slope at the extreme right-hand end of Main Wall. Climb the slab left of the Ivy mass. Top rope only.

The Back Wall © Steve Crowe
The impressive Back Wall is rather hidden © Steve Crowe.

Holwick Scar

Holwick Scar  © Steve Crowe
Holwick Scar © Steve Crowe
  • OS Landranger Sheet: 92
  • Map Reference: NY902269
  • Aspect: North East
  • Altitude: 300m
  • Approach Time: 5 minutes

Situation and Character 
This splendid escarpment of igneous rock is part of the Great Whin Sill, which faces northeast across Upper Teesdale near the village of Holwick. This whole area has a high level of legal protection, and anyone damaging conservation interests is jeopardizing future access and can be punished by a large fine and/or imprisonment (on open access land it is illegal to damage or remove any plant, shrub, tree or root including crag vegetation). Through consultation with the Countryside Agency and English Nature a voluntary managed approach to climbing on Holwick Scar and a voluntary climbing exclusion to the rest of the Whin Sill in the Upper Teesdale area has been agreed.

Holwick Scar Access
A management agreement has been made between the BMC, English Nature, the Countryside Agency and Durham County Council to enable climbing on this crag after a gap of 25 years. Photo of Karin Magog climbing Right  Escalator VS 4c © Steve Crowe
Holwick Scar Access
A management agreement has been made between the BMC, English Nature, the Countryside Agency and Durham County Council to enable climbing on this crag after a gap of 25 years. Photo of Karin Magog climbing Right Escalator VS 4c © Steve Crowe

Records go back to the early 1960s and the exploits of Tony Gooding and the Yackley Mountaineering Club. The Cleveland Mountaineering Club also played a part in the development. The crag was first documented in a small guide produced by the Yackley MC, then the Rock Climbers Guide to the North of England (Pointer 1980) and more recently North of England Rock Climbs by Stewart Wilson (Cordee 1992).

Approaches and Access
The crag is approached from the small hamlet of Holwick, which is 4 miles North West of Middleton-in-Teesdale. From Middleton cross the River Tees on the B6277 going south. Take the first right which is the minor road leading to Holwick. Park considerately in the lay-by. The crags are now clearly visible one field away and dominating the scene. To reach the crag walk to the west end of the village, where at a bend in the road, a Public Bridleway leads off to the left. Follow this for a short distance to where it divides and a branch of the Public Bridleway goes up through the escarpment in the direction of Selset reservoir. 

Access Agreement Guidelines

Holwick Scar forms part of the Upper Teesdale Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the rich diversity of rare species and relict arctic-alpine plants. The site (including the Whin Sill crags) are also of European importance as recognized by designations of Special Area for Conservation and Special Protection Area. This area has a high level of legal protection, and anyone damaging conservation interests can be punished by a large fine and/or imprisonment. Through consultation with the Countryside Agency and English Nature, the BMC have produced the following guidance for climbers.

The BMC have now negotiated access guidelines (with the Countryside Agency and English Nature) for climbers. Holwick Scar forms part of the Upper Teesdale Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the rich diversity of rare species and relict arctic-alpine plants. The site (including the other Whin Sill crags) are also of European importance with Special Area for Conservation and Special Protection Area designations. This area has a high level of legal protection, and anyone damaging conservation interests can be punished by a large fine and/or imprisonment.
· Do not remove cliff vegetation this is an illegal (and punishable) offence under the Wildlife and Countryside and CRoW Acts
· Climbing is only permitted on buttresses numbered 1 to 5 (in crag pamphlet)
· Do not climb on the buttress between Great Chimney and Charlie’s Chimney (inc. these routes), or on the area under the black lines on buttress 3 (see pamphlet)
· Avoid climbing onto the large vegetated ledges
· Do not abseil from the trees
· Descend from buttresses 1, 2, and 3 down the back
When topping-out from buttresses 4 and 5 descend via the large grassy gully on the right
· When moving between buttresses stay on the obvious ‘sheep-track’
· Do not walk on ANY of the scree slopes
· Only approach the crag by the designated access point
· Follow the Countryside Code
· If you spot Ring Ouzel’s in early-mid March, call English Nature
Guidelines photo-pamphlet available at the crag.

Check the BMC RAD for the latest information.

The Strathmore Arms at Holwick closed in 2020. There is accommodation and a good campsite less than a mile down the road at Low Way Farm

The Climbs
These are described from left to right. Take note none of the grades of these climbs have been checked for over 30 years. Take care. 

Buttress One  

Descent to left.

Appetite for Construction(Route 101)  9m  HVS 5a.

Climb the corner crack adjacent to the left-hand arête. Well protected in the lower section. Care with some loose blocks at the top. 

Alan Dougherty 22.4.06

Dustbin Day Crack (Route 102)  9m  E1 5b 

Taller climbers will be able to climb the crack-line by bridging spaced flat holds on its outside. Those unable to make the reaches, or in need of a good thrutch, will find some helpful edges inside the off-width. Size 3 – 4 Friends useful.

Alan Dougherty and Maggie Ingram 25.8.06

“Route 103” has been inspected on a top-rope (Alan Dougherty 25.8.06.). The essentially unprotectable wall is lichenous and presents a sustained ?6a pitch with ?6b rock-over onto a small flake that is not above suspicion.

Buttress Two

When the CRoW Flies ? 6m E1 5b 

Line slightly left of “Route 104.” Wall right of wide crack and left of nose. Long reach to good flake/diagonal break (some pro). MOVE LEFT AT TOP TO AVOID LEDGE VEGETATION.

Guy Keating and Alan Dougherty 14.6.06.

Buttress Three 

Lichen Strikes 8m HVS 5a (Route 108) 

Straight up the well protected corner to ledge, using the thin crack at its rear and wider crack to left. DO NOT STRAY INTO THE OFF-WIDTH CRACK FURTHER LEFT WHICH IS EXCLUDED FOR CONSERVATION REASONS. The end of the pitch is well below the top of the crag and the exit directly upwards, passing a large flake, involves covering some vegetated and poorly protected but easy ground. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO TRAVERSE OFF AT THE TOP OF THE PITCH AS THIS IS ACROSS GROUND WHICH IS BOTH UNSTABLE AND OF CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Alan Dougherty 26.4.06.

Great Buttress

The first route starts 6m up the wide, grassy gully on the left-hand side of the crag.

1. “A” Chimney   15m   VD

Climb blocks in the corner until it is possible to enter the chimney proper. Straight up to a grassy ledge then trend rightwards to the top. 

Variation Finish  HS 4a

From the top of the chimney step across onto the right wall and climb over a loose spike to finish. This variation finish is not recommended in it’s current state. 

2. Spiral Staircase   18m   D

Climb “A” Chimney for 2m then follow the obvious line rightwards to a series of ledges and a tree (belay). Move down right to a platform, then into a groove (take care with loose blocks). Follow this until a traverse right leads to a short chimney and the top.

Variation: Carol’s Delightful Hand   D

A better finish. From the tree belay climb the direct line to the top. Finish up a short chimney.

Just to the right of the start of A Chimney/Spiral Stairs, an off-width crack leads to the large ledge and tree. (4c, Alan Dougherty, 11.6.06.) Left Escalator, Right Escalator and Derision Groove are good climbing on relatively clean lines. 

3. Left Escalator   24m  HS   **            

Starts 4m right of Spiral Staircase in a wide groove with a pinnacle on the right.

2m 4a   Climb the wide crack on the left of the groove to a tree belay on Spiral Staircase.

12m      Move down and right to a platform, then into a groove. Follow this until a traverse right leads to a short chimney and the top. (It may be better to finish by  Carols Delightful Hand or reverse down pitch one of Spiral Staircase).

Steve Crowe climbing Right  Escalator VS 4c © Steve Crowe 2006

4. Right Escalator   12m   VS 4c   *

Start at the foot of the wide groove. Climb the pinnacle and make an awkward step left into a groove (delicate). Finish at the tree belay on Spiral Staircase.WE Pattison & A Robson 14/07/63

5. Derision Groove   24m   VS   *

Start to the right of the pinnacle at a black groove. 

12m 5a  Climb the groove to a sentry box. Belay high in a crack on the left. 

12m      Bridge up the sentry box and pull across left on excellent holds to join Spiral Staircase.

6. Master’s Groove   26m   VS

Start at the lowest point of the buttress 2m right of Derision Groove.

11m 4b Climb easily to a grass ledge on the left. Ascend the left hand crack and move right to a big ledge and tree belay.

15m 4c Step back left above the crack and climb a steep groove. Continue up the V-groove surmounting an overhang to finish on grassy ledges.

WE Pattison & AJK Gooding 13/7/1963

7. Surprise   28m   S   *

Start at the protruding rib of the buttress 2m right of Master’s Groove.

12m      Climb the rib direct to a ledge and tree. 

16m      Move right behind the tree and make a series of awkward moves up the steep gangway to the top. 

8. Rigor Mortis   23m   VS 5b   **

Start 2m left of the obvious, deep chimney; Great Chimney. Climb a steep crack to a niche at 4m. Climb past three old pegs to an easier finish.

FFA Alan Dougherty 8.8.06

Climbers have agreed with English Nature to avoid climbing routes 9 – 14.

9. Great Chimney   23m   S    

Start at the foot of the obvious chimney. Climb this over chock-stones and move left over blocks at the top overhang to reach the top. A fine climb.

10. Cascade   25m   VS 4b

Start below a groove little more than a metre right of Great Chim­ney. Climb the groove to a resting place on the right at 6m. Swing left across the groove using a flake, the bulge above is climbed on good holds and a prominent block is passed towards the finish.

11. Strathmore Crescent   28m   S

Starts 7m right of Great Chimney just beyond a thin crack, which widens into a groove higher up. Climb diagonally leftwards up the wall for 3m then traverse left into a groove. Follow the groove to a ledge and rickety spike. Step right past the spike to another ledge. Climb the rib and groove to exit right over blocks to a grassy ledge and a tree.

12. Central Climb   28m   S

This climb finds a way up the wall between Great Chimney and another obvious chimney; Charlie’s Chimney. Climb the wall from left to right to finish on a ledge with an Ash tree.

13. Sentinel’s Stride   28m   HS

Start below the gangway, which goes up the wall to the left of the deep-cut Charlie’s Chimney.

15m 4a Climb the wall for 4m then make a delicate move up right to the gangway. Climb this into a chimney and step across onto a large, grass ledge.

13m 4a From the ledge, step back across the chimney and into a shallow groove. Move up to a horizontal crack and regain the gangway by a swing to the left. Climb over a pinnacle to the top.

14. Charlie’s Chimney   21m   VD 

Climb the obvious deep chimney. WE Pattison & A Robson & Charlie Thew 14/07/63

15. Groundhog   10m   HVS 5a

Start at the foot of Charlie’s Chimney. Climb the groove on the right wall of the chimney. Exit onto a grass ledge halfway up the chimney. Poor protection.

16. Chimney and Slab   14m   D

Start 2m right of Charlie’s Chimney below another chimney. Climb the chimney and exit right onto a slab. Climb this to a tree. The corner above is climbed to the top. This route is dirty and not recommended. The chock-stone is loose and little protection is available!

To the right the crag is at its lowest height and has a bay bounded on the left by a corner crack.

17. Interrupted Crack   21m   VS

Climb the well protected corner crack, with some difficulty, to a good ledge. Climb the continuation crack above to an awkward exit onto a slab. Finish above the tree as for Chimney and Slab.

Bishop’s Buttress

This section contains some of the best climbs on the crag. The imposing face provides greater steepness and continuity than any­where else on the crag.

18. Stroll On   23m   E2 5b   *   

Start at a little niche in the projecting corner of the buttress just to the right of interrupted Crack. Climb up and out of the niche and pull round the rib onto the wall on the right. Climb straight up for almost 5m and move back left onto a large ledge. From the right-hand end of the ledge move up a mossy wall to finish up a the corner crack. The “mossy wall,” actually well covered in lichen, constitutes the crux. It’s a fine pitch but not well protected.WE Pattison& AJK Gooding and A Robson 20/07/63

19. Thrombosis   28m   E2 5b

An exciting, strenuous and spectacular climb. Start at the little niche as for Stroll On.

5m 5a Move up and out of the niche onto the right wall. Climb this on good holds until a traverse can be made to a stance and belay in the narrow chimney; Bishop’s Chimney on the right.

13m 5a From the chimney move up and back onto the wall above the traverse line. Move up to holds, which are followed leftwards to a spike. Move up past the spike and traverse right to reach and climb the obvious, flake crack.WE Pattison, AGK Gooding 29/06/63


The original description, moving towards Bishop’s Chimney (where there is a wobbly block), then back left, on largely hidden holds, “…towards a spike” is an elegant solution to an improbable looking line. The straightened-out description, as on Steve Crowe’s topo looks as if it would involve harder climbing – three old pegs are present in the independent section – perhaps that bit was aided? The chock-stone in the final flake crack moves but seems okay.

20. Bishop’s Chimney   18m   VS 4b         

The steep, narrow chimney in the right angle of Bishop’s Buttress. (Could be excellent if it got more traffic and stayed cleaner. Not much vegetation once you get to the chimney proper, but lots of lichen including on crucial smears.)

9m        Climb the corner to a large platform at the foot of the chimney proper.

9m 4a   Climb the chimney facing right. An awkward move over chock-stones leads to the top. (Take care with a loose block at the top.)

