Adjectival grades or south coast.
So I am party of a South coast climbing community which I won't name but Ii have recently become aware that many south coast climbers have reservations about whether lead skills at VS are sufficient to climb at swanage.
I get it that most of the Swanage Trad has a particular adventurous feel to it but doesn't the adjectival grades means that a vs is a vs regardless? So what you gain in route length you lose in climbing difficulty. And what you gain in exposure you lose in risk of ground fall.
This is important I think because in this modern age pretty much anyone can manage all the moves at vs and probably at hvs too, and yet the're are many who would pronounce swanage to be too hard when they will climb vs elsewhere. The proximity of sport climbing doesn't help as there is always a day to be spent clipping bolts, but to say no to Trad in swanage is too tear out half the guide book.
When I lived in Dorset in the 1970s I used to enjoy Swanage climbing, but sectors like Boulder Ruckle always felt intimidating. I found the VS climbs to be, on the whole, sustained in that the grade never seemed to let up and due to the length of the run outs and steepness you needed to be fit with good arm strength, resting wasn't always easy. Not a place to be treated lightly, and the consequences of decking onto the boulders didn't bear thinking about. Also the lack of easy escape from some areas increased the overall seriousness, coupled with an increasing risk of encountering loose and unstable rock as you neared the top, and toping out in places onto steep rock, where the belay anchor was an angle iron stake you had banged in with a lump hammer and abed from when you arrived.
High tides with rogue freak waves which washed the bottom in places added to the sense of adventure, for not just the leader but also the second.
This is indeed all true. There are skills that need to be mastered like reading the tide times, abseil construction and you have to be fit. But on the other hand there is as much gear as you can carry. It's still VS imo. Otherwise they would be HVS wouldn't they?
The well travelled lines do not usually suffer the loose finishes which the less well known climbs can.
If it's wet, the mud at the top can also add to the terror. Like ice climbing gets sketchy when melting, Swanage mud gets sketchy when wet.
The poor rock and top out is for most of Swanage the danger zone. I've experienced feeling e3 on e1s. BUT I would say on the whole they are not graded off the mark.
I found Lundy more scary and run out. North Devon more serious. Gritstone greater ground fall potential (especially Northumberland or Yorkshire Moors). Welsh slate has far worse gear.
Peak limestone can be just as loose. Avon tbh is worse. Wintours etc can also be the same, and if you want vegetation head to cheddar.
It's also easy to venture off line on many climbs at the top. The choose your own adventure finish. Choose wisely!
Swanage is not for the feint hearted, not for the brutes, nor for the inexperienced. It's quite serious at times, but some routes will eat a whole rack. That's the adventure. The craft. It's not a beginner's venue really. But then many sections start at vs. others at e2.
I wouldn't say it was much different to many limestone cliffs though. They are by nature prone to being a little loose and vegetated.
I like Swanage. It has character. Just remember to get good gear in before you get to the top 3rd of the crag.
I understand what you are saying. Grades should be consistent across the board, but they aren't and never have been. EG the expression "Scottish V Diff" which generally means you need to add 2 grades, also Northumberland grades which seem to be much harder than other similar grades in the UK.
As you say VS is a good average grade probably led by more climbers than any other, so you would expect consistency. But that's not so!
Don't ask me why!?
The crux of this is what you mean by VS lead skills. A genuine VS leader should have a great time at Swanage - in fact I think I was a Severe leader when I led my first route there - Oran, I think it was.
I've always found sea cliffs to be more intimidating than land locked cliffs, grade for grade, added to which Swanage has more loose rock than Pembroke and Gogarth but the starred routes are mostly solid.
> So I am party of a South coast climbing community which I won't name but Ii have recently become aware that many south coast climbers have reservations about whether lead skills at VS are sufficient to climb at swanage.
They are wise to have reservations. Often it's not so much about lead skills as survival skills. They overlap - but what's the degree of overlap? Would you bet your life on it?
If you're intending to climb at Swanage, I'd:
a) Think very carefully about it. Ask yourself, have you the experience?
b) Have grades in hand.
c) Have a plan B. And ideally a plan C.
d) Realise that if you ab into the wrong place, life can get very interesting.
e) Once you're committed to the top-out from hell, there's no way back.
> I found Lundy more scary and run out. North Devon more serious. Gritstone greater ground fall potential (especially Northumberland or Yorkshire Moors). Welsh slate has far worse gear.
> Peak limestone can be just as loose. Avon tbh is worse. Wintours etc can also be the same, and if you want vegetation head to cheddar.
Genuinely laughed at that! Thanks! A good summary of English trad.
> e) Once you're committed to the top-out from hell, there's no way back.
Truer words have never been spoken!!
