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Slippery, slithery Stanage - how old is the polish on popular routes?

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Popped out to Stanage last week for a quick evening session - I realised recently that despite having seconded Heather Wall (VS 4c) three times (Sept 1997, August 2014, August 2015: aren't logbooks clever? ) I had never led it. So that was my target 1. It's a nice route, and the vertical cracks are all so smooth - presumably from cams and nuts being placed again and again, day in day out, for decades - that if you don't have crack gloves and are afraid of jamming, it is now about as skin friendly as you'll find! But the horizontal cracks and ledges are really polished. I actually put my foot high onto one of the ledges and got the rounded edge under the arch of my foot so probably not the most friction there, but my foot still scooted of further out when I tried rocking over onto it! Having done the route 7, 8 and 25 years ago I don't remember thinking it was particularly polished, but maybe I just didn't notice?

Dave led Balcony Buttress next and that was also pretty battered feeling. Checking the logbook, I had led that 22 years ago and, again, don't really remember thinking it was particularly polished then.

Is this rose-tinted-glasses-syndrome? Were the routes just as polished in the 90s or early 2000s? Is all the polish the result of nailed boot wearers of the 1920s and 30s clawing away? Or did it all go shiney in the last decade? So we can blame the badged-up "outdoor professionals" and their endless charges on "wall to rock" courses? The previously plastic-pulling hordes now swarming over the beloved grit?

3
 Moacs 26 May 2022
In reply to TobyA:

<sigh>

I don't really remember much from when I climbed with my Dad in North Wales in the 70s.  The early 80s I recall grass around the bottom of many crags were there's none now.  Polish existed but more on limestone - Avon, Stoney were bad - and some specific routes - like Crack and Corner at Stanage.

Makes me a little sad

4
 jon 26 May 2022
In reply to Moacs:

Makes you wonder how it got like that...

In reply to TobyA:

Just to add a data point, my first outdoor climb was Flying Buttress (HVD 4a), in April 2008. It was already a worn sandy mess then. 

2
In reply to TobyA:

Useful data point here in that I stopped for about 12 years and have been back to lots of places I’d not climbed at for 15, 20 or 30 years. Yes, lots of polish, worn gear placements, lost grass, eroded bouldering starts. Even widespread changes of colour on grit, look at the chalky drainage streaks on 3 pocket slab. I really struggle with the idea it’s the old timers and nailed boots. Wouldn’t apply on bigger grades.

it doesn’t actually take that long at some places, somewhere like Pantymwyn cave isn’t super mainstream but sees traffic these days. V smeggy.

 Iamgregp 26 May 2022
In reply to TobyA:

In a week where I've seen "wall bred climbers" being blamed for not removing dangerous loose blocks from climbs, removing dangerous loose block from climbs, excessive polish on classic routes and the sinking of the Lusitania I'm starting to wonder if there's anything left that isn't their (or should that be our?) fault?

I suspect it's down to several issues...

1. It's a bit more polished, but then it would be regardless of wbc's 

2. Conditions were different 

3, You were leading it rather than seconding it so were more nervous and concerned about your foot slipping so when this happened it's made a greater impression on you 

Post edited at 14:22
 Mick Ward 26 May 2022
In reply to TobyA:

> Were the routes just as polished in the 90s or early 2000s? Is all the polish the result of nailed boot wearers of the 1920s and 30s clawing away? Or did it all go shiney in the last decade? 

There was an interesting article in the 1960s by Robin Collomb, commenting on the polish on Tennis Shoe and noting how polish makes a mockery of the grade. He'd done it with Pete Crew who hadn't found it any more amenable. 

Many years later, I was as unenthused by the polish as Collumb and Crew had been. The top pitch (solo) seemed as worrying as Great Wall (roped) the next day. 