21. Sabre Cut   12m   VS

Start 3m right of Bishop’s Chimney below a steep, narrow crack. Climb the awkward and strenuous, narrow crack. 

(“We couldn’t find this. If it’s the thin crack and wider chimney parallel to Bishops Chimney then it’s been lost to the vegetation.” Simon)


To the right of the last climbs and about 6m left of the dry stonewall, is a pinnacle, with a recess to the right of the pinnacle.

22. Straight Up   12m   VS 4c   

Climb the steep narrow crack , which runs up a corner in the left-hand side of the recess, with an energetic mix of jamming, lay-backing and bridging.  The large block which offers the obvious hand-holds for moving onto the belay ledge wobbles and requires caution.

It should be noted that routes in this vicinity require a long ascent of vegetated and poorly protected ground to reach a safe position. It might be a better alternative to descend the chimney behind the pinnacle.

Climbers have agreed with English Nature to avoid climbing routes 23 and 25.

23. Yackley Chimney   14m   D            

Start at the foot of a clean-cut chimney at the back of the recess. Climb the left wall until the chimney proper can be entered. Climb this to block belays on the left.

Various other climbs exist in the area above the drystone wall but are not recorded. Beyond the dry stonewall is a tall buttress with a climb following a series of grooves:

24. G-String Grooves    VS 4c

Climb the grooves; the first of these is prominent and smooth. 

25. Sarongster   88m   HVS 

An excellent left to right high-level girdle. Start as for Left Escalator. 

12m   4a   Climb the wide crack on the left of the groove to a tree belay on Spiral Staircase.

19m   4c   Traverse right to Derision Groove and continue past Master’s Groove to a good ledge on the arête. Make an awkward move onto Surprise and continue to a stance and belay below the roof of Great Chimney.

 6m   3c   Move out of the chimney rightwards, passing the prominent block on Cascade. Enter the groove of Strathmore Crescent and follow it to the top. Tree belay.

12m   4a   Descend the last pitch of Sentinel’s Stride to a grassy ledge and nut belay.

 9m   4a   Traverse delicately right to a tree belay on Chimney and Slab.

20m   5a   Move down and rightwards and traverse onto Stroll On to a peg runner below the final crack. Continue rightwards to another peg runner on Thrombosis. Traverse right and finish up the flake crack as for Thrombosis.WEPattison & A Robson 14/07/63

Kayser Bonder VS

A low level girdle traverse starting up Charlie’s Chimney and finishing up Spiral Stairs. The way is obvious and is never more than 5m above the ground except for the accent of Bishops Chimney and the descent of Chimney and Slab.WE Pattison & Charlie Thew 30/06/63

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Scottish Rock by Gary Latter

Scottish Rock Volume 2 North by Gary Latter
Scottish Rock Volume 2 North 3rd Edition by Gary Latter

SCOTTISH ROCK Volume 2 North 3rd edition

ISBN: 978-1-906095-71-0

Written by Gary Latter

Published by Pesda Press

Reviewed by Steve Crowe May 2020

I was invited to review the third edition of Scottish Rock North Volume 2 but I have decided to discuss both books. What started out as a two-year project to celebrate the 1000 best climbs on Scottish rock and write them up for a stunning selective guidebook has become a lifetime obsession for Gary Latter. By the time Scottish Rock was ready for print there was more than enough superb routes to fill two volumes. Volume One covers all the best routes south of the Great Glen, while the third edition of the popular Volume Two covers all the very best climbs on the mainland north of the Great Glen along with Skye, the Outer Hebrides and Orkney.  

Both editions of the guide have an entertaining and informative introduction with headings such as Using the Guide, Accommodation, Eating Out, Access, Wild Camping, Caravans (very amusing), Birds, Seasonal Restrictions, Directions, Conservation, Ethics, Style, Quality Assessment, Climate, Tidal Information, Weather Information, Wee Bastards (aka midges and ticks), Mountain Rescue and Grades. Following this in Volume 1 is brief section on geology.

Gary Latter on Misha E6 6b at   Reiff © Steve Crowe
Gary Latter on Misha E6 6b at Reiff © Steve Crowe

Now onto the climbing areas themselves and each of the sections start with a good, overall map (more detailed maps follow if required), a short intro, info on accommodation and amenities. Next the routes and the guide is well served throughout with clear photo diagrams (an excellent effort given some of the territory the guide covers), as well as detailed written descriptions. Presented in a well laid out, generally uncluttered style means the guide is a pleasure to use. The route numbers in the text and diagrams appear in a coloured dot, the colour of which signifies a particular grade range e.g. green for moderate to severe, purple for E4 and above. This makes identifying crags of interest much easier when flicking through the guide. Each grade range is well served so whether you’re after long, multi-pitch severes or hard, technical extremes there’s enough here to satisfy even the most manic of climbers. There’s also plenty of action pictures which are well placed in the text and cover the full range of grades and styles of climbing on offer (amazingly the sun always seems to be shining). Each volume stands at approaching 500 pages and describing 1670 and 2550 routes respectively they offer amazing value for money. It also means they’ll be heavy to carry up those multi-pitch mountain routes but I reckon that’s a small price to pay.

Karin Magog on Cross Eyed E2 5b © Steve Crowe Collection 2004
Karin Magog on Cross Eyed E2 5b © Steve Crowe Collection 2004

Scottish Rock North is a fantastic mixture of modern masterpieces alongside an impressive collection of timeless classics covering all grades so no one will feel short changed. For this updated third edition Gary has selected over 2550 climbs and described them all within 480 colourful pages and there is definitely enough quality climbs described here to last any keen climber a lifetime. There is a huge variety of rock types throughout the Highlands and Islands from the rough Gabbro of The Cullin on Skye, to the Old Red Sandstone famous for The Old Man of Hoy, the superb Torridonian sandstone, the excellent cracks and vertical Dolerite columns of Kilt Rock on Skye and my favourite, the multi coloured Lewisian Gneiss of the Outer Hebrides. 

Specifically, for the third edition there has been 300 new routes added alongside 60 new photo topos and over 50 additional action photos too. The highlights include Super Crag Sport overlooking Loch Maree and Super Crag Trad an amazing sea cliff near Lochinver. To fit all this in Gary decided to delete all the historical introductions and about 150 less popular routes.

Being particularly familiar with many of the areas in the far north I can testify to the excellent job that Gary has done with his third edition of Volume 2. I was browsing through the book with sweaty palms and exclamations of ‘we must get back there’, ‘that crag looks amazing’, ‘I would love to do that route’, etc. Gary ought to be proud of both volumes of Scottish Rock, his love and knowledge of climbing in Scotland are present throughout the guides and help make them truly inspiring. Get your copies now.

Scottish Rock South & North by Gary Latter
Scottish Rock South & North by Gary Latter

From the Foreword by Hamish MacInnes … “If you have an ambition to do all the climbs in these two Scottish Rock guides I think you’d better schedule time off in your next life. This labour of Gary’s has been of gargantuan proportions. Those of you who use the guides will benefit by his dedication and the sheer choice offered; if you divide the retail price of these by the number of good routes you’ll realise this is a bargain. Volume 1 covers a proliferation of Scottish crags up to the natural demarcation of the Great Glen. They are easier to access than most in Volume 2 and present infinite variety. I have been a long-time advocate of selected climbs and the use of photographs to illustrate both climbs and action. I’m glad that this principle has been used throughout these two volumes. It gives you a push to get up and do things. The list seems endless and if you succeed in doing half of them you’ll be a much better climber and know a lot more about Scotland – have a good decade!”

Climbing in Chulilla

El muro de las Lamentaciones from Chullia © Steve Crowe 2011
El muro de las Lamentaciones from Chullia © Steve Crowe 2011

Rock climbing in Chulilla has changed a lot since the heydays of the 1980’s, many new sectors have been developed many older routes have got longer too! A 70m rope is essential for many of the newer routes and for some climbers an 80m rope is preferred. The routes are generally well protected so take plenty of quickdraws too! There is plenty of climbing surrounding the town of Chulilla itself and the some of newer sectors are clearly visible a short walk across the river. The most popular of the newer sectors is the south facing wall of El muro de las lamentaciones. Then a little to its right and directly opposite the new Refugio is the east facing wall of Pared de Enfrente which catches the sun until about 2pm. The NW facing wall of Embalse is a beautiful orange wall which gets steeper as you head left, but ranges between slabs and bulges at the right-hand end to about 10 degrees constantly overhanging for the main middle section, then some harder routes at the left-hand end with steep barrel shaped starts into less steep headwalls. The climbing is mainly technical on a variety of thin tufas, crimps, side-pulls – a face climbers dream venue really. There’s plenty of good 6’s and some superb 7a’s but the main event is the middle section offering a superb choice of 7c and 7c+’s.

The stunning Los Calderones de Chulilla (walkway) through the gorge to the dam has been restored which has eased access to many of the newer sectors nearer the dam and it is a superb walk for rest days and non climbers alike.

El Altico Refugio, Chulilla © Steve Crowe 2013
El Altico Refugio, Chulilla © Steve Crowe 2013

The popular climbers refugio El Altico is situated in a prominent position overlooking the crags and it is ran by local activist Pedro Pons. It is always open however it is important to book in advance preferably by email ( The prices are reasonable: about 15 € person/night (or 10 € for people who like to sleep in their van but they want to use the excellent El Altico facilities). For more information about the climber friendly accommodation at  El Altico visit their website here:

Reflections at Chulilla  © Steve Crowe 2013
Reflections at Chulilla © Steve Crowe 2013

The recent Chulilla sport climbing boom started with a climbing topo that was first published in the Spanish climbing magazine Desnival in November 2010. Desnival also published a Chulilla update in December 2013. The January 2015 issue of Climber Magazine featured with “Climbing in a Spanish Paradise” an excellent article by local activist Marijne Lekkerkerker who details this magical place festooned with high quality rock and routes. The best source of information can be found at

Kaplan 7a, Cañaveral  © Steve Crowe 2013
Kaplan 7a, Cañaveral © Steve Crowe 2013

Top Chulilla Climbs This is a selection of some of the very best climbs at Chulilla. (Note: the list keeps getting longer!)

 Magnetoresistencia 6b+, Oasis
 El Ramallito 6c, El muro de las lamentaciones
 La Diagonal 6c,7a, Sex Shop
 Blue Agave 7a, El muro de las lamentaciones
 Top of the Rock 7a, Oasis
 Richer Line 7a, Chorreras
 Plan Z.  7a, Oasis
 Pim Pam Pons 7a+, Chorreras
 Sendero sinuoso 7a+, Oasis
 Dale duro negro 7b, Sex Shop
 Cantalobos 7b, Pared de enfrente
 Segul lluitan 7b, Nano Park
 Daños colaterales 7b+, Oasis
 Los Franceses 7b+, Pared de enfrente
 El gran dinosaurio blanco 7b+, Cañaveral
 La conjura de los nachos, Cañaveral
 Nibelungalos 7c,  Algarrobo
 Todo un clásico 7c, Cañaveral
 Super Zeb 7c, Pared blanca
 Los Caminantes 7c, Chorreras
 Moon Safari 7c+,  Algarrobo
 El rey de a palanca 7c+,  Algarrobo
 El diablo viste de prana 7c+,  Algarrobo
 El Ramallar 7c+, Pared de enfrente
 El Romanso de las mulas 7c+, Pared de enfrente
 El Bufa 7c+/8a, Balconcito
 El Agent Naranja 8a, Balcon
 La Montana magica 8a+/b, Balconcito
 La bella protegida 8b, Balconcito
Chulilla © Steve Crowe 2012
Chulilla © Steve Crowe 2012

Celestial Journey

Karin Magog leading Celestial Journey 22 Wolfberg Cracks  © Steve Crowe 2006
Karin Magog leading Celestial Journey 22 Wolfberg Cracks © Steve Crowe 2006

An Introduction to Rock Climbing in the Western Cape of South Africa by Karin Magog 

South Africa, like the States, has many different climbing areas so where do you start?  Well you couldn’t go wrong with a trip to the Western Cape.  Cape Town itself is one of the top cities in the world, and a very popular venue in it’s own right.  It’s in a fantastic situation with Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles curving through the city and surrounded by fantastic beaches.  Accommodation is plentiful, with several cheap Back Packers and it’s generally very cheap to eat out. There’s plenty of climbing around Cape Town but it’s worth exploring inland as well, with several good climbing venues along the N1 to the east, and, to the north, the Cederberg Mountains in particular offer some fantastic climbing. The majority of the crags are hard sandstone but all have their own unique character and are very different to the sandstone here in Britain.

