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Southern Sandstone problems

 Offwidth 10 Nov 2020

The BMC are asking climbers to avoid Southern Sandstone for now after notable damage from climbing damp rock at the weekend.

https://thebmc.co.uk/modules/article.aspx?id=9067

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 Hooo 10 Nov 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

That's depressing but predictable. It's vital to get the message out there about climbing on damp sandstone, or we'll have nothing left by the end of lockdown.

Does anyone know how to go about getting a message out to these people? They clearly don't check the BMC or UKC or they would know better. I don't do any other social media, but are there Facebook/ Instagram / Twitter groups that these people would see?

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 spenser 10 Nov 2020
In reply to Hooo:

Local walls could email something out to their members on behalf of the BMC?

Notices tied to the anchor bolts and on posts at the crag would probably help a bit.

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 Hooo 10 Nov 2020
In reply to spenser:

I'm sure they've all seen the notices at the crag. The trouble is by the time they've seen those it's too late. They've travelled all the way there and they're not going to turn round and go home. We need to get to them before they plan the trip.

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In reply to Offwidth:

Why are people less careful, more thoughtless now? It makes no sense. In the 1960s-80s when it was wet or damp on SE Sandstone everyone, virtually without exception, kept away.

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In reply to Hooo:

The travelling argument doesn't add up at all. I was based in South Kensington from 1972-80, and then in Ealing to 1988, all the time I was keenly climbing on SE Sandstone. I would simply follow the weather, look at the forecasts etc, and never wasted money going down there when i knew the rock would be damp. I have no recollection whatever of ever climbing the sandstone in the wet or damp, and I must have visited c.500 times.

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In reply to Offwidth:

I hope people do stay away. Sadly perhaps its just a matter of time before many sandstone climbs are irreversibly altered.  If hundreds of climbers are causing this much damage in a weekend then surely the crags will only last a few more years, even if usage per day is limited and there is never wet weather climbing.

I'm sure sure its been discussed before but would any masonry stabilisers work? 

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 Hooo 10 Nov 2020
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

But that's because you knew what you were doing. No one who knows about sandstone is going to head down there without finding out whether it's likely to be dry. The problem is all the people who have never climbed sandstone before and have no idea that you can't do it when it's wet. We need to reach them and convince them to stop.

Edit - autocorrect changed reach to death. My autocorrect is obviously very protective of our local sandstone

Post edited at 19:53
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 Hooo 10 Nov 2020
In reply to oldie:

We do stabilise areas where the top crust has broken away and it's just soft sand. But you can't fix a broken hold like this, and it's not a solution to people trashing it when it's damp.

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 LakesWinter 10 Nov 2020
In reply to Hooo:

Some responsibility lies with climbing walls. They are making money from introducing people to climbing and thus have responsibility to educate newbies about correct practice outdoors too. By educate I dont mean a couple of crap posters but a sustained social media messaging campaign.

Equally it looks like some bell ends were doing the same at burbage south today

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In reply to LakesWinter:

yes indeed. I think Terry Tullis used to have a big input into this kind of essential publicity.

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In reply to Hooo:

> We do stabilise areas where the top crust has broken away and it's just soft sand. But you can't fix a broken hold like this, and it's not a solution to people trashing it when it's damp. <

While they can't fix broken holds might stabilisers not sink in and stop a few holds breaking off in the first place, if used more widely? Maybe climbing barefoot a la Trevor Panther would help.

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 Paul Tanner 10 Nov 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

Look guys lay off them. They travelled really really far from London to get there, by my estimation an hour by car for some. Where they are from, the indoor climbing `scene`, conditions aren`t something usually stumbled upon. Yeah sure the radiator broke, or some sweaty monkey greased up the holds, but that's nothing a handful of chalk and some aggressive brushing can`t fix, or an extra Arcteryx or Patagucci Down Jacket to keep the chills away. Forgive them for their insolence I beg thee, they were probably confused by the lack of ethically sourced single origin coffee to help them focus during their lengthy approach. 

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In reply to Offwidth:

> The BMC are asking climbers to avoid Southern Sandstone for now

I can do better than that.

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In reply to LakesWinter:

Never used to be a problem climbing grit in the wet - except for the fear of slipping off without warning.

Is the problem because erosion by us climbers has taken off the harder crust and exposed the softer rock underneath?

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 ianstevens 10 Nov 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

> The BMC are asking climbers to avoid Southern Sandstone

Looks like I’ve been ahead of the curve by avoiding it for 30 years 

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In reply to Michael Hood:

Saturated porous rocks (including grit) are weaker due to various complecated physical and chemical processes I don't pretend to understand. At its simplest the water in the pore spaces physically pushes the rock apart. I think SS is inherently weaker due to being more porous and having a calcite rather then silica cement so at more at risk to this kind of thing but grit will certainly also be weaker when wet.

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In reply to ebdon:

Full marks for the carbonate (calcite) cement, zero for the idea of developing pore pressures in rock. 

