UKC

Skeleton Ridge, The Needles

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 David Coley 24 Nov 2021

Is this still open to climb? I phoned the NT but the warden is away this week. (Not planning on climbing it in the next few days, just want to know if it is a no or a yes.)

Thanks

 olddirtydoggy 24 Nov 2021
In reply to David Coley:

I seem to remember there is info on this after watching one of Dave Linnets vids also known as bald eagle. Don't have a link but it should be easy to find. I seem to remember you do need permission but I doubt it's that hard if you can find the right person.

In reply to David Coley:

Yes, our access rep has negotiated access with the national trust. I don’t know the details off hand, but can find out. 

 BALD EAGLE 24 Nov 2021
In reply to David Coley:

Hi David the following is a copy and paste I put together for any Skelly Ridge aspirants,  some bits of which may be of use to you:

For any parties interested in climbing Skeleton Ridge please note that you require advance permission from the National Trust Administrator on 01983 754772 at the Old Battery and also to notify the Solent Coastguard on 02392 552100 on the day of your climb, before and after so that a rescue is not mounted unnecessarily. Although the climb is technically not that hard or sustained, with the crux 3rd and 6th pitches graded at about 4c, it is a serious and committing outing requiring a steady leader and competent team, a 90 metre abseil into Scratchell Bay and the start of route is extremely tidal so make sure you get down well before low tide or you will be in for a wade or worse. I would recommend leaving a 50 metre rope in-situ at the top of the route due to the lack of anchors whilst most of the belays have an assortment of pegs in varying states of rusting decay which need backing up. We all carried rope ascenders as insurance in case of retreat and used a lot of large slings plus a few hexes and nuts on the route itself. It would also be fair to say that chalk is definitely not required so leave the chalk bags at home...' 

And for anyone interested here is the vid!

youtube.com/watch?v=RGjPHD03ejw&

Cheers

Dave

 TheGeneralist 24 Nov 2021
In reply to BALD EAGLE:

Holy cow, that looks terrifying. And the grade seems very odd.  Is it not really 4c  or is it not really HVS? Or is the gear actually quite good on the crux?

 Hovercraft 24 Nov 2021
In reply to TheGeneralist:

It’s HVS 4c roughly in the same way as A Dream of White Horses is. Commitment / exposure.  The climbing is no harder than 4c but you really want to be more than a VS leader to do it in good style.

I’ve not been active on this forum long, so if I have missed dozens of threads debating the grade of Dream, I apologise!

Post edited at 20:32
 Kemics 24 Nov 2021
In reply to Hovercraft:

I would say it is technically waaay easier than dream of white horses. I think the hvs 4c grade is more of a safety label than a grade. Realistically XS 4a is good description. I don't think you could actually fall off the moves but a hold definitely could break causing a fall. I thought the first pitch was the hardest, had no gear and if you fall then you're decking on the beach/boulders which would be a really shit place to have a serious injury. After that there's one "crux" move but it's basically just a single high step. I left a peg at most belays and I don't think I would have trusted any of the belays to actually hold a modest fall. It was a tremendously fun day out! If you can climb hvs 4c you'll have a quality time. I think a Severe leader would have no issues but would probably have a fairly harrowing time. The national trust guys were great, we turned up and just got waved through a tiny door out onto the cliff top.

 George Ormerod 24 Nov 2021
In reply to BALD EAGLE:

What an amazing film, that's fantastic!

In reply to BALD EAGLE:

That was a great climbing movie by any standards.

 BALD EAGLE 25 Nov 2021
In reply to George Ormerod:

> What an amazing film, that's fantastic!

Thanks George and I really appreciate your appreciation! Cheers Dave

 BALD EAGLE 25 Nov 2021
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> That was a great climbing movie by any standards.

Many thanks Gordon and I'm delighted you enjoyed my wee video and I cannot believe it is already 5 years old! And Skeleton Ridge has probably changed a bit in that time, much like us, with a few bits falling off... Cheers Dave

In reply to David Coley:

WOW what a route, I wish I'd never seen that, because it's going to sit at the back of my brain until I've gone and done it (and I've no idea when/if I'll get chance)

My other source of frustration is I can only upvote/like  BALD EAGLE's post with video only the once, it deserves so many more, what a great video

 flaneur 25 Nov 2021
In reply to Hovercraft and Kemics:

> It’s HVS 4c roughly in the same way as A Dream of White Horses is.