Celestial Journey 22 Wolfberg Cracks © Steve Crowe 2006
Celestial Journey 22 Wolfberg Cracks © Steve Crowe 2006


You can’t miss this as it is literally in the middle of Cape Town.  A steep 1.5 hours walk leads up to the ledges (there is a cable car but it’s not the done thing!), from where you have a choice of climbing in the sun or shade, with Africa Ledge on the left getting the morning sun and Fountain Ledge to the right the afternoon.  It is possible to climb here all year round depending on the weather.  Even when the ‘south easter’ is blowing the tablecloth over the mountain, Fountain Ledge is usually the most sheltered spot to climb on the Peninsula.  The rock is very hard, compact sandstone with regular breaks (or rails as the locals call them), which take good gear – plenty of cams are essential.  It also forms some fantastic juggy chickenheads.  The crag offers some great multi-pitch trad routes of all grades and the views are spectacular.  Just some of the routes to look out for are: – Africa Crag (12), Atlantic Crag (18), Oddshouters Outing (22), Africa Arête  (25), No Longer at Ease (25) and African Lunch (23), all on the African Ledge, and Arms Race (23), The Dream (21), Touch and Go (21), Triple Indirect into Magnetic Wall (20), Captain Hook (23), Jacob’s Ladder (16) (which traverses out on monster holds above a massive roof – not for weak-kneed seconds!) and Roulette (20/21), on the Fountain Ledge. The crag also offers several testpieces including One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (30), Jeopardy (29), Double Jeopardy (30) (by Britain’s Dave Birkett) and the recent Mary Poppins and her Umbrella (32).  For an interesting route to the main crag try linking Frasers Variation (on the lower buttresses) into Arrow Final, this gives good quality climbing at a low grade (V Diff) and breaks up the tedious walk-in.  The lower buttresses are worth a visit if time is short, check out the classic Bombay Duck (17). As well as the climbing Table Mountain has much more to offer.  Combined with the Cape Peninsula it is one of the 6 floral kingdoms of the world with more species diversity than the whole of the British Isles.  The mountain also offers many classic walks and scrambles.

Table Mountain © Steve Crowe 2006
Table Mountain © Steve Crowe 2006


Both are good sports climbing venues near Muizenburg, about 20 mins drive from Cape Town.  They offer a good range of grades with the climbing being vertical to overhanging and are climbable year round.  Silvermine has four bolted crags (Main Crag, Blaze of Glory, Fawlty Towers and Lower Silvermine) with the Main Crag offering routes up to 30m on vertical walls with small, friendly crimps.  The routes are mainly in 18-26 range with Sterling Silver (21) and Trance Dance (23) both well worth doing.  The Mine is a lot steeper and it is possible to climb here in the rain.  It is also quite shady in the summer when the sun is high in the sky.  It offers very steep, powerful climbing through lots of roofs.  Some recommended routes include Red Guitar on Fire (25), Swan Lake (25), Gift of Wings (28) and Sickle Moon (22).

Jill Blackburn lowering off at Silvermine © Steve Crowe 2006
Jill Blackburn lowering off at Silvermine © Steve Crowe 2006


Again this is on the coast near Muizenburg and is a good venue for a half day.  It offers incredibly overhanging sports routes on mainly good holds and wears you down quickly.  The main climbing is generally in the 24 – 28 range but there are a few routes on the left in the 19-21 range which can be used as warm-ups.   Good routes include Fleur de Mer (24+), Fleur D’Afrique (25) and Poisson Flambe (25+).  There’s often a chilly breeze so it can be a good venue on a hot day, but beware the ‘south-easter’ though as this can make the crag very smeggy (unfortunately this is the prevailing wind in the summer!).  The crag is also prone to seepage in wet winters.

Fleur de Mer 24 at The Hole, Muizenberg  © Steve Crowe 2006
Fleur de Mer 24 at The Hole, Muizenberg © Steve Crowe


This is the name given to the two large granite domes just outside the town of Paarl.  The name means ‘Pearl’ in Afrikaans and when it’s wet and the sun shines you can see why.  Easily accessible from Cape Town they are about a 50 mins drive northeast along the N1.  Rather an esoteric venue (reminiscent of Picnic at Hanging Rock) but offering some excellent climbing with a mixture of trad and sports climbs.  The earlier climbs tend to be quite gnarly with long run-outs between old bolts and some trad gear; however, there are some newer bolted routes that are well equipped.  The routes are generally slabby with small holds and very intricate, balancey climbing.  Children of the Lesser God (22) is a unique route with most of the gear comprising of slings over the prominent extrusions plus a couple of bolts on the blanker sections.  Look out for the excellent and sustained slab of Children of the Corn (25) and the superb Parklife (27/28).  This 40m route follows the black water streak and gives excellent and sustained climbing on generally good, if small, edges.  Also good is the newly bolted Little Dutch Boy (20) and Wonderland (22).

Paarl Rocks © Steve Crowe 2006
Paarl Rocks © Steve Crowe 2006


Follow the N1 for about an hour from Cape Town and you drive through the Huguenot Tunnel and out into Du Toit’s Kloof, a spectacular alpine valley with the main road to Jo’Burg running through its centre.  If you fancy a big day out there are plenty of trad routes up to 400m long, with a hard walk-in to start (makes the walk-in to Scafell look like a stroll apparently!) and plenty of commitment, despite the road at the bottom.  Recommended routes include Exposure in F Major (18)North West Frontal (19) and Armageddon Time (23).

If you fancy something less committing check out Hellfire.  Just 45 mins from the road is a band of solid, red sandstone offering single pitch trad, sport and mixed routes with a good spread of grades.  It gets plenty of sun making it too hot generally in summer but a good venue at other times of the year.

Jill Blackburn on sighting Lip Service 22 Sandrif  © Steve Crowe 2006
Jill Blackburn on sighting Lip Service 22 Sandrif © Steve Crowe 2006


Further along the N1 again, about 2.5 hours drive from Cape Town in the Klein Karoo is the sports climbing mecca of Montagu.  Instead of the usual sandstone the rock here is quartzite and offers extensive climbing at all grades from 10 (F4) to 33 (F8b+). The routes are mainly single pitch and of every different length and angle, so there’s literally something for everyone. There are numerous different crags in the kloofs (gorges) formed as part of the Cape Fold Mountains. The low rainfall makes this a good option in the winter months as it is often sunny and warm here when the weather is bad in Cape Town.  It is also possible to climb here in the hotter summer months though, as some shade can usually be found.  In Bosch Kloof check out Ramset Crag, Bosch Crag, Twin Fins and Skull Crag for Latin Lessons (21), Partners in Crime (24) and the crimp fest Never Say Goodbye (27). The Steeple at the Riverside Crags is a must with long slabby routes like the excellent Gospel Express (17) on one side, and very short, steep routes including The Church of Frederico (23) on the other. 

Karin on Church of Frederico 23, Montagu   © Steve Crowe 2006
Karin on Church of Frederico 23, Montagu © Steve Crowe 2006

Bad Kloof has several excellent sectors including The Scoop, Sloth Crag, Supertubes, The Palace, Uriah Heap and Berlin Wall.  Look out for routes Cool like That (29)The Vision Thing (23), If I go it Will be Double (24), Thruster (26), and Cyberpunk (25). Voted South Africa’s town of the year in 2002, Montagu is a peaceful place steeped in history offering coffee shops, restaurants, hot springs, wine tasting, mountain biking and hiking.

Karin Magog climbing Vision Thing 23 Montagu  © Steve Crowe 2006
Karin Magog climbing Vision Thing 23 Montagu © Steve Crowe 2006


If it’s limestone you are after then this is the place, in fact it’s the only limestone crag in the Country.  An awesome venue about six hours drive from Cape Town along the N2 highway.  Definitely worth a trip if you enjoy overhanging, tufa sports climbs.  Although Oudtshoorn itself can be one of the hottest places in the country with temperatures in summer regularly in the mid thirties, the climbing area is up in the De Hoek mountain resort and the main wall is shady in the afternoon allowing a leisurely start and time for a swim in the resort pool. . There are only a handful of routes here unfortunately, but many of these are among the best, and hardest, sport climbs in the country with a grade range of 18-33.  Look out for Short Circuit (31)Phallic Mechanic (24)Paws (26)Sid Vicious (27) and Lost Safari (an extension to Sid Vicious which gives an awesom40m 28). Oudtshoorn is also famous for the Cango Show Caves and ostrich farms.  There are also plenty of wildlife parks and the spectacular Swartberg Pass.

Karin Magog flashing Lost Safari 28 Oudtshoorn  © Steve Crowe 2006
Karin Magog flashing Lost Safari 28 Oudtshoorn © Steve Crowe 2006


This mountain range is about two/three hours drive (an hour of which is on dirt tracks) north of Cape Town.  It is named after the beautiful cedar trees whose numbers have sadly been decimated by repeated veld fires.  There are several climbing venues here, perhaps the most well known being Rocklands (Northern Cederberg), which offers world-class bouldering as well as several routes.  Rocklands is relatively low-lying so is a great venue in the late autumn or early spring, although the hard-core boulderers visit in the winter.  There is also some sports climbing at Truitjies Kraal (Central Cederberg) and some at Sandrift Crag, both near Wolfberg. The area however, offers some fantastic multi-pitch trad climbing up in the mountains.  Perhaps the most accessible is Wolfberg, with a good campsite located near the climbing (60mins walk to the crag) and the routes being typically 4-7 pitches long.  Although it is very hot here in the summer as long as you get the walk-in done early the climbing is mostly in the shade.  It’s also a good venue for autumn and spring. Great routes include Celestial Journey (22), Alone In Space (22) and Energy Crisis (20).  For more of an adventure however, the crags of Tafelberg and Krakadouw are well worth visiting.  They both involve a 2-3hr. walk up into the mountains and it is usual to bivvi here for a few days.  For Krakadouw water is available about 30 mins from the camping spot so it is usual to fill up several bottles on the walk-in.  For Tafelberg, water is sometimes available near the crag, but there’s very seldom any left by the autumn. Tafelberg is definitely a summer crag as it is pretty shady and can be very cold, whereas Krakadouw gets plenty of sun so you can climb here from spring to autumn.  The rock is very hard and compact sandstone, with routes tending to follow the main weaknesses of cracks, chimneys and the horizontal ‘rails’. Good protection is the norm, but the routes are often steep and fairly burly so a positive approach is needed.  Recommended routes at Krakadouw include the fantastic 10 pitch King Kone (20) on the big crag and the equally as good Icthyasaurus (21)Juggernaut (22), and Valhalla (26) on the smaller of the two crags (all  routes about 5 pitches).  At Tafelberg check out Tafelberg Frontal (12), Comes a Time (20), Oscillation (21), Oceans of Air (23) (the name says it all!) and Blue Planet (25).

Mary Jenner climbing on Tafelberg Pillar © Steve Crowe 2006
Mary Jenner climbing on Tafelberg Pillar © Steve Crowe 2006


Getting There

Flights are available to Cape Town International Airport from all major UK airports, but flights aren’t cheap.  Expect to pay at least £550.

Car Hire

Available from the usual companies such as Hertz and Avis for about £180/week for a 4 door with A/C.  Check out for prices.

When to go

For routes an excellent time is March/April, it’s still very warm which is good for the higher crags.  For bouldering July seems to be a good month, generally low rainfall out at Rocklands but still sunny without being too warm.


For Table Mountain check out The Ledge, Table Mountain by Leonhard Rust. A very clear guide with excellent photo topos.  There’s an excellent new guidebook to all the sports venues in the Western Cape (2004) called Western Cape Rock by Tony Lourens.  It covers Montagu, Oudtshoorn, Cape Town and the Cederberg sports routes.  He is currently working on guidebooks to the rest of the Cederberg.  There is a guide to Wolfberg by Jason Orton.  Information for other crags can be found on the Climb South Africa website (, as well as loads of other useful information.


For some venues (e.g. The Cederberg) it is necessary to obtain a permit before you can climb in the area.  Contact the Mountain Club of South Africa ( before your visit for more info.


In all the towns and cities there are plenty of Back Packers, hostels and B&BS.  Back Packers in particular can be very cheap (although some can be very noisy).  Many climbing areas also have decent campsites with hot showers eg. Rocklands, Wolfberg, Montagu.  Many of the campsites also have self-catering bungalows which can be a cheap option if there’s a few of you.  For Montagu check out De Bos (campsite, bunk barn, bungalows and rooms) which is ran by climbers Stuart and Regula Brown ( At Wolfberg the Sanddrift campsite is ideally located below the crag and for Oudtshoorn there’s the De Hoek Mountain Resort just 10mins from the crag.  For the more remote venues it is usual to go in for a few days and just bivvi at the crag eg. Krakadouw, Tafelberg.

Food and Drink

Generally very cheap and very good.  It’s easily possible to get a three course meal for less than £10.  The wine is also excellent with the vineyards of Stellenbosch less than an hour from Cape Town and South Africa’s highest winery situated right next to Wolfberg.  Bakeries and Coffee Shops abound, with plenty of tempting morsels (flapjack is highly recommended and worth checking out, it won’t be what you’re used to!) Tea and scones are also very popular.

Rest Days

Plenty of fantastic beaches, water sports, abseiling off Table Mountain, beautiful walks, Jackass Penguins, diving with sharks, Botanical Gardens, Cape Point, wine tasting.  The list is endless.


Baboons – don’t feed them as it encourages them to approach cars.

Snakes – don’t wear sandals when walking through the bush.  Make a noise and most snakes will move out the way (except the puff adder which is lazy but has a very swift strike!). As well as the puff adder there are cobras, berg adders and various others.

Crime – try not to look like a tourist and keep your wits about you.

Car-jacking – not unheard of in the cities.

Dangerous aggressive drivers – especially taxis and vehicles with no lights at night.

Great White Sharks – well you never know!

