/ Should a Yank Take a Work Trip Across the Pond & Climb?
I'm from across the pond - the US of A, specifically the northeastern state Connecticut. I climb in the Gunks, North Conway, the 'daks, and all over the USA. I lead trad up to 5.10 (YDS), and ice up to WI 4.
I've got an opportunity to come to England for a few months for work to Barrow in Furness (summer or winter, I'd prefer summer). My question is - is there worthwile climbing near Barrow in Furness? How easy might it be to get partners?
I've heard something about gritstone, and the WideBoyz (you Brits showed us Yanks a thing or two, didn't you?, props to you, I'm wide aficionadio myself).
Convice me to come!...
Come! ....but make it in the summer!
Barrow is just south of the Lake District which has thousands of great climbs, but of course in American terms all of the climbing in England, Scotland and Wales is close to Barrow.
The Peak and the grit are a couple of hours away, North Wales a couple more, and the delights of Pembroke an easy weekend trip.
What will surprise you is the sheer number of crags we have in the UK, and the variety of climbing they give.
The wildboyz are Yorkshire gritstone climbers (about 2 hours drive from Barrow) but to be fair they did most of their training in their basement.
Barrow is basically in the lake district, so you have loads of climbing on your door step. Check out langdale and borrowdale.
You'd also only be 5 hours drive from some spectacular Scottish ice climbing if you came in winter.
PS you're right, Yorkshire gritstone is the best in the world, and the climbing there is steeped in history. Plenty of climbers, i'm sure, will be keen to partner a curious Yank, and regaile you with stories of British supremacy in the field of rock climbing.
Basically the UK is like a mid size US state size wise I dunno a comparison off the top of me 'ead. Yeah you'd find folk to climb wit' out in Barrow, I dunno how reliable, same in any game.
We love the grit stone down here, in world terms its pretty poxy really but that's life. Be prepared for rain, white cloud, rain, big traffic jams, the odd flood, shite TV, the Football and two weeks of summer... rockin... gotto love us little old Island.
Hope this helps X
"...off the top of me 'ead" - great!
Sounds great. I'm not averse to a three hour drive (each way) to climb for a day. (That's how far the Gunks is for me.)
"...in world terms its pretty poxy really but that's life" - what?
I'll think about jetting over there next summer...
"...regaile you with stories of British supremacy in the field of rock climbing" - like when the Yanks invented nuts?
(Brits and Yanks - a people seperated by a common language.)
I can't really add anything except to say you should come over and enjoy the climbing ! Good luck with your decision.
> ... like when the Yanks invented nuts?
Sure about that?
And an ocean. Fortunately.
Hi - Barrow is on the edge of the Lake District national park. Beautiful area and more trad climbing than you can shake a stick at. The weather can be... but no better place to come. The spiritual home of rock climbing in the Uk. N Wales and everything that offers only a couple of hours away. Ditto the grit in Yorkshire and the Peak District.
You'd be mad not to :)
Come here for the sea cliffs mate.
It's not that our mountain routes aren't great, but they might seem a bit, err... miniature by US standards.
Sea cliffs to rival anywhere though I'd wager.
Cornwall, Devon, Pembroke, Gogarth, Scotland and even some in Cumbria. That's where it's at.
Grit's great too.
Do it I reckon - good luck!
Not forgetting Scottish winter climbing :)
"Sure about that?" - Just pulling your chain! We'll take credit for cams though. (Not that anyone is keeping score.)
"And an ocean. Fortunately." - Touche - you got me there.
You guys seem like a great bunch. I hope I can work out coming there for a few months, I'll bring my kit, as you say. I look forward to meeting you superbe people, climbing your rock, and perhaps arranging to show you around my crags when I come home.
> "Sure about that?" - Just pulling your chain! We'll take credit for cams though. (Not that anyone is keeping score.)
Only just... Jardine might have invented but valence brought to market... Anyway, ignore all the hype about grit, there's so much more to uk climbing. If you're in barrow you'll have stack loads on your doorstep, let alone within a three hour drive. And bear in mind we don't have the ridiculous work ethic that you lot have. We actually get a break at the weekend...
> "Sure about that?" - Just pulling your chain! We'll take credit for cams though. (Not that anyone is keeping score.)
Yeah, I suspected that you were only taking the piss - as it's known over this way - keep up the good work... And, yes, you get the cams. Not much argument there.
Go for it re. the trip over here. The UK may only be small, but it packs an awful lot of variety into the climbing areas.
> Come here for the sea cliffs mate.
The sea cliffs are brilliant. Here's a taster of stuff around 5.10ish I think:
There's a lot to explore from accessible single pitch limestone routes to epic multi-pitch adventures on islands miles from human habitation.
Erm, I'm amazed no-one has mentioned it yet, but whilst great climbing is near to Barrow, Barrow itself is a hole.
Barrow used to be the mainstay of the now-non-existent shipbuilding industry, and unemployment levels in the town are stratospherically high, the shopping is restricted to charity shops and everything-for-a-pound shops, and whilst I was wandering around the place I got the distinct impression the local populace were looking at me in wonder as because I was in a suit it probably meant I had that un-heard-of thing - A JOB!
