/ Respecting the rock?

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Valkyrie1968 26 Nov 2019

I like to keep an eye on what's been logged recently in the Peak so I have an idea of what's dry and in condition (and thus worth heading out to do), and the My Conditions page on here is great for that. This weekend was a total write-off in the Peak for climbing due to the near-constant rain and impossibility of anything drying between showers, and yet still people managed to get out and get routes done. Looking through the logged ascents for the weekend, people thought that it would be a good idea to do multiple routes at Birchen - a crag that already has a serious problem with polish and erosion - and complain about them being "Very damp"; to go out and climb Tower Face (HVS 5a) at Plantation, a route that has some seriously creaky flakes that will only get creakier if people pull on them when they're damp; to enjoy the "absolute classic" that is Heaven Crack (VD) despite it being wet; to use "a years worth of chalk" to get across the traverse of Chequers Buttress (HVS 5a), and fall off twice in the process.

Now I'm no traditionalist who has a problem with people falling off things, or even with people trying to make the most of a bad day; if people want to get make the most of a rainy day in a way that doesn't damage things, more power to them. Going out and climbing routes that are already fragile when they're clearly wet, however, points to at best a serious lack of understanding of the fragile nature of gritstone and at worst a sense of entitlement and lack of care for the environment (someone else writes of doing Mantelpiece Crack (D) "in the rain so the drive was worth it").

So, while I think that the BMC's Respect the Rock campaign is really valuable and has hopefully switched some people on to the issues with climbing on wet rock, there's clearly more work to be done. I'm very interested in a) how this might be achieved and b) whether I'm just a crusty keyboard warrior for pointing all of this out.

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fatboyslimfast 26 Nov 2019
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

I addressed a cpl of people bouldering at Curbar on sunday whilst walking. It was very damp/wet as it has been for a while. No need

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Si Witcher 26 Nov 2019
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

The BMC Respect The Rock content doesn't specifically caution against climbing on wet gritstone or sandstone does it? I've just checked on the BMC site. It would be good to add some content to that effect. The weakening effect of water on damp rock is not intuitive and it would be worth a video and a poster all of its own.

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Lemony 26 Nov 2019
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

I think we're getting better but I do lose track of how often I post on the various County conditions pages pointing out that there's no way that the rock will be dry. People don't seem to understand that just because it's not currently raining doesn't mean the rock has dried out*.
 

Depressingly, lots of the locals who nowadays avoid climbing on wet sandstone think nothing of heading down and climbing on the Grit.

*though I've seen people at the roaches boulders before piling chalk onto holds in the rain in an attempt to dry them out.

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Rob Parsons 26 Nov 2019
In reply to Si Witcher:

> ... The weakening effect of water on damp rock is not intuitive ...

Exactly. And there is a long tradition of climbing low-grade stuff in the rain in other places - e.g. in North Wales, or in the Lakes.

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mrphilipoldham 26 Nov 2019
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

I saw that Chequers Buttress (HVS 5a) entry too, and cringed. 

Maybe everyone's using really old guides. My 1950s Laddow one mentions of routes 'for wet days'...!

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danieleaston 26 Nov 2019
In reply to mrphilipoldham:

> I saw that Chequers Buttress (HVS 5a) entry too, and cringed. 

Good to see they got the on-sight though, despite falling off twice.

Post edited at 13:25
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Simon Caldwell 26 Nov 2019
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

> This weekend was a total write-off in the Peak for climbing due to the near-constant rain

I was running in the Chew Valley on Sunday, it it was dry all day with even the occasional brief glimpse of the sun. Most crags there face the wrong way to dry quickly, but Rob's Rocks seemed dry as I went past.

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mrphilipoldham 26 Nov 2019
In reply to danieleaston:

Missed that - a top effort indeed!! 

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nigel n 26 Nov 2019
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

Does this mean that I can't solo a route at Wingather next time I'm passing by if its damp?

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teh_mark 26 Nov 2019
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

The same goes for climbing with dirty shoes. I clean my my shoes religiously before every route, for myself if nothing else, and yet despite always seeing this the vast majority of my climbing partners don't bother to give their shoes even a cursory wipe before setting off from the dirty bottom of the crag. And then they get scared and don't trust their feet at the first move where they have to step up on a smear or small hold. No amount of subtle or less-than-subtle suggestion or ribbing changes their attitude or their approach, nor any amount of pointing out the damage they're slowly causing for future generations. I might just start to refuse to belay anyone until they've given their shoes a good wipe...

