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Suspect belay at Fairy Cave Quarry

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At Fairy Cave the tree belay/lower-off above the Back Off slab is rotten and potentially unsafe, even though it has leaves. I am looking at an alternative belay but in the meantime you should take care and make your own safety judgement. Fairy Cave QuarryBack Off (E2 5b)

 bpmclimb 21 Aug 2020
In reply to Ian Butterworth:

Hi Ian, thanks for that. Do you think the other strop belays (Caveman, Balch's, etc) are ok for the time being?

In reply to bpmclimb:

This tree is not an Ash but an Alder Buckthorn, I think! The larger Ash trees are all showing signs of dieback and will need close monitoring. Many of the smaller Ash trees,  are already dead but currently not affecting climbs. Fortunately Silver Birch trees are increasing which should maintain the naturalisation of the quarry.

 bpmclimb 22 Aug 2020
In reply to Ian Butterworth:

Since six routes are potentially affected, I've put a safety note on the main FCQ page.

Regarding an alternative belay in that area: I can't imagine what form that would take. I seem to remember the rock deteriorating in quality from the overlap. It's a shame that Where's Blagdon? Where's Blagdon? (VS 4b) has such a revolting start above the Back Off tree; otherwise, it could have provided a finish for the other routes.

Brian

In reply to bpmclimb:

I was thinking of cutting some steps up the slope while working on the belay. Will try to place a stake but not optimistic due to the thin unstable nature of the slope.

In reply to Ian Butterworth:
just put in a couple of bolts.

5
 Paul at work 23 Aug 2020
In reply to guy xavier percival:

I agree with Guy here, a pair of bolts would be appropriate here. I would happily donate the metal work.

2
In reply to guy xavier percival:

THE END WEDGE OF THIN

 - re arrange and weep.

8
In reply to guy xavier percival:

Maybe remove any bolt belays from sport routes where one can effectively top out, belay on a tree and walk off and use those bolts for Trad routes where there is no safe belay/walk off option?

In reply to Ian Butterworth:

Up for discusion at Thursday's BMC SW area meeting (held, you've guessed it on Zoom).

 bpmclimb 23 Aug 2020
In reply to Paul at work:

> I agree with Guy here, a pair of bolts would be appropriate here. I would happily donate the metal work.

I suspect that finding sufficiently solid placements for bolts in the vicinity of the tree would be a challenge; they might have to go lower, on the main slab below the overlap - which would diminish the routes (in both height and character).

More generally, installing bolts would be quite a departure. The current BMC policy is no bolts; moreover, FCQ has always enjoyed an unofficial "no fixed gear of any kind" status (no pegs either). That said, bolts may be the way to go, given the situation with dieback  - but I can imagine some lively debates at BMC meetings!

In reply to bpmclimb:

I was thinking the other day about the 'no pegs' policy at FCQ and it struck me how weird that is. Are there any other quarries in the uk where pegs are not allowed?

 bpmclimb 23 Aug 2020
In reply to Mark S Davies:

Don't know of any. FWIW I've always liked that about FCQ - a bit different and weird, but in a good way.

Does the no pegs rule have any official status, by the way?

Post edited at 20:43
In reply to Mark Davies PK:

When the second wave of development, after the initial cavers routes, was beginning the thought was that slab climbing is generally bold in nature and routes would be diminished if sprouting pegs. Some of the harder routes at FCQ are becoming bolder as the nut placements wear but, in my opinion, it would be a step backwards to see pegs in Glacier Point etc.

In reply to Ian Butterworth:

Yes i agree about the slabs but i would have thought they would be fine on the chossy side of the crag?

In reply to Mark S Davies:

Do you think any of the routes on the North side of the quarry would become better, popular routes with a couple of peg runners? I think the vast majority of those routes are best consigned to the historical section. Okay a couple the routes on the Brown Wall, Entry Wall and ,maybe, Pete's Wall are worth climbing but putting pegs in?? I hope you are going to dagger the vast majority of these routes in your guide. I see too many beginners attempting to climb some of the loosest, poorest routes in the quarry and having epics.

In reply to Ian Butterworth:

Putting a dagger on a route means the grade is unconfirmed. Black spots are what are used for choss.

