Tag Archives: Climbing

SW COASTAL PATH – ‘FURTHEST FROM THE RAILWAYS’

                                                                  Hartland Point.

Clovelly – Hartland Quay.

Hartland Point used to be described last century in tourist brochures as ‘furthest from the railways’ at that time Bude and Bideford, it is even further now. It feels a remote spot on the NW Devon coast marking the place where the path swings from a west to a south direction, the Bristol Channel becomes the Atlantic and the scenery becomes more dramatic.

I’d left Clovelly before it was awake and walked through parkland initially to reach to reach the Angel Wings an old estate carved wooden shelter. A couple walked past doing the path.

I resisted  a walk to a viewpoint as I wasn’t sure one could continue and so dropped down through woods to Mouth Mill Bay with views ahead to Lundy Island, a place of so many memories for me. Remains of mills and lime kilns in the valley and rocky bay were a reminder of past labour and prosperity. Limestone was brought in by boat and processed into lime for agriculture inland.

Steep steps into NT woodland and then zig zags back down into a valley before the inevitable climb back up and over Windbury Point. From here there were dramatic views back to the hollow arch of Blackchurch Rock which I hadn’t realised was on the beach round the corner at Mouthmill.  A  memorial plaque to a Wellington bomber crash of 1942 was passed. Further on was another memorial, this time to a ship torpedoed by a U-boat in 1918. Both are well tended.

Ahead was a radar dome which was being decommissioned and the path was diverted inland on quiet lanes to Titchberry, no hardship.The walking couple caught me up [we would leapfrog the next few days] – they had been seduced by that viewpoint sign which was as suspected a dead end. By now the wind was increasing and I was glad to reach the great little refreshment shack by a car park. A pleasant young man served me a good coffee and homemade cake, what a treasure.

The lighthouse at Hartland Point was out of bounds but the cliff edge by the CG lookout gave dramatic views. A switchback route went in and out of green valleys to arrive opposite the dramatic cliff of Dyers Lookout. I’d seen pictures of James Pearson climbing impenetrable looking rock to produce  Walk of Life, E9 6c or harder. In real life this looked impossible.

More steep ups and downs and eventually a grassy headland passing an old tower framing Stoke Church and then down to the dramatically situated Hartland Quay Hotel. By now the wind was gale force and the rain troublesome. The hotel was a welcome refuge and a wonderful place to spend the night listening to the waves.

View from my window.

 

 

 

 

WHITBARROW SCAR – a day out with Poppy.

My diary records – 22 October 1988. Circuit of Whitbarrow, Chris and Matthew. Glorious day, sunny and warm. 6.5 miles. The weekend before I had been climbing on Castle Rock, Thirlmere, and the next I was off to Morocco, trecking in the Jebel Sahro. Those were the days.

Whitbarrow is a wooded limestone ridge towering above the Kent Estuary prominently seen from across the water on the road to Arnside and its crags driven under on the Barrow road. Wainwright gives it a chapter in his Outlying Fells book. I hadn’t been back since that day so I was pleased when Sir Hugh suggested it for today’s walk. I managed to persuade the Rockman and his dog to come along saying it would be a short trip as Sir Hugh is recovering from a broken elbow and is only just using his walking poles. The morning was dreadful with floods developing from the torrential downpour but by the time we met up at Mill Side there was a glimpse of something better. The keenest member of the party was Poppy the Airdale Terrier.

What followed was a switchback route through woods, steep slippery slopes, glorious open ridge walking and first class limestone scenery. The Rockman and I just followed the intrepid Sir Hugh who was obviously rejoicing in his new found freedom, at times we all had to be careful not to suffer any further injury. Some paths I think were known only to him. Poppy jogged along contentedly and took all the considerable obstacles in her stride, though she seemed happiest when we stopped for lunch at the highest point, Lords Seat,

We completed a figure of eight course which included a close encounter with the base of Chapel Head Scar, a bastion of limestone hosting difficult sports climbs. I had never climbed here and I never will when I realised the grades. However above the crag, reached by a precipitous path, is a beautiful meadow which seemed perfect for a summer bivi looking out to the west over the Kent Estuary. There are paths everywhere and the whole area is worthy of further exploration, I particularly would like to walk closer under the southern White Scar cliffs which we seemed to miss by being in the woods, hereabouts our legs and conversation were just beginning to drag for the last half mile.

