/ Best Single Pitch in the Country (redux)

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gooberman-hill 07 Jun 2019


A month or so I kicked off a thread which has been a lovely distraction in idle moments "What is the best single pitch in the country", which attracted over 150 comments.

Being a data scientist, I decided to do a bit of digging into the data, to see what it would tell us.

Let's start with the data. I went through all the posts, and for each one recorded all the routes named, the count of routes named in the post, and the number of likes for the post. there has been a little bit of (hopefully not too subjective) data cleansing - so if a response post says "You liked route X on crag, but Y is much better than X", then this counts for route Y, not route X. Similarly, if part of the thread has degenerated into an argument about the grade of route X, then grading posts are ignored.

In total, we had 271 routes mentioned in the posts. I also pulled out the crag that each route was on, although I haven't strictly followed the UKC Logbook entries - so (for example), The Roaches is split into multiple crag entries in the logbooks, but I have kept it as one area.

I'm going to have to split this into multiple posts, as it is too big for one post. Read on!

Oh, and don't take this too seriously. It's a bit of fun!  


gooberman-hill 07 Jun 2019

So now we can look at the data. First, the routes. There are 3 ways we might assess which routes have the best pitches in the country. We could look at how many posts mention them, or how many ticks they get. And if we think about how many ticks, then if a post says "X is the best route in England, Y is the best route in Scotland", and gets 4 ticks, is that 4 ticks for X (call this the total no of ticks), and 4 for Y, or is it 2 ticks each (call this the weighted no of ticks)? Thankfully we can look at both.

First, the top 10 based on the number of posts mentioning the route. The route links should all be good, but crag links may only point to bits of crags, if there are separate entries. Hopefully this post (assembled offline and then dropped in) will all format nicely and as planned...

Route Crag Posts
Integrity (VS 4c) Sron na Ciche 7
Left Wall (E2 5c) Dinas Cromlech 5
The Ashes (7c+) Kilnsey 5
A Dream of White Horses (HVS 4c) Gogarth North Stack and Main Cliff 4
Eliminate 'A' (VS 4c) Dow Crag 4
Kipling Groove (HVS 5a) Gimmer Crag 4
Suicide Wall (E1 5c) Bosigran 4
The Strand (E2 5b) Gogarth North Stack and Main Cliff 4
Bludgers Revelation (HVS 5a) Buachaille Etive Mor 3
Botterill's Slab (VS 4c) Scafell Crag 3

And on the total number of ticks

Route Crag total_ticks
Saxon (HVS 5a) Carn Kenidjack (Kenidjack Cliffs) 21
North West Arete (VS 4b) Gimmer Crag 18
Integrity (VS 4c) Sron na Ciche 13
Titan's Wall (E3 5c) Ben Nevis 12
Track of the Cat (E5 6a) Roaches Skyline 12
Black Magic (E5 6a) Pentire Head, Newquay 11
On Reflection (E6 6a) Ailladie (Burren, Co. Clare) 11
Suicide Wall (E1 5c) Bosigran 11
The One-eyed Man (E5 6a) Mother Carey's Kitchen 11
Armorican (VS 4c) Caerfai Bay 10

And finally, the weighted number of ticks

Route Crag weighted_ticks
Saxon (HVS 5a) Carn Kenidjack (Kenidjack Cliffs) 19.2
North West Arete (VS 4b) Gimmer Crag 18
Armorican (VS 4c) Caerfai Bay 10
Integrity (VS 4c) Sron na Ciche 8.8
Oxford and Cambridge Direct Route (S 4a) Grey Crag (Buttermere) 8.3
Suicide Wall (E1 5c) Bosigran 8.3
Centurion (HVS 5a) Ben Nevis 7
Doorpost (HS 4b) Bosigran 7
Jaywalk (E2 5c) Beinn Trilleachan (Etive Slabs) 7
The Strand (E2 5b) Gogarth North Stack and Main Cliff 6.3

So, what does this tell us?

For me, a few things really stand out:
- Most of the routes are't that hard. There are a lot of amazing middle and lower grade routes out there.
- You love adventurous climbing. Look at the list of crags (more on that later). Look at the number of multi-pitch routes on the list
- Grit is over-rated (heresy!). In three different ways of measuring the data, only one grit route appears, and only according to one way of counting,
- You love trad climbing. With the exception of The Ashes (7c+) at Kilnsey (mentioned in 5 posts), everything is trad.
- Pushing the data a little bit, no-one cares what sport climbers think ( ). There were a series of posts by sports climbers detailing their favourite pitches (and in many cases, favourite pitches by grade), but the fact that The Ashes (7c+) appears in the first list (by count of posts), but in neither the total ticks or weighted ticks lists, tells us that the majority of you either don't really think that the sport pitches are really good, or don't really care for sports climbing.
- There is a great deal of difference between your views based on what you post as liking, and what you will endorse (as a tick). Only two routes make all 3 lists: Integrity (VS 4c), and Suicide Wall (E1 5c).

gooberman-hill 07 Jun 2019

Now let's slice the data a different way, and look at the crags which hold the best pitches. As mentioned above, I have gone with common usage rather than UKC Logbooks (The Roaches counts as one area, not 3 different crags!). We can use exactly the same three measures as we have used to rank the routes, but this time we will sum them over the crags.