Pair of DMM Terrier worth having on the harness. Help you scrabble up!
> Nut key.
> Amazingly good hand adze. There is no shame!
Ive climbed a lot at Swanage in the past and have definitely used the desperation nutkey technique. I’ve also tried to guess the topout and leave a loop of rope attached to a stake at the top to clip….but often I’ve just enjoyed Guillemot Ledge where the top outs are solid and the routes fantastic. 👍
Thatll be the same technique as guess the abseil then! Same success, same levels of commitment. I've walked past the marmolata abseil before whilst chatting away, and thats just about the easiest to find.
Hunting for "twin stakes", the "old faithful" stake, 50m left of blah blah blah, "the obvious ab" chatting when walking and forgetting to count the fences and then guessing. It was tougher with the old guides though. Approaches are better described but still a dark art.
Ive often thought a number or letter on the top of a stake or two would be handy though.
Miss a couple of seasons by going sport or bouldering and wham..... "I thought I knew this place" Nope... wrong!
Swanage is without doubt a serious place to climb. Like Mick says, it's wise to tone things down a bit, not because the climbing moves are hard but because you are on a large, in places loose, tidal sea cliff which is exceedingly steep for the grade.
That said, Heidelberg Creature, Aventura and a few others IMO are VS. But the skillset you need to feel comfortable doing these types of routes is undoubtedly greater. If you are adverse to learning new skills, then you should probably stay away, but with care it provides an amazing venue. Climb with someone more experienced to start with, whether that's a friend or an instructor it doesn't matter. Make sure you know self rescue techniques, leave an ab rope, always carry a nut key (for the top outs), make sure you know the tides etc.
Also I would say that people who ab into Subluminal expecting an easier time should be prepared to be disappointed. It is a singularly greasy, soapy rock there. IMO the routes are hard for the grade because of this, almost more so than Boulder Ruckle. I would personally rather ab into BR even though its crazy steep and a far wilder atmosphere purely because I've never had a bad day there, whereas I've never particularly enjoyed Subluminal...
Really? I'm surprised about that. I personally thought Aventura, other than the loose top-out was pretty text book VS. Sure it USED to be VS - as did Heidelberg Creature, which is very steep but has enormous jugs!
> Well Aventura is (soft) HVS and Heidelberg Creature I've done a few times and is pretty nails for VS its HVS on here now.
This is a case in point. Heidleburg creature is 4b at best with one airy exposed move at half height. It's steep so some fitness is needed and it's jugtastic with ooddles of gear and tide has no bearing. Easy VS in my book but you claim nails VS or maybe even Low HVS.
Sea cliffs seem to attract grade inflation but what is it about this route and others that frighten people? I can only think it's a missing skill or an insufficient attention to strength training.
Maybe that's it. The assumption that no training is needed for VS and no physical exertion be required.
My few visits to Swanage were pretty tough going; Needed a point of aid on Finale Groove and was so freaked out by the steepness of the abseil into Quality Street, that we escaped up Wall Street instead. Couldn't even do the first move on Benny, aid or otherwise, and the bits of rotten crap hanging from the roof didnt look at all inviting.
I was doing E2's on the Culm around the same time. Thought Swanage was up there with Ogmore as a tough, and not-so little sea cliff...
Good point about the starts. Quite a lot of the boulder ruckle routes start with an overhang which isn't a nice way to start a route over deep holes and spikey boulders. Perhaps not the VS routes though.
> i trust you're showing them the way.
I'm rehearsing here. I have climbing at swanage for 20 years and I find if difficult to see why everyone else is scared. I want to help the VS climbers become comfortable with swanage as it's our local cliff. They do tend to prefer hedbury and fairy cave both of which are grossly inferior cliffs imo.
Firstly, to my shame, I've not climbed there yet.
Some VS leaders I know who have climbed there said they think the grading at VS is a bit of a mess and it could do with more experienced limestone VS leaders onsighting to help the local guidebook team make a fairer judgement to resolve any issues. It doesn't seem good enough these days to say VS climbs that have been upgraded on UKC logbooks to HVS are easy at VS; and, even worse, that other less well travelled neighbouring VS climbs are fine at VS despite being quite a bit harder adjectivally and more serious. Adjectival grades should be about onsightability for those operating at those grades and should take everything into account. The view expressed to me was that Swanage climbing, given all the other factors, should feel technicaly easy for the grade compared to most other places, but it doesn't.
Being just 4b doesn't make a route low VS or less. Even bottom end HVS 4b is perfectly fair for a steep, protectable, very sustained route (especially with other factors that would push the adjectival grade up a bit). We have a wonderful grading system in the UK and we should use it properly.
