/ BMC Southwest Area Meeting 13/03/2014
Wednesday 13th March, 7pm @ The Nova Scotia Inn, 1 Nova Scotia Place, Harbourside, Bristol, BS1 6XJ. Tel: (0117) 929 7994.
I'm very concerned about the proposal to retro-bolt a number of Cheesewring Quarry's long-standing traditional routes, and I'm disgusted with the democratic deficit within the BMC South West area which would allow such a proposal, about a Cornish climbing venue, to be decided in Bristol without the opportunity for any of Cornwall's climbers to attend the meeting. As I work 9-5 on weekdays it is impossible for me to travel the 200-or-so miles in time for a 7pm start on a Wednesday evening. Even a climber living on the border would be hard-pressed to get there in time.
As someone who has climbed extensively in Cheesewring Quarry, and who appreciates its value as a mixed trad-sport venue, I'm emphatically opposed to the suggested retro-bolting of 'Direct Route' VS 4a, 'Chance' E4 5c, 'One Way Ticket' E2 5b, 'Second Class Return' E2 5b, 'Central Route' VS 4c and 'Nocturne' HVS 5a. I'm certain no one in the first ascent parties of these routes has been consulted, and I have to wonder if any of the local climbers have been asked their opinions on the matter. I'm quite-frankly amazed that it's even been suggested as these are generally relatively popular trad-routes compared to others in the quarry. Nocturne, Second Class Return and One Way Ticket are all well protected on the hard climbing and Central and Direct Routes are both easy and wouldn't make good sport-routes. I refute the suggestion that these are 'infrequently climbed'.
Previous bolting at Cheesewring Quarry has taken place with the greatest of care not to change the character of existing traditional routes. These proposals are very much contrary to established practice here and the advice from the BMC in the minutes of the last meeting that this proposal is 'in principle acceptable' is total wrong and misleading as far as I'm concerned. I think it would be wise for the BMC to first establish how much of a demand there is locally for bolting these particular routes before proceeding further.
I was at the last area meeting when the subject of retro-bolting Cheesewring Quarry was raised. As far as I'm aware the decision taken there was that no retro-bolting would take place without prior consultaion with and agreement from the FAs.
A similar proposal has been put forward for some retro-bolting at Long Quarry and at Berry Head Quarry - the latter being one of the Sw's less appealing trad venues.
You have every right to express your own opinion on this issue and I'm sure that the forthcoming meeting will acknowledge this.
One of the arguments put forward for allowing Carn Vellan to be developed as a sport venue was the limited availability of sport climbing in Cornwall. I guess that where you have "mixed" crags such as Cheeswring, and where there is a history of placing the odd bolt or two on trad routes this is a debate that will re-surface from time to time.
I believe that the next meeting after Bristol will be held in West Penwith, so perhaps the best way forward would be to postpone a full debate on this (and any decision) until local climbers can express their views and attend.
If that's the case why has no effort as yet been made to contact the FAs?
Had I known the matter was due to be discussed at the Exeter meeting I might have put aside my feelings that these things are an unjustifiable waste of time, and actually made the effort to drive the 2 hours to get there. However this wasn't mentioned on the pre-published agenda and the first I learnt about it was over a month later when the minutes were finally published. All this makes me very worried that most of the Cheesewring climbers (and Cornwall and Devon's climbers in general) will be completely unaware of these proposals.
It may well be that there is support for this (although it does very much go against the existing establish practice at Cheesewring) but I'd need to be reassured that that was the case before even entertaining the idea as at the moment it appears to me as if this is just one chap's fancy.
I'm not sure how familiar Philip might be with these routes, Iain, and permit me to remind you a little about one of them as an example of what's being proposed, but 'Direct Route' was one of the very first routes climbed in the quarry in 1964. No pegs or bolts have ever been placed on this route; it may be bold but it's as bold now as it's always been. Like many of Cheesewring's routes from this era modern protection and sticky rubber haven't diminished the challenge - it's pretty much the same to climb it now as it was for the FA and the hundreds of people who have climbed it in the intervening 50 years. That's a pretty special thing that's worth preserving.