Crag Posts
Gimmer Crag 19
Gogarth North Stack and Main Cliff 17
Bosigran 13
Dinas Cromlech 12
Stanage Plantation 10
Roaches Skyline 9
Clogwyn Du'r Arddu (Cloggy) 8
Sron na Ciche 8
Malham Cove 7
Dow Crag 6
Crag total_ticks
Gimmer Crag 41
Gogarth North Stack and Main Cliff 32
Bosigran 24
Dinas Cromlech 22
Carn Kenidjack (Kenidjack Cliffs) 22
Ben Nevis 19
Dinas Mot 16
Roaches Skyline 16
Sron na Ciche 15
Craig Bwlch y Moch (Tremadog) 15
Crag weighted_ticks
Gimmer Crag 24.6
Carn Kenidjack (Kenidjack Cliffs) 20.2
Bosigran 19.6
Gogarth North Stack and Main Cliff 15.9
Roaches Skyline 11.0
Sron na Ciche 10.8
Caerfai Bay 10.0
Ben Nevis 9.6
Dinas Mot 8.7
Dinas Cromlech 7.7

Again, some thoughts:
- Wow! don't you just love your multipitch climbing. Gimmer Crag, Gogarth North Stack and Main Cliff, Bosigran , Sron na Ciche, Clogwyn Du'r Arddu (Cloggy). While the smaller, single pitch crags are represented, it's pitches on big crags that are generally rated. And even the single pitch routes are mainly on adventurous crags like Carn Kenidjack (Kenidjack Cliffs) and Dinas Cromlech
- Gimmer Crag is your favourite crag! Any way you look at it, it wins. Clearly there is a huge amount of quality climbing there.

gooberman-hill 07 Jun 2019

Finally, one last measure. Which crags have the most quality routes - i.e. how many different routes re mentioned for each crag.

Crag Routes mentioned
Gimmer Crag 11  
Gogarth North Stack and Main Cliff 10  
Bosigran 9
Stanage Plantation 8
Clogwyn Du'r Arddu (Cloggy) 6  
Dinas Cromlech 6  
Malham Cove 5  
Roaches Skyline 5  
Rainbow Slab Area 4  
Craig Bwlch y Moch (Tremadog) 4

- Again: Gimmer Crag wins.
- A couple of crags have dropped off the list. Carn Kenidjack (Kenidjack Cliffs) was rated for Saxon (HVS 5a), and Sron na Ciche for Integrity (VS 4c).
- But finally we have a reason to climb on grit - you many not think that the best individual pitches are on grit, but there sure are a lot of quality routes.

A final couple of thoughts. Maybe Integrity (VS 4c) is the best route in the country. Whichever way you cut the data,it is in the top 10, and consistently higher placed than Suicide Wall (E1 5c). And both pitches are called out by different posters as "the best single pitch in the country". A big shout out to "The Track of the Cat". 2 different route with this name are mentioned by posters, at the Roaches, and Fairhead. There are only 3 routes with this name in the country, so if you are currently climbing "Track of the Cat", it is probably a high quality route.

M_Robinson 07 Jun 2019
In reply to gooberman-hill:

That was excellent. Thank you

Pursued by a bear 07 Jun 2019
In reply to gooberman-hill:

Cheers for all that, worth a read and hopefully you think it worth the not inconsiderable effort; I do.

The predominance of middle-grade routes and crags which hold them must reflect on the ability and aspiration of Joe and Josephine Average Climber, and the opinions they hold about their experiences.  I'd bet the bell-curve of ability peaks somewhere around VS or HVS too.

Which goes to show that if anyone wanted to resurrect the late Ken Wilson's VS Rock book, it'd sell like tea at Pete's Eats.  There's an opportunity for someone there.


pasbury 07 Jun 2019
In reply to gooberman-hill:

Interesting. I thought there was more Scafell Crag in your original thread - have you split it? Only Botterill’s Slab gets a look in.

Gordon Stainforth 07 Jun 2019
In reply to gooberman-hill:

You've got Oxford and Cambridge Route as being on Gimmer, rather than in Buttermere.

In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

I've updated that and added HTML tables to the posts.

henwardian 07 Jun 2019
In reply to gooberman-hill:

> - Most of the routes are't that hard. There are a lot of amazing middle and lower grade routes out there.