Above all else, being consistent across the area is the most important factor... upgrading VS classics and leaving noticably harder unstarred routes at the grade is a terrible outcome for VS climbers, that has sadly happened in a few too many guidebooks in the past.
Honest consistent grading makes newcomers more comfortable.
Before making bold claims that the locals are incompetent I think it would be a good idea to at least try some or even one of those routes.
There are a wide variety of environments to climb in at swanage from short technical to vast airy multipitch so maybe a new comer might find they are more attuned to certain venues and route types. But for me (and I have climbed them all) the VS routes are all VS.
But that gives me an advantage of course, I'm not going to be surprised on any VS at swanage and maybe that isn't true for a visitor. That doesn't make the route harder it just means some caution is appropriate
I think a lot of what's going on here is that one measure - the adjectival grade - is having to take into account a lot of different things. As well as the obvious factor, protection, it's also measuring things like the sustainedness, exposure, liklihood of crumbly holds, rockfall, ease of access and escape... and Swanage can combine quite a few of those.
I climbed almost all the popular sub-VS at Subluminal and Cattle Troughs last summer, and found that the adjectival grading felt uniformly a bit stiff. There are a bunch of reasons: for one, I am fat and weak and steepness is something I find harder, and it's certainly true that for the adjectival grade quite a few Swanage offerings are quite steep. That by itself can make things feel a bit serious.
Cattle Troughs has some areas of unsound rock and anyone not used to dealing with that could find it intimidating. Some routes had surprisingly little gear (or surprisingly unreassuring gear) for their grades. Subluminal felt more reassuring but, as Mike says, it was oddly soapy and I felt like I trusted my feet a little less than normal.
So, overall, I came away thinking the whole area felt on the undergraded side. I wouldn't not recommend it to a low grade leader, but I would certainly suggest they kept a few grades in hand.
edit: "...the locals are incompetent..." No, not at all. But I think it is true that as an area the local convention is towards tougher grades. That local grading can be internally perfectly fair, whilst still not tallying with other areas. It's not terribly hard to imagine exactly the same moves and environment being given tough VD in Yorkshire or Swanage, HVD in the Peak or North Wales, MS in the Lakes and a soft Sev in Pembroke.
I never claimed you were incompetent. I'm passing on the views of some experienced VS climbers who helped some BMC editors sort out lower grade discrepancies in the Peak. It's hard to accurately grade climbs that we are very familiar with, especially if climbing at much higher grades. I'd recommend any guidebook team use such a process. Plenty of people will happily volunteer. It was maybe at times a bit more important for us: for example at places like Shooter's Nab a big team was very important given the few days the crag was open back then and the rarity of the UK weather being kind on a high north facing cliff.
UKC logbooks do tend to over-grade easier VS classics at friendly places like Stanage but just looking at the votes for Heidelberg Creature you must at least consider your view on easy VS might be misaligned.
Well, Benny is "only" severe (or maybe HS now).
But Benny with a strong swell, high wind and rising tide might feel a tad harder.
If you're used to the style (esp. the finishes), confident in abbing in the right place, and know to choose your conditions, you'll have a great time at almost any grade. If VS on grit is your max, it's a drizzly Tuesday, nobody else about, and the VS you've picked is the easiest exit option, it might feel a bit more committing (whilst no harder).
Does anyone have examples of routes they think are actually undergraded, or is this almost wholly a perception problem?
The one that has been discussed most is Heidelberg Creature, but votes for difficult VS and (afaik) a grade of VS in the CC guide and HVS on ukc aren't wildly different...
I think it depends how much you price in exposure, commitment, and a bit more weight on the arms than most places at the grade. We all presumably have no problem with grading gritstone VSs on the assumption you can hand jam - it's to what extent the points above are "part of the standard repertoire" like that or things which deserve a premium in the grade.
For me the key component at Swanage is the looseness of the rock. I can remember holds moving on Quality Street which is a well trodden classic and one I’d lead before and I really didn’t enjoy it because of that.
You do have to climb cautiously and not haul yourself up on any good looking finishing jugs. Which is style that needs to be learned if you are new to leading at Swanage.
I leant to climb at Swanage, 1977-79, on Sundays from school
I confess to having had an aversion to the place ever since. It was there that I learnt to place a good runner before the top. I remember to this day the feelings associated with a summer's day, holding onto a small tuft of grass, with feet on nothing but bare, crumbly, dry earth and the last runner 40 feet below behind a loose block; the sound of the tuft of grass tearing out and a wild lunge for the next tuft, and repeat
That brings back a few memories from the early 80s at a similar stage in my climbing career. There was also the fine art of mantling onto sloping blocks embedded in the dirt in order to attain a stance secure enough to turn and haul through enough slack to make further progress against the inevitable huge rope drag.
