/ crags you should hate but can't help loving

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Sam Beaton on 03 Dec 2012
Almscliff is obviously rubbish, but somehow I can't keep away.

What a glorious day it was there yesterday, and what memories it brought back.

Fluted Columns, my first grit lead with the school outdoor pursuits group. One small sideways wire low down which immediately pulled out, then no more gear till the top as I didn't have anything big enough.

Parsons Chimney at about my fifth attempt. I'd always been able to layback up into the cave easily enough, but I'd always bottled it from there as I didn't have any cams in those early days. I finally topped out in a swirling hailstorm one day with my almost runnerless ropes thrashing around in the void beneath me.

Failing to second Central Climb in the summer holidays after my first year at Uni. I'd spent the summer term ticking a fair few E1s in the Lakes, and even elsewhere on grit, but I couldn't get anywhere on this not-even-high-in-the-grade VS. I remember half crawling into some kind of pod or pothole, and getting some kind of head jam rest before my arms gave out completely.

Morrells Wall saved my sanity at one point in my early twenties. After the worst few months of my life I found myself living back with my folks. On my second day back I got the train to Weeton, walked up to the crag and without thinking about what I was doing pulled straight onto one of the hardest problems I'd ever attempted. As I topped out first go, I bellowed into the mist, and felt all my pent up frustrations and stresses start to melt away. Over the following few months, still jobless and still dossing in my old room at the family home, I got up to Almscliff by train twice a week and discovered (for the first time) the joys of whole days on the crag armed only with rock boots, chalk, beer towels and a flask of really strong coffee. Those months of grit-based rehab turned my life around.

Even though I feel old and unfit nowadays, I still had a great day yesterday. I met up with Neil, who I hadn't seen for a year, and realised, once again, that your best friends are those that you might not see or even speak to for months at a time but still just pick up where you left off when you do manage to catch up.

I also enjoyed the old problems again, like the little ribs above the Three Swings Traverse, Pork Chop Slab, the Crucifix, and the little arete opposite Sloper Patrol. Thanks in no small part to Neil's two pads I also did Porthole Direct for the first time, and Crucifix Arete after having tried and failed it on at least 20 occasions in the last 20 years.

Almscliff: polished, crowded, covered in graffiti and not even the best crag in Wharfedale. Yet it has shaped my life more than any other pile of rocks. Which cliff or hill means the most to you and why?

PS - I managed to leave my bouldering guide somewhere near Sloper Patrol. It's the old Alan Cameron Duff one and I think it has my name in it and an old phone number. If you find it, please keep it or give it to a mate who wants it - I'm now inspired to buy the new guide!
Christheclimber - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Sam Beaton:

I have always quite liked Horseshoe Quarry which is very sad.
Bobling - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Sam Beaton:

No time to right a reasoned reply beyond what a lovely piece of writing for first thing on a Monday, thanks!
Offwidth - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Sam Beaton:

"Almscliff is obviously rubbish" yawn.. done to death.
metal arms on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to Sam Beaton)
>
> "Almscliff is obviously rubbish" yawn.. done to death.

Well you're a barrel of laughs. Time of the month?

In reply to Sam Beaton:

Nice stories, enjoyed having a read on Monday morning.
Bulls Crack - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Sam Beaton:

I'm the opposite:I think Alsmcliffe is quite good but I don't like it very much!

Anyway - Causey Quarry, Hobson Moor Quarry and any old quarry probably
Kevin Woods - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Sam Beaton: Miles away from the grit, my favourite venue is my nearest - Craigmore, near Glasgow. Green, damp, mossy, full of midges in the summer. But I really started my tradding there and spent a lot of time learning to climb there. So, in my book, it's really good :-)
lummox - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Sam Beaton: Well written : )
Wiley Coyote - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Sam Beaton:

Tut tut, Sam.

Almscliffe is the epicentre of world rock climbing as anyone of taste and discernment would agree. Anywhere else pales into insignificance next to the Yorkshire Wart. Yosemite? You can't be serious! Patagonia? Give me a drone...drone (in an ee by gum accent).

PS Train to Weeton? You were lucky! We had to walk.
Kemics - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Sam Beaton:

I've got a real love/hate relationship with avon gorge. Crap fixed gear, featureless/ambiguous lines, polished, noisy and loose. It's also got some amazing climbing and had some of my best days out there.
Offwidth - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Wiley Coyote:

Another one...just because something is good it doesn't mean other places can't be better or everyone has to like it. The real issue with Almscliff is it's a top gritstone crag that some folk love too much: such a crime in fact that it being 'shit' is almost one of the oldest commonly repeated jokes I hear in climbing and in the context of an otherwise good post rather tiresome.
Nick Russell on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Kemics:

I agree, and I expect a lot of other Bristol based climbers will too! (as well as a comparable number saying they have more of a hate/hate relationship)
Doghouse - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to Sam Beaton)
>
> "Almscliff is obviously rubbish" yawn.. done to death.