This is just a function of the fact that most people don't climb that hard. I would imagine that if adjusted the weighting of the votes based on the percentage of UKC who can climb that grade, harder routes would become more prevalent.

It's an interesting study you have done here though. I think it probably suffers from a lack of data as that's a pretty small number of replies to be working from, it's a shame you can't spam the entire UKC membership with an e-mail and get a few thousand responses to work with.

gooberman-hill 07 Jun 2019
In reply to Paul Phillips - UKC and UKH:

Thanks Paul - I didn't know whether you could do HTML tables, Markdown, or whatever. And thanks for correcting Oxford and Cambridge Climb. I'd spotted it in the data and corrected it (so the numbers are all correct), but not in the post of the text where it appeared on the wrong crag


C Witter 07 Jun 2019
In reply to gooberman-hill:

Interesting, as it confirms what we all already knew: that the climbing the Lakes is better than anywhere else ;p

But, purely on the question of methodology: to what extent are your stats and conclusions potentially compromised by a few noisy/opinionated posters/likers?


Lemony 07 Jun 2019
In reply to gooberman-hill:

I’m unreasonably pleased that my suggestion made it into one of the lists. It’s nice to know I’ve got at least a degree of discernment.

great work from a really good thread.

Sean Kelly 07 Jun 2019
In reply to C Witter:

> Interesting, as it confirms what we all already knew: that the climbing the Lakes is better than anywhere else

Well there are 4 Welsh crags against only 1 Lakes crag with 'most ticks' so can't follow the logic of your thinking.

And Track of the Cat has only 20 feet of climbing. Obviously not that many posters  on here have been on Moonraker as it must be a certainty for any top ten list!

Post edited at 16:43
Owen W-G 07 Jun 2019

Suicide Wall at Bosi is kind of a shit route as I remember it!

gooberman-hill 07 Jun 2019
In reply to C Witter:

Well obviously the sample is self selecting - depending on which way you cut the data, those who could be bothered to post, and those who read posts and liked them.

There was clearly a small and vocal minority of sports climbers who wanted to make sure their routes were represented - but as I pointed out  in my original posts, while they did post a series of route choices, they got very few likes, so only one sport route turns up (The Ashes) in the routes list, counted by the no of posts it is mentioned in.

As for the conclusions - it is all a bit of fun. I have been climbing for 35 years, and have done a lot fo the routes discussed, and they are all good choices.


gooberman-hill 07 Jun 2019
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

I used to climb a lot harder than I do now - in the mid / late 90s I was leading E3/4 regularly. While you may well be right about the ability and ambitions of the average UK climber, I have to say that many of the lower grade routes on the top 10 lists that I have done really are something special.

Maybe it is proof that you don't need to be climbing hard to be having fun climbing great routes.

To mis-quote Gerry Lopez: The best climber on the crag - the one who's having the most fun!


pec 07 Jun 2019
In reply to gooberman-hill:

> Maybe it is proof that you don't need to be climbing hard to be having fun climbing great routes.

There's a lot to be said for being a mediocre climber in the UK. I've come to the conclusion that the sweet spot for climbers (trad at least) is to climb in the VS to E1 range. Below that grade and many quality crags, even whole areas will have little or nothing for you. above that grade and the same applies with the added factor that on many mountain crags the quality routes above E1 see so few ascents that many are dirty and vegetated.

If you want the maximum number of starred routes on the maximum number of crags and rock types in the widest geographical spread they are the grades to climb at.

That's my excuse for being mediocre anyway!

Chombi 07 Jun 2019
In reply to gooberman-hill:

More of a highball boulder but those portable stairs up to the plane heading to Catalunya are pretty good, I’m sure you could wiggle some pro in somewhere and call it a pitch

BnB 07 Jun 2019
In reply to gooberman-hill:

I could have liked every one of your posts but that would in no way at have adequately conveyed my admiration and appreciation for your endeavour.

And Integrity is clearly the best pitch in the UK so you can be sure your analysis is sound

Deadeye 07 Jun 2019
In reply to gooberman-hill:

Nice one.

And what I really like is how the discussion has become a little microcosm of how people respond to any gift of information.

The best bit was the memory lanes I travelled down as I read many of the routes' names.  I think, perhaps subconsciously, that one of the best tings about lists of "classics" is that you mentally ear-mark them for doing wiht a certain set of people.  All the ones I have done in the lists, I have done with special people - and that's been as much part of the experience as the route.

Thanks for triggering many happy memories!  And some anticipation too!

Martin Haworth 07 Jun 2019
In reply to gooberman-hill: Very interesting topic, well done. I see a Few issues in the methodology:

Maybe your analysis is mixing up "best" with "most popular"

Harder routes will get fewer ascents and so presumably less votes.

More remote crags will also get less visits and so less votes.