 

LONG SCAR DILEMMAS.

“Lower me down” – I had reached my dilemma. I couldn’t figure a way directly up the groove which was threatening to push me off and I was having trouble pulling on the flake high to my right which was the alternative. I had only come for an easy day and that reach was paining my stiff shoulder, even stiffer later! Fortunately I wasn’t on the lead and had the luxury of a top rope which slowly deposited me back in a heap at the base of the climb which happened to be named Katie’s Dilemma, I know how she felt. Dave and Rod proceeded without me.

 

 

 

 

 

                                                         Dave solving Katie’s Dilemma.

 

I’m often accused of overusing the word super in my enthusiasm – well today was super. [excellent, first rate, remarkable, marvellous, wonderful, glorious, exquisite, perfect, splendid  —  I could try some of these in future.]  The sky was blue, the air clear, the sun was shining, the temperature was 24º and this is the English Lake District.

We had braved the tortuous narrow lanes up to the summit of Wrynose Pass and parked up next to the Three Shires Stone. This boundary stone marks the spot where historically the counties of Lancashire, Cumberland and Westmorland met. The stone has a history of its own. Cut in Cartmel from limestone in 1816 for a William Field, the Furness roadmaster but not erected until 1860. The front of the stone is inscribed with Lancashire and the reverse W.F. 1816, no mention of the other counties. Apparently it was smashed into four pieces in a car accident in 1997, restored and re-erected in 1998.  It shows its scars today and Cumbria has taken over.

A made up path winds its way up the fell across boggy ground on the skirts of Pike O’Blisco. This is an area where the carnivorous Sundew plant may be found, a fact I learnt one previous trip to Long Scar when botanists were scouring the ground on their hands and knees. We saw none today and I suspect they are quite rare. The crag soon comes into sight as an eponymous long scar below Black Crag. The rock looked clean and dry and we had the place to ourselves for most of the day. The volcanic rock is roughly textured although in the central popular area there is erosion, possibly from group use, and the climbs here are becoming a little shiny; nevertheless this is where like lemmings we started.                                                          Rod’s dilemma – which groove?

In the past we had climbed all these routes so we soon spread further along the crag and that’s how I found my dilemma. Anyhow we were basking in the sun and enjoying the views – the nearby Wetherlam range, Crinkle Crags, the far off Windermere, the hikers below us and the occasional plane flying low through the gap. More climbs were enjoyed and life was good.                                       Great Carrs, Wetherlam and Coniston Old Man.


                                                                      Crinkle Crags.

 

For the usual record —

Platt Gang Groove. VD. Rod had his own dilemma as to which groove was which.                             Direct Start Old Holborn VD.                                                                                                                Katie’s Dilemma MVS.                                                                                                                               Billy’s Climb MS.                                                                                                                                      Green Treacle HS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BURNLEY WAY. Day Three.

Briercliffe to Worsthorne.

Another shortened day to accommodate the weather. I was back at Queens Mill and no sign of it opening to highlight Britain’s last remaining steam mill engine. Mill streets led to allotments and hen houses on the edge of town. The Parish Lengthsman pulled up and switched off his engine for a chat. He had been watering flower displays and was now off to do some path strimming. Throughout history lengthsmen have been employed to keep parishes tidy and the post has been revived in recent years to provide on the ground local maintenance.  We found we had mutual friends in Longridge and our chat covered many topics, he didn’t seem in a rush to get to work and I’m never in a rush when local knowledge can be gained.

Eventually I crossed several field to arrive at the grounds of Happa [Horses and Ponies Protection Association] and their modern cafe, as you know I won’t willingly walk past a cafe so I found myself inside enjoying a good Americano. Others were tackling mammoth portions of fish and chips, the cafe has a loyal local following. As you would expect horsey types were in strong evidence.

Skirting horse enclosures and then fields full of inquisitive cows I then began  descending towards the Thursden Valley but became a little entangled in boggy grounds and barbed wire fences – the way marking could be better. The valley itself is like a lost world with a small brown peaty brook meandering along. A path of sorts pushes through the sedges with occasional clumps of purple orchids and lots of meadow sweet. Horsetails seem to be trying to affect a takeover in some areas.