I am actually going to leave most of those routes out of the new guide as I aggree they are terrible and dangerous.

My point, however, was not about making those routes 'safer' with pegs but in reference to the decision not to allow pegs in the quarry. There is actually no real reason (as far as I can see) that anyone doing a NEW route in FCQ shouldnt be able to use pegs if they so wish, although they are not needed on the main slabs.

Post edited at 17:49
 bpmclimb 24 Aug 2020
In reply to Ian Butterworth:

The trouble with danger symbols is that a route either gets one or it doesn't, which can be taken to mean that the route is either dangerous or safe - it's black and white. I think that at a place like FCQ a more nuanced method is helpful, since a large proportion of the routes have at least some degree of looseness and could potentially be daggered.

While checking for the last guidebook, I set myself the task of climbing (on lead wherever possible) as many of the routes at FCQ as I reasonably could, including many of the obviously looser ones. I had several alarming experiences, which were by no means confined to the north side. The one time I actually injured myself in a significant rockfall was on an apparently solid north-facing area of slab (right of Withy Crack, on the route Boner).

Therefore, (in collaboration with Mark) I did try to keep in mind a sort of comparative scale of looseness, rather than being indiscriminatingly horrified by anything that wasn't a north-facing slab!

We settled for reserving the XS grade for routes which were pretty much loose throughout, and tweaking the adjectival grade upwards for routes with easyish climbing but sections of untrustworthy rock. The looseness is also mentioned in the route descriptions, of course, and there's also a prominent extra general warning in a red panel in the intro. I suspect that if the relative novices you mention aren't put off by those things, they'd be likely to disregard a dagger too. 

That said, I can see the case for several more routes going into the most dangerous category (dagger/XS/grey panel - or whichever system Mark et al decide to use). 

Perhaps there's a case for a tiered icon system to reflect looseness - like the smiley faces GWR use to indicate the friendliness of the bolting on sport routes.

 bpmclimb 24 Aug 2020
In reply to Mark S Davies:

> I am actually going to leave most of those routes out of the new guide as I aggree they are terrible and dangerous.

A much simpler way to achieve the same thing

It does beg the question, though - are "those routes" exactly the same ones that Ian has in mind, or (for what it's worth) the same ones I might select?

It would be easy to reject a lot of routes in the Entry Wall area, for example, because they are away from the main N-facing areas and are newer additions, and yet retain more established but actually much looser routes (The Cookie Crumbles, Running on Empty, The Conning Tower, Elephant's Back, to name but a few).

In reply to bpmclimb:

Currently the plan is to not include anything in any part of the quarry that is, basically, terrible. That possibly includes the ones you mention above and probably one or two of mine as well! I will give all of the 'problem' routes a shunt though before making any decision (apart from the obvious crap like Death Wish etc). FWIW there is quite a lot of other crap in the Mendips that I wont include!

 bpmclimb 24 Aug 2020
In reply to Mark S Davies:

Sounds sensible. Let me know if you want a second opinion on anything, or some help/company at the quarry.

 MattL80 24 Aug 2020
In reply to Mark S Davies:

> Putting a dagger on a route means the grade is unconfirmed. Black spots are what are used for choss.

> I am actually going to leave most of those routes out of the new guide as I aggree they are terrible and dangerous.

This guide of which you speak - is this an update to the FCQ guide, or Mendips/wider area?

In reply to bpmclimb:

Yes please! I was going to pop over today in fact but the rain radar said NO! I may pop in on Weds if I dont head to Brean Fort.

In reply to MattL80:

The whole of the (worthwhile parts of ) The Mendips. Brean Down to Vallis Vale. And possibly some South Cotswolds.

 bpmclimb 24 Aug 2020
In reply to Mark S Davies:

Already arranged a day at Gilwern on Wed. Weather looks set to improve after Fri.

In reply to bpmclimb:

> Weather looks set to improve after Fri.

You mean Bank Holiday Weekend! :/

Post edited at 21:58
 MattL80 24 Aug 2020
In reply to Mark S Davies:

> The whole of the (worthwhile parts of ) The Mendips. Brean Down to Vallis Vale. And possibly some South Cotswolds.

Thanks, sounds good


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