/ Best crag in Wye Valley for someone starting in trad

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ewanjp - on 18 Oct 2016
Hi all,

I've started doing a bit of trad leading following doing a PYB course. Spent the last weekend in the Peak (Rivelin and Birchen) which was great. Quite fancy getting on some limestone in the Wye Valley - which crag would people recommend for beginners?

I seem to be pretty comfortable on severes and v diffs (based on not a very large number admittedly!) - i'm used to climbing harder stuff from doing sport, but it's nice to be able to concentrate on getting the gear placements right!

So where's best? Ideally somewhere pretty and not in a quarry.
CurlyStevo - on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to ewanjp:
Goblin Coomb would fit. The ticks should be less active now also, but do tuck your trousers in to your socks and brush yourself down regularly.

You could try
Obelisk Crack (low to mid S)
Bolg (high S)
Durin (mid VD)
The hobbit (easy S but awkward but good threads and spikes)

Symmonds Yat has a lot at the grade but you need to be cool with abbing back down off trees and be super careful on the mud bank at the top. Being north facing it also would feel cold and be slow drying at this time of year.

One issue you will have with limestone is it tends to get going at VS really at many venues so there isn't so many easier single pitch routes.

The gower has quite a lot in the lower grades that would be suitable, look at boiler slab, fall bay and three cliffs bay
Post edited at 14:40
purplemonkeyelephant - on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to ewanjp:
Wintours leap has a couple of 3-4 pitch Vdiffs next to each other. Tops about above the trees with a great view of the river at every stance. We did one called Corner Buttress Route 1
Post edited at 14:30
ewanjp - on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to ewanjp:

Ok great thanks guys, will have to keep an eye on the weather now. VS might be ok, the Severes didn't feel remotely hard, except for having to learn to hand jam on one!
CurlyStevo - on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to purplemonkeyelephant:

I was a bit hesitant to recommend a multi pitch Vdiff because of complexity of rescuing stuck gear and climbers ;)
CurlyStevo - on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to ewanjp:
seeing your profile you should perform better on limestone than grit so you'll probably be up to atleast VS quite quickly. (many sport climbers find the overall difficulty of leading trad and placing gear about the same as leading F6a)

Shorn Cliff is pretty good at that sort of grade - also abb off

If you find the climbs mentioned easy at goblin coomb then try Esgaroth at HS.

On limestone remember:
- Its quite loose, flakes and blocks can come unstuck when used for gear or holds
- When polished there is almost zero friction
- Friends / cams do not work as well and should be backed up ideally (the same goes for old pegs)
Post edited at 14:39
purplemonkeyelephant - on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to CurlyStevo:

Fair comment but the vdiff I went up had so many ledges it almost felt like a series of boulder problems, not very committing!
CurlyStevo - on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to purplemonkeyelephant:

Well there is still added complexity for example if a climber falls and is injured. For a first taste of the wye rock and for a new trad leader I would not advise multi pitch.
The Ivanator - on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to ewanjp:

Depends what skills you are comfortable with really. If you are happy multi-pitching and abseiling then Wintour's Leap is probably the best Lower Wye crag for friendly grades, although routes can be hard to find amongst the trees on first acquaintance.
If you are pushing the bar up to HS/VS then these are all worth a look:
Central Rib Route I (S 4a) - has alternate VS finishing pitch.
Zelda (HS 4b) - classic.
Joe's Route (VS 4c) - OK for VS and good gear*.
Nibelheim (VS 4c) - not too stiff for VS, nice route*.
Left Hand Route (HS 4b) - good despite polished crux move on P1*.
* All these routes require an abseil descent on double ropes - I think 50s are just long enough, 60s better though.
maxsmith - on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to ewanjp:

I learnt to lead trad at Symonds Yat and would really recommend it...although it sounds like you may be climbing higher grades than me very quickly! I think the best thing about the Yat is all the trees, which makes building anchors extremely simple. This means you can focus on the climbing without worrying about saving gear for the top. enjoy
ewanjp - on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to CurlyStevo:

I should be ok on multipitch - i've done quite a bit on sport in Europe. As it happens my first multi pitch lead ever was a random trad 'day out' i did with a mate - snoozing suzy (?) - vdiff in the wye valley somewhere.