I seem to recall the guidebook of the time had a little notice inside the front cover that read "the pages of this guide separate easily when wet".
For the record, in case this thread gets read by someone thinking of going to Swanage etc and may be put off by all the horror and bravado.
I REALLY LIKE SWANAGE AS A PLACE TO CLIMB.
and I'm not some esoteric freak who likes a wave washed death on on a stick choss fest with vipers at the top kind of climbs. (I realise someone will experience that route at swanage, but you can do most of that on any major limestone crag if you try hard enough)
There truly are some amazing places and great climbs at swanage. The wild life can be great, the ice cream and pub are also top shouts. Sunshine hours - unbelievable.
Stick to 2 or 3 star routes, a grade in hand. Youll be good and have fun.
This is actually the problem isn't it. Any conversation about swanage quite quickly turns onto the challenges. Those who are timid or those who just had a bad day pipe up with their experience. And in no time we are just scaring people off.
In truth the adventure is what it's all about and it's BRILLIANT. and where else can you have this amazing experience at VS!
This is actually the problem isn't it. Any conversation about swanage quite quickly turns onto the challenges. Those who are timid or those who just had a bad day pipe up with their experience. And in no time we are just scaring people off.
I truth the adventure is what it's all about and it's BRILLIANT. and where else can you have this amazing experience at VS!
I've been there once. It was December and we did Finale Groove and Lightning Wall in t shirts. Both utterly brilliant and fair for the grade. Having said that, now I live at the other end of the country I'd probably just go to Pembrokeshire instead
Again that is unfair. My friends were experienced and really enjoy adventure and had a great time there. The concern expressed was the reputation and conservative grading might stop others appreciating the quality. Adventure has stuff all to do with the grade label but being able to appreciate adventure is a lot easier if you are not sandbagged. I'd add Swanage isn't the only crag with such a reputation. I struggled to find HVS partners to finish checking the more obscure HVS climbs at Curbar (one of which is now E2)!
As above if you’re leading E3/7a (going by your profile) and a Swanage regular you’re going to find the (selected Rockfax?) VS’s very amenable!
I’ve had the nniff and the Sam experience.
Have you done Brass Monkey at Cormorant? I see it’s still VS* on UKC. Many years ago, but if I was on the right line I thought the second pitch was a horror as a VS experience, possibly fallen down. May have cleaned up since then.
> Those who are timid or those who just had a bad day pipe up with their experience. And in no time we are just scaring people off.
As one of the people who chipped in the do just that, I'm not sure I see the problem. The hoards will go and fart around at Portland and you get the exciting, adventure cliffs to yourself!
Except I need climbing partners and they are difficult to find, which considering the much larger numbers of actual climbers today, it was a lot easier to find partners 15 years ago. The tales of horror shows are so easy to access and it puts people off
> LOL I suppose that is one way to avoid dodgy top-outs ....
Exactly. Apart from the craziness of just doing it, three other thoughts were floating around in our heads:
1. people sometimes are put off coming to the ruckle because you can drive from London and find the waves a bit too much at the base, so you might not be able to reach your route.
2. there are few long routes in the South East, so nowhere to practise for those Alpine adventures
3. the route is split into sections (see mini-guide), with each top out based on reasonable rock, therefore ensuring max climbing time for minimum bad topping out.
Hence the route magically solves most ruckle problems.
Being no one has repeated it, I clearly got most of this wrong.
At least this discussion gives it some publicity.
On the route not having takers, I think most traverses are unfashionable... no idea why..... I certainly quite like them. If I was in better form I'd be seeking a partner to try a section soon. Here is hoping this summer will see me lighter and fitter, so back at my normal levels again.
On grades E1 does look stiff as an outside view of something that long (with those technical grades) but I guess really it highlights adjectival grades start to break down at that scale (ie is it really something an experienced multi-pitch E1 leader has a chance to onsight in normal good conditions?).
It probably depends on the climber. I was always able to climb at my grade (VS/HVS) at Swanage. And, when I was going well I even thought about one or two E1's there (e.g. Elysium). I never felt I was being sandbagged at Swanage.
I have more experience of mountaineering, so perhaps the exposure and commitment of Swanage didn't feel too different from the mountains. I found I could always focus on the moves and not worry about the sea and the boulders and the abseil in.
For me, gritstone 5a was always harder than Swanage/limestone 5a and I never found a gritstone E1 that I thought I had a chance of leading. And, generally, I found the shorter the climb the harder it was technically for the grade.
