/ Lower Sharpnose - Lunakhod abseil.
We are keen to see how this chain stands up to the elements with a view to replacing some of the other abseil stations on the culm coast.
Seems like a sensible option, lets hope it lasts a few years!
Thankyou Mark, good work.
Thanks Mark - good work.
By the time we had removed the collection of rotting tapes and corroded karabiners it was too bloody cold to inspect the top belays above Fay and Break On Through, but they are in a similar condition. Other candidates for similar treatment might include Vicarage Cliff and Gull Rock where the accumulation of unsightly tat seems to be rising steadily.
Are these chains attached to pegs, bolts or threads/spikes?
PS Good work! Thanks! Old tat is like litter but more dangerous.
It's a big spike, see these photos: http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=233734 http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=233733 http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=233732 http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=233730 http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=233729
Does it really require an area meeting to authorise the replacement of one non-permanent, non-drilled anchor with another? Strange...
I agree, surely it would be better for someone to take it in turns to act as a sort of executive-officer-for-the-week, but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting by a simple majority, in the case of purely local affairs but by a two-thirds majority, in the case of more major…
Nice one Mark and Iain.
Another good candidate might be Oldwall's Point if you're after suggestions? (you're probably not and likely know this anyway!) Anyway, it's got that weird directional abseil where the tat seems to be place over a bloack on the other side of the ridge. It's a pretty difficult spot to move about and therefore difficult to establish whether the mass of tat is doing much. I'd imagine it gets added to quite a lot. I know many people approach along the beach, but the ridge isn't much fun once you're up there! Thanks again.
Great work Mark and Iain.
But how long before someone realises, screams righteous indignation and threatens to come down and batter it to death because it wasn't there when they did it and fixed gear on sea cliffs is anathema (but perfectly fine on Fay) and if you can't set up a natural retrievable ab from there you shouldn't be climbing and how dare the locals for deciding something so ethically contentious in a public meeting of other climbers without seeking someone's prior consent? :-D
Actually, I cut off all of the rotting old crap on the Fay belay back in August and replaced it with one piece of 11mm rope, That'll be fine for a while yet, I'd concentrate your sterling efforts elsewhere first...
Thanks for the good work!
No, of course not, BUT, if you'd like to buy a load of very expensive marine grade stainless steel chains, I'd be very happy to place them for you. If, however, you think that this is something the BMC should finance for the benefit of all climbers, then you go to an area meeting, get the support of the people who are there, then the area applies to the BMC for a grant.
Thanks for the pics and the chains. Get working on Gull Rock! I need to revisit soon.
Sent you an email.
Well done lads.
Vicarage is in need of the same in my opinion. May well be up for helping out on that.
The trouble is, the next climber doesn't know its new, so adds their tat etc. Looking across at Fay today, there's already 3 or 4 slings there. I regularly cut the old tat off at Vicarage and replace it, only to find loads more there a couple of months later.
Simple answer.No. The BMC does not have any legal authority over any individual climber. What the area meetings do is to provide an opportunity for local climbers to discuss local and national issues (such as the LS belay) and to reach a consensus or not and possibly ask their reps to bring those views to the attention of the wider climbing community. You know as well as I do that there are many contentious issues in British climbing, some even involving the placement of similar belay chains on other crags.
The BMC represents all climbers and never has and never will authorise. You should go to a meeting and find out for yourself, you might be pleasantly surprised.
Only been there once but remember that phenomenal collection of old tat and exploded screwgates. Even took a photo of it. There was enough there to ab off by it was a clearly a losing battle against the sea air and people would have had to add more and more. A chain can only be a good thing.
Sadly, and to my discredit, I have never been to a SW area meeting (was busy during the last one in Exeter otherwise I would have gone). Purely out of curiosity, I assume putting in a pair of discreet bolts was considered but rejected in favour of the chain (as non-permanent gear, despite presumably being much more obvious)?
PS if I ever get the chance to do Lunakhod, I will of course be very grateful for the chain, those who paid for it and those who installed it! Thanks in (hopeful) advance :)
I think a pair of bolts on the Lunakhod abseil point would be far less safe and less permanent than the solution employed.
I agree with Al, also the local ethics are pretty much against bolts anywhere.
The Lunakhod abseil point is clearly shown as a great spike, drilling into it would be pointless.
While I can see the arguments for the chain, my personal opinion is that a bit of admittedly unsightly tat is preferable to the "nannying" effect and possible "thin end of the wedge" effect of a still unsightly chain.