Finally just to respond to one of your points: I'd agree that Cornwall has limited available sport-climbing but are you suggesting that Cheesewring's long-established traditional routes should be sacrificed? My feeling is that the last thing Cornwall needs is crap sport routes, and the routes that have been targeted by these proposals (and many others in the quarry) would make very poor sport routes indeed.
It sounds like a terrible idea to me and is certainly something that should be discussed at the Bristol meeting although the full blown debate should be down in Devon/Cornwall.
It is normally the responsibility of the individual(s) to elicit opinion on such issues. Perhaps Tim can answer your query?
I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure it was brought up by Tim at AOB, which is why it will be on the agenda in Bristol.
I am not. The point is that the subject was raised at the Exeter meeting and will now be debated in Bristol, and doubtless again at the next meeting after that in West Penwith, which will be more convenient for locals like yourself to attend.
One of the problems with "mixed" crags is that there will always be some degree of conflict between those who want more sports routes and those who don't. Currently here in Devon there is a proposal, initiated by the SDMC, to replace the old pegs at Long Quarry Point with bolts and to retro-bolt the long neglected trad routes at Berry Head Quarry. I believe the FA at the latter, has agreed in principle, and Pat Littlejohn has asked for more information about bolting any of his routes at LQP.
As TPK points out above it will be discussed but I'm absolutely certain that no action will be taken by the BMC or anyone else until many more views have been expressed.
I also acknowledge the central role the Cheesewring has played in the development of climbing in SE Cornwall. I have only climbed the trad routes there, some of which are classics of their era, whilst others are pretty average IMO. Whether or not the latter would be improved by bolts I'm happy to let others decide.
Finally, there's a quarry on Dartmoor near Sweltor, where I put up a few bold but reasonably worthwhile routes many years back with peg protection. As far as I'm aware they get very few ascents and being a man-made hole in the ground I personally wouldn't object to them being retro-bolted...!
Do you actually mean Wednesday? 13 March is a Thursday!
I'm emphatically opposed to the suggested retro-bolting of 'Direct Route' VS 4a, 'Chance' E4 5c, 'One Way Ticket' E2 5b, 'Second Class Return' E2 5b, 'Central Route' VS 4c and 'Nocturne' HVS 5a.
None of the above should be bolted.
I have to wonder if any of the local climbers have been asked their opinions on the matter.
I was asked my opinion and I thought that I had made it pretty clear.
These proposals are very much contrary to established practice here
and the advice from the BMC in the minutes of the last meeting that this proposal is 'in principle acceptable' is total wrong and misleading as far as I'm concerned. I think it would be wise for the BMC to first establish how much of a demand there is locally for bolting these particular routes before proceeding further.
Well, if we are going to have a meeting let's have one at the Cheesewring.
I did mention that The Cheesewring (or rather the pub) would be a suitable venue for a BMC SW Area meeting. I'm sure Philip would be more than happy to arrange it.
Hi Rich, thanks for taking the time to post, you've reassured me that I'm not speaking out of turn (I think). I'd really be interested to hear others' opinions too (either way) as I certainly don't wish to speak for anyone else.
The sport-bolting of the 1990s, as well as the more recent re-equipping, was done in an admirably sensitive way that by and large respected the existing routes. It would be a great pity if the BMC - who in no way contributed to any of this - were to undermine the good work done by yourself and others.
My apologies to you, and to Tim who made the proposal, if I come across as confrontational. I'm simply trying to make the points strongly so that whoever might be in Bristol to discuss this has a better understanding of the issues. I certainly take your point that this might be something that will arise from time to time at mixed venues.
Here lies the real problem. If there were any merit to these proposals wouldn't this series of meetings to discuss it just be an interminable delay? A meeting in West Penwith may be good for me but this is still an hour away for most of the local Cheesewring climbers. Better perhaps to just talk to those who'll likely be concerned, either at the crag or passing through the door of the Barn, it will soon be clear if the idea is worth pursuing.
As far as I'm concerned the re-equipping at Cheesewring is still ongoing (slowly but surely by various local climbers at their own expense). There are certainly constructive things that keen individuals (or the BMC) could do to help - lower-offs to be replaced with stainless-steel, old bolts to be replaced, even a few legit candidates for retroing maybe. But is any of this going to be progressed at a SW Area meeting where the only person interested is the one making the proposal? If these meetings were truly representative I'm sure Tim would have been pointed in the right direction when this was brought up in Exeter.