To add the view of a sadly occasional climber. When I do climb I like to visit different locations I've always felt that Swanage and particularly Boulder Ruckle were venues where a few trips make a massive difference. The reasons for that are listed above - steepness/fitness, seriousness of access and top-outs, loose rock, tides etc. This came home to me when I visited after a multi-year gap a couple of summers ago and couldn't believe some of the lines I'd previously got up quite easily; but the summer when I visited several times I felt the grades were quite comparable to those elsewhere. Some variation of course, but not in a "they're all one grade harder than the guidebook" kind of way. Brilliant venue, but quite intimidating for an occasional visit.
WIAD will be done I think, or at least it could definitely be done, motivation is probably the key barrier. Not sure if WIAD onsight will be ever be done, just because most people who would want to try will probably have climbed a route at the ruckle before.
I think I can say with confidence that the WIAD will never be as popular as the NIAD!
I've done one classic VS at Swanage, the topout was fine. I think I'd have been totally fine as a VS leader doing it. Not a very big sample though...
Sea cliff 'survival skills', for want of a better phrase, are somewhat independent of lead grade anyway and I'd have thought they'd be more relevant than an arbitrary must lead at least VS cutoff.
> ...I've always felt that Swanage and particularly Boulder Ruckle were venues where a few trips make a massive difference. The reasons for that are listed above - steepness/fitness, seriousness of access and top-outs, loose rock, tides etc.
You've nailed it. Go back to the Ruckle a few times, feel your way around and it seems OK. But most people go in, crap themselves and pass a definitive judgement. It's all about getting used to it.
First time visitors to Swanage we walked from the Durlston car park down to the cliffs and as complete beginners aimed for Subluminal…ended up stood on top of the Marmolata Buttress abseil point looking across at Lightning Wall thinking, well if these are the beginners climbs this is some place…
Luckily we bumped into Pete Oxley and he pointed us at Cattle Troughs…
Pete pointed you at life - which gives me a warm glow. Next time I message him, I'll thank him.
That's in no way being disparaging to you - with a trad apprenticeship (and youth!) a couple of years can make a vast difference. But if you don't survive those years, the E5s never happen and all that's left is the V Diff or Severe or VS that you died on. And that's the terrible pity of it all. Above all else, that's what I want people to avoid.
Life is risk. I'm not suggesting that people shouldn't go to Swanage. All I am asking is that they think very carefully indeed and be confident that they can manage things when they go wrong - because, sooner or later, they will go wrong. For many, Swanage = things going wrong.
If the guys hadn't bumped into Pete and got put right, it could have ended up with a rescue - or worse. No disrespect to them; we've all been there.
Climbing has a different risk openess to rugby, despite both having significant risks, including a headline statement in our guidebooks that climbing does sometimes sadly result in serious injury and occasionally people die.
> whether lead skills at VS are sufficient to climb at swanage.
Depends what you mean by "lead skills at VS". If you take the broadest meaning; i.e "could comfortably lead any VS anywhere in the country of any length on any rock type in any conditions" then the answer is yes (obviously). With a narrower definition such as "got really comfortable leading VS on one particular rock type on my local crags", probably not
How can a VS "that requires a significantly greater attention to risk and safety for a given difficulty" than other VS's around the country not have a grade higher?
Surely the requirement for attention to risk and safety is integrated to the adjectival grade? Otherwise, if these routes require more attention to risk, they should probably be technically or physically easier climbs?
Not that I climb at swanage, but the same applies in a lot of places.
You are blurring individual grades with area experience. A "death on a stick" route at Swanage would get a higher grade but normal for the area not. Otherwise all grit routes are V Diff.
I think you're blurring the concept of an adjectival grade. Nowhere in our grading system does it say that the grades are contextual, and examples of extremes of grading disparity are generally frowned upon. This is what the OP and the thread take issue with.
Taken to the extreme your version could end up with an area that has nearly all f9a on trad in it, but "because the f8a is easy/normal for the area" it earns a low adjectival grade. If everything is more dangerous at Swanage than another area, it should earn a higher adjectival grade in proportion to the difficulty of the climbing. Similarly, I'm of the belief that, for example, grades in northumberland should be raised because grades should be (as much as possible) universal.
You'd hardly be happy if a news story came onto the front page with "Adam Ondra climbs first 10a", only to find out that it was just traditional that in the area he climbed everything was overgraded.
So if you are going to lump the seriousness of an area into a route-specific adjectival grade and we give E9 to a flat walk-in 8m high grit route with solid rock and no sea to kill you then what do you propose for a typical Culm route?
I think I've made my point well enough - we aren't talking about "how dangerous or arduous is the walk from the carpark", but "how dangerous is the actual climbing due to loose rock, dangerous topouts etc".
The point being made is that the climbing is objectively more dangerous at Swanage for a given DIFFICULTY. This should be encompassed in the adjective grade.