Thanks Mark for doing this.
I'm probably about to reveal myself as one of the most risk-averse climbers on UKC, but am I the only one who's been ever so slightly worried that the whole pinnacle is not actually attached to the crag? There's a diagonal crack just a little below Mark's picture (sorry, I don't know how to post my own picture here) that cuts through the pinnacle leaving the top section potentially just balanced. Of course it's a huge chunk of rock, and I'm sure I've abseiled off less well attached blocks in other locations without realising it.
And before anyone suggests it, I haven't got an alternative to propose, other than a couple of bolts in the main cliff to the left - which I would be very reluctant to support.
By the way, I've only visited the crag once (last summer). It was a great day out!
The chain was NOT provided by the BMC; it was provided free by Bolt Products via the BMC President acting as an individual.
This is just the sort of discussion we need - personally, I think replacing the bunches of tat with a chain is a good idea (otherwise I wouldn't have done it!) and would like to move to a similar solution on the other local crags where an abseil descent is necessary, however, before doing so, I'd want to gauge opinions.
Sorry to get that wrong Scott, thank you to "Bolt Products".
Well, it is very solid at the moment (I had a very good look yesterday), but the crag is a sea cliff, the whole area has very active erosion, and it's going to fall into the sea sooner or later.
Obviously, you have to make your own judgement when you get there, but I think it's good for a few more years.
Yeah, I'm well aware that people tend to add more and more. My point was more along the lines of the fact that it's safe at the moment, even if somewhat unsightly, Whereas other belays may be less safe in general...
Hi Mark, I'm ashamed to say I've never climbed there and therefore don't know the layout of the place... People have mentioned above placing chains at the top of other routes. Can't your new chain be used to access those routes as well and then regular gear be used when reaching the top of those routes as belays? Or are the routes not accessible from Lunakhod? I suppose if everyone bothered to equip themselves with a dedicated abseil rope which they left in place, then this would solve the problem. I don't doubt you and Iain and co have thoroughly investigated all possibilities and that your solution is best. By the way, what's to stop someone stealing it?
Isn't that the truth!
If anyone wants to nick it, they'll have to climb at least HVS to get there and will have to replace it with something else to escape! Take a look at http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=222790 this is the middle fin, viewed from above, the Lunakhod abseil is the obvious spike in the centre of the photo, it's inaccessible from above, unless you like climbing down loose ridges. There are, at the moment, 2 more ab points further out along the fin, we could chop these and people could use the chain we've placed to descend, or we could replace one or both, or we could leave things as they are and let the tat accumulate.
Hello Mark, hope you're well! Have to say I'm really not too keen on this, I can see all the sensible arguments about longevity and safety and so on, but this just looks so out of place at Sharpnose.... Why not just remove the old tat (as happens now and then elsewhere) and give out the odd bit of advice here and at area meetings that leaving tat isn't very useful or sensible, even if personally seeing a bit of old tat like this doesn't bother me much.
For me a part of climbing in places like Sharpnose is being self sufficient and being in a completely natural environment. I appreciate in reality we turn up in goretex with high tech ropes and other equipment but at the end of the day the climbing experience is in our heads and this chain feels like a bad fit with my experiences on the coast down there. All very illogical and fuzzy but that's (trad) climbing really isn't it!
PS, just realised what route this is and therefore why the tat builds up but an alternative would maybe be for people to leave some tat and take what they don't trust down with them...
My apologies Scott, and many thanks to Bolt Products and yourself.
I realise that this chain might be a step too far for some and I'm a great believer in the adventure element that is central to climbing along this coast, you have to be to climb at Exmansworthy, Tintagel or parts of Carn Gowla, but I also recognize that there are a few crags on the Culm Coast such as Lr Sharpnose, that have quite rightly, become extremely popular, but also require abseil descents due to the surrounding steep and unstable terrain. In such cases it seems logical to replace unsightly, dangerous tat and rotting krabs with a single long-lasting chain. Neither Mark nor I, intend to place chains at every abseil point along the coast. Vicarage Cliff and Gull Rock are two possible choices, they both have high quality low to mid grade routes, are therefore very popular and consequently tat accumulates. Of course if we all carried a plentiful supply of slings, a knife and expendable krabs then the problem would go away but it won't. Dealing with it on a crag by crag basis only seems to me to be a sensible compromise.