Not that keen to zoom up grades to start with tho, want to get my gear work totally solid.

In terms of how gear works in limestone, would you say a well placed cam would be less reliable in a parallel sided crack (esp one that's seen a load of placements before)?

When we did our course in PYB the guy did drill into us that we shouldn't trust placements behind flakes esp with cams.
CurlyStevo - on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to ewanjp:
Yes a cam in a parallel sided crack is certainly less reliable on wye limestone than most other rock types. Swanage they are some what better especially at boulder ruckle, although subluminal they often skate about when you test them. I wouldn't say that it rules out using them though, it should hold if you tug it and it doesn't move (but of course there is no guarantee)

Before you attempt trad multipitch you should be very very sure of your anchors and how to set up equalised belays as well as atleast have working knowledge of how to escape the system. Also remember for the leader to get a piece of gear in as soon as possible after the belay to avoid a factor two fall on to it.

Also bare in mind the limestone in the area is quite loose in many places and takes a fair bit of judgement to get used to. An accident on single pitch where climbers can quickly lower to the ground is much easier dealt with than one where you can't do this.
Post edited at 16:04
minty1984 on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to ewanjp:

If the weather is dry then I would head to shorne cliff. There are many HS and VS routes there which can all be laced with good gear. All single pitch climbs and many are soft touches for the grade. Every VS route I have climbed there would have taken my whole rack of gear!...

Start with a VDiff called acoustic and then move onto the HS routes. You will ticking VS 4C's within no time

minty1984 on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to The Ivanator:
The 1st pitch of central rib 1 is a polished mess! Makes it feel way harder than it is?
GrahamD - on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to CurlyStevo:



> Symmonds Yat has a lot at the grade but you need to be cool with abbing back down off trees and be super careful on the mud bank at the top. Being north facing it also would feel cold and be slow drying at this time of year.

Sure you aren't confusing it with Shorncliffe ? Symonds Yatt is the obvious choice to try and, with the exception of the needle., is all walk offs.

minty1984 on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to ewanjp:

Also portishead quarry is a great place to start leading on trad. Bolted lower off's and crack slab climbing from HS to HVS. All the routes except PIckpocket will swallow as many wires as you own.

One rainy wish and Pharos are great HS's
CurlyStevo - on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to GrahamD:
Some of the climbs are ab off only at the yat and not just the needle (I did manage to walk off one which should have been an ab with much bush whacking and needing to rope together and sling the odd tree!), also if damp the mud bank can be lethal and very nearly killed a friend of mine who managed to catch the last tree before the edge!
Post edited at 18:45
GrahamD - on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to CurlyStevo:

You've obviously climbed different bits to me. I can't remember anything other than walk offs there !
CurlyStevo - on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to GrahamD:

I probably over egged the need to ab as you are correct many routes don't need it even if the mud at the top is damp.
bpmclimb on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to CurlyStevo:
> Symmonds Yat has a lot at the grade but you need to be cool with abbing back down off trees and be super careful on the mud bank at the top. Being north facing it also would feel cold and be slow drying at this time of year.



Gosh, you don't half hear some rubbish talked about Symonds Yat! I don't know why it's still so fashionable to diss the place. Let me correct you on a few points .....

Symonds Yat isn't north-facing. The escarpment as a whole faces more west than north; furthermore the right hand sections (facing the crag) of the various protruding buttresses vary between west and south west-facing, and get plenty of afternoon/evening sun.

Much of Symonds Yat is pretty quick-drying. Probably on a par with Goblin Combe (or very nearly, at any rate).

Most climbers abseil back down from GC routes. You can use the gullies but they're not pleasant. At SY, abseil descent is fairly common but far from obligatory. If anything the scrambling descents at GC are steeper and more involved than those at SY. But anyway, you don't absolutely need to be "cool with abseiling back down off trees" at either crag; there are other options.

True, at SY there are some climbs which top out on insecure mudddy slopes, but there are many which finish at comfortable, secure, rocky platforms.

At the grades mentioned by the OP, the selection at SY is far greater, and generally of better quality, than at GC. By and large your comment about limestone not getting going until VS is accurate, but SY is very much an exception.
Post edited at 20:31
Bobling - on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to ewanjp:

Corner Buttress Route 2 (VD). Lovely setting, good climbing, eminently escapable with massive belay ledges, easy to find once you've found the easy way down.