But we can't objectively grade for that, especially related to the difficulty. I did some of the grading for an old Swanage guide and I've never fallen off from loose holds or a loose top out as is the case for most experienced Swanage climbers. Ergo it is perfectly safe for experienced climbers, the fear is purely mental as Mutt is pointing out.
I used to climb at Swanage a fair bit, it's been interesting reading this thread. It has an adventurous feel, it's steep, access can be involved, it is a serious place to have an accident, etc. but all this shouldn't be a surprise if you've read the guide book. This is the character of the cliff, and the grades should just be seen within this general context; what more is needed?
I feel like summarising.
For me, the ice cream shop is just a touch too far away. But ho hum.
Hairy caterpillars, harvest mites, red ants, unfriendly sea gulls, numerous vipers, sharp grass, gorse & aggressive low level hedging (which when tufted together can make an excellent belay) and on sunburn is excruciating and it jumps out to get you as you walk past carefully (trying to avoid the vipers in the long grass, see?).
The ledges are covered in bird poop (and dead chicks/ remains of meals), bottom belays are wave washed by big scary freak waves, the mid height belays are cramped, the top belays interesting to access or sometimes even find. Low level traverse access require an un roped jump across a 15ft deep chasm - the route after is only VD - the second hates you already if they made it this far.
Abseils into the unknown which makes that preplaced rope for the dodgy top out Russian roulette. Also handy for breaking the bird ban (cos you dont know where you are) and being reported for perigrine nest bothering.
When you do find the crag everyone homes in on your like zombies and uses your ab rope - theyve even made their belay with it above high tide mark!!! Certain parts its the whole visiting uni club too - all just cowering in a convenient niche 8m away admiring the perfect fossils.
Rock is either loose, about to be loose, greasy, polished or absent (am I on the wrong route again? or did the previous incarnation fall in the sea with the last storm/ ascent?). Who chalked every nubbin which isnt any use? at least some one else has been here and I cant see any blood at the bottom - maybe theres a way out? Yay! Where has THE secret hold gone? Cut loose on an E1 - thats why its called Billy PIGG? ground fall on an HVS? cant get off the ground on a VS? Are there actually any real severes? The E2/3s which used to be HVS in days past. The S/VS/HVS which should be E2 when wet - its always wet (except on the summer equinox at 7pm in the evening, and then its bird banned)
The limpets have attitude and will come loose at the merest suggestion of being weighted. There is nowhere to place a bouldering mat for the run out starts on the sharp and jagged rocks below. Even the seals will heckle you, waiting for the inevitable.
Fall in the sea and you'll never get out without looking like an unprotected motorbike accident or by some kind soul throwing a rope from the top of the cliff (I shouldnt joke about this one - its happened and I am unsure if it was a good ending )
You are in God's hands. Soloing in company. How can such a poorly protected route offer so much rope drag? why oh why did I run all the pitches together? Why have I run out of extenders/ middle sized nuts before the top? Why didnt I place good gear just above half way up? Was it ever intelligent to stray off the starred routes and look for esoterica? NEVER try the easy escape route with the loose symbols - youre better off falling multiple times on the E4/ E6 next to it!
Sunny again - I cant see! the white rocks too bright! Jesh its hot in the sun, like an oven - maybe the greasy damp sharp limb eating chimney over there is a better place for shorts and T shirt? What Mikey Mouse things this?
Belayer! Did you bring water? Oh no I'm about to desiccate.
What are these marbles at the top all about? (que rain) what is all this very slippery (yet sticky) mud all about at the top?
Why are the stakes so far back/ to the side? surely theres one closer than 30m away sideways?
Ass dropped my prussik, how do I do a pulley hoist again? Shout, sorry love, took my time at the belay! Climb when "ready"... dries tears, tucks shirt in. Wonder if that fine but slightly bigger butt will fit through the squeeze of the final climb through. Oh well, the pigeons will keep her company if not.
And when it all goes wrong your mobile phone connects to france and not england "J'ai voudrais le COASTGUARD, sil vous plais" - ccccrrrr "please describe what part of the cliff you're on, over" - Aaaahhhhh! follow the rabbit track from the 3rd fence on the right approaching from the opposite direction. You may find the remains of an old belay stake called "old faithfull" that has now rotten away.. we are somewhere to the right - we boulder hopped the last 350m as we abbed in "off crag"
I think thats about it.
Beer at the pub, fight the tourists for a camping spot. Repeat.
Thats why swanage is awesome, and for the most part doesnt compare to Stanage.
Theyre there! Hiding, waiting, then BOOOM!