> Realistically XS 4a is good description.

Definitive MXS, with a technical grade that will vary from ascent to ascent. It was around 4b when we did it. Mick Fowler graded it VS, which it sort-of is, although clearly there is a lot more to it than Hargreaves' Original. 

Mick talks about doing the first ascent here:  youtube.com/watch?v=gCb-5QHMvxo&t=65

 superturbo 25 Nov 2021
In reply to David Coley:

For some much less refined video, I took some headcam footage from our ascent (traverse?) in 2016. The sound is all over the place due to the wind/knocking the camera but you get the idea.  youtube.com/watch?v=zPYGu__yvPU&

 BALD EAGLE 25 Nov 2021
In reply to CantClimbTom:

> WOW what a route, I wish I'd never seen that, because it's going to sit at the back of my brain until I've gone and done it (and I've no idea when/if I'll get chance)

> My other source of frustration is I can only upvote/like  BALD EAGLE's post with video only the once, it deserves so many more, what a great video

Thanks a million for the positive vibes and I'm chuffed you enjoyed my wee video! I hope you evolve into CanClimbTom one day and get on Skelly Ridge as it is an unforgettable adventure route and an outing which will live long in the memory... Cheers Dave 

 Marti999 Global Crag Moderator  UKC Supporter 14:20 Fri
In reply to David Coley:

There was an issue over the kast summer with access over the NT land. Positive meetings have helped smoothed the waters. And it should all be clearly laid out it the RAD for next season. But in brief the ridge can only be climb while the Old Battery is open to the public, so this mean it has a season from March to October. There is not exception to this, that would not risk future access.

Hope that clears it up.

Marti ( BMC Dorset Access rep)

In reply to Kemics:

> I would say it is technically waaay easier than dream of white horses. I think the hvs 4c grade is more of a safety label than a grade. Realistically XS 4a is good description. 

That's more in line with what I was thinking.  If it was 4c the it'd have to be E1 

 David Coley 09:20 Sat
In reply to Marti999:

Thanks. Looks like that is on hold. 

 BALD EAGLE 09:53 Sat
In reply to flaneur, Kemics and TheGeneralist:

> Definitive MXS, with a technical grade that will vary from ascent to ascent. It was around 4b when we did it.

> I would say it is technically waaay easier than dream of white horses. I think the hvs 4c grade is more of a safety label than a grade. Realistically XS 4a is good description. 

> That's more in line with what I was thinking.  If it was 4c the it'd have to be E1 

Hi flaneur, Kemics and TheGeneralist

I kinda agree with flaneur. I climbed and filmed the route in May 2016 so I've no doubt it has changed a bit in that time, but a more suitable grade IMHO would be MXS 4b possibly 4c for the two crux pitches 3 and 6. However the dual grade of HVS 4c listed on UKC and in all climbing guides is pretty close with the adjectival and technical grades giving a fair idea of the overall proposition in terms of commitment, exposure, dodgy rock etc!

For me the most alarming bit of the day was the 90 metre ab into Scratchell Bay as I drew the short straw and went first. With the chalk cliff being so easy angled, there were a lot of ledges with debris and chalky choss waiting to be dislodged so I was very relieved to finish the ab and run away (covered from head to toe in chalk dust) to a safe distance!  I was actually pleasantly surprised at how solid and hard the chalk on the route was, as I thought it was going to be like climbing feta cheese...  

Cheers

Dave

 Kemics 00:23 Sun
In reply to BALD EAGLE:

I'm very confused by your comment on 4c move on pitch 6? My memory is the last few pitches were effectively easy scrambling with a bit of a cheval bum shuffling along a thin section! 

 BALD EAGLE 08:19 Sun
In reply to Kemics:

> I'm very confused by your comment on 4c move on pitch 6? My memory is the last few pitches were effectively easy scrambling with a bit of a cheval bum shuffling along a thin section! 