Of course you shouldn't give it a go until you've sat and passed Multi-pitch Climbing 101 though, sorry about that ; )
Hooo - on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to ewanjp:

+1 for the multi pitch V Diffs at Wintours. Get them done while V Diff is still exciting, ie. before you get too good. With multi pitch sport experience and the ability to build an anchor you'll be fine. I did one as my first ever trad route, and it convinced me that trad was the sort of climbing I wanted to be be doing.
purplemonkeyelephant - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to Bobling:

For me the 'easy way down' was the most dangerous part! Incredibly polished, big steps down (I'm short!), steep etc. Especially with a rope on my back and lots of gear. My friend thought 'easiest way down' was probably more apt.
Max factor - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to ewanjp:
you'll be fine on the easier multi-pitches on Wintours. Generally good belay ledges, and not that hard to escape from if you get stuck.

The one thing I'd call out is the Wye valley gear. I've done a lot of climbing, and no-where else as I am uncertain about the quality of the gear.

Someone's already mentioned shiny parallel sided cracks and cams. Look out too for the fun of concretions + threads or wires or dubious strength, weirdy little keyhole wire slots where you are never quite sure how good the rock is or how it will act under a fall, and last but not least a plentiful smattering of cemented in pegs.

It's different crag by crag, and generally safe, but particularly on something like Shorn cliff or the North Wall at Wintours it helps if you are good with your gear.
Post edited at 09:29
CurlyStevo - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to Max factor:

How old are those cemented pegs now? 40 years?
Max factor - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to CurlyStevo:

I think they are more recent than that, a lot date to when the GO wall was cleaned up before the publication of the 2007 guide (I don't know how I know that - I must be a guidebook geek!)

Still, it's odd to find an ethic where pegs are tolerated, and the occasional bolt. Look at routes like White Feather. E3? I counted 6 pieces of fixed gear on it! Not saying it's the wrong thing to do mind, but strange to find a pragmatic approach to trad climbing in this corner of the world where fixed gear is tolerated, and the routes are much more balanced because of it, compared to elsewhere in the UK.


IPPurewater on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to bpmclimb:

Ewan, bpmclimb is giving you good advice. You may want to stick to easier grades until you have more experience at placing gear.
Dell on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to ewanjp:

Take some hexes with you.
CurlyStevo - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to Max factor:
I was on Zelda a few years ago and they looked much older

I believe new routes can be fully bolted at wintours now as its basically a quarry
Post edited at 11:23
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Tricky Dicky - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to ewanjp:

> As it happens my first multi pitch lead ever was a random trad 'day out' i did with a mate - snoozing suzy (?) - vdiff in the wye valley somewhere.

Snoozin Susie is at Symonds Yat and imho is a great vdiff, as is the nearby 'vertigo'.

timjones - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to CurlyStevo:

> Some of the climbs are ab off only at the yat and not just the needle (I did manage to walk off one which should have been an ab with much bush whacking and needing to rope together and sling the odd tree!), also if damp the mud bank can be lethal and very nearly killed a friend of mine who managed to catch the last tree before the edge!

I can't think of any routes at Yat that involve bushwhacking on the walk off.

As for your friend he needs to learn how to look after himself. If it's slippery it is easy to place gear high on your route before tackling the "mud bank" to reach a tree. A bit oof mud won't kill you but your own incompetence might
CurlyStevo - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to timjones:
Well maybe you should check the guide book as after we spent sometime bushwacking off the climb (this was a few years ago), we read the info again and it advised an abseil because of the difficulties of getting up the through the bushes and the steep mud bank.

The incident with my friend happened when we were both quite green about 20 years ago, maybe similar experience level to the OP? Also you are incorrect about how it happened. It occurred after we had dismantled the belay, it was very slippery mud that day.

At this time of year its not at all uncommon for the mud bank below and above a lot of the the climbs to be quite unpleasant. I would say abseiling is the norm on many of the climbs there in these conditions. Taking a mat to wipe your rock shoes on and to keep them clean at the base of the route is also a good idea.
Post edited at 12:27
timjones - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to CurlyStevo:


> The incident with my friend happened when we were both quite green about 20 years ago, maybe similar experience level to the OP? Also you are incorrect about how it happened. It occurred after we had dismantled the belay, it was very slippery mud that day.