Cleaning the routes in question would certainly be a service, and I'm sure this would increase their popularity massively (although they are by no means unpopular). Surely this doesn't require a series of bureaucratic meetings and I really wouldn't want to be the one to delay this.
Anyway, in an effort to be constructive I asked the FA of 'Direct Route' what he thought of the proposals - it was a mixture of surprise and amusement. Given his current level of fitness he may even appreciate a few bolts ('only joking') 'Direct Route?! I think I soloed that,' he says. The ego-boosting potential of the thought that a route you'd first done solo in big boots is now deemed necessary to bolt is unimaginable - that alone is why I hope to God it doesn't happen!
Barney good to hear from!
I totally agree that there appears to have been very little discussion with regard to this proposal and the idea of it being debated in Bristol seems very odd indeed.
With regard to further bolting of the cheesewring, I along with yourself on numerous occasions have enjoyed some fantastic sport climbing in the quarry and would not object to further bolts being placed however it must be carefully considered on a route by route basis.
I find the current choice of routes very strange and totally agree that I dont feel they would make even reasonable sport climbs.
If further bolts are to be placed it must be done in the same sympathetic way it was originally done in order to preserve the excellent trad climbing and routes that also form the flimbing at the cheesewring and this should only be done after careful consideration and dialogue with a number of the local climbers.
Those are my thoughts for what they are worth.
Hope you and the family are well and to catch up soon.
Take care mate.
No offence taken Barney. Given the response so far I would think it most unlikely that any retro-bolting will take place at Cheesewring and none without full consultation.
(Cornishman now living in Bristol). I'd be very surprised if such a motion was actually passed without prior consultation with FAs. It doesn't sound as though there's a compelling case for bolting the routes in question - that they're (allegedly) rarely climbed isn't in itself a good enough reason, IMO.
Anyway, FWIW, I share your concerns, and will support the case against this proposal at the meeting. As you're worried about this, but it's not practical for you to attend, you could perhaps send the BMC SW a short statement of your opinions, to be read at the meeting. Just a thought.
I'll just give this post a bump, as I was about to ask the same question. As far as I know the meeting is on Thursday 13th; perhaps someone in the know would confirm.
… as a matter of interest, I looked up UKC logbook entries for the climbs in question. Only the route Chance is unrepresented (not unusual for an E4 5c). Nocturne has had 11 repeats, Central Route 35, and Direct Route 38. Anyone used to using UKC logbooks will know that these numbers mean significant traffic.
Thanks for raising this issue.
Completely agree re' difficulty of proper representation from local SE Cornwall climbers when the discussion is to be held in Bristol, seems that Iain has allayed those fears though.
Whilst local, I can't claim to be a regular climber at Cheesewring - not for want of trying! - so can't really express a valid opinion on the proposed retro-bolting of these routes specifically as I haven't climbed them. Except to say that I agree that anything under HVS seems hardly worth turning into a sport route and that the consensus approach to the place as a mixed trad/sport venue seems to have worked very well up until now and that this proposal does seem out of keeping with the current character of the place.
There are plenty of quarries around and about that would accommodate some new sports routes, if the consensus goes against.
I'm slightly confused by the proposal to bolt Petherin Brothers and a Sister though? Is this not already a fully bolted route I seem to recall?
Hi Barney, in this 50th anniversary year of Toni's first new route at Cheesewring I fully support your view, and suggest the BMC meeting bows before Cheesewring high royalty and co-author of the guidebook!
A well known old friend recently e-mailed me: "I did High Noon last year and found it pretty tough. Without the bolt it would have been boldest/most insane lead in the SW! (even with bolt you'd probably break legs)".
Rather than dumbing down climbs by bolt placements, the grading should truly reflect the risks which are an essential element of rock climbing e.g. "cuts & bruises", "minor injury", "not worth risking a helicopter for", "major fractures", "brain damage/insanity", "death", "slow death" !!