Jill Blackburn on Partners in Crime 24 Montagu  © Steve Crowe 2006
Jill Blackburn on Partners in Crime 24 Montagu © Steve Crowe 2006

Summer of Dove by Steve Crowe

2003 was the Summer of Dove

A short history of climbing on Dove Crag leading up to the awesome summer of 2003. The original article was written for and published in Climber magazine in December 2003. 

by Steve Crowe

Chris Hope onsighting Bucket Dynasty E7 6b   © Steve Crowe 2003
Chris Hope onsighting Bucket Dynasty E7 6b © Steve Crowe 2003

Dove Crag has tested the very best climbers down the years from Dolphin and Whillans, to Cleasby, Botterill, Whillance, Berzins and Foster. The long hot summer of 2003 drew the latest generation of bright young things into the shadow of the steepest crag in the Lake District. Steve Crowe was there…

It was reported in the local newspaper at the time that a doctor and ambulance were on stand-by during the first ascent of Westmorlands Route (MS) by H. Westmorland, J. Mounsey and W.A. North in 1910. While the route is still a popular outing 90 years later, nowadays a mobile phone gets a good signal on the route so even today help need not necessarily be too far away! The next major line to be climbed was Hangover (HVS 5a) in May 1939 which sought out a weakness up the very centre of the crag ‘the only possible line of ascent and must rank as one of the purest lines in the country.” Arthur Dolphin. Don Whillans and Joe Brown with Don Cowan climbed Dovedale Groove in May 1954 with one point of aid. It was 9 years before Pete Crew and Bas Ingle made the second ascent of this now popular E1 5b. Don returned with Colin Mortlock in 1960 to climb the timeless classic Extol (E2 5b), again with one point of aid, which is still a much sought after Hard Rock tick. It has been said that on the first ascent, on account of their short ropes and the long run out, that both the leader and second were climbing extreme rock simultaneously!

Don Whillans climbing Dovedale Groove with Chris Bonington

It was a team of raiders from the North East, Chris Woodall and Ritchie Clarke, that took up the challenge of the North Buttress of Dove Crag during a cold Easter day in 1969. It was generally rumoured that Pete Crew had tackled the wall sometime in the early 60’s and never got round to completing the project. Chris Woodall recalls the day “We simply climbed up to and then followed the existing gear until it ran out at about half height. We treated the route as any steep pegging line; wholeheartedly using the rusting pegs, and still found it quite strenuous, above the stance we trended left to climb a steep fingery wall and I recall resting on a small sharp spike. The right facing groove below the top was green so I came down and stepped right to struggle up a smaller steep but protectable, slimy groove. We used no aid pegs above the belay but placed two for protection. (Nuts, apart from the odd MOAC, were hardly used in those days).” Many of those pegs placed during the 1960’s still form the crucial protection for the many free climbs that followed! One of the ascents that is not well documented was that by Pete Livesey who climbed the original North Buttress route as far as the ledges with a couple of points of aid. He probably followed the line that Martin Berzins and Chris Hamper took a couple of years later (in 1977) with about the same amount of aid. Martin recalls “We carried on to the top of the cliff probably the first time the top pitch was free climbed, a scary lead by Chris Hamper. It was hard to find out from Livesey exactly what he had done. I think that he stopped at the ledges but I don’t know.” It wasn’t until 1991 that Steve Mayers unlocked the final (6c) sequence and was able to free climb the original aided line in its entirety and protected only by the ageing fixed equipment. In 1976 Pete Botterill climbed Explosion (E4 5c) with Pete Whillance; this bold line tackles the right edge of North Buttress and although it is not so steep it is run-out and it does not pay to contemplate the protection (or lack of it). Martin Berzins and Ed Cleasby climbed the first and part of the second pitch of Problem Child (E4 6a) in May 1976 thus commencing Martin’s long association with the new route development at Dove Crag. Martin remembers the day well: “Ed Cleasby had climbed the first pitch with an aid point previously. I led this pitch free and Ed continued up on the next pitch. We were climbing ground up. Ed wanted to finish up Mordor but our ground-up attempt petered out and we finished up Extol. Jeff lamb and Pete Botterill returned to complete Problem Child in June 1979. The top pitches they added were much harder and better than the bottom ones and have been unjustifiably neglected.”

Chris Hope onsighting Pail Face E6 6b © Steve Crowe
Chris Hope onsighting Pail Face E6 6b © Steve Crowe

Bill Birkett visited the crag in May 1980 with Rick Graham to explore the possibility of a free line up the centre of the buttress. Some direct aid from a nut and a precarious move off a hand placed peg was needed to climb Broken Arrow (E5 5c A1) ”Absolutely at the limit and beyond.” Bill Birkett. Rick Graham swapped leads with Bill in June 1980 to produce the first free route to tackle the centre of North Buttress, the well named Fear and Fascination (E5 6a) a bold and pumpy route that still commands respect today ‘Fear and Fascination was the first all free route up that wall, and it still takes scalps to this day – a quite visionary effort by Rick in my opinion.” Neil Foster. They revisited the crag with Dave Lyle in 1981 to climb Asolo (E3 6a) which tackles a difficult line up the left side of the North Buttress (Asolo attracted a lot of controversy at the time as it was a blatant sponsorship route name). Rick and Bill returned again in 1982 to produce the popular Fast and Furious (E5 6a), a steep and pumpy line to the right. It is amazing that their pair of E5’s were not included in Ken Wilson’s Extreme Rock and they would certainly make the cut for any future edition.

Steve Crowe on Bucket City E6 6b   © Steve Crowe collection  2003
Steve Crowe on Bucket City E6 6b © Steve Crowe collection 2003

Martin Berzins and Neil Foster had not climbed Bucket City (E6 6b) until after Extreme Rock was published in 1987 but it would also be a contender for Extreme Rock – The Return of Trad. Martin coerced Al Manson to join him in 1989 and went on to continue the bucket theme producing Beyond the Pail (E6 6b) with a hard crux on the first pitch and a complimentary serious (6a) run out section on the second ‘A very worried looking Alan Manson was belaying while I climbed quite a long run-out on crap gear from what wasn’t a great belay on the first ascent late in the evening. The route was cleaned and climbed in a day. “Martin Berzins. 1990 was a productive year for Berzins and Foster. Martins powerful and technical Pail Face (E6 6b), along with Neil’s two very steep and spectacular variation finishes, The Flying Fissure Finish (E5 6b) and the photogenic Outside Edge (E5 6b), were all popular routes during 2003. The Outside Edge should not be underestimated as it continues to shake off would be leaders; E9 was proposed after two spectacular falls in 2003 – the second, from the top of the route ended 60ft down and only 4ft from the ground with five pieces of gear sliding down the rope to thwack the unfortunate flying machine, Chris Hope as he swung silently to a rest!

Karin Magog on the fourth ascent of Vlad the Impailer E7 6b © Steve Crowe collection 2003
Karin Magog on the fourth ascent of Vlad the Impailer E7 6b © Steve Crowe collection 2003

The fact that Martin Berzins ascent of Vald the Impailer (E7 6b) was unrepeated for 13 years says it all, hard, pumpy and committing. “Although the route was extensively cleaned on abseil it was climbed ground up getting more gear in on each try. On the different attempts that took place over a number of days I took several falls (they seemed pretty safe though as the gear is good but spaced) before eventually leading it red-point style. Typically no sooner had I done it than Neil seconded it flawlessly! The day that we successfully climbed the route it poured with rain.” remembers Martin. I asked Martin if he was confident before venturing out on such a bold lead? “I was far from sure that I could do the route and had to resort to lots of midweek hand traversing on the Henry Price buildering wall at Leeds University to get fit enough.” Martin and Neil added one more fantastic and underrated route in 1991. Bucket Dynasty (E6 6b) was repeated soon after by Dougie Hall, as Ian Carr recalls: “lt was a funny day, Dougie turned up at the crag short of some gear, Charlotte volunteered to go back for it. By the time she got back to the crag, we’d done three routes, one of them being Bucket City. I had my eyes closed for most of the time, as he was in one of his “go for it” moods. He only got 3 or 4 pieces in the whole Bucket Dynasty pitch, and on a tatty single 9mm rope. We definitely ended up at the Asolo belay as we did it afterwards (as a warm down!) so we could get some gear back.”

Craig Smith enjoying  Fast and Furious with the Flying Fissure Finish E5 6b   © Steve Crowe collection  2003
Craig Smith enjoying Fast and Furious with the Flying Fissure Finish E5 6b © Steve Crowe collection 2003

During the poor summer of 2002 AI Wilson cleaned off Pail Face and The Flying Fissure Finish while the rest of his team took shelter from the rain in the Priest Hole, the bivvy cave above the North Buttress. They were all ready to go home when ‘Awesome AI’ enthusiastically geared up and set off up FastandFurious only to find himself too pumped to tackle the FlyingFissure and elected to continue directly up the easier (but dirtier) original finish! James McHaffie subsequently onsighted Pail Face declaring himself pumped after the crux – a scary thought James then decided to have a look at freeing the aid pitch on Broken Arrow. A very hard (6c) sequence was needed to pass the poor in situ peg, then Caff continued with an extremely daunting runout above which eventually joined Bucket City part way up the headwall to produce Fear of Failure (E8 6c). The first new line to fall in 2003 was the bold Fetish for Fear (E7 6b), which is effectively a direct start to the Flying Fissure Finish, being led by both Chris Hope and Duncan Booth, seconded by Alan Wilson and Jimmy Beveridge. This saw a quick repeat by myself then subsequent on-sights by James (Caff) McHaffie and Dave Birkett. 

Dave Birkett onsighting Fettish for Fear E7 6b © Steve Crowe
Dave Birkett onsighting Fettish for Fear E7 6b © Steve Crowe

Initially abseiling in to clean off Vlad the Impailer, Alan Wilson was distracted by a line of holds that led up the leaning headwall above Vlad. AI left Chris and Duncan to sort out Fetish and started to clean off a line that was soon to become his stunning Dusk ’til Dawn (E7 6b). His belayer Chris Hope was straight in for the flashed second ascent of the incredibly pumpy (F7c+) line, confirming the grade and quality. Neil conceded that was one amazing line that the Berzins/Foster team had missed out on!

Awesome Al Wilson on the first ascent of  Dusk til Dawn E7 6b   © Steve Crowe collection  2003
Awesome Al Wilson on the first ascent of Dusk til Dawn E7 6b © Steve Crowe collection 2003

Karin Magog and I climbed several links between existing routes, with Inside Out (E5 6b) (Fast and Furious into the hard Outside Edge) providing a very pumpy but possibly a safer way of tackling the soaring arête of Outside Edge. This was followed quickly by a sweeping girdle traverse. The Brasov Incident (E6 6b) starts as for Bucket Dynasty before breaking out right below the roof to then take in the crux’s of both Fear and Fascination and Fast and Furious before finishing either up the Outside Edge or the Flying Fissure Finish, the choice is yours.

Al Wilson onsighting Inside Out E5 6b © Steve Crowe
Al Wilson onsighting Inside Out E5 6b © Steve Crowe

The hardest route on the crag, Caff’s route from 2002, Fear of Failure (E8 6c) was quickly repeated by Chris ‘The Flying Machine’ Hope. After powering through the technical crux, on his second attempt, Chris went very quiet on the “harrowing” traverse above! Meanwhile, while AI was looking for holds to brush in the exit niche on Vlad the Impailer (E7 6b), he became frustrated when it wasn’t obvious how to climb it or even what needed cleaning! No beta could be gleaned from Berzins or Foster despite numerous emails the following week. Was it that they couldn’t remember or just that they didn’t want to make it too easy for us? On his first attempt on Vlad the Impailer, AI just jumped off, frustrated, unable to unlock the crux sequence. Next up was Karin who soon made it to Al’s high point where she shook out below the crux for nearly an hour, unable to either climb up any further, or reverse to the ground but reluctant just to give up! She eventually spotted the crucial hold, which was in need of the brush treatment, just as she fell off from exhaustion. This hidden hold proved to be the key. Promptly returning mid week Alan Wilson clinched the second ascent of Vlad the Impailer and I flashed the third. Karin claimed the 4th ascent the following weekend. Chris Hope also led Vlad the Impailer but not without falling frustrated out of the demanding and problematic niche on his first attempt. Chris made up for his disappointment by flashing the 3rd ascent of Bucket Dynasty (E6 6b) thinking it to be top end E6. Personally, I’m sure that Bucket Dynasty deserves E7, it’s in the same league as Vlad the Impailer and Dusk till Dawn for sure!

Steve Crowe onsighting Vlad 'til Dawn E7 6b © Karin Magog
Steve Crowe onsighting Vlad ’til Dawn E7 6b © Karin Magog

‘Awesome’ AI had one last link-up in mind by climbing the headwall of Dusk ’til Dawn starting up Vlad to give the biggest, pumpiest E7 on the North Buttress. Two routes not repeated during 2003 due to the poor condition of the in situ protection were Beyond the Pail (E6 6b) and North Buttress (E6 6b) and they would probably both merit E7 in their current state as well. The world of the internet meant that news of our activities travelled fast and soon queues formed on Fast and Furious but curiously not for Fear and Fascination, whereas Bucket City must have been the most climbed E6 in the Lake District in 2003.

Chris Hope on the second ascent of  Fear of Failure E8 6c   © Steve Crowe collection   2003
Chris Hope on the second ascent of Fear of Failure E8 6c © Steve Crowe collection 2003

Bizarrely many of the team commented that the walk-in felt further and harder as time went by (53 minutes was the record for the walk in, an hour and a quarter the norm) however the climbing was a different matter as we would take turns leading the Flying Fissure so that everyone else could warm up on it. Towards the end of the summer our knowledge of the cliff grew and our aims became more defined, so we would meet at the Beetham Hut to sort out a specific and lightweight rack for the team for the day. The North Buttress comprises of a unique matrix of routes which share only three common starts and the team shared their increasing insight and knowledge along with a combined trad experience of over 100 years, and as our fitness grew so did our confidence. It wasn’t all plain sailing, however, and some spectacular falls were taken off the Outside Edge (E5 6b). Expectant father Duncan Booth took a 40ft swoop from the crux luckily suffering no more than a bad headache. Not to be out done Chris (The Flying Machine) Hope took the previously mentioned 60ft fall, the maximum possible. Everyone else on the crag decided that was it for the day and were discussing abseiling Fast and Furious to retrieve some gear when Chris just dusted himself down and offered to climb up and strip the route for them.