We all know theyre hard to see/ find/ rare. I've been going there for years, have yet to find one at durleston country park. The old (now used) swanage railway line on the other hand was awash with them when I was a kid 35-40 yrs ago.
Shame as I get quite excited about finding such creatures.
> The ledges are covered in bird poop (and dead chicks/ remains of meals), mid-height belays are wave washed by big scary freak waves
A friend tells the story of being submerged by a wave on the half-height belay ledge at Subliminal. The old 80's guide (the one with the note in the front that reads "The pages of this guide separate easily when wet") had on its back cover a photo of a wave breaking over the top of Subliminal.
Nice 😁, you could have added that post big sea-cliff exasperated feeling of "how have we managed to spend all day doing only one route".
The only time I got to Swanage (when I was at uni down south) the waves were too big, like back of that old guide big. So we retreated to Portland and did a couple of routes in the Cuttings. This was way before bolts when the Cuttings was still a trad venue of dubious quality.
As a beginner I thought it would be a great idea to celebrate my birthday by climbing Quality Street whilst we were at Swanage for the Blues festival at the end of February.
Without looking over the edge and giving no thought at all to sea conditions, tides, I threw the abseil rope down and set off. Looked down to see the ledge at the bottom I was aiming for 90% under water….
Then got hit by a wave when I was half way down.
So many tales of foolishness. To the eyes of a seasoned ruckle climber I am surprised at the easily avoidable mistakes others have made. But having said that I think I might have become hyper aware over the years. Once I turned up at stanage with my ruckle rack. Is 12 60cm sling extenders and a double set of wires and a full set of cams and a set of hexes and two 60m ropes appropriate for goliaths groove,? I did get some strange looks and a few comments!
Not often but I did take a massive whipper on ocean boulevard. The gear is actually just fine. It's the start of the route that is tricky as it's often the crux before any reasonable gear has been placed. Other than that I have no fears about the gear.. all the routes being overhanging helps too..
All I will say is that I have pulled more big holds off at Swanage than all the other crags I've climbed on put together in 55 years. Considering I've not climbed there all that much, less than a dozen times, that's saying something.
At the top that might well be the case but by then the route is effectively over. It's just a little bit worrying. No climbing challenges remain, just a slightly worrying scramble up choss and some mortal injuries from the gorse to deal with
The clue is Al "pulled" the holds off, holding them in place while using them was always the answer.
Newer climbers would actually be horrified if they climbed the routes in their original condition, Richard Crew in particular did a massive clean-up of the tops when he wrote his guide to the extent of taking a petrol driven jackhammer to them. And then there's the ones subsequently removed from the guides due to the perceived danger.......
Incidentally Richard managed to retire from climbing without ever taking a lead fall and I never fell off there either.
I'll rephrase "All I will say is that I have encountered more loose big holds at Swanage than all the other crags I've climbed on put together in 55 years." As you say you sometimes just have to push instead of pull.
Wonderland is a great name for the route, because the grade/s is/are total fantasy. To say the top outs are reasonable rock is just ludicrous (did you actually climb out all of them or just guess?).
All that said i'd be keen for another bash at somepoint
> Incidentally Richard managed to retire from climbing without ever taking a lead fall and I never fell off there either.
It was an honour to meet Richard at the last guidebook launch. He wanted everybody to autograph his guide. Seemed blissfully unaware that the autograph most worth having was his.
Scott told me that when he'd new route ground-up (as we'd now say), he'd pull up to a break - often on steep ground - lock off and painstakingly clean it, before sorting out protection/continuing. Amazing - just amazing!
He also looked amazingly youthful - proof (if any were needed) that climbing at Swanage is the ultimate recipe for longevity.
> But we can't objectively grade for that, especially related to the difficulty. I did some of the grading for an old Swanage guide and I've never fallen off from loose holds or a loose top out as is the case for most experienced Swanage climbers. Ergo it is perfectly safe for experienced climbers, the fear is purely mental as Mutt is pointing out.
It's not happened to me and my friends, therefore it doesn't happen. Can't think why that might be wrong!
I've held a 60' fall when an experienced Swanage climber pulled a block off the top of Fish Supper (E3 5c). He's not the only one.
Marmolata Buttress (E3 5c) starts through the band of smooth dark grey rock, the best on the cliff. On the third move of the route, one of the holds exploded into fragments, depositing me back on the ledge and nearly down the crevasse. It had looked and felt completely solid. Swanage is great and I've enjoyed climbing there but it is never 'perfectly safe' however experienced you are.
Ergo you are talking nonsense.
I take my metal skirt everywhere (when I climb). An extra pound or two weight isnt going to change an outcome on trad for me. I've scooted around on lower E grade climbs whilst sport climbing mid 7s for years. Trad never was about physical ability for me.
fwiw. I've fallen at Swanage a number of times onto gear.