I never stated how it happened, I merely highlighted that is possible to reach a tree belay safely. Untying from that belay before you are safe is not a good idea!
CurlyStevo - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to timjones:
You suggested a possible scenario and inferred incompetence.

Not that it means much but my friend was leading VS competently at the time had done many mountain routes and had been SPA trained prior to this when we were at Uni so he could look after the less competent.

I was much less experienced having mainly climbed on southern sandstone which was our local rock.

In any case the point is that it is quite dangerous up above many of the routes especially if the ground is muddy.
Post edited at 12:59
Ian Parsons - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to CurlyStevo:

> I believe new routes can be fully bolted at wintours now as its basically a quarry

I don't think that the drilled gear policy for Wintour's Leap has changed from that laid out in the 2007 guidebook:

<<Wintour's Leap (excluding The Woodcroft Quarry)
- No new development with bolts.
- Regearing to remain strictly like-for-like. [With scope for referral/discussion in specific special cases.]

Woodcroft Quarry [and various other places]
- Bolting and retro-bolting permitted, provided no bolt is placed on or is easily clipped from any previously-existing route unless the first ascensionist of that route has given his/her explicit permission. [The FA's permission is, of course, required for retrobolting somebody else's route.]>>

Insertions in square brackets are my additions.

And yes; I, too, can think of bits of The Yat where a mud-initiated plummet from the top awaits the careless and the ill-shod!
CurlyStevo - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to Ian Parsons:
Fair enough I'm sure you are right, I thought I'd seen routes that looked fully bolted there though? Also thought I read somewhere fixed gear on new routes was permitted. Maybe in my old guide book?
Post edited at 13:10
CurlyStevo - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to Ian Parsons:
Do you know how old the pegs on Zelda are? They look the same vintage as they did nearly 20 years ago when I first lead it and they looked 20 years plus old then.
Post edited at 13:19
timjones - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to CurlyStevo:

> You suggested a possible scenario and inferred incompetence.

Lets just say that I don't think that nearly sliding off the edge of a crag can be attributed to bad luck or some sort of issue with the crag itself ;)

> Not that it means much but my friend was leading VS competently at the time had done many mountain routes and had been SPA trained prior to this when we were at Uni so he could look after the less competent.

Many can make the same claims, most of us still make mistakes occasionally.

> I was much less experienced having mainly climbed on southern sandstone which was our local rock.

> In any case the point is that it is quite dangerous up above many of the routes especially if the ground is muddy.

It certainly can be dangerous but the plethora of trees that you can easily tie into make it a lot safer than many other crags with loose or slippery top outs.

CurlyStevo - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to timjones:

Do you feel better now? Good on you
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Gordon Stainforth - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to ewanjp:
Forgive me for asking, but did the OP really mean the Wye Valley in Gloucestershire rather than the Peak?

Just wondering.
Post edited at 13:29
timjones - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to CurlyStevo:

> Do you feel better now? Good on you

Thank you for asking, I've felt great all week ;)
timjones - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Forgive me for asking, but did the OP really mean the Wye Valley in Gloucestershire rather than the Peak?

> Just wondering.

Surely he can't have been thinking of that other inferior northern upstart of a valley ;)
Ian Parsons - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to CurlyStevo:

Indeed; there is a lot of fixed gear in the areas outside Woodcroft Quarry, including quite a few fully bolted sport routes. Prior to the 2007 guide, and in addition to the Cheddar-style cleaning and regearing project on GO Wall and Deceiver Buttress, attention was paid to much of the remaining fixed gear elsewhere; this obviously involved discussion, consultation and consensus. The routes involved ranged from those with just the odd peg runner through to others that housed a whole mixture of pegs, old bolts, threads and fixed nuts and which, in all but name, could reasonably be regarded as sport routes. The solutions were equally varied, on a case-by-case basis. Some routes, where necessary, simply had the odd existing peg or bolt replaced; some became "normal" bolted sport routes; a few old bolted routes were replaced with bolt-free trad routes; I expect that the odd piece of no-longer-considered-necessary hardware was removed, or simply left to disintegrate; and you might encounter the occasional non-drilled piece on an otherwise bolted sport route where it crosses or otherwise encounters a previously existing non-bolted route. This was a specific policy, outwith the normal bolting agreement, to sort out existing local fixed gear problems and arrive at a reasonably sustainable position, presented in the new guidebook, under which a stricter line could then be drawn in terms of further development.
Ian Parsons - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Forgive me for asking, but did the OP really mean the Wye Valley in Gloucestershire rather than the Peak?