My point isn't to bolt routes, it is to try and encourage more people to go climbing. The South West has many colleges, a growing number of climbing walls, with more and more young climbers. Many with the lack of experience and equipment to climb most places in the south west. The Cheesewring being a main sport climbing venue for Cornwall and West Devon, seemed the likely place to establish some easier grade sport climbs, as sport climbing is now many peoples first steps into climbing.
Certainly whatI should have requested was any suggestions of easier grade climbs or areas to be developed.
While we're at it, it's been suggested that Bump and Children in Need could do with lower offs?
No hard feelings I hope.
Cheesewring & South East Cornwall is a totally different area to SW Climbing (kind of) and really doesnt have a huge place in the SW Area Meetings, since it's only us lot reading and writing this that climb there/ here.
Fair enough, Tim's route choices were poor (except Chance - Bolt), but he's a keen bean and he has the right idea. I think there is definitely some consideration to be had on the topic, probably not worthwhile on here though.
Things have definitely been blown out of proportion, as this all started with some very humble ideas for improving the area's climbing and definitely not with any motive of defacing the rock or it's history.
Let's just meet up at a pub and discuss one night aye?
Just to say that I'll be coming to the SW Area meeting on 13 March and that I've climbed at the Cheesewring quite a bit in the past.
It's Thursday. Sorry my mistake.
Hope to make it myself Philip, and will put forward a proposal (another hot potato no doubt!) for the removal of belay tat from one or two other crags on the Culm and suitable more permanent and safer replacements. I would like to emphasise that this will be a proposal for initial discussion both at the meeting and through other media such as this forum.
I raise my battered beanie to both Barney and Tim for their responses to the proposal on bolts at the Cheesewring. It demonstrates to me the merits of having BMC Area Meetings where controversial issues can be raised and discussed. One of the problems in the SW is that it is a large geographical area, much of which is "policed" by individuals or small groups of climbers who adopt their local crags and, in effect, decide for themselves, the ethical approach to be taken. It has always been thus. Back in the 70s Littlejohn, Darbyshire and others decided their own ethics, to the extent that pegs for aid were pre-placed on what later became such outstanding free climbs as Darkinbad and Eroica.
It seems to me that if the BMC, through its area committees, can act as a forum for more people to air their views, however controversial, it can only lead to consensus and, where necessary, an agreed compromise. I don't envy the National Council. Trying to maintain a consensus for tens of thousands of committed individualists if not outright anarchists must be one helluva task!
Tim, an admirable quest, but I suggest you're addressing the problem from the wrong angle. The SW has many fantastic locations for beginner/ intermediate climbing including Haytor, Dewerstone & West Penwith and many leading climbers have developed their skills in the region. Climbing walls introduce young climbers to a version of the game but they exist as gymnasia for which an admission charge is made. They've showed little interest in preparing people for outdoor trad climbing by teaching setting-up belays and trad protection. The BMC have recognised this and now run the "Ready to Rock" transition courses. So don't diminish routes by bolting but extend experience by training? The decline of active membership of local clubs hasn't helped. When I was involved with the Exeter Climbing Club back in the day and also at my university club we had a pool of equipment for newer members to use, and also more experienced members who would take others out climbing and give informal coaching. All much more beneficial for the sport than bolting?
Yes i agree, less sport routes for beginners i reckon.
Hi Tim, I'm not a Cheesewring regular, but I do do there once a year. Given your aim, one possibility is to adopt an approach often used in the USA to rout out single pitch trad routes - make them top rope friendly. In the UK top roping is now seen by many as the new evil that sport climbing once was. I have never understood this. By placing a safe-to-access top rope anchor, school children can have fun and the climb is preserved (except for the growing polish) for the rest of us to climb normally.
Rather than dumbing down climbs by bolt placements, the grading should truly reflect the risks which are an essential element of rock climbing e.g. "cuts & bruises", "minor injury", "not worth risking a helicopter for", "major fractures", "brain damage/insanity", "death", "slow death" !!
Love this new grading system Frank. You might have something here. So much more meaningful than the abstract F6c+ or E65c!
Totally agree, Frank.
Personally I'm not sure why my SF(Survival Factor) system as outlined in the '88 ND&C guide has never caught on!
Hi Barnaby, As an interested party and a bit active in SE COrnwall in the 70's I would strongly object to the retro-bolting of any the the routes that we (Tim/Martin) put up. We always thought of ourselves as the B team which allowed a element of piss taking hence 'Second Class Return'
Happy uncomplicated days. Regards Bob L.