By increasing the adjective grade.
I quote RockFax - "The adjectival grade (Diff, VDiff, … to E10). This gives an overall picture of the route including how well protected it is, how sustained and an indication of the level of difficulty of the whole route."
If you must hold the rock in a specific and difficult way to stop it exploding or falling off, this makes the climbing more difficult.
If you must top out in a precarious manner, with technical skill required to negotiate a loose top-out, this is more difficult than if the top out were flat and solid.
If the protection, be it at the top of the climb or during the ascent is more precarious, either due to the likelihood of gear holding due to loose or friable rock, or the difficulty of placing it well, or the lack thereof, this reduces how well protected the route is.
I await another patronising "the grades are fine if you're a better climber".
And in truth the grades at boulder ruckle have been creeping up. Thunderball which has one of those alarming first moves, has three stars, and bags of 'atmosphere' is now by popular appraisal an e1. It's one amongst many. I wonder if this trend will accelerate now that climbing is more popular and not everyone can be brave. I don't mean that perjoratively, it's just that to succeed at boulder ruckle you need to deal with a lot of dangers with a clear head.
Gogarth has a similar reputation. What grade is dream of white horses these days? Has it been upgraded to e1 ?
> Gogarth has a similar reputation. What grade is dream of white horses these days? Has it been upgraded to e1 ?
Iirc DOWH was the only Drummond route which got an upgrade - from HVS to Extremely Severe, a decade before E grades appeared. This was to raise the entry level for aspirants and decrease the likelihood of accidents.
As happens with Gogarth (e.g. Mousetrap, Red Wall) gradually the route shed its loose rock and the original HVS was deemed appropriate once more. Obviously protection has got better too (e.g. wires and cams).
So... not quite the end of life as we know it.
Its home made, a bit like a grass skirt.
Waist band is my harness, all the grass bit is gear, extenders etc etc.
Looks like a metal skirt when on. I think the term is "comprehensively equipped", I'm a bit rubbish at leaving kit on the floor.
> Wonderland is a great name for the route, because the grade/s is/are total fantasy.
Just wonder(land)ing which section of the route you think the grades are totally wrong for? I've done the first third-ish of the route and thought the grades were fairly reasonable, probably a little bit stiff, maybe half a grade.
> Didn't I read that Ondra had just repeated this and suggested a significant upgrade?
He must have retro bolted it as well.
Wonder what grade I can get for doing the first third of a 9b? Probably a new pb for me.
> Wonderland is a great name for the route, because the grade/s is/are total fantasy. To say the top outs are reasonable rock is just ludicrous (did you actually climb out all of them or just guess?).
> All that said i'd be keen for another bash at somepoint
Great to hear you might go back.
All the top outs in the mini guide should be reasonable. Or maybe that should be, reasonable for Swanage. Yes I have led them all. Some of them many times as they tend to follow oft climbed routes. If you head to the top via other routes it crosses, always pick a 3 start route to exit by. Some of the exits at Swanage include some of the worst rock I've climbed on - once I fell almost the whole height of the crag.
Hopefully the grading isn't too bad, we did have to grade 67 pitches of rather unique climbing so I'm sure there will be errors. I don't onsight much harder than the grades we gave, so I can't see them being too low on the whole. I guess the technical grades might be more accurate as these are in theory easier to get right. However if something is loose and 4b, I have no idea if that is VS, HVS or something darker. I'm quite good at long and loose, or at least not as shit as I am at bouldering or hard and short.
Giving a single grade to a route of this length with the UK system is impossible I'd say. Hence we graded each section. There is nothing much harder than E1 if you were just doing one bit - I don't new route E3s. But to do the whole thing in a single day might take an E5 climber, and one very experienced with the crag. The same is true of the Nose - HVS plus aid, but NIAD, well, I guess one might want to be doing E4 comfortably. The same is true of many 1000m routes, they are often only one day routes to those climbing way above the grade given.
In many ways Wonderland laughs in the face of the modern world. Many 1000m routes are done in a day these days by simul climbing possibly with mico taxions. This is unlikely to work in the Ruckle. The route crosses numerous aretes and digs deep into dark corners making the drag considerable if you try to move together. The possibility is always there of pulling a block off too.
I suggested to Crispin Waddy that he should go for it. But an unrepeated 1000m route on a cliff so close to London, I just don't get why some of the big girls and boys haven't been trying. Got to be worth 1 day of climbing time.
This week's Friday Night Video features 12-year-old Gianluca Vighetti, who in September 2021, climbed his hardest route to date with an ascent of TCT (9a), at Gravere, Italy. With his ascent, Gianluca became the youngest person to have climbed...