All rock abuse - climbing on wet sandstone/gritstone, climbing with dirty shoes, overusing chalk - it's all just selfish lack of consideration or respect, isn't it? We should be better than that, as a collective. Once it's damaged it can't be undamaged.

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planetmarshall 26 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

> I clean my my shoes religiously before every route...

With holy water?

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teh_mark 26 Nov 2019
In reply to planetmarshall:

Nope, just in the convenient puddle that forms on the ledge above the first slab on Flying Buttress when it rains

;)

Post edited at 15:00
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Bulls Crack 26 Nov 2019
In reply to mrphilipoldham:

Didn't Brown and Whillans only go climbing in the wet? 

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Sean Kelly 26 Nov 2019
In reply to Bulls Crack:

> Didn't Brown and Whillans only go climbing in the wet? 


I thought it had to be snowing!

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webbo 26 Nov 2019
In reply to Bulls Crack:

Brown also put a peg in route that had been led without. Does that mean we should follow that example as well.

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tjdodd 26 Nov 2019
In reply to Si Witcher:

It is mentioned by the BMC on here

https://www.thebmc.co.uk/uk-summer-how-to-go-climbing-in-the-rain

Due to the wet conditions I went for a walk on the Roaches and was surprised to see a lot of parties out climbing.  Their approach seemed to be to cake the holds in chalk to make them dry enough.

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mrphilipoldham 26 Nov 2019
In reply to Bulls Crack:

I’m sure they went climbing in the dry too. But isn’t development in knowledge an excellent thing! Personally I’m glad to have my fancy shoes and cams, wouldn’t relish doing most Brown and Whillans routes without..

Post edited at 22:20
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gethin_allen 27 Nov 2019
In reply to Bulls Crack:

> Didn't Brown and Whillans only go climbing in the wet? 

Difference is that back in the 50s and 60s there were hardly anyone climbing in comparison to today so the cumulative effects were minimal. 

They also didn't have cams and metalwork like we do today to fall allover and wear out the placements.

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Dan Arkle 27 Nov 2019
In reply to planetmarshall:

> With holy water?

Not particularly holy,   

but holier than thou's! 

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ianstevens 27 Nov 2019
In reply to Lemony:

> I think we're getting better but I do lose track of how often I post on the various County conditions pages pointing out that there's no way that the rock will be dry. People don't seem to understand that just because it's not currently raining doesn't mean the rock has dried out*.

I know I've been one if those people in the past, it's important to remember that not everyone will know this, or will not be familiar with the area in question and actually just need some friendly advice. So please keep posting to that end, and please just keep an open mind that not everyone will have the same experience base as you.

> Depressingly, lots of the locals who nowadays avoid climbing on wet sandstone think nothing of heading down and climbing on the Grit.

> *though I've seen people at the roaches boulders before piling chalk onto holds in the rain in an attempt to dry them out.

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ianstevens 27 Nov 2019
In reply to danieleaston:

> Good to see they got the on-sight though, despite falling off twice.

Also glad to see despite the first route they did being wet, they tried two others as well.

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supersteve 27 Nov 2019
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

On every page in the 5+6 and 7+8 guide books for Font there is a line of forest ethics, just to remind folks of their responsibilities. It's generally not a long list and is common sense (https://bleau.info/ethics). If we want our kids to be able to climb many of these routes in the future, there needs to be more emphasis on abiding by there ethics. 

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Bulls Crack 27 Nov 2019
In reply to webbo:

> Brown also put a peg in route that had been led without. Does that mean we should follow that example as well.

Yes and wear socks over your boots. 

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Dave Garnett 27 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

> The same goes for climbing with dirty shoes. I clean my my shoes religiously before every route, for myself if nothing else,

Quite.  Even if you don't care about polishing the holds I can't think of a better way of making any route feel harder and making a fall more likely.

On the general point about climbing in the wet, I'm not convinced that climbing a VDiff on big buckets in the wet is going to irreparably wreck it but I agree, maybe the message can't be that nuanced if it's going to be effective.  Using thin flakes and dodgy pebbles in the wet is definitely antisocial, and that message needs to be communicated more widely.  Not everybody is a hardcore Peak grit regular.     