More adventurous and bold routes will not appeal to everyone so less votes.

As examples: I climbed Centurion one day and thought ...great route. I climbed Torro the next day(next to Centurion) and thought it made Centurion seem like a pretty ordinary route.

Crags like Carnmore, Shelterstone, Sheigra, have some of the best pitches around but see relatively few ascents.

Crags like Red Walls and Yellow Walls at Gogarth South have some of the best pitches I've ever climbed, but they're not everyone's cup of tea.

Martin Haworth 07 Jun 2019
In reply to gooberman-hill: Also, I thought Left wall direct finish was a better pitch than Left Wall, (both brilliant though).

gooberman-hill 08 Jun 2019
In reply to Martin Haworth:

It's a bit of fun, not a serious study, and as I pointed out, the sample is self-selecting. So of course in some way it is based on popularity; depending which measure you take it could be the popularity of the self-reported "single best pitch in the country".

One small methodological point: I grouped the routes by my view of crag, rather than the UKC Logbook. So there are a few issues when I list crags. So, for example the link is for Gogarth North Stack an Main Cliff - but the count is for the whole of Gogarth. Same with Roaches and Stanage. And Rainbow Slab is actually the whole of the Llanberis Slate Quarries. 

In terms of the results, I disagree with your overall point. The route that came top (Integrity) is on the top tier of a big mountain crag on a Hebridean Island. The bottom of the crag is an hour's walk from the road, so a 3hr approach would not be unreasonable (assuming you do Cioch Direct and Arrow Route as an approach). Ben Nevis is in the top 10, Gimmer is in the top 10. Shelter Stone, Sheigra and other remote adventurous crags also feature in the list, but not in the top 10.

In the end though, it is all a bit of fun


Michael Gordon 08 Jun 2019
In reply to gooberman-hill:

The main thing I would point out is the obvious - that 'best pitch' in no way equates to 'best route'. In fact the interesting thing about considering great pitches in their own right is that they are as often as not standout pitches on otherwise unremarkable routes, i.e. the other pitches bring down the quality overall. 

The 'up and left' HVS pitch on Suicide Wall is pretty good, but a bit short for a thread like this. And it in no way reflects the quality of the route as a whole which is basically an HVS with a desperate 5c/6a section stuck in the middle! The best combo up here is perhaps pitches 1 and 2 of Beowulf, then the top pitch of Suicide Wall. 

Martin Haworth 08 Jun 2019
In reply to gooberman-hill: I realise it's only a bit of fun, and a great topic. I've not done integrity, but it must be good. I was just pointing out the obvious that it is massively skewed by popularity and grade, but you already know that. 

I would guess that Ben Nevis makes the list mainly because of Centurion, which is a easier grade Hard Rock tick. Gimmer is a fast drying, south facing Lakes mountain crag...

Anyway, back to the main point, would a list of the best single pitches at each grade be even more interesting?

Gordon Stainforth 08 Jun 2019
In reply to gooberman-hill:

I'm a bit baffled by Integrity winning for 'the best pitch' - meaning its first pitch, if I remember the original post correctly. It's kind of OK. I haven't done Kinky Boots at Baggy Point, but I guess the first overhang of Integrity is a bit like an easier version of that, and probably not as good, from everything I've heard. You lean across a bit of gap, get some quite good holds, move up, faff about getting on good gear (well, I faffed about: I think I went up and down about twice getting on two good runners, because you're going to hurt yourself very badly if anything goes wrong there). Then it's a bit of a heave-ho on quite good holds, or one good hold - I can't remember - then some other good hold comes in reach and that's it. A bit underwhelming, frankly. Then you carry on up a superb slab (superb position I mean), but the climbing is very ordinary. The second pitch is a superb groove, harder than the first, and I think better. But the main point about Integrity is the whole route, in a superb position ... and the natural intro is the absolutely superb, scarily undergraded, immaculate slab of Arrow Route. Then there's a final superb finishing pitch up the upper tier (that's only separately mentioned in the guidebook: can't quite tie it up: either Ajax or Yanks, but a really good steep groove with some quite wild moves that land you right at the top of the crag: at least 2 stars). The point is, it's one mega route, taking in Arrow Route (or you can start right at the bottom of the crag: though from all accounts the famous H Severe is an overrated polished horror).

At about the same standard, for a single pitch, I think things like Sabre Cut, or the crux pitch on Main Wall are arguably better. And for an overall route, Moss Ghyll Grooves is right up there. 

Post edited at 16:52
C Witter 12 Jun 2019
In reply to Sean Kelly:

> Well there are 4 Welsh crags against only 1 Lakes crag with 'most ticks' so can't follow the logic of your thinking.

Mm... Wales is not bad, I guess. But... I mean... when you get down to it, it's like the Lakes only full of bloody climbers...


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