Well, Matt, that's part of the point in posting here to get a feeling for people's opinions before we take it further.
Anyway, how's the German bolt clipping going, or is to cold?
Ah! So have I misunderstood. I was thinking that the chain/abseil was to ACCESS the foot of the crag... is it simply to get down from the top of Lunakhod/other routes on that fin?
There was no tat at the top of the access abseil when we visited in August, and no need for any. You take what you use away with you when you leave.
Snowing today, most of the German bolt clipping is happening indoors at the mo (and I like the clever way you eluded to my lack of trad credentials there!!).
Personally I would find it a shame if more of these appeared. Fair play to you both for doing something rather than nothing about it though, and looking at this thread it seems I'm in the minority here...
I'm sure to be in a minority in preferring the unsightly tat. I was a regular Culm visitor throughout the 90's so have not witnessed it's rise in popularity. The weird bits of tat, knotted hawsers, notched planks, bits of boat and even the gnomes were all a part of the mystery of the place; a sensation which owed a lot to the superb style of your guidebook. This autumn I made a rare trip south and did The Flame on a stormy, deserted morning. All the bits of tape and bootlaces at the top told a story: a chain wouldn't have.
Lower Sharpnose is one of the few crags I have never visited in the region and Gull Rock seemed to benefit from an abseil descent. I never felt the urge to abseil off the Vicarage cliff when you could just walk down the back and clamber back around the point. Has the geology changed?
There have been some recent geological changes due to storms, some pretty major ones further down the Atlantic Coast, but at least the major structures seem to have survived! I take your point about the eccentric value of the various forms of belays on the Culm: my own favourites were the large rounded beach rock pre-placed by the late Keith Darbyshire halfway up the first pitch of The Sexton at Blackchurch and the tied off anthills at Screda Point - all gone now or redundant due to multiple in-situ stakes. We'll see how people react to the LS chain before placing any others.
I'm entirely with you Alan; shiny chains are horribly sanitising in any adventurous environment.
In this particular case, others may think that the addition of yet another sanitised sling and shiny karabiner to an existing bunch of insanitary tat is equally detrimental to the surroundings.
Yes. It is, in the end, a matter of personal taste. I just wish the problem could be solved by successfully educating people to remove untrustworthy tat and relacing it as necessary.
Perhaps you could persuade Iain to disguise it... to look like a bunch of tat + karabiner, perhaps?
Now don't encourage me! Trompe l'oeil at Sharpnose? Banksy, where are you?
Jon, I can't believe you have never climbed at LS, it's brill and just the sort of place you would love, try and get there before it falls down (the routes themselves are very solid), or before you do :-) it's worth a trip if you are ever back in the UK. You have to abseil in but on the other side of the zawn to Lunakhod, and getting out again involves a good E1 or a chimney with a very loose but easy traverse/walk back to the top of the first fin.
I once tried to climb the ridge above Lunakhod but gave it up as suicide and went back to abseiling from the tat. The chain seems a good idea to me.
Ha ha - a perfect solution.
I did once escape up the ridge from the top of Lunakhod and didn't enjoy the experience. My partner, Dave Thomas must have enjoyed it because he was later captured on film climbing Breakaway.
A big thank you to Scott, Jim, Mark and Iain for a sensible solution.
"Only been there once but remember that phenomenal collection of old tat and exploded screwgates. Even took a photo of it. There was enough there to ab off by it was a clearly a losing battle against the sea air and people would have had to add more and more. A chain can only be a good thing."
Thank goodness, at the start of that I thought you were referring to the area meeting! ;-)
I agree that area meetings help in other respects. Individual action without notification can lead to chopping in return: on things like popular abseils its best to advertise and seek consensus first.
Ha! You are spot on, it creates a sort of consensus if it's reasonably well attended. I went to the Midlands area meeting for the first time in years earlier this month. We had well over fifty people there, probably because Dave Turnbull was attending and doing a talk on Patagonia. We don't have any worthwhile rock here though...
In response to the comment re destroying the adventure etc, I think it's just common sense. There is no adventure to be had in someone dying as a result of an ab station failing.
Sure, a couple of bits of normal tat and a single screwgate are sufficient if they are replaced regularly. But the fact is that most people don't replace stuff or they just add more to the extent it's hard to tell what's still ok and what's no good.
Good job. In terms of both a visual aspect and safety this seems the sensible option to me.