Ian Cummins on The Brasov Incident E6 6b © Steve Crowe collection 2003
Ian Cummins on The Brasov Incident E6 6b © Steve Crowe collection 2003

Where was Dave we asked, could this be the end of the Birkett Dynasty? Well, Dave Birkett arrived on Dove Crag late in the summer but soon worked his way through the routes flashing everything he tried, including Fetish for Fear a very serious E7; also Vlad the Impailer and the Vlad into Dusk link, two very hard and pumpy E7’s. After abseiling off the incredibly steep Vlad the Impailer Dave’s body language expressed the effort that the ascent had taken as he quietly shrugged his shoulders, sighed and rolling himself a tab he acknowledged “Aye, that was hard. “Dave topped all that with a stunning onsight ascent of James McHaffie’s route from 2002, the hard and serious Fear of Failure (E8 6c) after finding a painful knee-bar rest that enabled him to recover below the crux after sorting out the crucial gear. The ferocity of the steep and strenuous lines, the extreme sustained and technical difficulties, the long run-outs and the overpowering atmosphere of the place all combine to make climbing on Dove Crag an unforgettable experience. But what I will always remember most from the summer of 2003 up on Dove will be Awesome AI’s insatiable enthusiasm (especially with a brush), the tremendous team spirit and the shared trad experience. Oh and the bottle of Jack Daniels that we found in the Priest Hole. Cheers!

Steve Crowe onsighting Bucket Dynasty E7 6b © Karin Magog 2003
Steve Crowe onsighting Bucket Dynasty E7 6b © Karin Magog 2003

Gordale Adventure Routes

Gordale Scar © Steve Crowe 2005
Gordale Scar © Steve Crowe 2005

Gordale by Karin Magog

For me Gordale is a very special place to climb, both intimidating and awe inspiring at the same time.  Entering the gorge early on a sunny summer’s morning is always memorable.  One minute you’re strolling along the path, enjoying the sun then you step round the corner into the shade, the temperature plummets and the overhanging rock faces glower down on you.  It also seems to act as a wind funnel so it’s rarely too hot – I always take my down jacket and a hat! Fortunately the sun does a good job and picks out virtually all the walls in the gorge at some point of the day so if you time it right you can always enjoy its warmth.  As it moves across the Left Wall the shades it creates are amazing as various gargoylian faces materialise in the rock and glare down at you. I first climbed in Gordale in 1995 but was a bit overwhelmed by the place and it wasn’t till the following summer that I felt confident enough to take on some of the classic trad routes. The rock in Gordale is an interesting mix of top quality, Malhamesque limestone and a looser more flaky variety that demands a bit more respect. My first big route was the classic E3 Face Route and a good example of the adventurous climbing Gordale offers. As you start up the route you quickly learn not to pull out on the holds too much, instead palming down and careful footwork is the key, whilst trying to convince yourself the gear you placed in the usually damp crack is good. Interesting moves on wobbly undercuts through the roof, past some ancient pegs, lead to easier climbing and a sigh of relief as the rock quality also improves. The second pitch is a real contrast, hard moves on more compact rock, but with a choice of sequences success can seem like a gamble. This style of climbing can be seriously addictive and a few weeks later I found myself setting off up Solstice a Mark Radkte classic and one of my earliest E5’s. The route is mainly peg protected, with the guide mischievously informing you that the peg by the crux is the worst but gives no clues as to where the crux may be. This added nicely to the intimidation I felt as I slowly inched my way upwards, taking great care not to pull too hard and testing footholds before I stood on them. I eventually started to relax and enjoy myself when suddenly the crux arrived. The peg looked just like all the others below me, best not to think about  that really and just concentrate on sorting out the moves. After much shuffling up and down a perplexing and awkward sequence led to better holds, a sigh of relief and more relaxed climbing to the belay. Cave Route RH was my next challenge and at E6 it was certainly a step-up. This is truly an amazing route up the searing crack-line, endurance climbing at its best. Unfortunately for me my endurance wasn’t quite up to the on-sight and with my feet skittering on dirty smears and my elbows up by my ears my forearms failed me just a couple of moves from the sanctuary of the final crack. But even though it took me 3 red-points before I finally reached that sanctuary it was perhaps the moment that my love of Gordale was truly born. The best years have been the dry summers of 1997 and 2003 when the place was a hive of activity and routes were getting climbed left, right and centre. These are the years that really stand out in terms of achievements.

Karin Magog leading The Cause E5 6b, Gordale © Steve Crowe 2002
Karin Magog leading The Cause E5 6b, Gordale © Steve Crowe 2002

However, my most memorable lead was The Cause (E5 5b,6b,6a) back in 2002. Gordale was looking a bit neglected, the routes hadn’t had much traffic what with a damp summer following on from the Foot and Mouth year, but I was busy reading Lynne Hill’s autobiography and felt inspired to take on a challenge. The first pitch is shared with Jenny Wren and at 5b sounds like a breeze. However, it is a good exercise in self-preservation with decaying pegs and tottering rock – Gordale at it’s best! The main pitch above is superb. After finally committing to the tricky moves over the overhang I gingerly stepped right into the bottomless groove, quickly placing a couple of small wires before briefly glancing down to admire the drop to the stream below. The fight then began. Dirty holds, quite a bit of dampness and marginal gear all added to the experience. Any negative thought was banished by thinking about how Lynne would have relished such a challenge and it was by sheer determination I got up that pitch. I still rate it as one of my best on-sights. The route wasn’t over yet though and the fierce 6a finger crack above could have put a dampener on things. However, I wasn’t going to be so easily defeated and after a short battle the difficulties eased, good holds arrived and I lead the last few metres to the top with a huge smile on my face.

Karin Magog climbing Huecool 8b © Steve Crowe
Karin Magog climbing Huecool 8b © Steve Crowe

Gordale by Steve Crowe

The short stroll through the idyllic campsite does not prepare you for what you are about to encounter further up the gorge. The atmosphere changes dramatically as you turn the corner the pleasant sunny slabs contrast sharply with the dark and threatening overhangs, the foreboding walls of Gordale are certainly not a playground for the faint hearted. Some of the very best sport routes in Yorkshire are found here juxtaposed with some harrowing Gordale Adventure routes.

My relationship with Gordale began in the summer of 1986 with an ascent of Court Jester a popular E2 on the lower left wing. Well protected powerful climbing followed by big run outs on rattling rock and already I am beginning to understand the meaning of the term “Gordale Adventure Route”! Face Route is a superb and popular E3 6a that thoroughly deserves is classic status, I enjoyed it so much that I’ve climbed it more than once.

Face Route E3 6a Gordale © Steve Crowe
Face Route E3 6a Gordale © Steve Crowe

Things got more interesting in 1992 when I decided to try Solstice given E5 and protected mostly by pegs it sounded straight forward however this was when I began to understand the term Gordale Adventure Route. My log book simply states “11 peg runners, some are good.” Ten years and many routes later I could no longer avoid the challenge of Cave Route Right Hand (E6). I set off with a huge rack and great confidence fiddling in many wires to back up the dozens of rotting pegs. After 25m and 25 runners later my forearms gave out and my scream echoed around the gorge! All told I had placed 35 runners before I reached the sanctuary of the cave. My next ambition was to attempt both pitches of Pierrepoint (F7c+) in one huge runout. My first attempts with a single rope were thwarted by horrendous rope drag. Success on this powerful pump fest came when I decided to use two 9mm ropes. This time with less resistance, I was able to latch the long slap to that hidden hold and I was filled with a great sense of achievement as I reached the top of one of Yorkshire’s classic sport routes. By the time I had reached the ground however I was already pondering with some trepidation at what would be next?

The long hot summer of 1997 was one of great confidence and many successes that I am still very proud. Masochism Tango at E6 6c was a massive challenge up the line of depressions to the right of Revival and the stunning white wall above. I remember the crux was a powerful and a perplexing sequence between the first and second depression. The second pitch was more straightforward, simply enduring a screaming forearm pump to snatch my hardest trad onsight ever! 

The following weekend remains one of my most memorable. It began with a successful redpoint of the crimpy stamina route Supercool my first grade 8 sports route and was followed by my first E7 onsight the next day. I had been looking at Bliss all summer from every possible angle but mostly lying in the sun beside the stream in between attempts on other routes. The time had come to try it. No more excuses. The first pitch is shared with Bite it and Believe It which I had done before but it still felt hard the second time! The thin overhanging crack leads to a long runout up very steep grass and the belay. The guide states that the main pitch requires cool, cunning and considerable confidence. I set off hesitantly and shaking but with growing confidence I reach the huge roof. I remember looking at the row of three pegs below the roof and wishing I had three ropes. I knew that I needed to extend the runners to reduce the rope drag if all went well but as I struggled to reach out to the lip of the roof I was wishing that I hadn’t. My fingers were playing along the lip like a piano player searching for “The Lost Chord”, then suddenly I found something, I cut loose and swung my feet up and pulled on to the headwall above. My heart was pumping hard as I struggled to place a micro wire desperate for any possible hint of protection. However by the time I got my second runner in I began to relax and realised that I could actually take my hands off. The situation eased, fear subsided and relief turned to pleasure. The ultimate Gordale Adventure Route safely in the bag – Sheer Bliss! 

Rob Fielding on Solstice E5 6a,  Gordale © Steve Crowe
Rob Fielding on Solstice E5 6a, Gordale © Steve Crowe

Gordale Adventure Routes

Cabaret E1

A light hearted introduction with spectacular views of adventures to come!.

Light E2

It’s worth doing a warm up first because the hardest moves are encountered immediately with powerful moves up the steep crack. Take your time over the superbly positioned second pitch and savour the exposure as you stride across the bottomless chimney.

Face Route E3

A classic “Gordale Adventure Route” where a good head and a confident approach is required to push on past the remnants of rotting pegs. The second pitch has a perplexing but well protected crux.

Thriving E4

A commiting start up the delicate wall leads to a fine groove. Saunter nonchalantly up this before attacking the well protected roof and headwall above. The best E4 in the gorge!

The Cause E5

Perhaps less well known that it’s famous neighbour Rebel but certainly well worth seeking out for the superb middle pitch up the groove

Comedy of Errors E5

A great introductory E5 with a bold and committing lower wall which then leads to a superb crack in the steep headwall. Top tip: take lots of mirco wires!

Jenny Wren E5

Low in the grade but not to be under estimated. The highlight is some delicate traversing with sparce gear in extremely airy positions. Top tip: Take a competent second!  

Solstice E5

Protected by many pegs but are they any good?

Cave Route Right Hand E6

Probably the most sought after route in Gordale follow the prominent sweeping crackline. A superb endurance route.

Cement Garden E6 6c/7c

Classic hybrid mostly bolted but some wires/cams needed for the final section which leads powerfully to a good bolted lower off.

Mossdale Trip E6 

I decided to try the classic rattler Mossdale Trip (E6) in 1999. I pondered over the wisdom of this decision many times on that long lonely lead while seeking out the most solid holds with my ropes swirling worthlessly in the breeze! Top Tip: Write your Will.

Bliss E7

The ultimate “Gordale Adventure Route” with a little bit of everything. Rarely repeated!

Andy Earl on Top of the World

Andy Earl competing in the 2006 World Cup © Steve Crowe
Andy Earl competing in the 2006 World Cup © Steve Crowe

Andrew Earl – On top of the World by Steve Crowe 
When three times British Bouldering Champion Andy Earl won the fourth round of the IFSC Bouldering World Cup at La Reunion in 2007 he was on top of the world but his most difficult challenge was yet to come, learning to talk and walk again. 

Andy Earl climbing in the 2006 World Cup © Steve Crowe
Andy Earl climbing in the 2006 World Cup © Steve Crowe

Andy first started climbing with us in Northumberland in the early Nineties. He was 14, prior to that it was only an annual birthday treat and much against his mam’s wishes. He already had a homemade fingerboard in his garage which he used regularly. It was about 3ft by 2ft with a few footholds screwed to the garage wall. It wasn’t long before he could do moves on grips that I simply couldn’t hold. “I first got dragged out at the tender age of four and I’ve been a climber ever since. It was a harsh upbringing, climbing with my dad and the likes of Bob and Tommy Smith, always being told how crap I was!” Andrew. During 1993 John and Andy, Bob Smith, Karin Magog and myself revisited and redeveloped Whiteheugh. During this time Andy made the impressive first ascent a new E5 but it was not without incident hence the name Bones Don’t Bounce. Soon enough he was out in The County every weekend, bouldering in all seasons and in all weathers with an impressive repeat of Pete Kirton’s Pockets Traverse 7C under his belt by January 1995. “I suppose I was about 16/17 before I started burning my dad off, a combination of him getting older and me getting better, but I had to get considerably better before they started treating me as an equal.” Andy. 
 The early nineties also saw the indoor competition scene start to develop. Both Andy and Karin started with a few Yorkshire based leading comps, which were held on temporary climbing walls. Soon the rest of the Saturday squad were persuaded to take part in the Northern Indoor Bouldering League (NIBL) which ran for a few years. Andy and Karin both entered the National Leading Comps. However, it was in the bouldering comps where Andy started to excel. “I found the leading comps particularly frustrating because you only get one chance.” Andy. Bendcrete built the Berghaus Wall in 1991 for Newcastle City Council at a cost of £100k; they got their investment back in 18 months. Andy started some serious training with his good friend Mike Rudden as soon as the Berghaus Wall opened and Andy finally got his investment back in the 2003/4 season as British Bouldering Champion. Mike Rudden remembers climbing with Andy during the early 1990s.