Hi Kemics

I did actually say "a more suitable grade IMHO would be MXS 4b possibly 4c for the two crux pitches 3 and 6", inferring 4b to be probably the correct grade for both pitches when we did it! Yes there is a fair bit of easy scrambling along pitches 4 and 5 before belaying underneath the "soaring arete" followed by the wafer thin crest of Pitch 6. I found Pitch 6 with the soaring arete section, very similar to pitch 3 technically, being quite steep with a high step and stiff pull which felt at least 4b and is graded as such in Dan Baileys Ridges of England and Wales.   

You said you would grade the route XS 4a and personally I think giving Skeleton Ridge a technical grade of 4a is under-grading the difficulties encountered and wrong. Aah the joys of grade debate!

Cheers

Dave

In reply to Kemics:

Don't know when you did it but I think the original bit before the famous a cheval finish was some sort of chimney, it became an arete some time later after a rockfall which at one point is pretty well as hard as the lower crux (4c?) and (from memory) longer and even more exposed.

 Kemics 20:04 Sun
In reply to BALD EAGLE and oldie:

Yeah fair enough, I'm more surprised that I just I don't remember pitch 6 having any difficult moves but it's entirely possible I had acclimatised to the chalk, holds had fallen off, I was off route or simply have a bad memory... also I was seconding at this point which makes a fair bit of difference to how it feels! 

I genuinely think 4a is probably even a bit generous in terms of pure difficulty, like if they were the first moves on a severe at stannage I would expect harder moves higher up .. but context is everything... and it's one of the wildest/sketchiest settings i've ever climbed in! 

I went kind of fired up ready to climb a sketchy hvs 4c and was very relieved with what I actually found, made it a really fun day. I think it's the kind of route that it's better to be way over prepared for than under, so while I think 4a is fair... I also wouldn't actually want to see that in a guidebook

I guess using the British trad grade is the wrong tool for describing it. It's kind of like saying if my bicycle was a dog, what breed would it be definitely room for a fair bit of subjective opinion!  

In reply to kemics:

Well if the British trad grading isn't the best, or at least the Least-Worst way to grade sketchy lunacy then gracious me! what could you suggest would be a better [Less-Worse] system to use?

Post edited at 07:01
In reply to Kemics:

> I would say it is technically waaay easier than dream of white horses. I think the hvs 4c grade is more of a safety label than a grade. Realistically XS 4a is good description. I don't think you could actually fall off the moves but a hold definitely could break causing a fall. I thought the first pitch was the hardest, had no gear and if you fall then you're decking on the beach/boulders which would be a really shit place to have a serious injury. After that there's one "crux" move but it's basically just a single high step. I left a peg at most belays and I don't think I would have trusted any of the belays to actually hold a modest fall. It was a tremendously fun day out! If you can climb hvs 4c you'll have a quality time. I think a Severe leader would have no issues but would probably have a fairly harrowing time. The national trust guys were great, we turned up and just got waved through a tiny door out onto the cliff top.

I think Kemics description is spot on. XS seems sensible. Luckily for me my climbing partner led the first pitch, which was very bold (moving across high up on small flints wedged into chalk with no gear - don't fall off). Later in the climb a big lump of chalk on the ridge detached without warning (with next to no pressure on it) and landed on my arm - I still have a scar to remember it!

Yes, technically not that hard, but definitely a bit dangerous if you are unlucky. But an absolute classic - there probably isn't another climb quite like it, and it is an unforgettable experience. We climbed early with a low spring tide and topped out at the battery just before it opened - perfect timing for a cup of tea.

 Kemics 08:15 Tue
In reply to CantClimbTom:

I guess it's hard to have one tool that accurately describes a 10 meter route at stanage and a ridge of chalk collapsing into the sea...I had to Google to check if chalk counts as rock ...which it does. 

I would suggest a new grading system: Chalk Ridge Appraisal Protocol. Which would take into account factors such as crumbliness and disposition of landowner. I propose a grade of Slightly Dangerous, Very Silly 5. 


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