When I did it I counted no less than 10 bits of tat and 5 biners in various states, rather unsightly really. I don't see a chain being any more unsightly, probably to the contrary. Sanitising, maybe somewhat but still a better option.
Liking the romanticism of tat telling a story...someone climbed Lunakhod, left tat and abseiled a certain time ago. Waiting for the blockbuster!
If any of that tat had failed you'ld certainly have experienced a block buster 35m below.
Is there any way of making the chain blend into the rock somehow? Tat tends to weather, fade or turn brown over time and not be too visually noticable I think. A big shiny chain however will stand out for quite a long time I would have thought. Thats my only concern about it. The popular routes on culm have never felt that adventurous really so I dont think a chain will make much difference to the feel of the route
Well nor can I, Al. I've climbed at a few really classy venues on that coast - Exmansworthy, Dyers, Baggy obviously, and a host of others but sadly Lower Sharpnose escaped. I can't see me putting that right now either - I live in the wrong country and more importantly, I'd be far too frightened.
I find it hard to believe that there are people who are questioning the sense of this chain. I believe that the visual impact of the chain will really be quite minimal, it doesn't spoil or alter the nature of the climbing at all and that it might just add up to a little more safety for people climbing and rapping off Lunkahod. I have been quite shocked at times at the poor state of the fixed equipment that people are prepared to use unthinkingly on the culm coast and also by the amount of tat left behind. There are another couple of popular (in the rockfax guide) venues which might also benefit from a more permanent fixed solution if some kind of local consensus could be reached. I am not talking about sport climbing here before anyone becomes incandescent, but decent fixed anchors to try and avoid huge amounts of rotting tat and some climbers trusting equipment which is very poor. At the start of September we removed a huge amount of very manky equipment from the top of Marsland and replaced it with newer rope tied into a galvanised biner. I would imagine that the sea has attacked this quite brutally by now and that its safety is not beyond question. Everybody climbing on the culm needs to make good decisions about their own safety and carry enough good quality tat to replace old with and a knife to remove, take home and bin old equipment. This clearly doesn't happen so maybe some fixed equipment at more popular venues might be the answer. Could be something to discuss in an area meeting?
I think another important factor is to use rope slings not tape slings for abseil points where fixed metal gear isn't in place. The core of rope is hard to damage if the sheath is still intact and hasn't slipped and the knots are good. It might look manky but if its visually intact its almost certainly OK. On the other hand tape can look reasonably OK but it may have weakened significantly by rubbing in the wind.
Having said that I've snapped both tape and rope abseil slings when testing them with a hard tug(several old slings in the US sun and the rope was an old placement, now gone, at Aldery which had cut 90% through - but this was hidden unless you checked - rubbing on rough bark). There was an incident somewhere where formic acid from ants had caused an abseil sling failure.
Paint the chain grey?
Think it's fairly sensible. It's been approved by an area meeting and I like the fact is isn't totally permanent too, if it ever needs to be replaced you just pull it off and drop on a new on. Seems the most intuitive thing.
As far as the tat thing goes. It's logical for people who place tat to keep the old as a backup. Any backup is better than none. However the worry is that someone doesn't place new tat and has the old stuff fail on them.
Or put a manky, faded sheath of some sort round it?
Haha yeah sure whatever :).
To some of the posters in the chain (excuse the pun), the old ab tat which has now been replaced with the chain was very very visible from the gearing up/ab spot on the north fin and a real eye sore. Visually the chain can't be that much worse than what was there before. I've never seen anyone mad enough to try scrambling off the middle fin these days. The ab is the most sensible and safe means of retreat. But the tat looked terrible last time I was up on and had to use that ab station a year and a half ago.
The belay/ab threads at the top of break on through were also awful several months ago. They were so bad I got my mate to lower me off first (he's much heavier and a roofer so I felt quite safe). He didn't look so happy when having to ab down after (whoops - sorry Russ, I may not have fessed up to my cunning plan at the time - but I did put a fleece on a boulder to mark the zone...).
Seriously though, thanks once again to Mark and Iain for doing this.
The one time I seconded break on through (several years ago) Ben lowered me off, once on the ground I stayed tied in and he used me as a counterweight while he abbed off the other side of the fin so I suspect the gear didn't look much more attractive then...
Kudos to Mark and Iain for the Lunakhod abseil chain.
nice one Mark, I'm hoping to do this route this year :) It looks awesome....
It's great, beta alert.
Make sure you take plenty of large gear and save a couple of large cams (3 & 4)for near the top.