Andy Earl on Born Lippy 8A, Bowden Doors © Steve Crowe
Andy Earl on Born Lippy 8A, Bowden Doors © Steve Crowe

“There was a gang of us who climbed a lot together in the 1990’s – myself, Andy, Dan Smith (Boza 1), William Cleaver (Boza 2), Richard Duffy and Neil Anderson (Fat Lad). Climbing was important but so was the banter. We’d be bouldering and the banter would often follow a regular pattern:
 1. Boulder problem attempted by gang.
 2. Andy would send it.
 3. The rest of us would carry on trying to do it.
 4. Andy would be only too pleased to ask us why we were not “pulling harder”? 
 Out of the hundreds of occasions we all climbed together, only once or twice did the boot end up on the other foot. One such occasion was with Born Lippy (font 7c at the time) at Bowden. Boza 1 and I could do it pretty easily but Andy always seemed to have real troubles on the slopers and heel hooks, his body would just sort of sag resulting in failure. This pleased us no end – “Andy – why you not pulling harder we’d say”. This of course was like a red rag to a bull, so off Andy went and decided to do something about his weak core. Two weeks of front levers and candlestick training sorted out this defect, Andy was no longer ‘saggy’!” Mike Rudden

 Throughout the 1990s Karin and I joined Andy and John for regular visits to the Yorkshire Limestone where the tough Soft Option at Kilnsey became Andy’s first sport 8a. His hardest sports climbing redpoint was Dalliance 8b+also at Kilnsey. Andy was now a regular on the “Cream Team” Easter sport climbing trips and during the 1998 trip to Spain he flashed the short but very explosive La Cara Que No Miente 8a+ at Siurana. His ascent was significant enough to make the Scarpa advert on the rear of the 1998 Rockfax guide to Costa Daurada. His dad remembers an early visit to Trollers Gill “I was belaying a very young Andrew who was climbing Haslam at Trollers Gill. He was at the crux which is about 4 bolts up. He pulled the rope to clip the bolt but realised he was too pumped dropped the rope, jumped off and at the same time shouted take which I frantically did and managed to stop him but not until his feet were at head height. I am sure he still thinks his long fall was my fault” John Earl

For a few years the four of us all climbed and trained together on a Monday and Wednesday evenings. Initially the focus had been on repeating classic trad routes in The County but this later changed to bouldering and we were all heavily involved when Rothley and Shaftoe saw a massive surge of development in the mid to late nineties. At Rothley, Andy’s early first ascents included Well Hard Problem 7A+ on John’s Wall. Meanwhile at Shaftoe there are really too many to mention but two stand out from this early period: Power is Nothing Without Control 7C and of course Purely Belter 8A. Andy’s first attempt to climb the blank wall left of Incipient Crack on the Font boulder came with a big grade only for his dad to quickly repeat it with a Surprising Solution (an undercut hand jam) and a swift downgrade to 7A! So Andy followed up a little further left again with Purely Belter which Andy insists is 8A if climbed correctly. 

Andy Earl on Masterclass E7, Rothley © Steve Crowe
Andy Earl on Masterclass E7, Rothley © Steve Crowe

Andy enjoyed an amazing run of form which started in 2000 with the first ascents of Masterclass and Masterblaster Arête two poorly protected E7’s at Rothley and The Young an extremely bold E8 challenge at Callaly that waited 10 years for a repeat by Dan Varian. Chris Graham compares the differing beta used by Andy and Dan “Having seen Andy on it, he was certainly playing to his bone-crushing finger strength by making a cross through to opposing, shallow pockets and moving up from there whereas Dan ended up making a long move from one of these holds and could just get his fingers onto the poor sloper above. After matching on this, it’s a series of tenuous, balancy moves on some weird looking ‘pancake’ features to the top.” 

During a trip to The Frankenjura with Mike Rudden, Andy made a very rare onsight of The Bastard 10-/10 (8a+). This short and powerful route was put up by Jerry Moffat in 1989. “I couldn’t do the hard move, much to his surprise and obvious disgust!” Mike Rudden.

Andy Earl at Sunderland Wall © Steve Crowe 2003
Andy Earl at Sunderland Wall © Steve Crowe 2003

I retired in December 2001 to concentrate on my climbing, photography and route setting. We did a lot of route setting together for Andy’s sponsor Rockworks. We set the original routes at Sunderland Wall when it opened in 2003 and then along with Chris Graham we continued setting together with new routes going up every week until Andy left to build his own successful wall Climb Newcastle in Byker. Before his Rockworks sponsorship deal Andy had worked for Entreprise to help build the popular outdoor boulder at Whickham Thorns. He was also involved in setting the Scarpa hardcore circuit at The Works. “Yesterday me and Springer popped down to Climbing Works. Meeting up with Percy the aim was to set a hard circuit for men and women 10 problems each. Sounds easy, well check out what happened here.” Andy.

Andy Earl on the first ascent of The Prow E9 7a © Steve Crowe 2003
Andy Earl on the first ascent of The Prow E9 7a © Steve Crowe 2003

In April 2003 Karin and I got the call to go to Kyloe In with my cameras, and Karin’s new bouldering mat. Along with Rich Duffy we watched in awe as Andy coolly climbed the blank looking arête of The Prow E9.

Andy Earl climbing on the Dark Side E9 © Steve Crowe
Andy Earl climbing on the Dark Side E9 © Steve Crowe

In October 2003 Andy was encouraged to climb Dark Side by Bob Smith who had already climbed some of the line. Andy cleaned the finish and top roped the line with John Earl a few days before the ascent but didn’t quite manage to link it. In those days Andy Earl would come with Richard Duffy to train in our garage once a week to use our campus board. I would photograph Andy on many of his hard ascents and sell them to the climbing magazines. So Andy, Karin and me went to Back Bowden with maybe 3 or 4 mats and a rope. Andy brushed off the line and quickly linked it all on top rope once then decided to climb/lead it solo to the break then place a cam for the “easy” finish where Karin would belay him while I took pictures. It all went smoothly, me hanging on ab rope taking photos (another camera on a tripod & motor drive, click click click) then suddenly… Andy was barn dooring, somehow he reeled it in dropped a gear and exploded up to the break. Phew but no “Shit!” he was wrong handed with his hand in the slot where his only cam should go and the cam was now out of reach on the wrong side of his harness. Karin, a tiny thing, way below holding a rope that wasn’t clipped into anything yet was wondering wether to run or spot Andy when he fell. Somehow Andy got a hold of the cam and rammed in where it didn’t really fit and freestyled an untested sequence and thankfully made it to the top. Meanwhile John Earl was a work, nervously waiting for a phone call from Andy to confirm that he had survived the ordeal. “When I eventually got a call from Andrew to say he had succeeded the relief was tremendous. As a climber I knew how serious these routes were and right at the cutting edge ” John Earl. I asked Andy how hard it felt but he didn’t really commit to a grade just said it was “Hard!” Since I was writing the guidebook and selling pictures I came up with the grade and since he used a rope we settled on a trad grade. These days he would have solo’ed it above a mass of mats but back then we climbed everything with only one layer of mats. I knew this was a hard line because we had two layers of mats this time!

Andy Earl on The Bitch 8A+ Back Bowden Steve Crowe 2003
Andy Earl on The Bitch 8A+ Back Bowden Steve Crowe 2003

The crags in The County have suffered at the hands of increasing traffic, even the hardest routes have been affected. Not long after Andrews ascent of The Bitch 8A+ at Back Bowden Doors the hold on the lip which was a smear when he did it became a finger jug. Despite this it still went on to frustrate many strong climbers until his good friend Martin Smith got the second ascent in 2006.

Noel Craine had been based in Newcastle and often joined us during the development of Rothley and Shaftoe and when he returned to North Wales he was involved in the resurgent interest to develop the boulders around Llanberis. Andy, Chris Graham and myself enjoyed a great weekend bouldering in North Wales in October 2003 ticking off many of the new classics despite some indifferent weather.. Personally I enjoyed Porth Ysgo the best. Proper blocks, strong lines, unusual rock and sunshine! The highlights included Jerry’s Roof 7C, Tide of Dreams 7C and Lou Ferrino 7C+.

Andy Earl climbing Rock Attrocity Font 7C+ Parisellas Cave © Steve Crowe 2003
Andy Earl climbing Rock Attrocity Font 7C+ Parisellas Cave © Steve Crowe 2003

In January 2004 Andy enjoyed a short trip away from home which meant that he went two days without climbing or training for the first time in years. The next day he went to Kyloe in the Woods and made the second ascent of Monk Life 8B+, it still ranks as one of Andy’s hardest and best ascents. “Andy’s involvement in Monk Life ended up being the reason I did it. I’d been trying jumping straight up to a crappy pocket. Andy showed me the way and it was to jump further out left to a better hold, obvious really. Once I knew this method it didn’t take long.” Malcolm Smith.

Andy Earl climbing Monk Life 8B+ © Steve Crowe 2003
Andy Earl climbing Monk Life 8B+ © Steve Crowe 2003

I must admit I was a little disappointed when Andy climbed Endless Flight Direct E8 at Great Wanney in July 2004 because it made my slightly less direct start appear superfluous. I have tried Andy’s start and it involves unprotected Font 7C+ compression climbing directly above a sturdy fence. Too hard, too serious for me! 

Andy Earl on Endless Flight Direct E8 7a © Steve Crowe 2004
Andy Earl on Endless Flight Direct E8 7a © Steve Crowe 2004

Around the same time Andy added two thin crimpy 8A’s at Bowden Doors, Growlers and Antihydral. He repeated them so that I could take some photographs. Andy usually graded his new boulder problems but he never graded any of his routes. (The Prow he gave highball 8A.) As the Northumberland guidebook editor that was left for me to decide!

I was recovering from knee surgery in January 2005 when I got the opportunity to join Andy for a bouldering trip to Cresciano and Chironico in Ticino. It was a strong team which included Ian Vickers, Gaz Parry, Jamie Cassidy and Percy Bishton, I was there just to take photos but I did take my rock shoes with me. There was soon much to photograph, so many impressive problems getting dispatched in super quick time. Unfortunately Andy had a bad cold but he still came away with some impressive ascents including Dreamtime Standing 8A+ and Soucoupe LH 7C+

 Andy Earl on Soucupe LH 7C+ at Crironico © Steve Crowe 2005
Andy Earl on Soucupe LH 7C+ at Crironico © Steve Crowe 2005

In November 2006, Andy made two very significant ascents in the space of one week. The third ascent of Cypher 8B at Slipstones, then the following week he made the fifth ascent of The Ace 8B at Stanage

 Andy Earl on Cypher 8B Slipstones © Steve Crowe 2004
Andy Earl on Cypher 8B Slipstones © Steve Crowe 2004

2007 saw many first ascents climbed and many hard problems ticked. Andy returned from a short trip to Switzerland with two 8B ticks Vecchio Lane and High Spirit, then he and Chris Graham spent three days trying the outrageous prow just left of The Plumber at Ravensheugh. Andy quickly followed by Chris climbed The Magician an unprotected E7 7a or highball 8A. Andy commented “The name came after Chris proposed a possible sequence and I asked him if he thought I was an effing magician.” Andrew. The first ground up ascent of Careless Torque 8A at Stanage stands out as does the quick ascent of High Fidelity 8B at Caley.“Anyway so we get to Caley, Andy brushes the holds and sets off, not expecting to get too far on his first go. Undoubtedly inspired by my awesome spotting ability he waltzed straight past the crux to top it out first try.” Chris Graham. Andy describes his trip to Parisella’s “Clyde 8A+ after some good beta off Gaz Parry I did it pretty quick, nice problem. Then I did Trigger Cut 7C+ first go, then it took me a couple of attempts to do Halfway House 8A+Then I tried Director’s Cut (8B)which I would hope to get done by the end of the summer but it’s a bit of a pain with the 5 hours driving to get to the cave, but all the same nice day.”  However I think Andy was especially pleased with the ascents of Sloppy Ploppin 7C+Vorsprung Durch Technik 8A and of course Blood Sports 8B on his home patch at Shaftoe. Suz and Andy enjoyed a fun summer trip to Targasonne in 2008 where Andy collected an impressive tick list: Nazgul 7C 2nd go, Clem rit 7CSing while you may (du fond) 8A 2nd go, I shot Sarzonazy 8A Flash, Psoas Hole 8A+Tarite de demonologie 7C Flash, La beaute de la chose 7C+ 2nd go, La beaute de la chose (da) 8A+ Flash, Black bloc 7C 2nd Go, Black bloc 8A Flash, Orgasm Machine 7C+ (a jump), Flagellun Daemonium 7C (another jump).

