/ Monster Crack - Beachy Head
I have found a few accounts basically describing it as the living end and most certainly a death route. I am inclined to think these are slight exagerations but am not daft enough to disregard this entirely. HXS 5C but how hard is this? e1?e5?e8?. Is there any gear available? Is it safe?body weight only?terrible? What are the belays like? Will an ascent of this feel like a solo or just an exciting but safe trad route?
Ben Bransby's account seems to suggest Monster Crack was OK, although the following route they attempted does seem to offer more than I can handle. A damn good read: http://www.climbers-club.co.uk/journal/original/1998%20Journal-p125-128.pdf
This route looks great but could be too much for me? Any advice or info would be great. Thanks in advance.
That was a great write up, really enjoyed reading it.
Sounds like you're in for an adventure :P
I'm sure I heard a rumour that monster crack had fallen down during one of the many spells of bad weather last year?
That would at least force a decision, can anyone confirm?
A quick trawl of google images isn't showing anything, most of the big falls look further along.
You'll need to throw the Beta book out of the window if you are looking to climb chalk (other than Skeleton Ridge). Quite likely something about the route will have changed since the last ascent. Particularly with all the rain last summer. Guarenteed the gear will be poor. Unlike other rock, cracks are the sign of weakness in chalk. Be prepared to run if you get out of your depth. Maybe take some warthogs for belays or in the event to needing to ab off.
Just read the above report. Sounds like you basically need the same warthog rack that I take to Dover. Needlesports are the only people who still sell warthogs. You'll need a lump hammer to place/remove them. Get one from B&Q on the cheap and drill a hole in the handle to attach a tether. You'll need two hands free in order to place them so this might be your biggest limiting factor with gear placement. Bank on the route taking all day as placing/removing warthogs takes ages.
BTW I can vouch for the flint! It's F***ing scary to trust. 50% of the time it breaks off when you try to pull or step on it. You can never quite judge its reliability until you've fully commited.
Make sure you properly recce the top fo the route btw. Chalk often becomes undercut near the tops of routes. Sometimes even forming chalk cornices. Also be aware that with chalk everything can be 10 degrees steeper than it looks! If it looks vertical then it's probably slightly overhanging.
At the risk of sounding flippant, if you have to ask...
XS refers a route that laughs in the face of conventional grading systems. HXS laughs in the face then turns around and farts in their general direction.
I've done Monster Crack - it obviously isn't your average route but its not a total nightmare (far more reasonable than Breakaway at Henna, which I failed/ran out of daylight on).
The first pitch is easy but very loose - my very experienced loose rock companion (Frank Ramsay, say no more) led this. Its probably pretty unnerving. The second pitch is probably 5c for a few moves but the crack is lined with calcite inside and I was pretty happy with the gear, nuts and friends. I think the belay at the end of that pitch was fine but can't remember what it was. The next pitch is easier (5b) but the rock is poor and deteriorates badly towards the end of the pitch, deeply honeycombed and suspect. Didn't really like any of the gear on this pitch. The belay in the huge sentry box was a couple of insitu warthogs when I did it. They seemed bomber. The top pitch (which my mate led) is unique, massively exposed chalk face climbing doing hard rockovers (6a) from one flint band to the next - protected by two insitu warthogs which again seemed good. The rock deteriorates to the top but the climbing eases. Was sure I'd have been comfortable leading it.
I think we thought it was E5ish but we were both extremely solid onsight E6 leaders at the time, comfortable on all rock types. It was a fantastic route though, a brilliant and highly memorable blast. Hope that helps.
Cheers that article is an excellent read and I think sensibly made we wonder if "winter" climbing chalk is at all sensible, I think ice climbing would be safe training for chalk!
I have absolutely no knowledge of climbing at Beachy Head, but I've stood and looked down on Monster Crack.
I have to say it's probably the most awe inspiring route/line/bit of rock architecture I've even seen. The lighthouse at the bottom (lighthouses not generally known for being short) is massively dwarfed by the head.
I nearly shit my pants just looking at it with no aspiration to climb it at all. I think if I ever got up it, I might just lay down and die at the top from sheer terror and delight.
Possibly telling that most of the FAs at Beachy Head were done by either Mick Fowler or Alasteir Crowley - the great beast himself!
Good luck to you & be sure to take photos and post back if you give it a go.
NB. That photo does nothing to convey the sheer massive awesomeness of Beachy Head really, but that's the line.
One suggestion for grading loose routes used to be:
Mild XS: High chance of leader suffering serious injury in event of a fall
XS: Certainty of leader suffering serious injury/death in event of fall.
HXS: Certainty of leader and second suffering serious injury/death in event of fall.
That would for example put Breakaway on the boundary of XS/HXS, as the leader would certainly be badly hurt/killed if they fell, but some of the belays might be good enough to stop the second being pulled off as well. (personally I was rather hoping the ropes would cut over a sharp edge if my leader took a whipper- sorry Ben).
There was a delightful description of an HXS route on here a while ago which suggested that the route was more survivable for the second as although the belays were awful a leader fall would almost certainly chop the ropes :-)
I'd take some warthogs of your own for the belays - you'll need to be prepared for the existing ones being heavily corroded.
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