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TommyK 27 Nov 2019
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

Sorry to say I might have been one of those at Birchen on Sunday logging a route with the comment ‘very damp’.

We headed to Birchen thinking it had the best chance of being dry. As we arrived at the crag a group was just leaving saying they were just up for the day and had to get back home to Reading by the evening. The group seemed to consist of around 5  teenagers at one older adult (an instructor?). We asked them how they got on given the conditions and they quite excitedly said that a particular route was fine and a few of them had climbed it with no issue.

I wasn’t entirely convinced by this and walked up to the top of the crag myself and indeed the top of the route did seem dry. I started climbing and around halfway up found that it was definitely not as dry as the previous group had made out, however, not wanting to have to weight cams in wet slots and then ab back down to retrieve them I finished the route, brought up a second and we went home.

If I had known the rock was that wet I would not have tried to climb anything and I probably wouldn’t have climbed at all if the group before us hadn’t said it was fine and that it was only the first move where the underside of the flake was wet.

I’m not trying to make excuses and I accept that I shouldn’t have climbed when it was that wet but I really question why a group seemed to have have been brought quite a long way to climb in bad conditions?

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Dave Garnett 27 Nov 2019
In reply to TommyK:

> I’m not trying to make excuses and I accept that I shouldn’t have climbed when it was that wet but I really question why a group seemed to have have been brought quite a long way to climb in bad conditions?

Don't beat yourself up about it.  It wasn't so long ago that such bad weather type-2 fun would have been common practice and I would bet that very few posters on this forum haven't done the same at some point.  It's really a grit and sandstone-specific issue and only part of the increased wear and tear due to general pressure of numbers in popular areas.

Head off to the Lakes or Wales - they have crags that are never dry anyway.

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Frank R. 27 Nov 2019
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

There used* to be a pretty smart website for the Elbsandstein area (where climbing on wet sandstone is prohibited), using public meteo radar data**, crag database and crag aspect (and from that derived drying time, i.e. 12 hrs after rain, 2 days after rain, ...) to advise would-be goers before embarking on a trip where to go for a better chance of dry sandstone. As it was combined with a crag directory and nicely visualised, it probably worked quite well (especially during summer, with more localised storms) at promoting the issue and helping people choose where to go.

Perhaps something like that could be considered for some future version of the UKC Crag Directory? Obviously grit (and local ethics) is different from sandstone in Elbsandstein area, but If people can't be bothered to use common sense and last few days of weather forecasts or just don't know about possible issues, it's always better to just work along with the tendency of people to be lazy and make it easier to check!

Wouldn't even have to be as detailed (aspect and drying time) as that. Just a reminder - if there was any rain forecast at a specific crag location during the last few days - to check local conditions could be helpful...

* - not sure if it is still online

** - obviously a radar and numerical meteo models aren't always that accurate in how much actual rainfall a specific place gets and the crag could well be dry, but it still would work pretty well for planning a trip, no?

Post edited at 16:41
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JHiley 27 Nov 2019
In reply to Dave Garnett:

Surely we need the nuance. Do you think this should be applied to all grit? How would this work with perma-wet routes like Zapple (HVS 5b)?

I've climbed Zapple four times and it was always somewhere between 'a bit damp' and 'unpleasantly moist'. Even in the middle of the long 2018 heatwave when all the grass was dead and half the countryside was on fire, the start was still damp. (though I was told it dried out eventually.) If everyone avoids this route when it isn't bone dry it will never get any ascents and get clogged up with mud and vegetation like the Trised Crack (VS 4c) and Stormfactor (HVS 5b) next to it. Vegetation also damages the rock so what can you do?

I'm not supporting climbing on fragile flakes or particularly soft rock in the wet and have deliberately avoided Birchen in the past when there was any doubt about it being dry. But Birchen is softer than most grit and this is far from an established local ethic. Local definitive guides are full of accounts of character building wet gritstone ascents and what about the tradition of doing Christmas Crack (HS 4a) on 25/12 every year regardless of the conditions??? Not that I've ever understood the attraction of that particular tradition...

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Rog Wilko 27 Nov 2019
In reply to webbo:

> Brown also put a peg in route that had been led without. Does that mean we should follow that example as well.

A rare sighting on UKC of  the correct spelling of the past participle of the verb to lead. Congratulations!

