/ NEW ARTICLE: Avoiding Erosion on the Southern Sandstone

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UKC Articles - on 29 Apr 2013
The damage ropes can do to the sandstone rock., 3 kbIf you're thinking of heading down to sandstone this year then it's worth your while just taking a few minutes to read about how to set up your ropes.

Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=5432
i.munro - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to UKC Articles:

I applaud the effort that's been put into this but this line
"Rigging with a low-stretch rope (static or abseil rope) or sling also minimises risk of erosion." reads., to me, as if it's saying that Item 1 of the southern sandstone code of practice:- "use a non-stretch belay rope or sling" is an option.


To be clear, you must always : use a non-stretch belay rope or sling".

GrahamD - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to UKC Articles:

I know the article is about ropes, but mentioning clean shoes wouldn't come amiss either.
Michal Sylla on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to GrahamD: We have a lot of soft sandstone here. The best measures to avoid this seem to be: 1. No top rope climbing (I know its hardly possible in the UK). 2. Putting the last protection below the edge. 3. Belaying from top of the route. 4. this (scroll don in the article to find a picture): http://www.horolezeckametodika.cz/horolezectvi/ochrana-prirody/horolezectvi-a-ochrana-prirody
royal - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Michal Sylla:
you can't use protection on this Sandstone Michal, the rock isn't hard enough. Thats why people top rope it.
i.munro - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to GrahamD:

Agreed!
Especially as this is the bit that isn't well-covered in the code-of-practice.
Presumably for the same reason it doesn't exhort you not to cover your rock shoes in butter before climbing ie when it was written they never imagined that anyone would be stupid enough to do it!
emmaharrington on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to GrahamD: This article is a short reminder for people who are not familiar with the sandstone rope set up. Not everyone is aware of these rules. It is not an exhaustive list of all the doís and doníts. The full sandstone code can be found on the BMC website.https://www.thebmc.co.uk/southern-sandstone-guidelines

Yes I agree to have clean shoes before climbing; it helps the rock as well as the person climbing it. Also we could go on to talk about donít graffiti on the rock, donít leave bits of carpet at the base of the crag, donít litter, donít chip the rock etc etc.

Maybe you can contact the BMC to suggest the Code of Practice be reviewed or amended for the future. But we need to be careful,as too many rules and unfortunately people wonít bother reading.
Michal Sylla on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to royal: I am sorry, but I have to disagree. I have never climbed on sandstone in the UK. Nevertheless the rock seem s not to differ from my the rock here (Czech Republic). We dont use any protection made of metal (friends, nuts...) but only peaces of ropes and slings. This kind of protection works realy goon even on soft sandstone. But I think that the point is not in whats possible and what isnt. It is more in the ethics of the particular crag. Whereas top roping is mostly forbidden here, it is well accepted in the UK. Therefore I dont see any reason (as I mentioned) to ban top roping on sandstone. Tahts why precise rules are needed to protect your rock.
In reply to UKC Articles:

Presumably the shot with the bolt and green sling is "How Not To Do It"?


Chris
Guy Atkinson - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Michal Sylla: The routes on Southern Sandstone really aren't very tall, and even if you were using slings and knotted rope, there wouldn't be anywhere to place it.. and even if there was... you'd still just hit the ground.
Offwidth - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to UKC Articles:

I think the BMC need to be much stronger on the message of not climbing there when the rock is wet. The rock is softer and wet sand sticks to shoes and abrades and polishes. The current statement is:

6. The rock is softer when wet. If it is wet, climb carefully and
within your standard. Do not pull hard on any sharp hold,
and try to stop your feet skidding on sloping holds.

I think it should be something like:

"Do not climb on sandstone when the rock is wet. The rock is much softer when wet and holds can break and the surface is more easily damaged. If the rock is dry but the ground is wet take special care to ensure footware is clean."
Graham Ad - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Chris Craggs:

I think that's why the caption in the article for that photo says "An example of a bad set up. The ropes are cutting into the rock." ...
i.munro - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

Is there some way ( a wiki ? ) that people could collaborate on an extended version of the article that started this thread?
Offwidth - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to i.munro:

Im sure there is but a UKC part 2 would be useful as well. I think the BMC paper is good overall, shame this key point is really understated.
balmybaldwin - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Michal Sylla:
> (In reply to GrahamD) We have a lot of soft sandstone here. The best measures to avoid this seem to be: 1. No top rope climbing (I know its hardly possible in the UK). 2. Putting the last protection below the edge. 3. Belaying from top of the route. 4. this (scroll don in the article to find a picture): http://www.horolezeckametodika.cz/horolezectvi/ochrana-prirody/horolezectvi-a-ochrana-prirody

Do you mean this picture? http://www.horolezeckametodika.cz/wp-content/uploads/olezeni6.jpg

Looks like a clever device, but isn't the rope likely to come off it?
jezb1 - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to i.munro:
> (In reply to UKC Articles)

> "Rigging with a low-stretch rope (static or abseil rope) or sling also minimises risk of erosion." reads., to me, as if it's saying that Item 1 of the southern sandstone code of practice:- "use a non-stretch belay rope or sling" is an option.

Rope sold as static is in reality semi static so I think the wording in the article is correct.


Michal Sylla on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to balmybaldwin: Yes, I meant this device. Its main purpose is to ptotect the rock when rappeling, but there must be something similar for top roping to.
i.munro - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to jezb1:

> Rope sold as static is in reality semi static so I think the wording in the article is correct.

That wasn't the bit I was trying to clarify, it was the omission of the phrase "you must" or some equivalent especially combined with use of the word 'risk'.

daimon - on 01 May 2013
In reply to Offwidth: There will be at some point. But one step at a time. Lets tackle ropes first as its been a problem lately. :)
Offwidth - on 02 May 2013
In reply to daimon:

Why one step at a time? Clean shoes and not climbing when wet are crucil to stop the same surface damage that resulted in the rope grooves
GrahamD - on 02 May 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

> Clean shoes and not climbing when wet are crucil ...

I'd guess that if people just adhered to those two guidelines alone you would reduce avoidable wear by a very significant margin
Vojta - on 02 May 2013
In reply to GrahamD:
The rather strict rules for climbing on the czech sandstone, that Michal Sylla is talking about, even ban climbing for periods up to 48hours after any rain in the area and for a good reason.
From my own experience on the Southern Sandstone it's not even worth trying climbing in wet - the rock gets slippery, the sand at the bottom sticks to everything even more than usual...
It makes me wonder why one needs all those rules when the logic is simple even should one not care for the rocks at all: when wet, it's slippery; when your shoes are dirty, they slip unexpectedly; when your rope drags on the rock it excessively wears off and takes unnecessary extra effort when taking slack...
emmaharrington on 02 May 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
Yes I totally agree we shouldn't climb when it's wet/raining or with dirty shoes, but this is also common sense to the average climber.
Setting up ropes in this way is specific to this sandstone. So this is why it has been highlighted for people who do not know how, as a quick reminder. It is the main cause of the erosion at the top of the crags and we have already seen quite a few wrong set ups already. This message can only be a good/positive thing to inform people about set ups.

The full code is on the BMC website and also in the guidebooks available.
i.munro - on 02 May 2013
In reply to emmaharrington:

> Yes I totally agree we shouldn't climb when it's wet/raining or with dirty shoes, but this is also common sense to the average climber.

If true that must mean that very few 'average climbers' make it to sandstone as those who make any effort to clean their shoes are in a tiny, tiny minority

danm - on 02 May 2013
In reply to i.munro:

I strongly disagree - on all my visits it has been obvious that most people clean their shoes as a matter of course. A friend who learnt to climb on the sandstone brushes his feet before starting, and between every other move, as a trained reflex. Pretty funny to watch him doing it on the crux of Braille Trail :-)
i.munro - on 02 May 2013
In reply to danm:

Then i can only imagine that we are going to different crags at different times & seeing entirely diferent groups of people.

Having said that one of the best SS climbers I ever saw used to take a mat to the wall & squeak his shoes between goes on the grounds that he " didn't want to develop bad habits" but that was many years ago.
Offwidth - on 02 May 2013
In reply to i.munro:

Its pretty clear a significant proportion are not cleaning their feet (does it matter if its less than a quarter or more than half, or whatever on average, if damage is being done?). If it was common-sense it wouldn't be happening ... also wasn't it only last week there was a complaint about an instructed group climbing in drizzle?