I came out onto a road with steep lanes leading into it – I recognised the situation from when we used to drive over to Widdop for a climbing session. The road leading out of the valley always appeared steep and exposed with a car seemingly wrecked down the slope to the left. I was amused to see its rusting form still there today.

A steady plod up the wild road and a descent brought me into Yorkshire with views down to Widdop Reservoir and the crags we so often climbed on. Prominent at the right-hand end was Purgatory Buttress, home of some classic extreme climbs. I was always attracted to the Artificial Route up the front and despite its scary moves was often drawn back to it. Below it are some beautiful boulders for a more relaxing if not taxing time.

Off the road a little track headed through the heather towards a stream where I found an ideal lunch spot. A Blackcap settled in the vegetation in front of me. A boggy section headed across the valley to join a distinct bridleway which climbed above Widdop Reservoir and onto open moorland close to Gorple and Hare Stones. More reservoirs came into view and Stoodley Pike was prominent across the Calder Valley. This track seemed very isolated today not another soul in sight and a rather broody sky.

…not another soul insight…

Distant Stoodley Pike.

A family of chirpy Wheatears were running on ahead of me. Burnley soon came back into view and you realise how close to the town this circular walk keeps returning. Down to my left Hurstwood Reservoir appeared where the route heads to but rain was in the air so I just continued straight down the bridleway into Worsthorne , with some interesting houses, for the bus, Hurstwood can wait till next time.

Hurstwood reservoir.

As I came down the track a mountain biker was heading up which reminded me of a ride I did with my teenage son many years ago on a long loop to Hebden Bridge and back. That was just at the beginning of the mountain bike revolution.

 

While on the subject earlier in the day I passed signs for a MB charity challenge, in a very good cause, from the previous weekend – why have those responsible not removed these by now. I consider these as litter once there purpose is over. Shouldn’t have ended the day on a sour note.

Name and shame.

 

 

 

 

TWISTLETON SCARS. Climbing on the SW Face.

The main crag at Twistleton hosts many low grade classic limestone climbs and was once a regular venue but slowly the polish increased meaning it fell out of favour with my group of climbers. Thats a shame as the rock was of such good quality and the situation in Chapel-le-Dale spectacular with Ingleborough brooding above on the opposite side of the valley. I wonder if due to less people climbing, not just because of the polish but with the rise in popularity of bolted routes and bouldering, left to nature the rock may roughen once more.  A few outlying crags were developed but we found these a bit short and scrappy, nowhere near the quality of the main crag. The exception to these was a separate area the South West Face, a small compact crag which in fact hosted some of the earlier climbs on the scar back in the 60’s Allan Austin era. This area had avoided the excesses of the main crag particularly no groups and remained a bit of a connoisseur’s area with climbs only on the lower grades.

My gardening induced shoulder pain had stopped me climbing for a few weeks so for today’s outing with Dave I wanted something gentle and he volunteered to do all the leading to tempt me along. He had taken a bit of a beating on gritstone the week before so when I suggested the SW Face limestone he was happy. My day didn’t start well as the cheap Aldi trousers which I had climbed in for over a decade finally disintegrated, a sad loss.  It is so long since either of us had been in Ingleton we were not even sure of the lane to take leading to the crag and once on it were surprised by how narrow it was. Anyhow eventually it straightened out [thought to be of Roman origin here] and we were in the correct valley, the northern side of Chapel-le-Dale. Ingleborough was indeed brooding over us and the show caves on its flanks seemed busy with cars and coaches, it was a lovely Summer’s day.

As is usual the approach to the crag seemed longer and steeper than in our younger days. On previous visits we had probably ticked most of the climbs but had to get out the guide book to reacquaint ourselves.

The start of the starred VD above our sacs looked a bit bold and sketchy so we looked elsewhere for a warm up route. The short easy one we did convinced us of the quality of the rock here and the lack of any polish so we were feeling pleased with our choice of venue. Back to that VD, well maybe not yet. There was a good steep climb left of the tree which followed a line of solid flakes that was very enjoyable. After a leisurely lunch soaking up the sun we avoided that VD by climbing a series of jugs up a steep rib – not a bad move on the route whose name gave a clue. After that we couldn’t procrastinate any longer. A closer look at the steep wrinkled wall in front of us revealed small flakes and even a crafty threaded runner so Dave had a sequence worked out and was soon finishing on the upper wall. The climbing was indeed quality but we both thought under graded for an onsight ascent. To finish the day there was another starred severe crossing a black wrinkly slab round the corner. The start was uninviting and the traverse unclear, though I don’t remember on past visits any difficulty. Anyhow I was in Dave’s hands today and he found an alternative start further right which used flakes to climb more directly up to the superb finishing wall, could even be a new variation route.

