Destinations In The North York Moorsby Franco Cookson / Dave Warburton May/2008
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Wrongly dismissed as only good for sunny day bouldering, many crags of the Northern Moors offer substantial and adventurous pitches. From the immense Whitestonecliffe with epic adventure routes, to the reclusive but picturesque outcrops of Camp Hill and Oak Crag, 'The Moors' is a wonderfully diverse area. It has been almost thirty years since the hive of activity in the area ceased. The honeymoon period between the late 60's and the early 80's saw many of the areas great classics climbed for the first time. The climbing boom was mirrored by the boom in industry on the Tees and both have since become dormant with the destruction of so many jobs and the scarcity of climbers in the area. The Moors did however see a brief input of hard new routes at Round Crag, Raven's Scar and Highcliffe in the 90s. There are still possibilities for some even harder climbing and the Moors remains a great place for a climber of any ability to visit.
To separate the 'choss' from the 'quality' would take a long time. However the definitive North East England guide compiles a list of the classic crags and the quality esoterica of the area in one book. The Northern England Rockfax guide offers a selection of the best crags and is useful for the visiting climber.
Scugdale has some fantastic routes and is already well known for its boulder problems. Its proximity to the A19/A172 may be key to its success and it can be easily accessed for an evening of bouldering. Although the walls in no way compare in size or character to the grand escarpments of Raven's Scar or Ingleby, the quick drying nature coupled with numerous perfect lines make an ideal blend for a great crag.
Woodpecker Wall - A fine Severe following typical sandstone pockets; a perfect introduction to Moors climbing.
Pets Corner - A larger route, possibly requiring a rope, and well protected if the decision is made to use one. HS 4b
Eve - The left and right hand variations offer two bold and tricky slab climbs at HVS 5a and E2 5b respectively.
New Dimensions - The classic of the crag, following the perfect and brilliant right hand crack of the buttress; a lunge for a jug leads to a crimpy finish and a scary top-out. E3 6a.
Grand Master Flash - A bold and technical climb. It is unlikely to see many repeats (especially onsight), due to a large boulder below the thin and high crux moves. E5 6b
Approach and Accommodation:
Limited car parking is available with only a two minute walk to Scott's crag or as many locals call it 'Scugdale Popular'. The nearby village of Swainby offers many fine public houses, with equally fine ale.
The majestic North Buttress towers over Guisborough, with only the weaknesses of a few cracks visible. Apart from the great Severe Highcliffe Crack there is barely anything of real quality in the lower grades. The main buttress holds some of the best and most challenging routes in the area and is a must-visit for anyone wishing to push their grade. The majority of the classic routes were put up in the 70's and 80's. The 90's saw further action at the crag, with some unbelievably bold and difficult climbs, culminating in Richard Waterton's awe-inspiring free ascent of Esmerelda and Original Sin. The harder climbs are often in very good condition and are definitely some of the best of the area.
Highcliffe Crack - Possibly the best Severe of the Moors, this takes an obvious line, which is brilliantly protected and is definitely a contender for a best first lead.
Stargazer - Thin, short and brutal to any first timer, this climbs the impossible-looking wall to the left of 'Scarecrow Crack' at E3. The ground was apparently carved away by the first ascentionist so that he wouldn't bottom out from the crimpy crux! Desperate Den climbs direct up to the midway break to finish awkwardly at E5 6c.
Scarecrow - One of the easier routes at E1 is this bulging crack, which was spotted by the first ascentionist as he flew over in a Vampire jet in 1954.
Wombat - Another 'interesting' E1. Taking an easy crack to a ledge where you're forced to make what must be the strangest move in the Moors to gain another hanging crack.
Moonflower - Only a two-starred route at E5 6b, that relies on names carved in the rock for holds!
Magic in the Air - One of the best climbs in the Moors, if not the country. Although it's graded E6 6b I'm not quite sure how difficult it is, as I couldn't find anyone who had climbed it, but apparently it is a very difficult climb to onsight at the grade, and is usually done with a side runner at E5.
Approach and Accommodation:
Parking can be found in various places around Guisborough towards the south end. The crag is clearly visible from Guisborough and can be reached within ten minutes from various places. There are an endless number of public houses to stay in when in Guisborough. It also boasts some of the finest fish and chips in the region.