Mick

In reply to TobyA:

Heather wall is definitely up there with one of my favourite VS at Stanage, I can't think when I last did it, perhaps a year ago, but I don't feel the polish ruined the climbing, perhaps I've only done it whilst polished so know no different! All the gear is bomber thankfully

 PaulJepson 26 May 2022
In reply to TobyA:

I reckon people climbing it 4 times is the problem

 deepsoup 26 May 2022
In reply to Iamgregp:

I don't see "wall bred climbers" being blamed for anything in this thread, if you do are you sure you're not imagining it?

2
 Tony Buckley 26 May 2022
In reply to TobyA:

It was nearly 30 years ago when I did Heather Wall; I can't remember it being polished particularly.  Crack and Corner, however, done at a similar time, could have been sponsored by Mr Sheen.

T.

 Iamgregp 26 May 2022
In reply to deepsoup:

"So we can blame the badged-up "outdoor professionals" and their endless charges on "wall to rock" courses? The previously plastic-pulling hordes now swarming over the beloved grit?"

2
In reply to deepsoup:

Yeah, I hope the winky emoji, along with the OTT language, showed I wasn't being that serious. I think Greg got that, but then if you are someone who started out only indoors, I'm sure you notice people blaming "wall bred climbers" for many things and I'm sure it can feel like a slight.

More seriously I just mean is the polish resulting from what feels like a rise in participation in recent years?

I actually go up to Stanage reasonably regularly, even if it's just to try find ever more obscure diffs to solo. Looking in the logbook I see I've climbed 25.4% (184 of 724 climbs) at Stanage Popular, and some of those I have done more than once. So very much as Paul amusingly alludes to above, I can't complain about the traffic as I am the traffic! I do think this is very much a Stanage thing - the routes are just noticeably more worn there than perhaps any other grit crag. Even compared to other crags that are popular - particularly at lower grades - Birchen, Froggat, Burbage North for example - some routes at Stanage feel particularly worn.

Perhaps its just that in recent years I've got quite into sport climbing, but because I'm not very good I've spent a lot of time in places like Goddards, Darlton, Harpur Hill and so on. And in many of those quarries, if you think the hold is too polished, if you pull hard enough on it, it will break off then you can get good friction on the newly revealed rock underneath!

2
 deepsoup 26 May 2022
In reply to Iamgregp:

D'Oh!  Reading comprehension fail.  I'll get my coat.

In reply to Iamgregp:

You didn't quote the at the end though. Honest, I wasn't being serious! I just mean the greater numbers of people climbing now - wall bred or not. 

...well OK, I might not have been totally unserious about the outdoor professionals and their penchant for their shiny badges.

Post edited at 16:13
1
 wbo2 26 May 2022
In reply to TobyA:I haven't been to Stanage for a few years but was first there in 1984.  At that point a lot of stuff was polished, and a lot of the grass was already eroded.  I  didn't think it was any worse there when I last climbed there, 6 or 7 years ago.

Stoney was very polished by the 80's ditto any lower/mid grade limestone route.  I had a go at Sardine, that was already hideous.

Most of the damage was done a long time ago, and probably the biggest sinners are locals doing multiple laps on routes over many, many years

1
 PaulJepson 26 May 2022
In reply to TobyA:

To be serious for a moment though, I think Heather Wall stands out. That could be because the style of climb makes the polish seem more noticeable (it's vertical so you're holding on a bit more than you would on say Hargreaves, and between rounded breaks with pretty obvious moves so everyone is standing and holding on to the same thing. The breaks are also large so people aren't particularly careful about footwork). I think that it being starred, lower-grade, right in front of where you arrive means it'll get a hell of a lot of traffic also. 

 Iamgregp 26 May 2022
In reply to TobyA:

All good!  I did indeed get that you were  only half serious, the winky face and reference to hordes have it away!

Likewise, in my response, half serious too!

In particular, to my knowledge we Wall Bred climbers have never been blamed for the sinking of the Lusitania.

It was the Titanic.

In reply to TobyA:

Going on nearly 40 years of climbing at Stanage, I’d say the polish was terrible in the 80s when I started climbing, then it gradually got better for a while, and now it’s terrible again.