Quite interesting are the maps on www.historic-cornwall.org.uk. Select the disused quarries map to get an idea of the sheer number of disused quarries in Cornwall. Simply by law of averages there must be a few that are potential new climbing venues.
As you can imagine, to get one of these established as a sport climbing crag, there's a whole lot of further time and effort involved, finding the quarries with suitable rock for sport routes, approaching landowners, getting funding for equipping routes, etc, etc.
It is of course, a whole lot easier simply to retrobolt existing trad routes. However, as you are finding, that is usually unacceptable to the larger climbing community in general, and the first ascensionists in particular. That's just the nature of things here in the UK. There are some very positive sides to this situation, as people have said above.
I can see most people's point of view and I appreciate people get a bit upset with others. Being one of the few that live close to the quarry I know that only a few of the lines get sent and many lines stand waiting for a year+. Anyway, a South west area meeting in Bristol is a little silly. I reckon Cornwall should discuss its own issues, not that I am pro Cornwall independenceor anything. Someone please bring up Vixen tor! It is much more important to the community than a dirty quarry. Hahaha
Dear Toni , Barnaby & Bob,
I will be attending the meeting this coming Thursday along with Dave Turnbull. I will be there to represent your views on the matter.
P.s. I cut my teeth on this crag in the 60s. It may be scruffy to some, but I remember how commiting High Noon was but blissfully unaware of it too at the time.
Well I won't be able to make the meeting later this week Iain, but shall try out your suggested SF system in Snowdonia this week.
A good civilized debate and nice to see agreement reached. For the record Chris Rees the first ascentionist of Chance (E4 5c) is most unlikely to condone retro-bolting. Chris's dangerous antics are the stuff of legend (including swimming an aquaduct and climbing a viaduct). Myself or Dave Turnbull could contact him if discussions went any further but the idea looks dead in its tracks.
Sean / Iain, I don't think a new SF system is need. People just need to use the British system to its max. With the odd exception, we are too conservative by only using by only covering 3 tech grades per ad' grade, e.g.
VS = 4b, 4c, 5a only.
we just need to not be made to feel stupid if we suggest VS 4a, HVS 4a, E1 4c, even E1 4b.
Giving HVS or whatever to a route just means X% of the climbing population would be willing/able to climb it. If there is no protection on the route this still applies. I would suggest that about the same percentage of the population would be willing to on-sight an HVS 5a as a 120ft unprotectable 4a. If that is true, HVS 4a might well be a sensible grade for a route.
The SF system was never meant to be taken (too) seriously!
Thank you all for your contributions. As the proposal shows Chance and Direct Route (DR) would have to share a lower off, I would have also thought Chance too close to One Way Ticket/Second Class Return and DR to be bolt-able without unduly altering the character/protection of its neighbours.
I wouldn't wish to shout down any proposals and appreciate Tim is well-meaning in his intentions. I hope it's clear that my main frustration is with the impossibly-large and Bristol-centric BMC South West Area which seems to me to be the antithesis of democratic representation. The Discussion of Cornwall-and-Devon-related matters in Bristol serves only to override or misrepresent local opinion. (However, I'm very glad Richard Nadin and Dave Turnbull can attend on this occasion.)
Tim and El3ctroFuzz: you're ideally placed to solicit people's views on this; you guys probably see more of the area's climbers in an evening than ever attend these meetings in a year. Ask around, I'm sure most people will be happy to make suggestions and if you need to get in touch with any of the first ascentionists someone will know how, and I'd be happy to help. As Kafoozalem and Bob.l's posts show most of these guys are around and still take an interest.
I'd reiterate Frank Cannings' point re. introducing people to climbing. It's worth remembering that for many new climbers in the area Cheesewring will be their first introduction to leader-placed protection too, so for that reason alone the current healthy balance that exists should be maintained. Bear this in mind and look to the example set by Grieve, Hawken, Steinberg, Hudson and others (your good self included Mr Bunn) and you can't go far wrong as far as I'm concerned.