I see no reason why the BMC guidelines shouldn't be improved as soon as possible, especially given they are longish already (and otherwise pretty good) and after top-rope rules, no lead placed protection and owenership issues, they would be next on many lists.
madmats - on 02 May 2013
In reply to UKC Articles:

Why not just bolt it and then you'd have lower-offs to TR off? Thus eliminating this kind of damage from TR's at the top of the crag.

The crags near me are soft sandstone and are fully bolted and it seems to work well enough.
i.munro - on 02 May 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

So just to be clear, you're suggesting the following changes to the document at
https://www.thebmc.co.uk/bmcNews/media/u_content/File/access_conservation/access_publications/Sandst...

I) Change the wording about climbing when wet "climbing style" point 6.as described earlier in the thread.

Add "always clean your shoes before stepping onto the rock" & " never climb unless the rock is completely dry" to the section "The most important points"

Can I suggest adding these points to the bouldering commandments as well ( & ditching the pointless stuff about chalk) to make room?

I'd be happy to chip in to help pay for associated costs.
SunnySara - on 02 May 2013
In reply to UKC Articles: As someone new to the area, how would be the easiest way to find out when the rock is good and dry enough to climb without causing damage? It's a bit of a drive away and I couldn't just pop over to have a look. Is there a general rule of thumb for the most popular crags?

I liked the article. I haven't climbed sandstone before, and I certainly wouldn't want to upset the locals or cause damage. I don't think it's difficult to follow a simple set of rules. :)



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Oceanrower - on 02 May 2013
In reply to SunnySara: As a rule of thumb, if it's Bowles it will be dry a day or two after rain.
If it's Harrisons it will be dry about a week aftyer rain.
If it's Toad Rock it will (perhaps) be dry sometime around the next coming of Christ.....
Robin Mazinke - on 03 May 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
One point to note is that in the time I've been climbing on sandstone we've 'lost' more climbs to vegetation than we've lost due to hold erosion. And it's a bit of a circle which I'm not entirely sure how you break, i.e. the route gets wet so less/no people climb it so the vegetation gets a hold so it retains more moisture so the route is wet so less people.... And of course most don't climb the wet routes -even if this is down to it being hard and unpleasant as opposed to an altruistic gesture. Hopefully all the work parties at the crags over the last few years will help and that all of those commenting have been hard at work clearing vegetation to help dry crags out (I'm sure they have but I don't know the names of all those I've seen out and certainly not their user-names).

Certainly agree that it continues to surprise me quite how many don't clean their feet considering how much easier it makes the routes, let-alone the erosion issue. (or even carefully clean their feet and then step straight back onto the ground before starting the route)

... and think how polished it would all be if the holds didn't wear ...

A final thought - perhaps a picture of a rope trashed through to the core might make 'em think more about belays.
GrahamD - on 03 May 2013
In reply to Vojta:

Not familiar with Czech sandstone but I have climbed at Elbanstein which I guess is similar. There is a need for rules because when people have made an effort to go to a crag and find it out of condition there is a temptation to try and climb regardless.
GrahamD - on 03 May 2013
In reply to emmaharrington:

> Yes I totally agree we shouldn't climb when it's wet/raining or with dirty shoes, but this is also common sense to the average climber.

It doesn't take many non-average climbers to cause a lot of damage and in truth, it might not even be so obvious to an average climber used to granite.
Trangia - on 03 May 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to UKC Articles)
>
> I think the BMC need to be much stronger on the message of not climbing there when the rock is wet. The rock is softer and wet sand sticks to shoes and abrades and polishes. The current statement is:
>
> 6. The rock is softer when wet. If it is wet, climb carefully and
> within your standard. Do not pull hard on any sharp hold,
> and try to stop your feet skidding on sloping holds.
>
> I think it should be something like:
>
> "Do not climb on sandstone when the rock is wet. The rock is much softer when wet and holds can break and the surface is more easily damaged. If the rock is dry but the ground is wet take special care to ensure footware is clean."

Plus 1

I think the BMC is adopting a very weak line when it comes to the code on avoiding climbing the rock when it's wet.

I also believe that a very strong message needs to be sent out to instructors and organisations who regularly flout this code and take their clients on wet rock. They of all people should be setting an example.