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In reply to ebdon:

> Saturated porous rocks (including grit) are weaker due to various complecated physical and chemical processes I don't pretend to understand. At its simplest the water in the pore spaces physically pushes the rock apart. I think SS is inherently weaker due to being more porous and having a calcite rather then silica cement so at more at risk to this kind of thing but grit will certainly also be weaker when wet.

Yes, I'm not a scientist but I know that it is very much weaker, more susceptible to erosion in the wet. But another major point that a lot of climbers probably don't realise is that absolutely unlike Millstone Grit, it is very weak internally, in fact (in laymen's terms) it's scarcely 'rock' at all. It's all held together by its phenomenally strong ironstone crust, not much more than a few millimeters thick. If some big hold or flake breaks off, when it hits the ground it just explodes into a pile of sand.

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 Rod_Vortex 11 Nov 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

All these Youtubers who've had a massive hand in pushing indoor climbers outside need to step up and educate. I see the likes of Lattice doing this well but would be nice if some of the younger 'cooler' crowd (e.g. Bobats) did their bit. 

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 Jim Hamilton 11 Nov 2020
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Why are people less careful, more thoughtless now? It makes no sense. In the 1960s-80s when it was wet or damp on SE Sandstone everyone, virtually without exception, kept away.

And yet looking at the 1989 CC guidebook, whilst there are sections on Erosion and Ethics etc, there doesn't appear to be anything on climbing in the wet, other than lichen making the holds slimy and difficult to use.  

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 tomsan91 11 Nov 2020
In reply to Rod_Vortex:

Definitely a major issue with lots of outdoors youtube channels in the UK not just climbing, the effects of these have seen once rarely visited spots come under massive pressure from those that have been advertised a great day out for a few quids advertising revenue. A few mountain biking trails around Hobson Moor featured on a couple of channels a month past and the number of "mtb life" vans parked around Brushes res this weekend was a shock. 

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 Offwidth 11 Nov 2020
In reply to Jim Hamilton:

Maybe because the consequences of most problems in that respect became apparent after 1989? The big issue back then was bad rope set-up practice causing rope grooves, not climbing overuse on wet rock. The modern advice is very clear everywhere.

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 Rob892 11 Nov 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

The modern advice is very clear everywhere.

I don't entirely agree with this, last year I found a group climbing at Harrisons in the pouring rain. We had a chat about the issues with this and they informed me that the BMC advice says nothing about keeping off wet rock. I looked this up I found that the SS guideline leaflet isn't clear and even seems to encourage climbing cracks and chimneys when the rock is wet which I was surprised at.

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In reply to Offwidth:

It's pretty clearly stated in my 1995 CC guide.

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 Rob892 11 Nov 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

Item 6. https://www.thebmc.co.uk/access-launch-updated-version-of-the-sandstone-code-of-practice . I would of thought it should clearly advise to stay off the rock instead.

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 Offwidth 11 Nov 2020
In reply to Rob892:

I agree the advice should be strengthened but is there (in particular the rock is significantly weakened when damp and advice for dropping grades and being very careful with sharp holds). Maybe this recent damage will catalyse that improvement. A good comparison is the soft sandstone in Red Rocks in Nevada when advice is explicit not to climb on wet rock or immediately after a rainy day. 

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 Hutson 11 Nov 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

I thought it must be clueless people migrating from indoor walls, but if you look at the logbooks there's a few who know enough to log their climbs on UKC in recent days...(though one I saw is logged as a 'lead' so maybe not...)

I agree with those who suggest that indoor walls should do a sustained campaign to educate, but it seems few have.

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 SimonCRMC 11 Nov 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

I couldn't help but be a little surprised that the BMC's own Summit magazine had a piece on Southern Sandstone as one of its "Autumn Escapes."  The magazine didn't arrive till November which, as we've noted, isn't the best time of year for sandstone climbing.  There's also nothing at all in the article about not climbing in the wet.

I'd say we've still got quite a way to go in educating people about how to look after these fragile crags!

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In reply to Offwidth:

I do think it's mainly ignorance, rather than malice. Ignorance in the straight, non-judgmental sense. There are a lot of folk not steeped in the rules of the game, setting foot outside. I saw a lot of shiny bouldering mats in Lockdown 1.0 and chatted to a few people fresh to outdoor climbing. They need help to understand what's acceptable, whether that's here, on social, the BMC, wherever. The BMC only reaches the relatively committed anyway. The out and out bell ends can go and do one though.

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 Rob892 11 Nov 2020
In reply to Offwidth

 I think this is how it’s trying to be managed and may work for regular sandstone climbers.
It may be that leaving the guidelines open to interpretation is resulting in an unclear message on what is best practice to new outdoor climbers. What is a sharp hold, what counts as a crack climb or is it a flake? If someone turns up and sees someone climbing they could think that it’s ok to climb that day without realising the care others are taking.

  

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