I wondered that too, Gordon, but decided it was unlikely as the Peak version is more familiarly referred to by the names of its main sectors - Cheedale, Water-cum-Jolly, etc; and I think that the Gloucestershire Wye probably has more to offer the trad beginner than the Derbyshire one, although odd crags like Ravensdale clearly buck that rule.

Gordon Stainforth - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to Ian Parsons:

In that case I agree with those who've already said that Symonds Yat is by far the best bet for trad beginners. Very pleasant and user-friendly.
Bobling - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to CurlyStevo:
> Do you know how old the pegs on Zelda are? They look the same vintage as they did nearly 20 years ago when I first lead it and they looked 20 years plus old then.

Aha! I knew I'd seen some info about the state of these pegs somewhere on these forums, John Willson said in this thread: http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=430087&v=1#x6081700:

"The history of this route is worth a page in the Historical alone (but such indulgences are now discouraged). A few points may be of interest. The remaining peg on pitch 1 is believed to be the FA original. When I sent my draft 1977 script to John Grieve in 1976, he remarked that on a recent visit he had been 'surprised to see his partner's home made peg still in situ' (but this could have applied to a lower peg in the left wall, long dispensed with). I am almost but not 100% certain that it was not removed and replaced in the short interval between then and my cementing round it a couple of years later. I did the route several times thenabouts, including my first solo of it in 1978. This peg was implied to be an aid peg in the 1965 GMC guide and has often been used as such (I witnessed an occasion only six weeks ago!).

The first peg on pitch 2 (protecting the nose move) also definitely predates 1975 and may be quite a bit older. I placed the sentry box peg in 78 (having recommended its use in the 77 guide) along with the pegs now at the belay. The early descriptions of this climb appear to advocate a poorer finish further left avoiding the sentry box. The intermediate peg appeared in the early to mid 80s. I did not cement it, or mention it in the 87 guide, as I regarded it as something of an interloper and assumed that I or someone would remove it. However, it was well in and has become accepted as a fixture. The moves between it and the sentry box are not hard, but some people are still shaking from the exposed step out and welcome the assurance it gives.

So this one might be 30- years but all others are 30+. To qestion whether they are sound is like asking how long is a piece of string. The crux is, are they likely to do the job they need to? Probably but not definitely £ i.e., they may well hold a small fall or provide secrity to grab in an emergency; they are certinly not to be equated with 12mm SS bolts. However, there are no alternative natural gear placements and it is unlikely that replacement pegs as good (or anywhere near) would be possible. The whole topic of peg degradation and replacement was given a good UKC airing recently, more specifically in relation to Avon.

For all this, the route remains one of the best, probably the best, of its grade in the Wye Valley."

So a conservative estimate would be 40+ years for most of them!
Post edited at 14:50
CurlyStevo - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to Bobling:
Thanks for the info. Its a really good route but I did feel much the same as Toby that it must be quite high in the grade given the climbing and state of the rather spaced fixed gear.
Post edited at 15:38
Ian Parsons - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> In that case I agree with those who've already said that Symonds Yat is by far the best bet for trad beginners. Very pleasant and user-friendly.

Mud notwithstanding I'm pretty much with you on this; and once I applied some common sense and dug out a pair of Walshes to designate as "Yat shoes" - rather than the usual Five Tennies which are brilliant on the big ramp at Avon and somewhat like skis elsewhere - the whole experience became a lot more enjoyable!
Gordon Stainforth - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to Ian Parsons:

Yes, I remember mud at the bottom as being a big problem. Towels, beer mat terrain.
John Willson - on 19 Oct 2016
In reply to Ian Parsons: (13:56 Wed)

An excellent summary, Ian.

Ian Parsons - on 20 Oct 2016
In reply to John Willson:

Good of you to say so, John - but simply what I gleaned of the process by observing from the sidelines while others, notably yourself, supplied the hard work.

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