Having seen a decline in traffic in recent years, the Wainstones has arguably the best climbing in the area. With a southerly aspect and many 3 star lines, the Wainstones is a 'must visit' crag. Some of the best Moors Severes are here, but it also boasts a large array of more difficult climbs (too many to list). Brilliant anchors can be arranged at the top of each climb, which is often a rarity at some of the more esoteric locations! Gear is also generally good. This spot also provides an excellent evenings bouldering with 43 recorded problems and many more to be improvised. Wainstones can easily be twinned with an evening trip to Raven's Scar on the other side of the hill or a quick walk down to Cold Moor, which can be seen on the opposite bank, a crag that often provides refuge from a westerly wind - due to its aspect.
The Ling Buttress routes and the Sphinx Nose Traverse - all severe or less - are probably the best places to go for the Severe leader. A day can easily be spent on these great routes.
Concave Wall - Great climbing, good protection, this should be on every HVS climber's tick-list.
Ali Baba – unprotected climbing up the E1 of Sesame, finishing more difficultly over the roof, a Moorland classic.
Psycho Syndicate (E4 6b) - At the more 'extreme' end of the Wainstones is this fine test piece. It is gifted with that rare quality of being a route that is safe to fall off, and is one of the best problems in the county.
West Sphinx Direct (E3 5b) - on the other hand is not so safe, although adequate protection can be arranged, after the initial moves.
Raven's Scar is the largest outcrop of the area. The cliffs can be seen for miles around dominating the plateau at the edge of the Moors. It boasts some of the best classics in the area on perfect 20+ metre tall sandstone. A crag that unfortunately should be left well alone in winter, due to its northerly aspect, is a must in the summer and early autumn.
Airlift - A classic. Everything a climb should be. Well protected throughout with some brilliant moves. All this above the steep hillside below that further increases the feeling of exposure. Severe 4a.
Forest Face - Another classic, though it is not as sustained as Airlift. It traverses out easily to give a similar feeling of exposure. Then gear can be arranged for the spectacular crack leading all the way to the top. HS 4b.
Grooves-ology - The fine lesson in lay-backing is well protected at VS 5a.
Satchmo - The E2 is for a more practised hand. The Crack steepens for a high crux.
Fever pitch - This is a very different E2. It is a wall rather than a crack, but has much better gear than on first inspections.
Stratagem - An impressive line that tackles steep and strenuous terrain, an unrelenting attack that requires a clear head for the final section. At E4 6b it is the classic Moors test piece.
Approach and Accommodation:
The best approach to Raven's Scar and the Wainstones is from the Clay Bank Car Park and Raven's Scar can easily be twinned with a morning trip to the Wainstones on the other side of the hill.
High above Kildale, Park Nab is the friendliest of the great Moors crags. With the hardest route being E2, it is an excellent outing for those aiming at the lower grades. The crag sees regular local traffic, but is generally ignored by visitors, guaranteeing a quiet day. Unfortunately a rock fall in 1995 destroyed many of the best and hardest climbs at the crag, but it still gives some fine routes and the rock fall exposed more face, allowing for fresh new ones. Nearby, the NOS Boulder that was recorded by Luke Hunt in 2004, gives a fine evenings bouldering with views to the Wainstones and Raven's Scar. On a sunny day, nothing beats it.
Twin Cracks - The classic of the area at severe, with many variations ranging from 4a to 6a and great gear (watch the moving top block though).
Longbow - VS 4c, The curving crack is only bettered in quality by the amazing finger crack that follows it right at HVS Bowstring.
Chairman's Climb - climbs the awesome aręte, with great exposure and character, a brilliant VS 4b that will provide a good warm-down. The 5c variation up the left face leads to easier climbing after initial difficulties.
Lion King - oddly not climbed until 1995, is one of the finest problems of the Moors and has recently been downgraded to 5c. Approach and Accommodation: Parking is never an issue, with a large verge at the bottom of the hill, only two minutes walk away from the crag and boulder. A bunk barn is situated only a small distance from the crag as well, which would provide a good base to siege Turkey Nab, the Hasty Bank Group and the excellent Ingleby Incline with other crags also within striking distance.
This outcrop appears to have been left to rot since the original ascents and on first inspection (if visited in winter) seems a sodden mass of bleak seepage. If you approach it with an open mind though, the exceptional central block will put you in better spirits. The free-standing iconic pinnacle, towering in to the clear Moors air, was largely unclimbed until the late 90s, when Adam Van Lopik climbed many of the poorly protected hard routes. Steve Crowe and Karin Magog added further climbs and then developed the Lion Buttress. This is well known for being one of the most concentrated selections of hard climbs in the moors, with the development of the crag being completed by Nick Dixon soloing 'Scut De Scun Ai'. This is the ideal playground for the E3+ leader and with many more lines left to be done.