Andy Earl on The Ace 8B at Stanage © Steve Crowe 2006
AndyEarl on The Ace 8B at Stanage © Steve Crowe 2006

In June 2008 Andy, Chris Graham and Darren Stevenson signed the lease for the Old Pool at Byker, Newcastle. Close friends Andy Long and Rob Lambey were drafted in to build the wall. Climb Newcastle opened on the 23rd October 2008 and continues to be the most successful indoor wall in the northeast. Enjoying a break from work, their 2009 Rocklands Trip was great. Suz Dudink (Andy’s partner) did her first 8A+ Tea with Elmarie and Andy did loads of hard problems quickly up to 8B including Armed Response 8Band Green Mamba 8B

A strong team sitting in their podium positions © Steve Crowe
A strong team who are sitting in their ultimate podium positions; 1. Malcolm Smith (centre), 2. Andy Earl (left) 3. Chris Graham (right)

Andrew sitting (left) sporting a black eye after a disagreement with a GriGri while route setting, Malcom Smith (centre) and Chris Graham (right) went on to share the podium after the A5 BBC first round at Ratho. Looking back, I can remember I was in Preston back in 2004 to watch Andy and Karin competing at the final round of the British Bouldering Championships when Graeme Alderson was explaining to Andrew that parts of the bouldering wall were just paper mache and must not be kicked! Andy was leading on points with two second place results at both Ratho and Blackburn counting. He won the final round at West Park Leisure Centre, Preston to become British Bouldering Champion and fortunately the climbing wall remained undamaged. Andy retained the title for three consecutive seasons from 2003 until 2006.

Perhaps his proudest moment was taking second place, against a very strong field, in the 2004 European Championship at Lecco, Italy. Andy was camping in a small tent and he didn’t know what to do with the trophy other than to carry it everywhere he went! 

Andy Earl winner at La Reunion photo Graeme Alderson
Andy Earl winner at La Reunion photo Graeme Alderson

Third place in the World Cup at Fiera di Primiero in Italy followed in 2005, before finally standing on the podium for first place in the fourth round of the 2007 World Cup at La Reunion. “I went to La Reunion to compete in the 4th round of the World Cup, I found temps of around 26 in the night and up to 38 in the day, it took some time to get used to. I qualified for the semi finals and then qualified for the final in first place by doing 4 blocs in 4 attempts. I thought that things could only get worse. In the final I felt good, doing all the blocs up to the last bloc. This left me in second place before the last bloc with Killien and Jerome having done the last bloc I was in the position where if I did the last bloc I would win and if I took a walk up Henman Hill I would end up out of it in 4th place. Well to cut a long story short, I came out to the last bloc, focused and somehow I flashed it, all my friends in the crowd went crazy. What a feeling having competed for 4 years, I have finally achieved what I had always wanted.”  

Graeme Alderson recollects “In la Reunion Andy was in an apartment with the rest of the team, I know as I was there as Delegate and I had booked everything as I was still at the BMC. However I remember even better when I met up with everyone at Orly airport realising that there was an atmosphere, so I took Audrey to one side and said “Should you have not mentioned that you and Andy had split up, I have booked you a double room in the apartment”, she was in a dark place at that comp!”

What happened in Alnwick could never have been anticipated but how Andrew pushed himself throughout all the rehab was not unexpected. Following 5 weeks treatment in the Royal Victoria Infirmary’s Neurology Unit, Andy spent a further 9 months in the excellent care of the dedicated staff at Walkergate Park Centre for Neurorehabilitation and Neuropsychiatry. The more determined Andy was to complete all his therapy the more challenges the staff at Walkergate found to set him! “Andy had to relearn everything, even the simplest things like swallowing, holding up his head, and making a sound.” Suz. The story of Andy’s recovery from his massive brain aneurysm is best described by Suz Dudink and Nick Brown in the digital feature on UK Climbing: In the Bubble.  

As I write this final paragraph I am still aching from another tough workout at Climb Newcastle. I could only manage about half of the problems on the new circuit which was set as usual by Andy, Suzan and Chris. I found this set especially tough but Andy’s words of encouragement are still ringing in my ears “Pull harder!”


Andy Earl sponsored by E9 © Steve Crowe 2006
Andy Earl sponsored by E9 © Steve Crowe 2006

E9 (The County Climbing Company) 

Andy was sponsored by E9 and Beta Climbing from 2004. He liked the brand so much he wanted to import E9 products himself. The County Climbing Company Ltd was formed in September 2006 by Andrew Earl and John Earl. Based in Newcastle it is the sole importer into the UK of E9 clothes and accessories. “Like most things that have happened in my life it was more a reaction to a situation. I had already retired and Andrew was sponsored by E9 and loving the brand when Beta Climbing decided not to import into the UK. We thought we would look into the possibility of setting up a company to take on the franchise. Simon Berry of Beta Climbing provided us with advice and information and because of Andrew’s relationship with Mauro Calibani the owner of E9 was prepared to trust this embryo company with his product.” John Earl

Andy and Malc discussing Scarpa boots © Steve Crowe
Andy and Malc discussing Scarpa boots © Steve Crowe

Scarpa UK (Mountain Boot Company) 

It is over 21 years since Andy joined Scarpa UK.  ” I recruited Andy as soon as we formed The Mountain Boot Company in January 1995. Andy was the ultimate sponsored hero. He was “the brand”, he would do anything we asked of him with a smile. He helped us test and design products, he sold to shops, he helped us recruit other athletes including the likes of Malcolm Smith, he even drove forklifts ( badly) in our warehouse!. Andy has been and continues to be a massive contributor to the growth of the Scarpa climbing brand in the UK. His black and white view of life always made it easy to understand his view. His testing and feedback was invaluable and fun!. A great shoe would be stroked and purred at, a bad one could be thrown an enormous distance!. Despite the tragedy that hit Andy, we are still so privileged to enjoy his input as a customer and partner, but above all as a friend” Steve Roberts Scarpa UK/Mountain Boot Company

Climb Newcastle 

Following the fantastic success of his popular indoor bouldering business at Climb Newcastle Andy and his team have plans to open an new centre during the autumn of 2017. Both centres will run side by side with complementary activities and events. The Valley will be twice the size of the existing centre and Andy promises that “The Valley will be a bouldering centre of the highest calibre, we will include all the state of the art features that you would expect from a modern indoor climbing business.”

Cresciano 2005 © Steve Crowe
Cresciano 2005 © Steve Crowe

An Impressive Ticklist – The Highlights 

Bones Don’t BounceE5Whiteheaugh1993first ascent
Soft Option8aKilnsey1994 
The Pockets Traverse7CBack Bowden Doors1995 
La Cara Que No Miente8a+Siurana1998Flashed
Learning to Fly7CKyloe Out1999 
Masterblaster AreteE7Rothley Crag2000 
MasterclassE7Rothley Crag2000 
Power is Nothing Without Control7CShaftoe2000first ascent
Purely Belter8AShaftoe2000first ascent
The YoungE8Callaly2000first ascent
Desperado8A+Gimmerknowle2001first ascent
The Bastard8a+The Frankenjura2001onsight
The ProwE9Kyloe in the Woods2003first ascent
Lou Ferrino7C+Parisella’s Cave2003 
Patch’s Arete7C+Porth Ysgo2003 
Rock Attrocity7CParisella’s Cave2003 
The Dark SideE9Back Bowden Doors2003first ascent
Tide of Dreams7CPorth Ysgo2003 
Crocodile AreteE7Ravensheugh2003first ascent
The Ayes Have ItE8Raven’s Crag2003first ascent
The Bitch8A+Back Bowden Doors2003first ascent
Antihydral8ABowden Doors2004first ascent
Growlers8ABowden Doors2004first ascent
Monk Life8B+Kyloe in the Woods2004second ascent
Endless Flight DirectE8Great Wanney2004first ascent
European Championships Lecco, Italy2004Second Place
British Bouldering Championships  2004 
Dalliance8b+Kilnsey, Yorkshire2004 
Dreamtime Standing8A+Cresciano and Chironico2005 
Soucoupe LH 7C+Chironico2005 
World Cup Fiera di Primiero, Italy2005Third Place
I Want You Bad8AVarazze2006 
Cypher8BSlipstones2006third ascent
The Ace8BStanage20065th ascent
Marilyn Monroe8ASwiss2007 
The MagicianE7Ravensheugh2007first ascent
Vecchio Leone8BSwiss2007 
High Spirit8BSwiss2007 
Black Bloc8ATargasonne2007 
I Shot Sarzonazy8ATargasonne2007Flash
La beaute de la chose (assis)8A+Targasonne2007 
Psoas Hole8ATargasonne2007 
Careless Torque8AStanage2007Ground up
Check Out Me Pipes7C+Ravensheugh2007 
Never Never Land8AFontainebleau2007 
Tigre and Dragon8AFontainebleau2007 
Verdict 8AFontainebleau 2007 
Clyde8A+Parisella’s Cave2007 
Halfway House8A+Parisella’s Cave2007 
Trigger Cut7C+Parisella’s Cave2007first go
Blood Sport8BShaftoe2007first ascent
World Cup La Reunion2007First Place
High Fidelity8BCaley2007Third Ascent
Les Beaux Quartiers8AFontainebleau2007 
Unknown Name8BSwiss2007 
Unknown Name8BSwiss2007 
Unknown Name8A+Swiss2007 
Unknown Name8ASwiss2007 
Unknown Name7CSwiss2007 
Unknown Name7CSwiss2007 
Vorsprung Durch Technik8AShaftoe2007 
Sloppy Ploppin7C+Shaftoe2007 
Roadside new 8a8AShaftoe2008 
Northern Territory7C+Kyloe Out2008first ascent
Mello 8A8AMello2008 
3° cane8AChironico2008 
New problem left of Blood Sport8A?Shaftoe2008first ascent
Unknown Name7C+Above Earl Crag2008flashed
Unknown Name8AAbove Earl Crag2008 
Arc Royal8A+Queen’s Crag2009 
Armed Response8BRocklands, SA2009 
Green Mamba8BRocklands, SA2009 
Jeux sans Frontières7CHangman Rock2009 
Selected Highlights

Adventures on Lundy

Rock climbing on Lundy remains one of this country’s last great adventures, it is not a place for the faint-hearted. A trip requires careful planning, a certain commitment and the climber is guaranteed to be rewarded with some glorious and long lasting memories. Be warned that this could become a life long commitment, returning year after year for your Lundy fix.

Lundy is a gem of finest granite sat in the Bristol channel 12 miles from the nearest landfall at Hartland Point. The island is 3 miles north to south and 1 mile east to west with the majority of the best climbing situated on the 100-metre-high west facing coast. Three walls; Quarter Wall, Halfway Wall and Three-quarter Wall serve as important landmarks. The latest (2008) Climbers Club Guidebook to Lundy includes an excellent separate 1:15,000 scale map which details all the important crags. Many crags are banned from 1st April until 31st July so the best time to climb here is August and September.

MS Oldenburg,  Lundy © Steve Crowe 2007
MS Oldenburg, Lundy © Steve Crowe 2007

Weather and Tides
So goes the rhyme: Lundy high fine and dry, Lundy low, rain and blow. The tidal range is a phenomenal 15 metres so pay attention to the tide times and always belay yourself to the base of the cliff in case of freak waves.

Puffins on Lundy © Steve Crowe 2008
Puffins on Lundy © Steve Crowe 2008

Lundy Island is internationally famous amongst birdwatchers, indeed the name is Norse for Puffin Island. Up to 35 species have been recorded nesting on the island including of course the Puffin and over 140 different migrant species visiting every year.

Camping on Lundy © Steve Crowe
Camping on Lundy © Steve Crowe

While it may be years before you can get a booking for The Barn or some of the 24 other more salubrious properties, the campsite can often be booked at the very last minute. For details regarding booking, camping or accommodation and sailing times of the ferry, contact; The Landmark Trust, Shottesbrooke, Maidenhead, Berks SL6 3SW or call 01628 825 925
 The Marisco Tavern is the hub of island life offering meals and coffees all day and one of the highlights; their own unique ales; Lundy Experience 3.9% and The Old Light 4.2%. Be aware that they strictly enforce a ban on the use of electronic devices so you may well have to rely on the ancient art of conversation. It’s also worth knowing that you can run a tab at the tavern and pay by credit card at the end of your stay.
 The island shop is well stocked with all the basics but be sure to bring as much crag food as you can manage with you (within your 20kg baggage limit).

Busy Day at Landing Craft Bay © Steve Crowe 2007
Busy Day at Landing Craft Bay © Steve Crowe 2007

Getting on to the island on the MS Oldenburg is just the start of your adventure. Take all your climbing gear in your hand luggage so that you can go climbing as soon as you arrive on the island. The rest of your baggage will be delivered to your accommodation but it can take quite a while for it to arrive. 

While there are almost 1000 climbs on these well weathered granite crags to choose from most first time visitors have a similar tick list. There are routes of every grade from Difficult to E9 including the superb Devil’s Slide HS to the steep and spectacular Flying Dutchman E7 the majority of the best climbing is VS and above.

Golden Gate E4 is a terrific pitch tackling the arête of Focal Buttress at the very southern tip of Lundy. The superb crackline of The Great Divide E3 and the fantastic sweeping Olympica E5 combine to make a memorable day out.  

A few hundred metres north of The Old Light is the non tidal Wolfman Jack Wall. The well protected central crackline is followed by the popular Wolfman Jack E3Venus Flytrap E2 is a brilliant pitch finding the easiest line up the right-hand side of the wall. 