It's not good enough to say that their students have booked and therefore expect to climb. It's not that difficult to include a clause in the booking form to the effect that in the event of adverse conditions the climbing will be cancelled and either a refund given or re-scheduled to another day
Trangia - on 03 May 2013
In reply to daimon:
> (In reply to Offwidth) There will be at some point. But one step at a time. Lets tackle ropes first as its been a problem lately. :)

So has climbing on wet rock, including by groups under instruction.
Trangia - on 03 May 2013
In reply to Michal Sylla:
> (In reply to GrahamD) 3. Belaying from top of the route.

Interestingly I have a photo of climbing Shelter Slab at High Rocks in 1962 - see my profile photos - with the belayer belaying from the top using a shoulder belay. He is directly above the climber and the amount of friction over the rock is minimal. We often belayed from the top in the 1960s as that reduced friction - although not as much as having a sling and crab extended over the edge. We also used hemp ropes which had less stretch than the relatively new nylon ropes which were used for lead climbing.
Ian Bentley - on 07 May 2013
In reply to madmats:
> (In reply to UKC Articles)
>
> Why not just bolt it and then you'd have lower-offs to TR off? Thus eliminating this kind of damage from TR's at the top of the crag.

The major crags all have bolts at the top to setup the rope from but due to how soft the rock is these can't be right on the face [1) they wouldn't be solid and 2) would cause the front face to "pop" off] so an extension is still needed so the rope is over the edge.
Irk the Purist - on 07 May 2013
In reply to GrahamD:

I'm not convinced that dirty shoes are the biggest issue when it comes to holds being eroded. The biggest issue in my opinion is the scoops developing at the base of fairly difficult climbs, like here at Stone Farm.

http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=38070

Due to the top roping ethic, people are trying climbs much too hard for them. They flap around with terrible footwork eroding the starting holds. Then the climb gets harder (This isn't helped by the erosion of the floor making the first moves about 20-30cm higher than they were!) and so the grades in the book become wrong, so more people try the route and can't do it so flap around... The effort involved in setting up the rope means people always give it about 10 goes each, then swap, meaning about 20 or 30 slides rather than one precise placement of the foot.

There should be a part of the code of conduct about not dogging routes.
Offwidth - on 07 May 2013
In reply to Eric the Red:

That flailing is much more damaging with dirty shoes or samd on the holds. Beginners in particular shouldn't be dogging routes as they risk injury.
Irk the Purist - on 07 May 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

Absolutely, I agree that dirty shoes are a problem, but even with clean shoes the poor technique is damaging. This is evidenced by the greater erosion on the first footholds as compared to the higher holds.
CurlyStevo - on 07 May 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
the thing is with southern sandstone as soon as you've done a move there pretty much is sand on your shoes, there is very often also quite a lot of sand on the ledges. That said cleaning your shoes before setting off is a very good idea!

I also think (mainly groups) should be discouraged from climbing in trainers full stop.
Trangia - on 07 May 2013
In reply to CurlyStevo:
> (In reply to Offwidth)
>
>
> I also think (mainly groups) should be discouraged from climbing in trainers full stop.

I've wondered about this, and feel that maybe an outright ban on trainers and similar "boots" should be considered, in favour of rock shoes, plimsoles or even bare feet.

SS is one of the worst rocks for newbies to start on. I don't understand why so many beginner groups go there anyway when there are other more appropriate venues like indoor walls or more appropriate outside venues elsewhere.
CurlyStevo - on 07 May 2013
In reply to Trangia:
Its really not in general very good at the lower grades is it. Mostly chimneys off one type or another, and most the climbs under 4a / 4b are so eroded that the grading is now a bit meaningless and many of them feel harder / less predictable to climb than the harder routes!
GrahamD - on 07 May 2013
In reply to Eric the Red:

> I'm not convinced that dirty shoes are the biggest issue when it comes to holds being eroded...

It may well not be but its a much easier message to get over than trying to tell people they aren't good enough to be trying the climb.

i.munro - on 07 May 2013
In reply to CurlyStevo:
>
> the thing is with southern sandstone as soon as you've done a move there pretty much is sand on your shoes, there is very often also quite a lot of sand on the ledges.