Farndale Fayre - The apparently protect-able crux of this E5 6b aręte, is a testing problem to even the best climber.
Scut de Scun ai - The line dominating the pinnacle with its difficulty, unlikely to have seen an onsight ascent at E6 6b.
Time Out - One of the easier routes of the pinnacle. This E3 6a ascends the well protected corner and may be a good warm-up for the harder climbs.
Twin Cracks – The well protected set of cracks is a good route, and at HVS 5b is somewhat more manageable, at this most difficult crag.
Approach and Accommodation:
A walk from the Lion Inn is the best option, although it is possible to park just south of the crag in a free car park and then approach via an old railway. Accommodation is easily arranged at the Lion Inn, only 2 minutes walk away. Camping is also possible in the grounds of the pub. B&B's can also be found around the local villages such as Castleton and Rosedale.
Seen by many as the wild card of the Moors, it is in fact a great venue for the HVS leader, when visited on a still day. The outcrop reaches a height of over 15 metres in parts and stretches across approximately a kilometre. The quality of the climbs is on the most part outstanding, especially towards the left of the crag. Only 87 climbs are currently recorded, although with the new access arrangement there should be more documented. Ingleby boasts many of the best routes of the moors at all grades.
Cosy Corner - Quite possibly the best VDiff in the Moors, It follows a fine crack to the right of an extremely impressive overhang. Jam or layback? - take your pick.
Drop Out - The overhang itself can be climbed by one of the few remaining Aid climbs of the Moors. It begs to be climbed, but beware of the ageing first ascent bolts. The route passes a real artefact - an in-situ wooden stake. This is one roof that will never go free... A2 VS
Top Gun - An obvious and awesome line following a perfect crack across Hunters Buttress. HVS 5a
Time Captain - The crag has a plethora of low extremes and this is one of the best. This two-starred E3 5c attacks the overhang just left of the aid climb, at where the roof becomes possible. The first ascentionist (Paul Ingham) commented on it being “more like a slab route” compared with the Feat he had achieved the day before at Cringle Crag - the first ascent of Cleveland's largest roof-4 metres!
Pickpocket – This is one of the best solos at Ingleby, a bold and brilliant route ascending a delicate hanging slab at E1 5b. Watch your legs.
There are far too many great routes to name and a tour of the area isn't complete without a visit to Ingleby.
Approach and Accommodation
Many are put off by the walk-in, but it is much more easily accessible than most presume. A map is not required and in about half an hour the crag is comfortably gained along a well-laid road. Parking can easily be found in a verge by Bank Foot. Many of the villages around Chop Gate and Ingleby Greenhow have Inns and B&Bs and discreet bivying at the crag tends to be ignored in the various bivy caves- similar to Wainstones. The YHA hostel below Park Nab is also within walking distance.
Other Must-visit Crags
Peak Scar - A highly accessible limestone cliff, quick-drying and in a lovely setting.
Beacon Scar - A prominent cliff bulging out of the wooded hillside offering some stern test pieces and the classic Gehenna HVS 5a.
Captain Cooks - Brilliant bouldering, with buttresses of all aspects.
Bridestones - A fine clearing in Dalby Forest, offers a nice afternoon's bouldering for all the family. A great place to visit if around the Whitby/Pickering area.
Filey - The only venue for steep, sport routes, plus various quality trad lines.
Roseberry Topping - The Matterhorn of Cleveland, yet to see a direct ascent of the main wall. A true adventure, climb it before it collapses!
Climbonline.co.uk is a local and informative website for North East climbing, with up to date and useful information
Rockfax.com is as usual very helpful, with route listings and a database with voting and user comments.
Rockfax PDF Map. A free pdf area map in the Rockfax format.
Other UKC Destination Articles:
Ten Northern England Crags you may never heard of - Chris Craggs HERE
The Cheddar Chain - 9 Pitch Sport Route - Rich E goes long in the Cheddar Gorge HERE
Your First XS - Pat Littlejohn shows us the delights of the Welsh Lleyn Peninsular HERE
Dalkey delights - Cider Nut takes a trip to Ireland and this great quarry near Dublin HERE
Franco Cookson and Dave Warburton are young, active climbers from the North York Moors. They are passionate about their area and love the climbing there. Both are active internet users with blogs and profiles on UKC and both enjoy using the internet medium to pass on knowledge and share information about the climbing in the North York Moors.
UKC would like to thank them for their hard work providing us with this article and the photographs.