Did you actually read the rest of the post?

To the OP - great piece of writing :-)
James Oswald - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Sam Beaton:
New Mills Tor is ace in its own way.
Al Evans on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Bulls Crack:
> (In reply to Sam Beaton)
>
> Anyway - Causey Quarry, Hobson Moor Quarry and any old quarry probably

I think you are right about Hobson Moor, it's a fairly crap crag but I used to love it when I lived in the Peak.
Al Evans on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to James Oswald:
> (In reply to Sam Beaton)
> New Mills Tor is ace in its own way.

And thats another one, but living in New Mills and writing the first proper guide helped.
Jon Stewart - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Sam Beaton:

Great post.

I think mine would have to be Stanage Popular. Although it's obviously a brilliant crag, I should hate it for being so busy, tiresomely mainstream, polished and worn and sanitised; in other words, popular. I normally go by the rule of thumb that if other people like it, it's bound to be utter crap.

I can't think of any particularly amazing days I've had leading routes there, but I have really vivid memories of going up on my own when things have been really OK in my life, and when things have been not so good. Despite being the busiest crag in the country, I associate the place with peace and self-reflection as I potter up and down the crag in a world of my own.

And of course Stoney has a perverse charm. After really boring yet stressful, unrewarding days working in the civil service I'd spend a summer's evening completely absorbed in some terrifying scrambling/multi-pitch/abseiling adventure on terrible polished choss, all within the fumes and noise of a busy A-road. Daft, but fun.
Jimbo C - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Jon Stewart:

The thing about Stanage Popular is that there are so many routes that part of it is always not busy, despite being popular.

I should hate Higgar Tor, because there are only a few routes there that I can do and everything is steep and involves awkard cracks filled with razor sharp crystals. Conversely, that is why it's so good.
Bulls Crack - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Al Evans:
> (In reply to Bulls Crack)
> [...]
>
> I think you are right about Hobson Moor, it's a fairly crap crag but I used to love it when I lived in the Peak.

Me too - I lived nearby in Padfield - and we used to sing - to the tune of Viva Espagna: We're all off to Hobson Moor, Ahhh Vivaaaa Hobson!
Sam Beaton on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Kemics:
> (In reply to Sam Beaton)
>
Crap fixed gear, featureless/ambiguous lines, polished, noisy and loose.

Good call, but you've forgotten overgrown topouts/descents. I find the outlook and aroma particularly special when the tide's out too, but I've had some great times there as well

Sam Beaton on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to James Oswald:
> (In reply to Sam Beaton)
> New Mills Tor is ace in its own way.

Hmmm, not sure about that one. I went in Foot & Mouth and did one terrible route before climbing the railway embankment wall above the millenium causeway (or whatever its called) clipping slings around a drainpipe instead. More of a hate/hate relationship for me at New Mills.
Gordon Stainforth - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Kemics:
> (In reply to Sam Beaton)
>
> I've got a real love/hate relationship with avon gorge. Crap fixed gear, featureless/ambiguous lines, polished, noisy and loose. It's also got some amazing climbing and had some of my best days out there.

Perfect summary of the place, including its good points. But I've always found it bizarre how people forgive its many bad points, because they are very bad.
James Oswald - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Sam Beaton:

Which route did you do?

I like alcove crack, mather crack and also heavy duty.

HD is my favourite, I like the big open moves above your gear on the crux.
HappyTrundler - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

I don't think it's 'many bad points are very bad' ! The easier routes are very polished, true, quite a lot of the bad gear has been replaced though, it's not that loose or vegetated...there are lots of great routes, big routes, with scale and adventure, a quick drying suntrap, mega convenient, and with plenty of decent post climbing boozers nearby, what more could you want ??!!...
Muel - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Sam Beaton:

I should hate the concrete boulder in the park round the corner. Alright it's not a crag, but it's the closest thing I have that I can climb for free, and it's 2 mins walk away. Very accessible when I just need to blow off steam for half an hour.