That said I've one or two suggestions you might like to consider Tim, which I'll email to you and Philip for the benefit of the meeting. There are some routes in the quarry that I think would make better sport routes (ones originally over-reliant on pegs) but I wouldn't like to publicly suggest these without talking to their FAs.
There may be a case to be made for the Fortress Wall routes (as raised in Tim's post) but again I'd want to talk to Andy Grieve (who made the FA or FFA of two of them) and Andy Steinberg (who I believe is the only person to have climbed these all in their present state) before forming my opinion. I'd also want to check if it were possible to put a lower off on Children in Need without it also being clipable from Traitor's Gate, and if Fraser Ball and Andy Bullock were open to the idea.
Finally, I haven't a problem with a lower off being put on Petherwin Brothers and a Sister (F6b+) - assuming Mosseee is ok with it and it's safely practicable. Although a lower off on this would be shared with Half Man Half Biscuit and inevitably lead to that becoming a sport route (the original peg on this having already been replaced with a bolt). I've recently climbed both these routes and thought them great and worth doing in their current state. On balance I don't personally have a problem with the idea of these two being fully equipped but it's not for me to decide. Thoughts Pete?
Take it easy all,
I intend to bring up the question of the large geographical area covered by the BMC SW Area. Given the fact that Devon and Cornwall by themselves cover the best part of 500 miles of coast, have 6, potentially 7 guidebooks and that Bristol is nearly a 400m round trip from Penzance, surely it's time that the SW was split into 2 separate areas, Bristol to include Portland/Swanage and Devon and Cornwall (from Baggy on the N Coast across to the Devon/Dorset border on the S coast).
I couldn't agree with you more about the distances involved in travelling to Area Meetings and I think there are enough active climbers operating in D&C to justify a separate BMC Area.
If there is a consensus for a split I would be more than happy to get involved.
Philip: Can we find time on Thursday to discuss this suggestion in AOB. I'm fairly certain that the Cheesewring issue can be covered very quickly, perhaps even "parked" to allow Barney and others to continue the good work.
Well, they've had a solid mandate to split the area before...
I was at a very well attended BMC SWAC meeting at the Count House in October 2010 when Devon-based climbers Samantha and Rich Mayfield were pursuing this idea. The minutes were never published but I was emailed a draft. It reads: "AOB Sam raised the issue of splitting the SW area into 2 seperate areas. The idea would be to split the area for Devon and Cornwall as SW and all other areas in one group. This was voted on all in favour one against. It will be taken to next National Council meeting." There are 33 named attendees but I know other people who were there who aren't named, so I'd guess 40-or-so for splitting the area; one against.
Next I read about it was in the minutes of a Bristol meeting saying it would never happen... ho hum.
Anyway, I actually hope this meeting does discuss the current issue raised and encourages Tim in the right direction - cleaning these routes would be a service to everyone and should be done without delay. If they've got any stainless-steel kit they're willing to share to replace the existing lower offs so much the better. They may perhaps also consider the merits of the Kit Hill project that was rather unfairly curtailed by one of these meetings in the past. I'll hopefully send the details to Tim and Philip but won't manage this tonight I'm afraid - sun's out, tide's low and I've got a free pass this evening!
All the best,
Well it will this time Barney, if I've got anything to do with it. Or if not I suggest a D&C Climbers' group, for clubs as well as individuals to meet informally at some of the best pubs around and discuss any local issues, whether it's bolts at Cheesewring, fixed belays on the N Coast or anything else.
The Cheesewring debate highlights the need for more networking in the two counties at a more local level. Remember the next meeting after Bristol will be in Cornwall! Gareth Palmer is the SW member on the BMC NC, and I've already had a chat with him about this.
I agree with many of your points, but this is surely a gross overstatement.
Philip, I've sent you an email via UKC and Faceache regarding the meeting.
I'm driving to the meeting from Cheltenham if anyone needs a lift.
I'm driving to the BMC South West area meeting on Thursday 13 March leaving about 6.00pm from Cheltenham so if any climbers from the Cheltenham or Gloucester area need a lift there please message me through UKC.
Hopefully BMC have received our email comments and apologies sent to their newsletter email address. Hope the meeting goes well.
Thanks Barney and others for all your advice. I did email Mosseee and he's not keen for any changes to be made.
I look forward to the email.
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