Karin Magog on Wolfman Jack E3 Lundy © Pat Nolan
Karin Magog on Wolfman Jack E3 Lundy © Pat Nolan

Landing Craft Bay is a popular area with easy access. This is home to the steep and well protected The Indy 500 E1, the superb jamming crack of Destiny E2, the powerful and exciting Rampart E3 and the very popular Shamrock VS which is quite steep but has good holds and is well protected. Supercharged E5 is an excellent technical route that follows a superb slender groove.

Steve Crowe warming up on Shamrock VS, Lundy © Pat Nolan 2007
Steve Crowe warming up on Shamrock VS, Lundy © Pat Nolan 2007

The Flying Buttress is the huge granite arch which lies directly below The Battery an old gun emplacement.Double Diamond HVS is a high quality and more sustained version of the popular Diamond Solitaire VS, The Cullinan E5 and it’s excellent variation Flying the Colours also E5 are both bold and compelling, while the Flying Dutchman E7 is one of the finest hard routes on Lundy and indeed in the South West.

The miniature sea stack of Needle Rock provides a selection of routes on superb rock. Intergrity HS stands out as an impeccable climb in fine positions. A short way along the beach is The Punchbowl Cliff where there are a selection of popular single pitch routes including the delightful and well protected Promises E1.

Karin Magog on Antiworlds E5 Deep Zawn Lundy © Mark Edwards
Karin Magog on Antiworlds E5 Deep Zawn Lundy © Mark Edwards

A visit to Jenny’s Cove requires careful judgement of the fast approaching tides if you intend to tackle the unique Devil’s Chimney HS which is Lundy’s answer to Napes Needle. The Fifth Appendage E1 provides delicate climbing in an impressive situation while the brilliant and varied Promised Land E3 is one of the the islands major undertakings. An complex and improbable line. On a failed attempt to climb Promised Land we approached by a slippery and frankly dangerous boulder hop across far too many greasy boulders only to find the start just too damp. A better approach is by abseil a 100m static from the boulders above as mentioned in Paul Harrison’s definitive guide on page168.

The harrowing sounds of adventure echo around the huge Deep ZawnThe Serpent E1 offers a gentle introduction to the zawn, Quartermass E2 is the most popular climb tackling the prominent twin crack system. The excellent Supernova E5 climbs the perfect thin crack splitting the ochre tinged headwall, while Antiworlds E5 is an outstanding challenge, sustained climbing on excellent rock with good protection throughout.

Directly below the Halfway wall and The Cheeses are the gold and black streaked Egyption Slabs where you will find the delightful and popular Immaculate Slab HVS which tackles the left side of this sweep of perfect granite

Grand Falls Zawn is home to the atmospheric American Beauty HVS and stunning steep wall of Mal de Mar E4. The brilliant Cithaeron E4 is a great introduction to The Parthenos where only the strongest climbers will seek the explosive Ex-Cathedra E6, the uncompromising Too Precious E6 and the exhilarating Earthsea Trilogy (part 2) E6  

Further north is the unmistakeable 120 metre Devil’s Slide which is by far Lundy’s most famous cliff. The Devil’s Slide HS needs little introduction as it is by far the most popular route on Lundy. The magnificent Albion VS takes the corner formed by the left side of slide while the extremely bold Satan’s Slip E1 can be protected by many small and micro wires. Although Redspeed E2 is hard for the grade it is worth seeking out around the Back of the Slide as the gear and rock are exemplary. 

Karin Magog on Redspeed E2, Lundy © Steve Crowe 2007
Karin Magog on Redspeed E2, Lundy © Steve Crowe 2007

The Diamond is a superb steep blank looking face sparkling with classic’s. Widespread Ocean of Fear E5 is a much sought after natural line up the face, Watching the Ocean E6 is a very bold and sustained slab climb however the continuous crackline of Diamond Life E4 is probably the most popular route on this excellent face.

Steve Crowe on Ace of Diamonds E5 6a Lundy © Pat Nolan
Steve Crowe on Ace of Diamonds E5 6a © Pat Nolan

When I climbed the classic Controlled Burning E3 on the steep and complex Torrey Canyon Cliff I found it unpleasant, rather gritty and altogether disappointing, however it fell down a few weeks later so that explains why! It has since been reclimbed and now makes a slightly harder but still stunning crack climb at E4. Wall of Attrition E5 is a steep and dramatic crack climb while The Ocean Dosen’t Want Me Today E4 follows a tenuous line up the overhanging capped corner.  

The Headline Promontory of Arch Zawn is over half a kilometre north of The Devil’s Slide. It has a collection of fine routes with the highlight being the intricate Headline E1 which makes the long walk worthwhile. Access to most of the sea cliffs is usually down steep grassy slopes then often by abseil so a 100m static rope and many rope protectors are recommended. 

Current Guidebooks
There are three popular guidebooks that cover climbing on Lundy, one excellent definitive guide and two very selective books. West Country Climbs by Mark Glaister (Rockfax 2010) includes little more than a graded tick list with no topos, it would be impossible to find any of the routes with this guidebook. South West Climbs volume 2 by Pat Littlejohn (Climbers Club 2014) includes about the same number of routes, this time 45, but there are also good photo diagrams and supporting information enough for a weekend visit. The only realistic guide for a longer trip is the excellent definitive Lundy by Paul Harrison (Climbers Club 2008) which we have reviewed here.


Old Light, Lundy © Steve Crowe 2007
Old Light, Lundy © Steve Crowe 2007

Lundy Classic Climbs

E7 Flying Dutchman
E6 Watching the Ocean, Ex-Cathedra
E5 Olympica, Antiworlds, A Widespread Ocean of Fear 
E4 Diamond Life, Cithaeron, Mal de Mer, Controlled Burning 
E3 Rampart, Wolfman Jack, The Promised Land 
E2 Redspeed, Venus Flytrap, Destiny, Quartermaster 
E1 Satan’s Slip, The Indy 500, Fifth Appendage, Headline  
HVS Double Diamond, American Beauty, Immaculate Slab 
VS Albion, Diamond Solitaire, Shamrock 
HS The Devil’s Slide, Horseman’s Route, Integrity

Further Information

The Landmark Trust own and manage the island of Lundy

Lundy by Paul Harrison (Climbers Club 2008) review

Lundy by by Dave Henderson

Lundy – UK Climbing Destination Guide by Rob Greenwood
The Ultimate Tick List is an exhaustive list of all the very best rock climbs on Lundy.

The Ultimate Lundy Tick List
The Ultimate Lundy Tick List

Energia Positiva by Dave Stainthorpe

So here I am, tucked in under an orange roof, trying to recover from being an idiot. Back clipped the last draw on the steepest bit, fiddled with it, took it off put it back on – but hey I’m still on. Fairly pumped but still on and feeling strong. Feet, feet, feet, yes left here, right over there on the dish, backside in for the poor sloper, rock up, got the crimps, where does this bloody left foot go? This will have to do, nah here, drop a bit, right hip in and the Gallowgate throw. Shoooot. Fingers brush the air by the jug but all of me is heading down, through the crisp blue Catalan air. No, no, no, I had it, how did I miss, what am I doing here?

Energia Positiva 7c+ Nate Murphy
Energia Positiva 7c+ Bruixes

Three years ago I retired from a great job, working with lots of superb people. My children had grown up and flown the nest and were making their way in the world. My wife was on board with the idea of me retiring so I could travel and climb. So after spending most of my adult life as a worker who climbed, I became a climber. I was sixty two years old with the resources and the time to train, travel and climb. The opportunity of a lifetime.

 For the last three years I have travelled and climbed and loved it; great places, great trips, great people. I applied myself to learning how to get stronger, how to build endurance and how to improve my technical ability. I did training for coaching courses to improve my knowledge and understanding of “climbing”.

 In October 2015 I came back from a yet another great trip to Siurana as a junior member of “team awld”, the cream of Northumberland, some of the best climbers of their generation. We climbed lots of routes as is usual for these trips, trying to flash each route then moving on. Over the last three years I had completed thirty similar trips in Europe, on sighting / flashing hundreds of great routes and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Then I thought, can I change the game? Can I maximise my strengths and go on a trip where redpointing routes at my current limit was the focus? It sounded very risky, I could go away and fail to do any routes, no ticks, no prizes.

 I needed an achievable goal and had loved Bruixes wall at Terradets since I first set eyes on it, many years ago. The goal was therefore easy, climb up the centre of this beautiful wall on Energia Positiva 7c+, with a heartbreaking move at the top. Worst nightmare for Mr Static midget – a big pop

Dave Stainthorpe on Energia Positiva 7c+, Bruixes © Steve Crowe 2015
Dave Stainthorpe on Energia Positiva 7c+, Bruixes © Steve Crowe 2015

Finding the right person to climb with was essential. I needed calm, positive support, and someone who understood the process through and through. Steve Crowe was out in Catalonia for a long trip with the missus, Karin Magog, but she was coming home early to work. I had climbed many times before with Steve and knew he was the person I needed so I agreed to meet up with him for a couple of weeks at Bruixes in December 2015. The race was on, I had just 46 days to prepare.

Training can be a lonely activity, fraught with uncertainty and pitfalls, and I knew I would get more out of it if I could build a team to get me ready. I enlisted lots of folks for belaying / training support. This included access to bouldering at Durham Climbing Centre and the awesome circuit board at Eden Rock in Carlisle. Then I sat down, had a think and wrote a training plan. At this point I was very unsure if the plan was the right one to get me ready. I had also learned that doing the plan is far more important than writing the plan. The backup and support for this came from Neil Gresham, I was very impressed with the way he had trained to do his new route, Freakshow, at Kilnsey. Going from looking like it would never happen at the end of 2014 to it certainly looking like it would get done in the spring of 2015 , to sending it. I sent Neil my plan and he gave me some fairly robust but well informed feedback and then we knocked it into better shape between us. I was particularly impressed with the nutritional aspects that Neil recommended that I integrated with the plan. I recalled that Lucy Creamer had an excellent trip to Bruixes a couple of years ago and contacted her via her website. She provided comprehensive advice and information, which you can read on her website, Lucy also kept in contact providing great support through her knowledge and enthusiasm. 

Dave Stainthorpe climbing Energia Positiva 7c+ Bruixes © Steve Crowe
Dave Stainthorpe climbing Energia Positiva 7c+ Bruixes

So with the team in place I set off to do the plan, sharing progress with Neil and Steve throughout the process. Neil’s role was to feedback on the progress reports providing support and suggesting tweaks as we went along. Steve kept a watch on how things were going so that he knew the state of play as we hit the crag. He and Karin also gave me excellent suggestions of routes to use to achieve my fitness objectives. This arrangement worked very well and was a significant factor in me following through on the agreed plan 100%. We had ups and downs on the way. My yoga commitment led me to develop positional vertigo which caused me to feel sick and dizzy if I moved my head. This did not stop me training though and my GP was brilliant, sorting it out in one session – flipping genius! The control this partnership gave me over the training meant I did what was planned rather than what I fancied. This was a key factor in training very hard but not getting injured. Not wandering off and doing random bouldering with the boys at the wall, not just trying some new finger ripping exercise, simply doing what we planned.

By the time I left for Spain I knew I was much stronger and fitter than when I started the process and I was totally psyched to get stuck into the redpointing process. By now the route was simply an element in the process, getting on it and learning how to climb it was what motivated me. Steve was great at managing the pace, talking me through the tactics, getting the food and hydration right, advising when to rest and when to go, having the last go of the day to build fitness on the route and keeping me calm and positive. So the route came together quickly. I made big links on day two and thought it in the bag. Went backwards day three, falling off easier sections because I was thinking about clipping the chain instead of placing the feet. Got frustrated next day dropping the last move every go. Then on my rest day I thought I’d have a potter just to warm up the body and found myself looking at the long pop after a very smooth trip up….. Missed it. Took half an hour rest, cruised back up, eyeballed the jug, stuck one on – just managing to catch the very edge. I crimped hard and moved on up. Success!! I clipped the belay, asked for loads of slack jumped off and enjoyed the ride down.


Dave Stainthorpe enjoying the moment. © Rick Kirby
Dave Stainthorpe enjoying the moment. © Rick Kirby

Elation lasts a few seconds. I was dead chuffed, Steve and team Australia were suitably congratulatory. I was empty, desperate to get back into the process, seeking out a new project. Got one, Bon Viatge 8a, sorted out all the moves but too few days and too little left in the tank to finish the process ……. . but I’ll be back


Key ideas:

Building a team to support climbing at one’s limit
Gaining knowledge
  Feedback and testing plans and ideas
  Support through the training period
  Physical technical nutritional and mental issues
  Being part of a team

Pros and cons of being old
Harder to build strength
  But possible to get closer to your maximum potential
  Need to rest more to realise gains
  Breaking poor technical habits and engrams
  Time to research, talking reading and observing
  Time to train
  Time to travel and climb
  Possibly good extended networks to meet and climb with different climbers

The process of working routes around your personal limit
Recognising that a redpointing / upper limit trip is different to an on sighting trip
  Process begins with honest appraisal of strengths and weaknesses
  Training is part of the process
  Having a training plan is essential
  Doing what is in the plan is 100x more important
  Having the right people on the ground is essential 
      Good belayers
      Good travelling companion
      Good tactician, listener and communicator

Process ahead of prize 

Support Team:

Durham Climbing Centre

Eden Rock

Karin Magog

Lucy Creamer

Neil Gresham

Team Australia


Steve Crowe