Yeah I seem to remember reading somewhere ( W country climbs? ) it takes big gear. Clawtrack looks worthwhile too.....
Seems like the consensus, at least on here, is for the chain. I can understand those who don't want to see the Culm experience sanitised. Having spent much of my climbing career delving into the arcane corners of this coast I agree wholeheartedly, but am fairly certain that crags such as Exsmanworthy, Blackchurch, Henna, Gowla and Tintagel will always remain as true adventures (and doubtless the gods of geology will bear that in mind). If one or two more fixed belay points are placed at popular low-mid grade crags such as Gull Rock and Vicarage where the tat is unsightly and dangerous then I shan't object.
As long as it doesn't need a 4 and 5 next year...
It won't. The thing about the Middle Fin, also shared to some extent by Vicarage Tower and Gull Rock is that they are all tidal, are arguably the most popular crags on the Culm and escape via the cliffs behind is extremely uninviting, hence the build up of tat. There are one or two others with similar descent difficulties but far fewer visit.
No Iain, I was referring to the size of the cams/crack increasing! See Mark's post.
That will be the thick end of the wedge then I suppose?
Well briefly - before it becomes an arete...
> If one or two more fixed belay points are placed at popular low-mid grade crags such as Gull Rock and Vicarage where the tat is unsightly and dangerous then I shan't object.
I agree. Back when I used to climb down there a lot there were still a lot of pegs in situ and it was normal to have pegs and hammer with you, even if you didn't always carry them on the route. My impression is that it's been cleaned up a lot (it tends to be self-cleaning of such ironmongery given time!) and so a few decent fixed belays in popular spots is probably a lower impact solution (in more ways than one).
Aah! More to the point; if or when we get a period of hard frost after all this rain there could well be crags up and down the country that might suffer the same fate as Tatra on the Ruckle.
I¡¦m probably going to get totally derided for saying this but - I don¡¦t really see how an insitue chain around a natural feature really detracts from the nature of the crag. I like to think of myself as a reality ¡¥adventurous¡¦ climber and I generally carry plenty of tat and the odd spar maillion/clip in such situations. When I come across a bomber insitue ab point around a big spike etc... I don¡¦t think NOOOO! This crag has been ruined forever, - I think oh good I won¡¦t have to leave behind a load of tatty gear, of which I would have been perfectly capable of placing had the need arose ¡V the net result being less cash spent by me on tat and less rubbish left on crags but pretty much no difference in what a cliff feels like in terms of commitment.
> I'm probably going to get totally derided for saying this but - I don't really see how an insitue chain around a natural feature really detracts from the nature of the crag.
I doubt it; you seem to be very much with the concensus! But I'm happy to be a more or less lone voice of derision if you want.
Pace Robert: I would be with you in removing any fixed belays/ab stations where "natural" alternatives were easily available, but nowadays we all seem to accept lines of stakes along the clifftops of Pembroke, Swanage, N Cornwall and the like, so a sanitary chain or two is hardly a busted flush! I can remember only too well tying off equalised gorse bushes and ant hills, or threading rabbit burrows and rickety fence poles, even belaying from inside the Compass Tower in pouring rain whilst my second struggled with the disintegrating razor shards of shale on Dreadlock Holiday and Keith Darbyshire's belay around a pile of empty beer cans as I seconded the FA of The Entertainer.
> Pace Robert: I would be with you in removing any fixed belays/ab stations where "natural" alternatives were easily available, but nowadays we all seem to accept lines of stakes along the clifftops of Pembroke.
I'd rather not see in situ chains for aesthetic and self-sufficiency reasons (though I am clearly outnumbered). I just hope that it is not the thin end of the wedge and we end up seeing a move towards bolts replacing other (not easily available) ab points even though this is clearly not the current intention. But there are certainly people out there.......
I think of stakes as big pegs rather than bolts ;-)
That almost sounds a bit like a pun - in which case are you sure it's strong enough?
I'll second Robert's thoughts and join his minority viewpoint. There's something alien to climbing somewhere remote and beautiful like Sharpnose and arriving at the top of a climb to find a shiny stainless steel lower off. Call me a Luddite, but I do believe it will be the thin end of the wedge and will be used to justify the proliferation of fixed gear.
Does that mean you think they're ok or not?
Awesome. great work Mark, much better than horrible tat.
I'm with RD as well.