A slap with a rag or a bit of blowing (oooh err misses) sorts that out easily enough.
CurlyStevo - on 07 May 2013
In reply to i.munro:
Yeah I do clear the ledges to some extent and more than most people do, partly because I find it makes the climbing more enjoyable.

I also find with climbing SS there is a special kind of slap move where you slap for a rounded break quite hard and the helps to clear any loose sand increasing friction!
Graham Ad - on 08 May 2013
In reply to Emma:

Well written Emma - and a timely reminder about some of the most important points.

The last SDST bulletin carried an article on the evils of 'dogging' and we'll develop the theme in the next bulletin - due out in a couple of weeks!

I think that those bringing climbers into the sport bear a huge responsibility to impress upon their clients the conservation aspects of climbing. One of those is, of course, not climbing on the rock when wet...

Cheers,
Graham.
Offwidth - on 08 May 2013
In reply to CurlyStevo:

Sand on ledges etc can be dealty with... swipe foot on trouser leg, step onto rock, lift other foot, swipe on trouser leg and climb. Carry a rag and flick holds clean, blow sand off holds 'hard slaps', etc. There is no reason why suitable footwhere shouldn't be more strongly emphasised if we want to preserve the rock as best we can. Still, proper rope use and not climbing when wet is more important.
i.munro - on 08 May 2013
In reply to Eric the Red:

> Absolutely, I agree that dirty shoes are a problem, but even with clean shoes the poor technique is damaging. This is evidenced by the greater erosion on the first footholds as compared to the higher holds.


I'd say the damage being low down strongly indicates that it's due to sandy shoes.
If it was dogging then surely the crux (at whatever height) would be being damaged.
CurlyStevo - on 09 May 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
Yes wiping your foot on yr trouser leg on route prior to crux smear moves near your limit is pretty much an essential technique! Have you climbed much on ss then?

I also personally wonder if sweeping the routes clean with a very soft brush top to bottom once or twice a year may be of benefit
.
Trangia - on 09 May 2013
In reply to CurlyStevo:
> (In reply to Offwidth)
> >
> I also personally wonder if sweeping the routes clean with a very soft brush top to bottom once or twice a year may be of benefit
> .

They get covered by a thin film of sand after every rain.

I find blowing on holds cleans them (It also provides me with an excuse to pant from over exertion without anyone realise that I am!)
foxwood on 09 May 2013
In reply to UKC Articles:

If anyone wants to make their voice heard about SS by the people who actually organize things ...

https://www.facebook.com/SandstoneVolunteersGroup/posts/186358034852719

<quote>
The annual Sandstone Open Meeting takes place on Sunday 12th May at Bowles Rocks - in the bar at 7pm. From 6.30pm, there will be snacks available, provided by the BMC.

The Sandstone Open Meeting offers the chance to have your say on Southern Sandstone climbing and management issues. This might, for example, range from access issues, top-roping and other ethical issues, erosion of crags, repair of crags, bolting issues, use of chalk, groups using the rocks, bouldering issues through to the Sandstone Volunteers Group. Don't grumble to yourself or your mates about the issue that gets you going - this meeting is the place to raise it!
</quote>
CurlyStevo - on 09 May 2013
In reply to Trangia:
Where do you think the sand comes from (after rain)? I suspect much of it from loose sand in the breaks and on the top of the crag, do you not think sweeping this off would improve matters?
Rob Naylor - on 09 May 2013
In reply to CurlyStevo:

Not really....doing it a couple of times a year would be a pin-prick. More would be washed down or walked-in by crag-top traffic immediately afterwards. Best just to use the specified good practice on the climbs, including cleaning shoes, blowing on holds and light "batting" with a bar towel or similar.

And *definitely* for instructors to be much less liberal re their groups climbing on wet rock and allowing their clients to flail around for ages in trainers.
martinph78 on 09 May 2013
In reply to UKC Articles: Why is this article only aimed at southern sandstone? This is also a problem with sandstone in other parts of the country. I am wondering why they have not been considered as part of this article?
CurlyStevo - on 09 May 2013
In reply to Martin1978:
because most other sandstone isn't top roping (or soloing) only so has a differing set of requirements for use.
PeterJuggler - on 09 May 2013
In reply to Martin1978: There are many types of sandstone ranging from very hard to soft and crumbly. Southern Sandstone is much closer to the soft and crumbly end.

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