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MischaHY 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

This is perhaps an unpopular opinion but I can't for the life of me understand why anyone upon seeing that the crag is wet wouldn't simply go to one of the great gyms in Shef.

I've been rained off the grit many a time and simply headed down to Awesome or the Works for a session and always got a decent days climbing in rather than suffering up a Diff with freezing hands which is doing absolutely nothing for my climbing ability but certainly is making the route even more polished for a wobbly beginner. 

Get down the gym, get your laps or boulders in, get furiously strong and come back on a dry day - you'll protect the rock and end up onsighting stuff that you would have fallen off due to being fitter and stronger! 

Alternatively, do what I did and move to the continent where the crags stay dry and you don't have to listen to Brexit on the news every day. 

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Hooo 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

This is a perennial problem with Southern Sandstone, which is extremely delicate even when dry, let alone when wet. After the last few weeks weather it will take several weeks of no rain at all before it's acceptable to climb it, so unlikely before March. Even so, people still keep doing it. I was at Stone Farm the other weekend and a couple of young guys were setting up. They were clearly new to climbing and just weren't aware of the situation. Having travelled a couple of hours to get there by train they were not about to abandon their day, but I hope I convinced them to not come back until it was dry.

I don't know what more we can do. There are signs at the crag, and posters at the local walls. I'm not sure how climbers manage to find out that Southern Sandstone exists without getting the message about looking after it. But they do.

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Tom V 28 Nov 2019
In reply to JHiley:

I can't agree about Zapple being permanently wet since I 've done it twice in dry conditions but its main problem was dirt and debris dragged down it by abseiling parties- if it's more recently become perma-wet it may be their erosion of the crag top which is a contributory factor, But otherwise I tend to agree. I thought grit was a bit more resilient than sandstone and some of the concern seems a bit overdone. If wear and tear is really a problem maybe the idea of long term "working" of routes and boulder problems should be reconsidered.

Post edited at 09:10
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Andy Moles 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

It won't go down well to say this, but realistically some easy grit routes are going to remain sacrificial lambs to outdoor centres and instructed climbing courses.

You can easily get on a high horse about this, but if someone has spent a fair bit of money to come on a three day rock climbing course in the Peak District, and they get three days of wet weather, the barely perceptible benefit of not climbing a Diff which has been climbed ten thousand times in all weathers by kids in muddy boots already, is never going to outweigh the benefit of giving someone at least some experience of climbing on rock.

This is absolutely not a defence of fragile features and gear placements being trashed by ignorance or impatience - it breaks my heart seeing a crag like Bowden turning to sand, and boils my piss when people think they can dry the entire lip of a boulder by emptying a bag of chalk on it. But top-roping a Diff at Burbage with massive smooth features? It's always happened and will continue to do so, with no great loss suffered by anyone.

I know nuance isn't in fashion, but...

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fred99 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Andy Moles:

>  but if someone has spent a fair bit of money to come on a three day rock climbing course in the Peak District, and they get three days of wet weather,

And what kind of idiotic Instructor doesn't understand that in NOVEMBER it will most probably be WET ???

Anyone with an ounce of common sense would have a backup plan - to whit North Wales, where the rock type can take being used and abused in wet conditions.

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Lemony 28 Nov 2019
In reply to ianstevens:

Haha, sorry, I sounded grumpier than I intended to there! Also, I've never known anyone else take the feedback quite as well as you did! The last person befoe that basically said "Glad you pointed out that Corby's would be wet so we went to Edlingham instead, it was a bit damp but still climbable"... and I died a little inside 

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Andy Moles 28 Nov 2019
In reply to fred99:

I'm sure if you exercised your imagination for a few minutes, you could probably answer your own questions, without recourse to accusations of idiocy or histrionic punctuation.

It could be wet in June. Lower chance, sure, but it happens. Do you think an arbitrary line should be drawn on a season for running climbing courses? As for driving to North Wales, if people have travelled from London, say, and have accommodation booked in the Hope Valley, that's hardly practical.

Again, nuance...

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Valkyrie1968 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Andy Moles:

> I know nuance isn't in fashion, but...

I very much agree with the point about nuance, and I suppose that's what I was trying to get at - I too am fine with people scrabbling their way up things that are already wrecked by groups/people climbing in the wet and that aren't fragile (the Anatomy/Sociology/etc. buttress at Popular being a good example), but I highlighted routes like Heaven Crack and Tower Face because previous events have shown that those routes definitely aren't indestructible.

