Hard Cracks: The Roost, Hebden Bridge

Naomi Buys on Con Dem Nation E6 6b at The Roost, 173 kb
Naomi Buys on Con Dem Nation E6 6b at The Roost
© Adam Lincoln

Having taken a thirty footer that ended on the ground - slate at that - I hadn't been doing much climbing for a while. However, being a bit of an obsessive the next best thing was walking; preferably near crags and even better potential new ones. My favourite area, and one that occasionally had been giving us new rock, is the Calder Valley around Hebden Bridge and Todmorden. As you drive down the valley and catch glimpses of outcropping rock you just know there's something good and unclimbed out there.

Turn the clock back 20 years. I recalled a conversation I had had with a local climber that went something like "you should check out the hidden quarry off the road near Hebden. You can't climb there it's banned, but worth going just for a look - its like Higgar Tor only steeper and has about 5 really good big cracklines!"

Well I'd spent more than a few wet days trying to find this place to no avail; but having time on my hands, now was the time for another look.

Three amigos: Neil McCallum, Matt Triolett and Mick Johnston, on their way to the Hole in the Wall after a day at The Roost., 170 kb
Three amigos: Neil McCallum, Matt Triolett and Mick Johnston, on their way to the Hole in the Wall after a day at The Roost.
© Mick Ryan

After about three days of thrashing up and down wooded valleys and finding 10ft high blocks I was on the verge of throwing in the towel with the general feeling it was probably going to be crap anyway. Ever curious though, I made one last trek up one last track. In fading light I caught sight of a bit of rock through dense brambles and undergrowth. A damp musty-smell filled the air as many startled crows fled their roost. As I fought my way in my heart started to beat a bit faster. Bloody hell! Bloody steep! Higgar Tor, Hebden Bridge

After getting over excited I brought a couple of mates along and they got even more excited! New rock is a rare commodity and rock this steep and obviously climbable even rarer.

First we had to talk to the home owners in the small cottages above the cliff. The crag is on their land and the top is about 10ft from their garden walls. Obviously the presence of climbers there would be an issue but, after discussions, the local residents were happy to allow access providing people stuck to climbing in the quarry, didn't wander around around on top and weren't noisy or disruptive. Game on. This problem has been solved by adding a handful of bolted lower-offs at the top of the crag. This may be controversial to some, but common sense will hopefully prevail. No lower-offs, no climbing; that's the bottom line.

As you can imagine my mates were more than happy to give me a lift and an immense amount of hard work went in over the summer of 2010.

The result is - The Roost - not a massive crag, but home to a handful of absolute classic hard routes. The Roost is undeniably a hardcore venue with routes starting around E5 and gives a similar experience to climbing on steep limestone in many cases. Many pegs abound, although a full rack is needed including some big cams. The pegs are all good and have been well tested, though many can (and probably should) be backed up with natural gear. None of the routes are particularly serious but some good air time has been logged! At the time of writing all but one of the routes has been onsighted or done ground up. Some climbing had taken place here in the Seventies the details of which are not known, a number ancient pegs were found although due to the instability of some of the blocks when we first arrived it's not thought any of the lines had been free climbed.

Mat Troilett on his desperate Fascination Street E7 6c., 107 kb
Mat Troilett on his desperate Fascination Street E7 6c © Mick Ryan
Mick Johnston at full stretch on grit master Jerry Peel's classic The Senate E6 6b, 110 kb
Mick Johnston at full stretch on grit master Jerry Peel's classic The Senate E6 6b © Mick Ryan

Topo and Routes

The Roost Topo, 193 kb

1. One Over Eight E5 6b
Climb the crack immediately right of the corner with increasing difficulty to a bolt belay. No left wall at this grade.

1a. Indirect start.

2. Con dem nation E6 6b
A great route up the wall to the right past a nasty short crack and many pegs to join and finish up Coalition

3. Coalition Crack E5 6b
The big diagonal crack provides a classic well protected and strenuous outing. Gain the tree stump and make difficult moves to good holds in the horizontal break, traverse left and climb the wide crack (big cam) to a sling and peg and a final hard move to gain the top. Bolt belay.

4. The Cartel E7 6c
From the horizontal break on Coalition pull rightwards over the overlap. Clip two pegs and blast straight up the headwall moving right up a ramp to hopefully reach the bolt belay !

5. Fascination Street E7 6c
A desperate pitch up the wall right of Coalition. From the tree stump on Coalition with a high runner in the crack break right across the wall using two small edges to gain the intermittent crack line leading to a shallow groove and peg runners. Make hard moves up this and rightwards to gain the short diagonal crack and top.

6. Sleepy Hollow E6 6b
The shallow groove and arête to the left of the wide crack. Climb the groove then make a series of hard moves past twin pegs to a big hold on the arête and a rest in the chimney. Move left and climb the short crack to finish(cams).

7.The Senate E6 6b
The all to obvious crack to the right of the chimney. Bridge up the corner then make hard moves past 2 pegs and wire to gain the wide crack on the left arête. Pull back right and climb the crack direct .

A Trip to the Roost by Nez McCallum

Naomi Buys on One Over Eight E5 6b, 208 kb
Naomi Buys on One Over Eight E5 6b
© Joel Pixley
Jordan Buys dispatching The Cartel E7 6c ground up with one fall.                      , 162 kb
Jordan Buys dispatching The Cartel E7 6c ground up with one fall.
© Joel Pixley
Mick Johnston on Con Dem Nation E6 6b at the Roost, Hebden Bridge
© Adam Lincoln

Mat Troilett on his desperate Fascination Street E7 6c.
© Mick Ryan

Situation and Conditions

Craig Smith on the world class Wicker Man Font 7a at Mythom Steep, just above Hebden Bridge., 215 kb
Craig Smith on the world class Wicker Man Font 7a at Mythom Steep, just above Hebden Bridge.
© Mick Ryan, Nov 2010

The crag is very secluded and has a great backwoods feel to it. It is important that visitors keep a low profile and this atmosphere and the respect of the residents who live above is not lost. The crag has really strange conditions. It stayed bone dry through weeks of rain in the summer but suffers from condensation in hot weather. Cool dry periods seem best. Most of the routes get the afternoon sun although not in winter. Climbing may be possible at any time of year although if you make the effort and conditions are poor many other crags are a stone's throw away.

Other Crags and The Pub

You are spoilt for choice for crags and pubs in the Calder Valley around Hebden Bridge and Todmorden. Try Heptonstall, Mytholm Steep, Widdop, Kebs, and Scout Hut Crag for routes and bouldering. Recommended pubs for after crag beers are The Hole In The Wall in Hebden Bridge and the New Delight Inn, Blackshaw.


How do I get there?

From Hebden Bridge take Halifax Road towards Todmorden and after approximately half-a-mile park on the right at the entrance of Jumble Hole Road. Follow the obvious rough road past the old mill through the woods keeping right at the no parking sign. At the top of the hill follow the blue bridleway posts up and left until you come break out of the treeline. A path now forks off left through trees past a small edge. The quarry is on the right over the stile. 20 minutes.

From Burnley take the long causeway, past Bridestones until you reach Blackshaw Head. Take the right hand fork in the village down Badger Lane. After approximately half-a-mile park on the right hand side at Marsh Lane. Walk down the Pennine Bridleway at Marsh Lane for approximately 1 mile until the Bridleway steepens up and a big left hand bend is reached. Take the footpath on the right past the gritstone edge. The quarry is over the stile on the right. 20 minutes.

The Roost, 196 kb

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