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Tufa or Flowstone in the UK

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I enjoyed climbing on tufa and stalactites in Thailand, and then became obsessed with them on Kalymnos. Luckily, both venues have brilliant routes of this type in my grades (up to 6b+).

These are the examples that I've seen in the UK: Reptile Smile area (Portland), Flowstone Wall (Penmaen Head), Watch House Slab (Gower) plus  bits at Chudleigh and Giggleswick. Are there other good climbs on tufa/flowstone out there somewhere?

PS An honourable mention for Redpoint Birmingham, which often has indoor 3-D routes giving similar fun.

Post edited at 17:34
 Lankyman 25 Sep 2021
In reply to Andy Hemsted:

Yew Cogar has tufa climbs but they're quite hard. Some Chapel Head Scar routes have tufa holds but again, pretty tough.

In reply to Andy Hemsted:

Representing the Welsh....


 Ciro 25 Sep 2021
In reply to Andy Hemsted:

Torbryan quarry is a small but beautifully formed little flowstone wall.

 Kevster 25 Sep 2021
In reply to Andy Hemsted:

I think your asking quite a lot for tufa in the UK - tends to be in areas which had greater warm and wet than the UK has had. Also requires something to drip off/ onto and so something of a vertical wall or overhang.

Flowstone is easier to find on easy (any uk) routes than tufa, simply by the way they form.
Obviously limestone areas. 

Flow stone often feels polished on the first ascent, so a well loved bolted route will gain more shine whilst loosing shine at the same time. Its also quite brittle, so trad on flow stone is less likely to endure. On top of that, it can be quite fingery and so it a harder task master grade wise. 

"Good" flowstone routes are a bit of a niche. As often people dont realise they are good as the nature of the rock is harder to climb & appreciate. Bolted dorset has plenty of routes with flowstone on, but fewer which are predominately flowstone through the main parts of the route. 

Good luck in your fettish!

1
In reply to Andy Hemsted:

Access is a bit of a faff but Greenham Common, Pembroke.

I will get shot at dawn for saying this but it would make a cracking sport crag.

(reminder to self, don't think out loud) 

4
 alan moore 25 Sep 2021
In reply to Andy Hemsted:

Lots of small flowstone formations at Shorncliff and a good wall at Llangattock.

 AJM 25 Sep 2021
In reply to Andy Hemsted:

There's loads more on Portland than just round Reptile Smile

In reply to Lankyman:

+1 to Cogur and Chapel.  Tufa King Hard at Chapel is the lowest graded UK tufa route I've done - 6c but pretty butch.  Malham has tufas, mainly on the Upper Tier - Herbie, L'Obsession etc.   Most UK routes with tufas don't really climb like "proper" tufa routes though - more wall climbing with the occasional slopey layaway - not much pinching bulges on drainpipes (and are there any routes on partially detached tufas in the UK?).

 Chris Ebbutt 25 Sep 2021
In reply to Andy Hemsted:

Magic Flute (HVS 5a)
 

Trad route, and care definitely required with the gear but a great climb on Flowstone. 

In reply to Andy Hemsted:

Sweet Tufa F8a in Cheddar. Often seeping 

1
 rachelpearce01 25 Sep 2021
In reply to Andy Hemsted:

Magic flute at little orme (meadow wall?)

 C Witter 25 Sep 2021
In reply to Andy Hemsted:

If you ever up near the Lakes outside of the bird ban season, you should have a look at Tufa King Hard (6c). Pretty short but flowy and good quality route, with a heartbreaking finale. 

It's not worth making a special long-distance trip for, though!

 Kemics 25 Sep 2021
In reply to Ciro:

It's a tiny crag really... and yet somehow crams so many quality routes in. If you're a 6b+ climber the route Mayday (6c) would make an excellent goal to aim for. 

In reply to Andy Hemsted:

I didn't spot the grade range requested. Sorry for my irrelevant suggestion 

 John Mcshea 26 Sep 2021
In reply to Presley Whippet:

Shooting's too quick a death for that comment.

 Sl@te Head 26 Sep 2021
In reply to Andy Hemsted:

Some Tufa bouldering at Penmon Rocks...

Penmon Rocks!

In reply to John Mcshea:

And the difference between situ threads and bolts is? 😁

5
 Chris Ebbutt 26 Sep 2021
In reply to Andy Hemsted:

Supercalorific (6a+)

At a grade I can climb, one of the best sport routes in Devon.

enjoy

Chris

 Andy Farnell 26 Sep 2021
In reply to Andy Hemsted:

Castle Inn quarry in N. Wales has some nice flowstone routes.

Castle Inn Quarry

Andy F

1
In reply to Andy Hemsted:

For a bit of trad.... Cathy's Clown (E2 5c) at Staden is very good.

In reply to Andy Hemsted:

Thanks to all for so many suggestions. Chudleigh North, Greenham Common, Penmon Rocks, Churston, Castle Inn Quarry will be visited....

Tufa King Hard is almost certainly well-described ... I can give a good show on a Kalymnian tufa 6c, but British/French 6c is likely to be beyond me now.