That then begs the question of what we do, however: Do we as a community decide that some routes are fine to climb in the rain and others aren't? Who gets to decide that? If you've been climbing in the Peak long enough you have a good idea of what will be dry and what is particularly likely to be damaged by climbing in the wet, but then those generally aren't the people that need to be educated. Moreover, while I like the idea of gently talking to people about the fact that what they're doing is damaging when you see it happening, there's the big issue that, in that situation, I'm not at the crag in the first  place. Possibly that suggests that the BMC needs to invest in a 'crag police' system so that we can take a proactive approach and catch these reckless perpetrators wet-handed.

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mrphilipoldham 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Andy Moles:

June showers are also likely to be dried in an hour or so, November ones probably days or so..

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Dave Garnett 28 Nov 2019
In reply to JHiley:

> Surely we need the nuance. Do you think this should be applied to all grit? How would this work with perma-wet routes like Zapple (HVS 5b)?

I'm good with nuance, but I'm not trying to draft an educational poster on the issue.  Making the advice concise but catchy is quite a challenge.  We could at least restrict it to natural gritstone edges.

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Offwidth 28 Nov 2019
In reply to JHiley:

As the BMC crag co-author the biggest problem I see on Birchen is people dogging routes too hard for them and falling off repeatedly on cams and as the hard surface went years back this is just grinding the softer than average matrix rock in the breaks to sand. The break on Orpheus wall in particular is in a terrible state. This is even starting to be a problem on Stanage VS classics. I have no issue with people climbing in the wet if they make sensible route choices, clean their shoes well and know they won't be scrabbling about. Lower grade grit has coped with many decades of wet climbing (often unethical)  and the cumulative damage of 60+ years of this still doesn't equal the early damage of nailed action in a much shorter time period. Pretty much all the Stanage lower grade polish was from nailed boots back then, according to the old guys I spoke to when I started in the 80s. Damp thin flakes on sandstone are a very big issue ... both for use and especially for pro.... just don't do it. Bouldering badly on wet rock is also 'a big no no' especially the muppets not cleaning shoes between hopeless attempts at friction moves.

I've climbed Zapple (both ways) several times when dry and even its neighbours when dry (the trick with the neighbours is to clean them just before a dry spell). The only route where the damp never went away was the start of Great Crack in Dukes.

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steveriley 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

Fair enough. I see this coming up repeatedly:

Pretty much all the Stanage lower grade polish was from nailed boots back then, according to the old guys I spoke to when I started in the 80s.

As someone who climbed a lot in the 80s and 90s and then came back 15 years later that doesn't tally with what I see.

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Rick51 28 Nov 2019
In reply to steveriley:

> Fair enough. I see this coming up repeatedly:

> Pretty much all the Stanage lower grade polish was from nailed boots back then, according to the old guys I spoke to when I started in the 80s.

> As someone who climbed a lot in the 80s and 90s and then came back 15 years later that doesn't tally with what I see.


I agree. I climbed on grit extensively from 1970 to the mid 80's. There was polish then, probably from nailed boots, but climbing on grit again this year the polish and worn gear placements seem far worse than I remembered.

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Andy Moles 28 Nov 2019
In reply to mrphilipoldham:

Well done for stating the obvious and missing the point, very succinct ;)

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JHiley 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Tom V:

I might have mistaken dirty/ cold rock for dampness on a couple of occasions. Another time I think it was wet from condensation as it hadn't rained for weeks.

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Offwidth 28 Nov 2019
In reply to steveriley:

Well it does wih me and I've climbed the vast majority of Peak lower grade grit routes guidebook checking and the popular ones many times, taking notes on the routes since the mid 90's..   why not give a list of lower grade examples where things have got much worse since 1990. The cam damage at Birchen is a major problem compared to 1990.

Post edited at 13:18
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Offwidth 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Rick51:

Placements have indeed worn on many routes but on lower grade grit the polish is only slightly worse... again give a list.

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David Slater 07 Dec 2019
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

I cannot believe this is even an issue.

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Planeandsimple 07 Dec 2019
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

Climbing in the rain is valuable training for alpinism according to some of our most pioneering alpinists.

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webbo 07 Dec 2019
In reply to Planeandsimple:

There isn’t a lot of wet Grit and Sandstone in the Alps.

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