Climbing tales of terror

Its a book, in fact. I remember browsing it in the good old days when I used to climb. But today I was browsing Rock Athlete which is Ron Fawcett’s book, and contains the following memorable story, which I will share with you because I liked it so much:

In the old days, a pair of his friends were climbing Malham Cove. They were aid climbing the extensive overhangs in in very bad weather in winter, and were benighted. Not realising they were close to the top, they chose to ab off in darkness. The rope became tangled, and in the cold the first was unable to untangle it, and forced to cut it; he promptly fell 35 feet to the ground, breaking both legs. The second, feeling the rope slack, came down and also fell off the end of the rope, breaking both wrists. They slowly made their way to the nearest farmhouse, and the second knocked on the door – with his head, since both wrists were broken.

Which reminds me, I’ve been eyeing the Pembroke Rockfax.

Alderley Cliff

A weekend in the Peaks for family purposes, and to our great surprise just around the corner was a rather nice cliff. It is very tucked away and rather takes you by surprise. Here’s the google maps link. If you scroll out a bit you’ll see “Wheeldon Trees Farm holiday cottages” where we stayed, and which has a convenient footpath running down from the right to the cliff (and if you scroll out a bit further you’ll see the giant limestone quarry which shows up far better from above; on the ground you hardly see it). Just south – Longnor – is the Dove valley – beware: the pubs don’t open until 12.


So here is the cliff, or rather the central portion of it. Dots are the route, arrows are the belays, but I didn’t need to tell you that. “Miranda’s delight” is an HVD arete, that ends with a little duck L into the corner because the very top of the arete is compact and gearless; probably around VS to top out on the straight line. I suppose the rock must be limestone (it is an old quarry, now owned by the BMC, though curiously the BMC website doesn’t mention that), reasonably weathered and faded, not much polished. It seems to be a quiet venue; many of the lines could do with a bit of gardening. Out of shot to the far right there were more weeds and brambles, and a warning sign noting that it was an old quarry and that bit wasn’t necessarily considered safe. But out bit was much cleaner. When we were there it was very dry; after some rain it might get muddy. I know that route is HVD because someone showed us their guidebook, but I didn’t remember the real route name. w-by-dan-Aldery The children happily seconded the arete; with a rope above you it really isn’t hard. The pic to the right is by Dan Lane, who does climbing photopgrahy (see and does quite a good job of making me look heroic as I contemplate the steep arete.

Miriam’s downfall (S, 4a) is the obvious crack. From where I’ve taken the photo it is clear that the angle is fairly easy, but what you can’t see is that the other side of the corner forces you somewhat out of balance at about half height and above. Both routes have good solid trees to belay on. It is a nice route, just a little bit dirty and a little bit polished at some of the more obvious holds, but a pleasant severe and a good start to the “season” (I put season in brackets because I know I’ll be lucky to climb again this year :-().

What isn’t so obvious from these pix is that there is a good deal of rock elsewhere. Lets have a wider look:


The previous pic showed the rock roughly under the high point of the clifftop; from this pic you can see that the face on the L of the top pic goes up much higher. The lower part of that face is compact and looks Hard; but the upper tier (which you might reach up the HVD) looked more crack-y, but possibly less easy angled.

Anyway, a very nice little find I think, we’ll try to go back. We may have exhausted the easy climbs on the cliff – from there it looks to be VS and up, unless you top-rope.

Innsbruck / Stubai

In 2001 I had the chance to visit the Stubai for a couple of days at the start and in the middle of a conference in Innsbruck. It was wonderful, and I didn’t kill myself. I’ve finally uploaded the pix; see flickr if you’re interested.


The mountains are great for either solo’ing, or an easy introduction. And the huts are splendid too. And not all the people look as silly as that, though a beret is remarkably practical.

Miriam and Miranda forced me to shave the beard off, eventually.

Stanage, youth


Climbing! Good grief, it was about time. So, dragged out by the irrepressible Howard, we left the house at the ungodly hour of 7:30 on a fine Sunday morning, picked up young Viv, and drove for 2:30 climate-destroying hours up to the Peaks. Where to? Stanage, youth, of course. Popular end, naturally. Persons of the party: Me, Miriam, Miranda (8), Vivien (9). Daniel (12) mostly climbed with Howard (antique) and Louise (lets not do any more shall we) and survived a fairly full-on day; also Carl and Marcus and a late arrival from Helen (not as-in-Viv). Howard happily had his magic bag of old Whillans harnesses, and even enough shoes for D, E and V. Plus his usual patience and enthusiasm for instructing and infecting beginners. Thanks!

We British aren’t very well off for mountains, alas. And Cambridge is about as far as you can hope to get from decent rock in the UK. So the nearest to us are the various edges of the Peak District, of which the largest is Stanage Edge. It is a bit like the picture above, continued for 4 miles (except not quite, because that is some of the best bits). I often think how weird all this is – if you travel to any old bit of the alps – Grenoble, Ecrins, Stubaital, wherever – you’ll find vast areas of vastly superior climbable rock that no-one even bothers with because there are better or more convenient bits just round the corner. But (somewhat like the beauties of Bonsai trees perhaps, of Chinese ladies feet) the contraints imposed lead to wonderful climbs. Not that I’m capable of leading (or even following) the best of those. The pic above shows the Black Hawk area. The chap only just off the ground R-ish is on Black Hawk Hell Crack (which my guidebook assures me is a Severe, 2*, I lead 15 years ago); slightly R of that is Blizzard Chimney (just above Miranda’s head, and trending into the corner hidden by the prow) a humble Diff (1*) I lead today. And very pleasant it was too, though Darling Daughter got a little sad at the difficult move at 2/3 height. The blue chap on the far L is probably on Black Hawk Bastion, E3 5c, and he is welcome to it.

DSC_4363-flying-buttress A bit further L is Flying Buttress, and the chap here is on the classic 3* V Diff called, with great originality, Flying Buttress. The slab is very pleasant, and there is even some gear; the crux is getting into the open corner just L of his helmet, and it is rather harder than it looks (or has any right to be on a V Diff; that is the troulbe with V Diffs on Stanage and indeed gritstone in general; they have “traditional” grades that don’t always correlate particulrarly closely with their difficulty).

And so a final Moderate to make the girls happy: so good, they both demanded to be allowed to do it twice, and we indulged them.

Now, all we need to do is train the children to stay for a curry in Chesterfield and all will be perfect.