 ChrisJD 26 May 2022
In reply to TobyA:

I would like to shamelessly virtue signal my lack of climbing at Stanage over the last decade (despite being able to see from my house) as being entirely down to not wanting to add to the polish ... <coughs>

1
 galpinos 26 May 2022
In reply to TobyA:

I first lead Heather Wall over 20years ago and remember thinking it felt polished, especially in the upper breaks. I remember it quite vividly, as it was in my mind a few years later when I went to first solo it. I have since soloed it a few times and not felt the breaks were as polished as they were in my memory! Great route that's still a favourite solo when going well.

TLR, I don't think it's that much worse than 20yrs ago......

In reply to Iamgregp:

> to my knowledge we Wall Bred climbers have never been blamed for the sinking of the Lusitania.

> It was the Titanic.

I’m sure if the Titanic had sunk the Lusitania it would have been on the film so sounds to me like you are covering for something or someone. 

In reply to rsc:

> Going on nearly 40 years of climbing at Stanage, I’d say the polish was terrible in the 80s when I started climbing, then it gradually got better for a while, and now it’s terrible again.

I agree!

  When I started climbing I was fairly rubbish at using polished holds, then I got quite a bit better at it. Now I'm old, my skills and confidence are fading.... 

 Iamgregp 26 May 2022
In reply to Tyler:

You've got me, my great grandfather was the bloke who locked away the binoculars that night, and prevented them from being used by the lookout.

Said they were becoming worn through excessive polishing.

 petemeads 26 May 2022
In reply to TobyA:

I did Heather Wall last year, probably 50 years since my first time. I found it more difficult mainly because it is much steeper now, hence the upgrade to VS from Hard Severe. The polish was ok, though...

In reply to petemeads:

It's funny you noticed it has got steeper over the years Pete, because I'm pretty certain it has also grown and is now taller than when I first did it 25 years ago!

1
 Rick51 26 May 2022
In reply to TobyA:

I find routes get steeper at the same rate my harness shrinks ...

In reply to Rick51:

> I find routes get steeper at the same rate my harness shrinks ...

Harness shrinkage also has a sort of seasonal aspect to it, must be something to do with the average level of humidity over time or something like that I expect.

A quick search shows me that I've not done Heather Wall for nearly 12 years, but I had added to the polish many times in the preceding 30+ years. Think I'll need a rope nowadays (probably above me) as I can't quite see me soloing it again.

In reply to TobyA:

My nomination would be Overhanging Buttress Direct (S 4a), which frightened me quite a lot last time I did it.

As for the cause, I think RichT causes most of it. 

In reply to TobyA:

Toby, I would have seconded it when I started climbing around ‘80. Subsequently I never led it, but it became one of my favourite solos as I was walking past as it’s such a good route. I guess it wasn’t polished then. The last time I did it, I noticed the polish and it was less fun (old man, potential broken bones, that kind of thing). Most of those routes at Stanage pop were going to end up glassy whatever the population of climbers became. I can’t remember the route, but the one that goes up to Hardings Superdirect was glassy polished 40 plus years ago.

 Cusco 29 May 2022
In reply to TobyA:

Polished grit at Stanage Popular. Ha! 

Try Chudleigh limestone!

Say, Sarcophagus...after some rain...! ("This is a route you won't forget in a hurry (especially if you have a hangover).)" [from Nick White's brilliant guide]

Or Oesophagus, Loot, Original Route etc.

They make the Shield Pitch on Corrie seem like gabbro.