I'm gonna be slightly controversial as well, and say I should hate Windgather. It's way too busy when the weather is nice, it's very windy when the weather isn't nice, the "classic" routes are stupidly polished from years of abuse by groups of school kids, I was once there when the van got broken into and all our stuff got knicked, and none of the routes really fire me up. Yet still, some of the best climbing memories I have include nipping up there on my bike on a weekday evening on my own to solo all the Mods and Diffs, or to make up my own boulder problems on the far left, or that time I managed to second E1 5a. (Hardest thing I've ever climbed outdoors).
Dave Garnett - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to HappyTrundler:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
> I don't think it's 'many bad points are very bad' !

I agree. I spent three very special years in Bristol and one of the Gorge's very best features was the great gang of people who used to hang about there in the late 80s.

You know who you are!
Gordon Stainforth - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to HappyTrundler:

Just to cross the Welsh border, or go into the Wye Valley, or about a million other things..
Gordon Stainforth - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Dave Garnett:

Maybe it was better in the late 80s. In the late 60s, early 70s, it had a peculiar snottiness about it. People didn't converse easily in the car park by the icecream van.
Sam Beaton on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Bulls Crack:
> (In reply to Sam Beaton)
>
>
> Anyway - Causey Quarry, Hobson Moor Quarry and any old quarry probably

I know what you mean,its hard enough convincing a non climber that its a good idea to ab into a stunning sea cliff just to climb out again - but the looks I've had trying to justify enjoying a whole day in Wilton!

Monk - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to Kemics)
> [...]
>
> Perfect summary of the place, including its good points. But I've always found it bizarre how people forgive its many bad points, because they are very bad.

Really? I love Avon. The one thing that detracts for me is the road noise. The polish is generally not as bad as everyone believes apart from on a few routes at Seawalls, there are some very strong lines, and the fixed gear is only critical on a minority of routes that I have climber there.

Avon is so convenient, so quick drying and offers so many good routes that I definitely love the place. Maybe I should hate it to follow the crowd, but I just can't bring myself to do it!
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Kafoozalem - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Sam Beaton:

Another vote for Avon. I love the wonderful improbable anti-lines of Main Wall where to move up to the right you begin by stepping down to the left. Where a cool head is more useful than big muscles. I love watching the arrival of the late morning sun to thaw you out on a freezing belay. I love topping out to necking couples and incredulous tourists. I love the ice cream reward at the top. I love the isolation you feel in the heart of a busy city when you are on the headwall of Lich Gates - even the traffic noise recedes as you concentrate on your own little world. Only when you top out do you rejoin the busy city with it's metronomic joggers...
Kemics - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Kafoozalem:

ahh classic avon. I forgot about the necking couples. Topped out main wall once to find a couple mid coitus on a picnic blanket...set up then belay and starting belaying up the second (they still hadnt stopped...in fairness had slowed down) it was only when the second came over the ledge they decided this was too crowded and made their exit.

It's also amazingly quiet, I've been climbing on a sunny weekend on main wall and been the only party. Considering it's a couple hundred meters long and nearly hundred high it's bizarre!
HappyTrundler - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Oh come on, that was 50 years ago !! I would be more interested in the climbing than chatting with strangers in the car park by the ice cream van?!...
HappyTrundler - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Kemics:

Did you get any photos?..
Bulls Crack - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to Kemics)
> [...]
>
> Perfect summary of the place, including its good points. But I've always found it bizarre how people forgive its many bad points, because they are very bad.

But at least it has character whereas Horseshoe.....
Gordon Stainforth - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Bulls Crack:

Yes, please don't even mention Horseshoe ;)
Al Evans on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to James Oswald:
> (In reply to Sam Beaton)
>
> Which route did you do?
>
> I like alcove crack, mather crack and also heavy duty.
>
> HD is my favourite, I like the big open moves above your gear on the crux.

HD is one of mine :-), actually King of the Swingers is another goodie up that wall, probably the easiest route on the wall.
Al Evans on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Kemics:
> (In reply to Kafoozalem)
>
> ahh classic avon. I forgot about the necking couples. Topped out main wall once to find a couple mid coitus on a picnic blanket...set up then belay and starting belaying up the second (they still hadnt stopped...in fairness had slowed down) it was only when the second came over the ledge they decided this was too crowded and made their exit.

Maybe they also came over the ledge at the same time :-)
TomBaker - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Sam Beaton:
Fairy Caves, horrible blight on the landscape, nasty loose rock loads of litter and scramble bikes.

That said some wonderful days spent there with friends, and if you can pick them out some lovely slab outings all in the southwest.

All whilst climbing on what looks like a run down set from some science fiction tv show.


Also lovely post to the OP

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