Ten Top Climbs from VS to E3, by Charles Arthur
My personal list of top 10 climbs is maybe a touch more self-indulgent than others - though I hope maybe it'll be more fun than those which limit themselves to just 10 "all-timers".
Instead, here are 10 each within a distinct leading grade - each still fresh in my memory as routes which for one reason or another left me feeling that rush of happiness once at the top. Either because I found them to be so exhilarating, or so scary, or technically enjoyable, or all three. For anyone seeking to establish themselves at each of these grades, I would say these are leads that you won't forget.
Usually I prefer slabs, and of those preferably gritstone, but there's a fair bit of variety here: limestone, cracks, slate, slabby, vertical, overhung, big holds, small edges. Well, that's rock for you.
- Paradise Wall (4c), Stanage.
A wonderful twin crack climb in the land of hexes. This was my second lead: I was sure I was about to fall off and die.
- Valkyrie (4b, 4c), Roaches Lower Tier.
You've seen the picture, now try the move.
- Kinkyboots (4c, 4b), Baggy Point, North Devon.
A wonderful start, and it goes on..
- Blue Sky (4b, 4b), Saddle Head, Pembroke.
Tidal, vertical, and long and fun.
- Anvil Chorus (4c, 4c), Bosigran, Cornwall.
Protect the layback, or sprint for the top?
- Hargreaves's Original Route (4c), Stanage.
Delicate, exposed, seek help from Friends.
- Perverted Staircase (5a), Roaches Upper Tier.
No crack, yet a right thrutch.
- High Neb Buttress (4c), Stanage.
Another high, slabby gritstone experience.
- Arch Slab (4c), Three Cliffs Bay, Gower.
An exposed limestone outing.
- Hawk's Nest Crack (4c), Froggatt.
Improve your hand-jamming in one lesson... or not.
- Sunset Slab (4b), Froggatt.
Unprotected gritstone slabs, start here.
- Climber's Club Direct (5a, 4c), Dewerstone, Dartmoor.
160ft of granite crack climbing.
- Front Line (5a), St Govan's Head, Pembroke.
Tough start.. but the crux comes later.
- Chouinard's Route 1 (5a), Baggy Point, North Devon.
Another unprotected slab.
- Flying Buttress Direct (5b), Stanage.
Eye-catching, unforgettable, fantastic. Go for one, then two heel hooks and DON'T STOP!
- Heart of Darkness (4c, 5b), Mowing Word, Pembroke.
An overhung sea cave traverse with marvellous atmosphere.
- Valkyrie (5a, 4c), Froggatt.
How's the hand-jamming coming along?
- Malbogies (5b, 5a), Avon Gorge.
Polished wonder of the roadside; route-finding is extra.
- The Scoop (5a), Stanage.
If you like rounded breaks.. well, you have to on this one.
- Tactician (5a), St Govan's Head, Pembroke.
It looks so easy.. and then you get to a place with the wrong number of holds.
- Cenotaph Corner (5c), Dinas Cromlech.
With the crux at the top of 150 ft of bridging.
- Nanoq Slab (5b), Froggatt.
Right of 3 Pebble Slab, a tougher solo than that trade route.
- Incest is Best (5b), St Govan's Head, Pembroke.
Slightly overhung to try your stamina.
- Thin Wall Special (5b, 5a), Bosigran, Cornwall.
Delicate first pitch, weird second one involving a roof with hidden holds.
- Sinecure (5b), Carreg-y-Barcud, North Pembroke.
Thin moves on incut holds: got yer RPs?
- Reptile Smile (5b/F6a), Blacknor North, Portland.
Bolts don't always make it easy to reach the end. This has probably beaten off more would-be "I'll warm up on this.." folk than any other sport route. (Upgraded in the new guidebook.)
- Superdirect (4b, 5b, 5b), Dinas Mot.
An unforgettable middle pitch and intimidating top.
- The Plum (5b, 5b), Bwlych y Moch, Tremadog.
Break through the treeline via a sweet rockover.
- Superdirect (5c), Little Tor, Gower.
Short, sharp, fun on small holds and small wires. Usually occupied by people who can't do it, on topropes. (That was me, once. So I came back a year later and led it.)
- M1 (5b), Main Wall, Avon Gorge.
With a tough crux including pro that's hard to clip. Enjoy.
- Keelhaul (5c), Bosherston Head, Pembroke.
Fantastic limestone slab climbing.
- Elegy (5c), Roaches Lower Tier.
A very confusing move to get on the hanging slab (wimp out and you have to do a offwidth VS - even harder!). Then the runout slab: fall off and you're likely hanging in space. "A real man-boy sorter", to quote Ken Wilson.
- Pot Black (5b), Stanage.
Balance pays its usual dividends on grit. It's all over quickly.
- Impossible Slab (5c), Stanage.
Here, you need balance plus faith in your shoe rubber.
- Vice is Nice (5b), St Govan's Head, Pembroke.
Overhung, pumpy, but safe.
- Sundowner (5a), Froggatt.
Who needs pro when you're on a grit slab?
- Beast from the Undergrowth (5b), Huntsman's Leap, Pembroke.
A long and lonely lead.
- Massambula (5b), Bus Stop Quarry, Llanberis.
A slate delight, if tiny edges delight you. On slate, they'd better.
- Pull My Daisy (5c), Rainbow Slab, Llanberis.
The poor man's Dervish? Certainly a wonderful low crux, then great pro (a pipe) and a runout top section. Can't argue with that.
- Something Better Change (5b), Roaches Lower Tier.
More fun with unprotected slabs.
A bit less variation in style here: mostly slabs, because slabs are what I'm so much better at.
- Wall End Slab Direct (5c), Stanage.
A great line requiring lots of faith and technique, as the crux is at the top away from gear.
- Long John's Slab, (5c), Froggatt.
Crank it out up to the flake and take care at the top.
- Archangel (5b), Stanage.
A compelling arete demanding dry hands and a steady head. And feet, come to that.
- Great Slab (5b), Froggatt.
Don't do what I did and fall off the crux. It hurts. Lots. (Don't fall off higher up either.)
- Comes the Dervish (5c), Vivian Quarry, Llanberis.
The slate route that started it all. Only eases up when you reach the top slab.
- Chalkstorm (5c), Roaches Lower Tier.
All right, the guidebook gives it E4, but put some gear in the LH crack and head up and it feels E3-ish.
- Kitten Claws (5c), Carreg-y-Barcud, North Pembroke.
A long and very thin climb: take a double set of RPs as you won't get a full-size wire in for 70ft.
- San Melas (5c), Roaches Skyline Area.
Short, gear halfway up. How hard can a slab be? Very hard, without holds. Shorter but tougher than Chalkstorm.
- Scarlet Runner (5c), Bus Stop Quarry, Llanberis.
Again, this gets E4 (in the Slate guidebook - at least, the old one) so I pre-clipped the first bolt. Sustained! Others I've spoken to think the leading grade is more like E3; and I'd agree
- Rambling Moses... (F6c/E3 6a), Dancing Ledge, Swanage.
A very vertical slab! Downgraded to 6b+ in the latest guide - I don't agree. A tough workout with marvellous moves, and sustained. (Almost as long as the route's full name, in fact.)
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