It does have (improbably) one of the best curry restaurants around, though, and that's from someone who has worked his way around the curry eateries of Bradford, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester...
Old Man of Hoy.
I have to climb that.
I really, really, really want to go to your island now.
Yeah, but I could get work in that now-non-existant shipbuilding industry. You Brits want some help from us Yanks with the engineering of your nuclear submarines. Hey!!! That's what I do! Some of my mates have been over there for two year stints, and have said there may be opportunities to go over for a few months at a time. Now that I know that there is very, very nice climbing on your island, I want to come visit.
Reasonable location though for the Lakes, and Kendal wall is only a 40 minute drive. Some decent places to live too if you get any choice in it.
Would it be working with BAE, or Glaxo? Both have big plans and contracts set up. And whilst it's a bit crap, not many towns can say they have 25 years of secured work, it'll keep it ticking over...
The Old Man of Hoy is a long drive (6-7 hours from Barrow) then two ferries, but yes it is an amazing place to climb.
Loads of great stuff in the Lakes, less than an hours drive for most. A long weekend in North Wales would be a must, classics in the Pass and on Cloggy then Gogarth.
Yup, most important things - raincoat and an umbrella. Plus a library of books to keep you occupied in your soggy tent on the numerous wet weekends that you are bound to suffer.
Next up, I would have said bring over some decent cuisine because British restaurants are invariably over priced or crap. But being a Yank the food will probably be a step up to be honest.
On a positive note - there is some amazing countryside in UK worth seeing and a summer here won't be a waste. I've been back for two years now though, and that is probably a little too long...
Everyone seems to look ill in Barrow, sort of a deathly grey pallor. It will be worth living in/near the Lakes for a year though.
Someone mentioned there is no bolt clipping in the lakes, but places like Chapel Head scar are not very far away.
You're gonna die.
Only joking. I've done a fair bit of climbing on both sides of the pond and a year ago I crossed over in the opposite direction for work.
By all means visit the Grit, but I agree with those raving about the sea cliffs, that's the biggest thing I miss. There are some sea cliffs just up the road from Barrow at St Bees Head with good bouldering and shite sport climbing, but they're not really the real deal. SW and NW Wales, Scotland and the SW of England are where the action is. There's a really good crag database here on UKC with an interactive map.
You will notice some differences in style and ethic, don't expect too many bolted anchor stations (almost none in fact), pitches are on average shorter and less direct, many in the UK climb on half ropes, walking off as opposed to rapping is usually de rigueur, and top roping is much rarer.
Have fun, drop me a line if you want a 5.10 ish tick list.
You might get to grit from Barrow but you'd be driving past loads of good climbing to get there ;-)
ps the Peak is about 3 hours not 2. Northumberland is reachable in a couple
Its also pretty easy to meet partners at short notice in the lakes. There is a yahoo group which a friend set up if you are interested. I have used it to climb with quite a few people when short of a partner. Let me know and I will try and work out how to invite you to it.
A few folk have made passing comments about the weather. What we laughingly term summer here is usually quite wet. This year has been so awful that there has probably been less climbing done in the Lake District than anyone can remember. If you want the best chance of good weather, which you obviously do, I'd recommend you to be here in March and April when the grass on the fells (that's what our hills are called) some years goes brown, it's so dry. Unfortunately, you can look at climate statistics as long as you like, but what we actually experience is weather. But having said that, August in the Lakes is rarely any good. I'm old enough to remember the summer of 1976 though.....
As others have said, take the chance. Even in showery weather (or particularly then) the scenery in the Lakes has to be seen. And if you do get on to the high crags you can't fail to have a good time. Things like Central Buttress of Scafell, an amazing achievement for its day and steeped in history, not to mention tragedy, is unforgettable and Gimmer Crag, though small by your standards is a gem not to be missed.
> You'd also only be 5 hours drive from some spectacular Scottish ice climbing if you came in winter.
One thing you will learn about us Brits is that we are also spectacularly optimistic when it comes to weather and routes being in condition!! :)
Dow, Gable, Scafell, Pillar and Langdale will all be in easy reach from Barrow. Summer rather than winter venues but best of all in spring or autumn.
There's also a FB group - Lakeland Climbers With A Day Off, very handy for teaming up, plus Kendal Mtneering Club is very active.
Compared to the best in the US, our routes may appear to be rather scruffy and often meander up crags rather than follow the proud lines you may be used to. Persevere though and the quality will become apparent.
My personal selection of must visit venues:
Classic Lakes mountain rock - Scafell, Dow, Gimmer and Esk Buttress.
Sea Cliffs - Fairhead (best crag in the UK?), Gogarth and Pembroke.
N.Wales has the best variety of quality rock climbing options in the UK, and a trip to the Scottish Highlands and/or Islands in May could just blow your mind.
The Northumberland sandstone almost rivals Peak & Yorkshire grit for packing a lot of climbing into a relatively tiny crag. Because of the rain shadow of the Cheviot hills it can often be dry over there when its chucking it down in the Lake District.
