Hi everyone, I went up to Castle Rock on Cleeve Hill near Cheltenham today and found that someone's taken a hammer to it and really smashed the place up. There's loose rock, missing holds, the entire top of the crag is rope-cuttingly sharp, honestly it's heart-breaking.
The crag's usually used for top roping, which is definitely not safe any more without some good rope protectors. There's likely a lot of rock waiting to come down too now as the structure supporting it is gone.
Whoever it was managed to get up some easier routes with their hammer, and have also damaged rocks in the surrounding area, including a huge rockfall below the crag and a lot of damage to a stone wall by the carpark.
I took a lot of photos, link to a google pics album:
Blimey, that looks really bad and quite dangerous. Also looks to have taken a lot of effort.
Yeah, it's the effort and skilled access to heights that really confuses me. Whoever did it either knows how to abseil or can climb HS while carrying a hammer, and has just smashed every rock in sight. Even little foot high rocks a hundred meters away have been smashed.
Definitely dangerous as well, we didn't climb, just took the photos then went home.
Good god. Were these once chalked holds? Just trying to understand a motive.
Some well used holds are gone, but the damage is really random so I don't think it's targeted at climbers. There's as much damage to rocks on the ground and on the walk down as there is to rocks on the crag its self, it looks like they just did as much damage as possible to everything they could reach. The belay stakes at the top have not been damaged at all, I feel like if you were after climbers you'd target those first wouldn't you?
Gutted. I spent many a summer evening up there when I lived in Cheltenham. Crazy damage.
That is utterly, utterly bizzarre!
Unlikely I know, but is some deranged geology student at large? Or someone after rockery stone even?
The last but one picture is a natural rockfall isn't it?
Looking at the photos, I wonder if the fresh scars are from some process of spalling. Was there a period of long and hard frost this winter? I can't see any obvious tool markings from hammer or chisel blows.
Is there any chance it could be natural causes? I know the area very well, I can see it from my house. After most winters, around this time of year, I have noticed similar extensive damage which because of the character of the rock can look as though someone has vandalised it.
I was thinking this as quite a of scarring about but not to this extent.
Yep, pretty sure that's spalling. Happens a little bit there most years, but it's been much worse this winter. Some of the top edge was looking a bit dodgy last year, and this isn't much worse. The stuff left of the arete has been unstable for a while, as has the rock at the very right hand end.
Geology graduate here. Ive climbed at castle rocks before too. I dont think its likely to be natural.
Limestone can sometimes weather / break away like this naturally. the scars on the vertical part of the cliff could well be extensive 'spalling'
The damage along the cliff top and bottom in particular is highly unusual and looks manmade
Aliens or something to do with the meteor?
I was wondering whether it was natural when I first spotted it, but I've never seen anything even close to being this extensive from normal winter damage. It would make sense in some of the unstable areas, but a lot of the rock I remember being really solid a few months ago?
The last one has what looked to me like paint from something hitting it. Hopefully I'm wrong though!
If you check out the feedback on the crag page over the years you'll see it's common. https://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/crags/castle_rock_gloucestershire-1133#feedback
I suspect this is a combination of natural weathering with people clearing some of the loose stuff. As Al says, it often looks like this after winter, but most of us don't usually climb there in March.
I knocked a couple of holds off last month by standing on them, so I know at least those weren't vandalism. And I had to be pretty careful around the top of the hand jam to avoid knocking rock off. There was plenty more that didn't look great, so I think someone has cleared the loose rock.
> The last one has what looked to me like paint from something hitting it. Hopefully I'm wrong though!
That bit does look odd - as you say, it's got a weird blue mark. Is it at the base of the crag?
I'm not qualified to argue with a geologist but I have seen very similar after most winters. It's usually accompanied by lots of loose rock and stuff scattered around the base of the cliff. I was quite alarmed the first time I saw it 20 years ago but it does appear to be an annual occurrence in my experience.