Heather Wall - enjoyable climb from memory in circa 1998.

 olddirtydoggy 29 May 2022
In reply to TobyA:

We were on Rusty wall last week queueing up with everybody else to get on the popular climbs. All of the routes were quite polished compared to my local crag up at Wharncliffe but what we did notice was Green Crack (VS 4c) where nobody bothered with it. There are still bits on those popular sections that get very few logs, often they are as good as anything else on there.

 petemeads 29 May 2022
In reply to olddirtydoggy:

Green Crack was a favourite solo, and I led it last year just after Heather Wall. Same steepness as I remember, no polish, but still felt a bit harder than it used to. I reckon the regular VS climber tends to think it is going to be a thrutchy struggle, or an offwidth, and leaves it alone - fortunately it is neither, even when green.

 Offwidth 29 May 2022
In reply to TobyA:

I think things have got a bit more polished but I was told by old experienced climbers (who would know) that most of the damage on lower grade Stanage stuff was done with nailed boots and Heather Wall was certainly very polished when I first did it in the late 80s. I used to link an old black and white film of nailed boot climbers on Stanage and the worn footholds shine like chalk on the darker rock surface: sadly I've forgotten the url.

Skill decline with later aging and 'harness shrinkage' have already been covered upthread but one other pertinent factor is polished rock climbs much better on cool cloudy days. The change in character in my climbing life on popular grit routes is (occasional cam damage aside) much less serious than some of the terrible damage on very popular lower grade grit boulder problems.

 PaulJepson 29 May 2022
In reply to petemeads:

It does look absolutely rank though! Climbed it a few weeks back and thought it was ace, except the middle bit where the dirty loose blocks and grass are. 

 George_Surf 29 May 2022
In reply to steveriley:

The opposite problem at Tremadog, the grass is growing back!!

 Kevster 29 May 2022
In reply to Cusco:

The corner with the spike you (want to) chuck a sling round. Can't recal which of the two chudleigh routes - sarcophagus or oesophagus, about 10ft off the ground. That was polished in the 90s to such a sheen it could eject the sling even with a favourable direction of pull. 

I hate to think what chudleigh is now like, but I suspect it's actually quite similar to what it was 25 years ago. 

Funny how we bang on about lots of climbers nowadays, yet the routes were all polished before the crags got supposedly packed out. And yet I also remember more climbers on the rock at many venues and they also climbed harder overall than VS.... 

In reply to olddirtydoggy:

Funnily enough Green Crack is one of the very few VSs on Stanage that gets a star that I haven't done yet. Lots of times I've gone to look and found it not just green but wet. Then obviously when I go in summer I forget to check or head further down the crag to quieter sectors. Right, it's on my list now to get done this summer. Cheers.

In reply to Offwidth:

I did a VS with a star at Stoney this afternoon, Asparagus (VS 4b), and was thinking the nut and small cams placements were looking really worn - there are plenty, but it is not a continuous crack up the corner so I guess everyone tends to use the same places to place gear. Just where you leave the corner and traverse the ledge rightwards there are two very worn pods in the crack, perhaps they've always been that way but I found I couldn't get nuts (normal or offsets) to sit in them - they're just too parallel. I unfortunately I had already used my smallest cams lower down, so couldn't use them. I had a good cam just a bit lower so it wasn't the end of the world but I did wonder if it was everyone jamming small cams in there that had worn them into that pod shape that is no good for nuts.

The route itself didn't seem very polished with exception of one foothold. Stoney has such a reputation for being so polished, but maybe in comparison to easier 'classics' at, say, Horseshoe everything is relative!

 MKH 31 May 2022
In reply to Cusco:

Indeed. I remember getting my mum to belay me up seventh veil 

Seventh Veil (VS 4c)

20 years ago and it was like trying to ice skate up a wall even then. I can't imagine it even could get any worse. So perhaps those skills will come in handy on the Stanage glass.

 jimtitt 31 May 2022
In reply to Kevster:

Chudleigh was polished over 50 years ago and I can't blame it all on climbers, it's just slippery! I did an early repeat of Smoke gets in your eyes and it was grim even then.

 MKH 31 May 2022
In reply to jimtitt:

Still, it's microclimate meant that more often than not I'd end up sat under the cave having a boulder or climb because I'd been rained off the moor. Needs must and all that.


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