Castlebergh Crag above the North Yorkshire town of Settle has been made safe and is to be opened as a climbing venue in a unique collaboration between climbers, the council and local businesses. The local council have funded the development of this sport cliff and local shops have bought route names.
Castlebergh had never been developed for rock climbing. Its loose and vegetated nature and close proximity to the town centre meant that local climbers had given up all hope of developing it as a climbing ground. A solitary peg was the only sign of any past probings and no routes have ever been documented. The crag's fate appeared to be further sealed earlier this year when:
"Rockfall onto one of the scenic paths below the cliff caused the landowners and the local council to lock the gate."
However mounting pressure from local businesses and the people of the town caused the council to take action to resolve the matter. A series of meetings and press reports ensued and eventually a team of local climbers and keen new route activists were enlisted to help with the stabilising work on the proviso that they were able to develop the crag as a sport climbing venue when the safety work was finished.
Support for the development from the council and the townspeople turned out to be overwhelming as Dave Musgrove, one of the developers, explains:
"We had initially offered our services for free but the Council offered to pay for all the bolts and resin used on the crag. Some local traders then suggested that they would like to 'sponsor' certain climbs and so it was agreed that for a donation to the Yorkshire Bolt Fund we would re-name the climbs in support of their business."
Settle Councillor David Heather
Although it is already very common in the likes of France and Spain where local governments readily pay for local climbers to develop crags in order to attract tourism, it is quite unheard of in the UK. The kind of situation where a number of parties come together to develop a crag for the mutual benefit of all involved, is something of a unique collaboration and has been generally unseen until now. This is a positive step forward for climbing and the climbing community.
After talks between local climbers, the BMC and the council, a plan evolved and on May 1st work started. Over a two month period the team put in around 300 hours of work, removing several tons of loose rock to yield what they now describe as:
"A worthwhile venue with 24 named climbs on rock which is now reasonably sound and certainly much safer than it was 2 months ago."
There are now around 24 fully bolted climbs at the crag with grades from F4 to F7b. The climbs are now generally solid and most have had multiple ascents:
"Our initial assessment from the ground was that with just a few days work we could remove the more obviously perched loose blocks and create probably about a dozen reasonable climbs. That was before we checked out the crag by abseil and found just how loose it really was!" said Dave.
You can view a full guide to Castlebergh Crag in this UKC article.
The crag is still currently closed to all but the developers however an official opening of the climbs and surrounding land will take place on Saturday 11th July at 1.30 pm, lead by Dave Turnbull, CEO of the BMC.
Note: The crag is small and cannot support many teams climbing there at the same time. For this reason it has been asked that climbers try to refrain from all rushing there at once!
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