Well, I happily use them without any self reproach or aesthetic revulsion, so I suppose, at the risk of seeming hypocritical, I think they're OK. Grass just seems different to the actual rock.
More RD anti chain supporters emerging to be counted. Good stuff.
I agree with beautiful but remote? C'mon: the crag is a 10 minute flat stroll from the road along an electrified fence containing possibly the most alien and inappropriate blot on the N Cornwall coast, visible for miles. If you want remote get down to Exsmansworthy: you'll need at least two extra ropes, a machete and the necessary experience to escape when the rain arrives and the tide turns.
I also don't get the distinction between an unsightly pile of rotting man-made fibre (non recyclable), rusty steel and corroded aluminium and a removable (recyclable) S/S chain in this particular situation, and possibly one or two others nearby. This is not the "thin end of the wedge" as the small group of local climbers police their patch pretty regularly and will remove unnecessary ironmongery or other paraphernalia.
We intend to return to the Middle Fin and remove the collection of tat littered at every belay point along its length. One chain against four or five separate garbage areas is a price worth paying as far as I'm concerned.
One other question to those who object. How do/did you get off the fin after climbing any of the routes there? If by abseil, did you cut away the existing slings and replace with your own gear or did you just use what was there and hope for the best?
The argument over stakes in the grass (should that read snakes?) versus chains is specious and disingenious, but I do recognize that the distinction between those and bolts is a grey area that the climbing community has yet to fully resolve.
I've been climbing on this coast for 60 years and have absolutely no desire to see it sanitised as a bolted safe zone.
The thing is that if you look at any of these things logically they rarely make sense, as anyone knows who's tried to explain ethics or good style to a non climber. I think it's important not to be too logical about these things (why don't you just walk around the back/get the train up/etc, it's easier). Ultimately we know the experience is different if we clips bolts vs use gear vs solo and that's what this risks affecting if only in a small way.
I do think there's a slight thin end of wedge argument here as well if only because the more this is seen as normal (particularly by new climbers), the easier it becomes for people to take the next small step.
I agree that it isn't remote per se but once at the base or actually climbing it has a remote, unspoilt feel. I have only been a couple of times but both times removed the obviously useless tat and left newer bits.
It seems strange to say this is not be the thin end of the wedge when your previous sentence ended with " a S/S chain in this particular situation and possibly one or two others nearby". You may not intend to add more fixed anchors but others may well use this example as justification to add S/S chains elsewhere. Why not on any sea cliff where the sea spray and saltwater plays havoc with traditional climbing hard/softwear? Why not high in mountains where there is more sunlight and UV degradation? Why just one abseil point on this particular fin?
Thanks for this. I climbed Lunakhod last summer (and loved it - soft touch HVS?!), and found lots of tat there, and am pleased there is something there now which will stop more bits of tat being added. I must admit though that I was concerned about abseiling on that one spike, as it does look like it could go in the near future (though how near I am not sure), though I assessed it, and decided that its near future was later than my near future (and it was!)! :-) If placing the chain was an exercise to get rid of tat, then that is fine. If its an exercise in improving the safety of an abseil, then maybe we should consider bolting the more main cliff instead, and abseiling off that protection. How can we better assess the safety of the spike?
Not the thin end of the wedge???
Now talk of "bolting the main cliff".
Once people become accustomed to lower offs like this then they will be accepted as the norm and this S/S chain will be cited as an example to justify the spread of anchors more akin to a climbing wall than a traditional sea cliff.
Agreed. I would have thought the Culm coast would be one of the last places to be hosting a chain anchor debate! They are, after all, still pretty rare on UK crags: Inn pinn, Rivelin Needle, Sergant Crag Slabs and a pointless one at the top of Gimmer....
It was a miniature mountaineering day, and one we both remember as a great shared experience. Climbing the arête was certainly more difficult and dangerous than ascending Clawtrack.
I respect others preference to treat the crag as an outcrop, and make no criticism of the placement.
I just wish to point out, perhaps to those raised on indoor walls and sports climbing, that there is an alternative, and equally valid, way to explore the Culm.
Sadly, your miniature mountaineering day is no longer a viable option as the nature of this crag, and the reason it exists at all in this form is because the main body of the cliff line is composed of much softer shales and sandstones that erode far more rapidly than the much more solid fins. There used to be a reasonable but exposed way onto the Lunakhod Fin from the upper slopes above the South Fin, and as you say, one could exit by a careful but loose ridge scramble. Both no longer exist. In fact an upper crag above the main gearing terrace collapsed some years back with the loss of at least two routes.