The pictures may give some indication of the quality of the rock, the vegetation was not a problem. The climbs were only 10m or so.

Tree Stump Crack D

Tree Wall S *

Juggernaut S **

Play For Today VD ? *

Twinkle Variation S *

 

 

 

 

THREE DAYS IN MAY. 3 – CLIMBING AT POT SCAR. Almost perfect.

Third time lucky. Things have changed in the tiny hamlet of Feizor where you always felt you were intruding into the residents’ private territory. Someone has opened a tea room which is proving very popular. The added benefit of this is that lots of parking spaces have been provided in a yard whereas in the past parking was fraught. Honesty box for the Air Ambulance, you never know when you might need them.  It’s a short pleasant walk up to the limestone crag of Pot Scar in the midst of classic Dales scenery, rolling green fields and all those stone walls. In the background is Ingleborough and across the valley distant Pendle and the Bowland Fells. Wary of the polished routes on the main face  [I recall climbing here 40 years ago and witnessing that polish developing gradually on the classic lines of Nirvana, Addiction, LSD etc, there was a name theme here]   we head left to a little buttress with routes suitable for us oldies. The sun is shining and the day warms up quickly despite there still being a brisk wind. The first easy climb is on perfect cracked limestone with no hint of polish, maybe nobody climbs this end. For the second climb I become entangled in trees and vegetation on what would have been a good line, Dave admonishes me for all the delay gardening. Lunch is taken in the sunshine looking at the scenery with the occasional party of walkers going through to Stainforth, no other climbers appear. I next enjoy a steep crack climb with quite reachy moves and the usual grassy mantelshelf near the top. Despite warnings of loose rock Dave quickly climbs a crack, a tree and a flake, as I follow a lot of the holds disintegrate. Another steep crackline and we are ready for home but well satisfied with the day’s climbing. Next time we will visit the cafe and then try the polish.

 

Half way up Domino.

Out of the tree on Periwinkle.

Finishing Feizor with Domino to the right. Notice the blue sky.

For the record…  Fingers Climb D,  Dodger VD.  Domino S.  Periwinkle VS.  Feizor S.

THREE DAYS IN MAY. 2 – CLIMBING IN WILTON. Too wet.

The prow, Wilton 1.

Jonathon is a busy family man but he thought he could fit in this Saturday climbing. Mid week we made arrangements for a trip to maybe the Lakes or Derbyshire as the weather had been dry. Friday night when I checked the forecast I was dismayed to see rain forecast by lunchtime throughout the area. He knew the same so in the morning we decided on  more local rock to get a few routes done to salvage the day. A quick drive down the motorway and by 10am we were stood under the prow in Wilton One. I realise what a large and impressive face this is. The sky had already clouded over.

He had not done Fingernail so that would be our warm up route, both being a bit rusty. There was a bit of a struggle to get off the ground and lasso the metal hook but then he was away despite taking the direct layback line into Horrock’s Route at the top. I also dithered at the bottom, glad of a rope above. The holds seemed small and slopey  despite being clean and dry. In the niche I didn’t fancy the layback so traversed round the arete onto the exposed delicate slab the correct way, I had forgotten how exposed and delicate! There is some debate as to the correct grading of this climb Severe 4a to VS 4c I incline towards the latter.

Starting Fingernail.

The ‘direct’ finish

As we descend carefully from the prow spots of rain darken the rock. Back at the foot of the climbs we get into the familiar ritual – it’s just passing over, lets give it a bit longer, it will soon dry etc. Well it didn’t and the heavens opened, by the time we were back at the car we were thoroughly soaked. Our only consolation was that if we had driven anywhere further afield we would have done nothing and anyhow, as his wife said giving us hot tea, Jonathon would be able to do some more work on the house.