Hmm. Its got me thinking now. I have some decorative rocks in the garden which shattered this winter after a few days hard frost. I havent been to this location but is the damage extensive and random? Do the pictures come from a location prone to seepage or close to a natural spring?
Another erstwhile geologist and stone conservator and mason here. My vote is freeze-thaw damage. There's been a fair bit on local monuments this winter that have also been mistaken for vandalism. I can't see any toolmarks and the fracture shapes are textbook. That's my tuppence worth.
I also think, with a bit of reflection, that it looks just like natural frost damage. You can see the watermark around what was a flake on picture number 3 very clearly. The limestone in our garden wall has been affected badly like this this winter. What is not natural is that someone has systematically tidied it all up, possibly prying off the loose-but-not-fallen-off-yet flakes. Very likely a climber!
> Another erstwhile geologist and stone conservator and mason here. My vote is freeze-thaw damage. There's been a fair bit on local monuments this winter that have also been mistaken for vandalism. I can't see any toolmarks and the fracture shapes are textbook. That's my tuppence worth.
Yep. Im going with frost/ice expansion damage after a second detailed look rather than my initialcursoryglance. It's too random and clean to be anything else.
The face should now be carefully cleaned of all insecure debris after the last freeze and assessed/regraded.
> The face should now be carefully cleaned of all insecure debris after the last freeze and assessed/regraded.
I never really worry much about the grades there. Just spotted photo 4 has a hold marked with an x, so I guess it's loose but not completely falling off. I'll see if it's still there in a few weeks.
> Looking at the photos, I wonder if the fresh scars are from some process of spalling. Was there a period of long and hard frost this winter? I can't see any obvious tool markings from hammer or chisel blows.
My first thought looking at the photos was winter weather. Has the damage appeared very recently, or since mid February?
Edit: This has been a stand out winter, perhaps since the end of the previous solar cycle.
This is the first time I've been there this year, so could have happened any time since mid-December.
A large part of my assumption against it being natural was that the scarred rock at the top and bottom had had the debris removed, if it was natural I would have expected it to be cracked but largely remain in place. People cleaning it afterwards would explain that though. Also we did go down to the other crags further along the hill and couldn't see signs of the same damage (even though that's much worse rock). Maybe it's a slightly different aspect so doesn't freeze/thaw in the same way?
Certainly happy to hear it's likely natural though! I guess I just learned that geology happens faster than I thought it did.
Natural weathering. We had a really wet autumn followed by that cold snap, that looks like freeze thaw of saturated surface layer of rock.
I'll seen it on at least two other sites I'm working on, one on a chalk cliff where a phenomenal amount of spalling of rock occurred over that 10 day/2 week cold snap. We've been working in the same site for years, and more material came down over that period than in past 5 years.
Im an engineering geologist and not seen anything like it before (not at that scale and extent anyway, certainly not in south of UK!). Probably worth bearing that in mind when out climbing this summer, suspect they'll be lots more loose rock, even if damage isn't as obvious as that.
I can't quite get my head round the scale of some of those pics but it looks like big thin pieces of rock, flakes or skin have been removed at tricky to access heights on the crag face At the top it looks like it's split into uneven flags. The larger scale collapse looks different, the crag has shed its whole weathered skin.
If it hadn't apparently been left such a mess and with damage not just on the crag but surrounding blocks I'd suspect a ham-fisted attempt by geotechnical engineers to make the crag 'safe'. Pretty sure it's not the work of a madman with a hamer or a rogue geology fieldtrip.
It looks like a sandy limestone, right? Given nothing else makes much sense, there are no obvious tool-marks or motive, it's probably natural. Geology in real-time action: freeze thaw weathering could do this. What specific conditions caused this type extent of damage...
Still, weird and a shame.
I've just had a look. Panic over, it's definitely frost damage.
Aliens. Antivaxers. Square-earthers.
The Wye valley could do with the same treatment to get rid of the polish... How much per hour does the guy charge?