To respond to Alan Moore's point about the rarity of abseil chains. Two of his examples, both classic and very popular features involve abseil descents, whilst the chain at Sargeant Crag Slabs is there to prevent erosion on the steep damp slopes on each side and damage to existing trees. This is my point exactly. In effect the Middle Fin is a pinnacle.Even those against the chain will still be faced by an abseil. Add in the tide factor together with its popularity and you have the argument for the chain. As to whether it spoils the actual experience of routes such as Fay or Clawtrack, whilst strings of dangerous and unsightly tat enhance it is open to question.
In threads such as these there will always be at least one mention of a bolt. Those of us involved in writing the next guide to this coast have been extremely pro-active in removing all bolts as and when they appear. Mark Kemball lives in Bude and would almost certainly win the race to extract any bolt that might appear at L Sharpnose!
The summit of The Old Man of Hoy is to my way of thinking a garbage dump littered with climbers' detritus. Others may believe such tat is an important historical relic. Perhaps each sling could be labelled with its original owner's name and date, so that once it had lasted for 20 years it could be removed carefully and donated to the Mountain Heritage Trust!
You can't. In fact, any rational assessment of the safety of the entire fin is virtually impossible.
On that basis shall we bolt Stanage because of the cement works and Sheffield just over the hill? Of course not; these things are not a direct part of the climbing experience or culture and are of therefore little relevance to the debate.
Does that mean I can remove it then? ;-)
The distinction is that a bunch of tat is an organic thing that ebbs and flows with individual climbers' need to descend safely; it has a story and spontaneity all of its own. A chain put there by commitee or area meeting or whatever is a sanitising "solution" imposed for the "benefit" of others. It undermines self sufficiency and responsibility.
And some of us certainly find a chain more visually offensive than a bunch of faded tat. Of course that is just a personal thing.
It clearly sets a precedent and as such could well be a thin end of a wedge. There are people outv there who will use the obviously absurd "what's the difference between a peg and a bolt" to argue for "tidying up" other anchors.
So why did you bring it up?
I didn't raise the subject of stakes, Tyler did and you implied a certain hypocrisy on your part in happily using them. I remember climbing at Pembroke in the bad old days of the 70s and 80s, when we carried and used full N Coast gear such as pegsand old school wires to construct abseil/belay points. Hardly a stake in sight then. Now there's literally hundreds, some even colour coded. Here's the point: you think a chain in a specific location is sanitising the climbing experience, but a stake doesn't. Fine, but others don't agree and climbing is an activity that is full of contradictions and controversy. Compromise can actually work without polarisation or becoming the thin edge of a wedge.
Defining a huge mass of man-made fibre and rusting metal as an organic ebb and flow is quite frankly ridiculous. The only story it tells is that most climbers are suspicious of trusting their lives to random lengths of nylon of indeterminate age and strength, preferring to sacrifice a sling and krab to add to the mess. That's the reality.
Give it a month and it will be a traditional landmark.
No, you did (wednesday 14.26)!
Guilty as charged.
No, they both have a sanitising effect, but, aesthetically I just find chains around the actual rock abhorrent in a way I don't with stakes in grass.
Absolutely, and long may it remain so. I can see both sides of the argument, but, in the end it is an entirely personal viewpoint and I do seem to be part of a not completely insignificant minority.
Well, let's just hope it does in this case!
No, I find the idea quite satisfying.
Yes, and I like that way of doing things (though, thery should cut away the stuff they don't trust). The chain may be visually less messy (and even less obtrusive), but that is obviously not my point.
Guess this thread has run its course. The chain is either an aesthetic and unnecessary intrusion and the beginning of the end to adventure climbing in N Cornwall, or a preferable solution to the specific problem of escaping from the Culm's most popular and dramatic crag. Time will tell.
As long as it doesn't completely replace the adventure that is simultaneous abseiling down the opposite sides.
Suspect that everything's been said that needs saying so I'll just add that in spite of my comments above I do think the culm's in good hands with you and Mark looking after it!
That option remains. It's one way to get off the sadly neglected routes on Bude Pillars such as Zinfandel, a brilliant, if eccentric HVS amongst a handful of harder routes.
Plus if anyone wants real adventure then can always get down to South Devon to experience the joys of schist and Devon Desert Rock :)
Great job, mark and Iain , like people are saying mayb the vicarage cliff could use the same kit.
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