If you could get hold of a few books to give you an idea of the classics in UK climbing
Disclaimer....you may need therapy for the 'Culture Shock' if you spend too long in Barrow though! :-)
For me the things that make the uk so good are,
Sea cliffs, all that has been said, plus the island of Lundy in the south west, fabulous place to both visit and climb.
Winter climbing, when in condition (which can be very fickle). If you do catch the good climbs in good nick then the days can be just as memorable as days in the alps.
So much variety in such a small area.
Very easy to get to Europe, Geneva is only a 2 to 3 hours flight, and its easy to get to many of the classic alpine centres like chamonix and zermatt. I have often done cheeky weekend dashes to do specific routes when the conditions are good.
One thing to consider regarding the sea cliffs is that many of them have bird nesting bans in place from April until July.
Whatever you chose - enjoy.
we have some cracking "climbing pubs" for that obligatory real ale refreshment after a day at the crag.:-
the old dungeon ghyll
to name a few, im sure others will add to the list shortly
Britain is pretty small compared to some US states. Don't, however, estimate travel times based on the number of miles! Our roads are good quality and safe in general, but are conjested, never straight and have loads of junctions anywhere south of Barrow. Fuel is also expensive ~10.00USD per US gallon.
The Lake District is great and on your doorstep, loads of mountain crags in the 100-400ft range, typically 30mins-2hours from the road. The 'Set in Stone' DVD will give you an idea of what's going on at the cutting edge.
There is a very good indoor wall at Kendal (27m lead wall) if that's your thing for rainy days.
I actually quite like Barrow itself, yes its a bit rough round the edges but its a genuine sort of place. There are plenty of other places nearish if Barrow doent take your fancy, Ulverston for example.
Ship building in Barrow non existant? I dont think so fella. Have BAE systems (who own the docks) not just been awarded a massive amount to start the design on the Trident replacement....hmm wonder where they will be built when the goverment gives the go ahead!
First, the majority of our larger and best mountain crags are located in Northerly facing cirques formed in the last ice age a mere 12,000 years ago. The nature of these crags is they often require 3-5 days of dry weather to come into condition. That, as you may guess, happens more rarely than we would prefer given our wet, maritime climate. As such, amongst keen trad climbers there is a distinct hierarchy of crags. Whenever it is sunny and the high mountain crags are dry – you should seize the chance and climb there. Equally, many of our more popular crags (including many Gritstone ones and North Wales Slate) partly owe their popularity to their quick drying nature. As such you don’t need to make too much of an effort to climb there, you will naturally end up there during poorer weather.
It would be very remiss of you to spend time around the Lake District and not climb on the likes of Scafell East Buttress, Central Buttress or Pillar Rock. However, over a couple of months these crags will only be in good condition for a handful of weekends and you could easily miss the opportunity if you are too rigid in your planning. The same applies to Clogwyn Du'r Arddu (Cloggy), the historic crucible of Welsh climbing.
Second, despite being a small island, our weather is rather localised. Pretty much every day there will be somewhere in the UK where you can get a decent day of trad climbing done. [Even in the notoriously wet July and August of 2007, I managed 30 days of quality trad climbing only losing one day to bad weather, albeit by racking up a stupid number of miles driving.]
The biggest asset to trad climbing in the UK is flexibility and a willingness to adapt and follow the weather.
If you want some further inspiration consider buying a copy of ‘Hard Rock’ by Ken Wilson. It preceded Roper & Steck’s ‘Fifty Classic Climbs of North America’ by several years but has a similar iconic status. It records sixty of the best UK climbs (mostly graded 5.9-5.11) established by 1970 of which well over 50 are still considered classic routes of national renown. Equally usefully it provides an interduction to the majoirty of the UK's major crags and climbing venues with not more than perhaps 3 omissions at that grade range; Fairhead in Northern Ireland (a 5.10 crack climbers paradise - in between the rain showers!), Pembroke (stunning steep, well protected limestone sea cliffs) and the Island of Lundy (immacualte Granite).
Anyway, enjoy your planning and look forward to seeing around online on UKC.
> Everyone seems to look ill in Barrow, sort of a deathly grey pallor.
I've never been to Barrow but this description coupled to lots of "awesome climbing on your doorstep" brings just one thing to mind; Mordor! (No offense to Kiwi climbers who might be possessive. . .)
... and was itself preceded by Walter Pause's equally iconic In Extremen Fels.
Getting back On Topic: one of the great things about UK climbing, that I miss as an expat, is the incredible variety. I'm in the proces of organising a DAV trip to Wales for the coming summer - am enthusiastically selling my mates on the mountain crags / slate / world class sea cliffs / world class limestone sport climbing all within n hour's drive of Llanberis - whilst inwardly worrying that I'll sell my mates on shelling out for flights, hire car etc. and then it will piss down for a week.
Similar deal in Barrow: mountain crags / sea cliffs / slate / good sport climbing all within an hour's drive, and the Lakes is scenically even more beautiful then Snowdonia. But you often need local knowledge / luck to find the dry bits.
If you climb regularly at the Gunks you will easily be able to cope with any trad in the UK.
5.10 will be Ok for E2, so there is a good selection for you to throw yourself at.
My license plate is "GUNKS".
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