First climbed by Herbert Ingle prior to 1900. This is one of the best easy graded routes at Almscliff. You won’t encounter many tufa features like these on the grit stone. The moves on them are to be savoured and are very aesthetic. It does however require a few size 4 cams to adequately protect so bear this in mind otherwise it could feel quite serious.
Bird’s Nest Crack HS 4b
This route may be showing its age with the amount of polish but it’s a brilliant way to acquaint yourself with the art of jamming.
The gear is on demand and it does get harder near the top as the crack widens. Another classic Herbert Ingle route from the 19th century!
Frankland’s Green Crack VS 4c
Everything you need to know is in the name; well almost everything. A fine effort by Claude Dean Frankland who soloed this several times in the 1920s. Definitely worth waiting till the summer when it’s less green. A real battle up the curving crack and strenuous traverse with the pigeon shit saved for the top (hand sanitiser optional). The Legendary Arthur Dolphin was spotted soloing up and down this in a pair of baggy wellington boots. At least the pigeon shit would have been easy to wash off his wellies. Hardman Allan Austin who normally soloed VS’s found this so hard he had to layback the top crack with his elbows.
This has to be one of the best routes in Yorkshire. The Arthur Dolphin classic attracts visitors from all of the country. Sustained laybacking and jamming is mandatory as is the 5-star finish near the top where you jam out right into a sensational position with not much in the way of footholds. A true battle and not easy for HVS. Typical Yorkshire HVS. If you get the chance there is some old footage of Dolphin on a DVD that comes with the book “Memories of Dolphin” by Tom Greenwood. Rumour has it that he attracted quite a crowd on his first ascent that was climbed in a very bold style.
Demon Wall HVS 5a
When you listen to umpteen tales of folk who have struggled on this over the years you really have to hand it to Arthur Dolphin for claiming it as one of his first routes at Almscliff. According to Allan Austin, Dolphin didn’t get any runners what so ever!
This is one of the most fallen off routes on the crag mainly because there is a huge reach near the top for a hidden rounded hold which is desperate to find when you are already hideously pumped. This is very evident from the photo in the guidebook when you see Richard Connors fully stretched out, his fingers only just reaching the rounded runnel. The guy soloing it in my photo has yet to reach the good hold. I can confirm he was successful!
Birdlime Traverse HVS 5b
Yet another Arthur Dolphin route (yes, we have a lot to thank him for)!
Basically, this is a superb left to right outing across the south facing wall. The name is a little misleading as bird lime for once doesn’t seem to cause too many problems. Opinions differ widely as to the grade and for many, the VS start is the crux. Realistically there isn’t a move above 5a but what do I know. If you value the relationship with your climbing partner then it’s wise to place all the available gear on the very pumpy traverse.
Possibly better than the original Z climb; this one packs in a bit of everything and takes in some of the best bits of the north-west wall. Yep you guessed right, it’s another Arthur Dolphin route. If E1 is your stretch grade then this is a very amenable and safe proposition.
Black Wall Eliminate E2 5c
For many, this is their first E2 and a very good one at that. Lots of pumpy traversing with plenty of gear make this a highly enjoyable and atmospheric climb. A wonderful outing and perfect for a sunny winter’s morning.
Western Front E3 5c
Some would say this is one of the all-time greatest E3’s. It’s essentially a direct and independent route left of Great Western HVS 5a, joining Great Western just for the final five-star finish.
The guidebook isn’t wrong when it says you must karate chop the main crack.
It must have been a terrifying event to witness when the legendary woolly jumper man; Allan Austin climbed this back in 1958. On his first attempt with no runners, he got too tired to progress through the overhanging crack and took a spectacular ground fall that nearly killed him. The spectators did nothing and some thought he was dead.
Another much sought after Almscliff classic with a testing and polished bouldery F6b start and delicate moves in the middle. If you bring the correct cams for the middle break then it’s safe enough. Possibly the best of the big three E3's at Almscliff!
I was fortunate enough to witness James Ibbertson climb the upper crux no fewer than twenty times as I hung in mid-air with my camera. We had a devised a cunning plan to take the cover shot which required me to be pulled out into space with a second rope. The experience was brutal as I nearly snapped into two pieces during the process.
Although Dolphin had a go on a rope in the 1940s, it didn’t receive a proper ascent till 1961 and that was by Allan Austin who soled the thing because there simply weren’t any runners. The friends that were needed in the break didn’t exist in those days.
Grand Illusion E3 6a
It’s not altogether that hard to see why no one bothered with this till 1979, as it basically climbs the start of Great Western but then climbs directly up the intimidating bulging headwall to where Great Western and Western Front finish. Whilst not much new ground was covered it was still a nice addition by the lesser known Charles Cook.
In the featured photo, you get an idea of the steepness as Stuart Lancaster launches himself up the leaning headwall as the last rays of winter sun turn Almscliff a beautiful golden yellow. Days like these spent with new found friends are priceless and reward us with memories that we shall cherish for many years to come
Almscliff is essentially an all-year-round venue and because it has walls facing south, south-west, west and north-west (just about every direction) you are sure to find sun, shelter or both whatever the time of day or direction of the wind. The fact that both the high and low man are free-standing means seepage is almost none existent and its exposed nature ensures at least one aspect will dry quickly after rain. The extreme left-hand routes on the north-west wall can become green after rain and are best left to the warmer months when the evening sun comes fully round.
It goes without saying that the bouldering can be primo on a sparkling winters day if you can stay warm.
It’s not uncommon to look out west across Wharfedale and see squalls of showers over the Ilkley and Caley crags whilst Almscliff stays dry. It does enjoy a bit of a micro-climate with more sun than other areas.
Access is sensitive and the privacy of the farmer who owns the land that the crag is on must be respected at all times. It is not open access CROW land. The farmer has recently requested that climbers do not come with their lanterns to partake in nighttime bouldering after a load of students tested his patience.
It’s absolutely critical that you don’t block any of the farmer's gates and you must not park outside the farm. If you have a posh sports car be prepared for cows to brush past and damage the paint.
The free-standing lone boulder in the field beneath the crag must not be climbed.
The excellent Yorkshire Gritstone volume 1 guide by the Yorkshire mountaineering club is the only definitive guide to the area and it covers a lot of the bouldering.
The Northern England Rockfax guide contains a selection of the best routes.
Twin ropes are required as the routes do deviate but it is often possible to utilize a 60m half rope doubled up since the routes rarely exceed 20m. A full set of cams and a double set of wires should suffice.
Many of the routes can be climbed as hi-ball boulder problems so it’s definitely worth bringing a pad or two. The bouldering itself is very good and again is an all-year-round activity.