Interesting comment about climate favouring tufa formation in warmer countries ... there are masses of formations in British caves, and a friend has just discovered lovely tufa curtains which are being produced in an abandoned tunnel. However, the UK generally doesn't have outdoor limestone walls underneath massive overhanging roofs, where water can seep through rock and then dribble down the face below, allowing large tufas or stalactites to 'grow'.

In reply to Andy Hemsted:

I cant quite remember the details now but someone who knew about such things once told me you get less of these sort of limestone formations in the UK as successive glacations releasing large amounts of destructive water into cave systems also explains why we have less than you find on the continent. 

 fotoVUE 27 Sep 2021
 Lankyman 27 Sep 2021
In reply to Andy Hemsted:

> Interesting comment about climate favouring tufa formation in warmer countries ... there are masses of formations in British caves, and a friend has just discovered lovely tufa curtains which are being produced in an abandoned tunnel. However, the UK generally doesn't have outdoor limestone walls underneath massive overhanging roofs, where water can seep through rock and then dribble down the face below, allowing large tufas or stalactites to 'grow'.

Kilnsey has a massive roof but virtually no tufa below it. To get tufa you need highly calcareous water to be flowing down a steep wall. Water seeping through the Kilney roof mostly just falls to the ground. If I recall correctly, one of the main factors in cave formation growth is vegetation on top of the limestone boosting the carbon dioxide content. In Yorkshire caves there are fewer trees up top compared to say Mendip. Probably the most spectacular stals in Britain are in Otter Hole which apparently runs under Chepstow race course so stal growth is boosted by horse piss ...

In reply to Andy Hemsted:

Slightly off thread but the Spar Cave near Elgol in the Skye Scrambles guidebook is entered up a pitch of flowstone running with water. Surprisingly good grip for the feet.

In reply to Andy Hemsted:

https://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/set.php?id=4299

I've started to put together a ticklist for this! its a work in progress and is formed from a mix of climbs I've done, seen, heard about, had friends do, etc.

Open to suggestions for additions to it!

In reply to robf321:

That list is great, thanks. Dungecroft looks like a great tufa destination.

It's just a pity that most of them are too hard for me. I'll need to come back stronger in my next reincarnation......

Post edited at 20:33
 Sean Kelly 30 Sep 2021
In reply to Andy Hemsted:

Not forgetting the Good Boy Tufa Palace at Berry Head quarry!

https://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/crags/berry_head_quarry-411/the_good_boy_tufa_palace-384117

In reply to Andy Hemsted:

Second the suggestions for  Torbryan Quarry though it really gets going as a crag around 6c.

You could have a good weekend in North Wales combining  Penmaen Head and Castle Inn Quarry.

Would also give a shoutout to Gilwern in South Wales. There's the flowstone wall in the main quarry, but Gilwern East has some great stuff too. Particularly Asteroids (5a) which climbs a wall of stuck on blocks. Great fun, especially for the grade in the UK.

In reply to Andy Hemsted:

Isn't the first pitch of Golden Gate (HVS 5a) at Stoney flowstone on the right hand side - it climbs like glass IIRC.

In reply to TobyA:

I'd forgotten about Southstone Rock .... I visited it about 18 years ago when I was looking at everything in 'West Midlands Rock', and found it amusing rather than amazing! I do remember some juggy bouldering. Perhaps it's time to fight my way through the vegetation again; it's certainly very different from other UK climbing venues.

 George_Surf 01 Oct 2021
In reply to Andy Hemsted:

The e5 left of New Dimensions on Castell y Gwynt features a big fat exciting looking tufa. There’s also a route down near pigeons cave, something Africa? Around 6c I think, goes up a big tufa? 

In reply to Andy Hemsted:

I'm always impressed to find anyone else who has actually been there! You can chimney up the back canyon at the constriction pretty easily - to scramble on to the top of the main crag, but a bit before the constriction the "mainland" wall (as opposed to the overhanging "island" wall) there is from memory some amazing flow stone. I think back in the very early 90s I cleared away fallen logs, brushed it clean and soloed it (maybe V diff-ish? Although I had hardly climbed on established routes anywhere else). It's not very high - 6 or 8 metres maybe? But it is definitely flowstone. I think I recorded it as "Once Upon an Ice Climb", so it might be in the 'newer' West Mids Rock (the 90s one with Pontesford on the front, not the 80s one with the Llanymynech cover). 

When I've occasionally visited in recent decades I have thought - if someone could be arsed, this could clean up to to give some decent routes - I've often thought you might be able to make "sport climbs" with insitu threads on the main face. But I've never really had a climbing friend around with me when down that way (my parents still live quite nearby) to go and try. I don't think I've been back more than once since I took these pics https://lightfromthenorth.blogspot.com/2010/12/southstone-rock-local-cliff-for-local.html but at least then forestry work had opened the crag up a lot. There seemed to be loads of bouldering possibilities on the lower sections - I've wondered why Worcester or maybe Kiddy/Black Country climbers haven't 'adopted' it and turned it into Worcestershire's premier (ok, only) bouldering venue?

 John Mcshea 04 Oct 2021
In reply to Presley Whippet:

Not all threads at Greenham common are in situ ours were placed onsight and removed, all we left were paw prints that washed off with the next rain.  The threads that are in situ on some routes are the occasional addition to the natural gear available which is the norm for trad climbing, they may be good, or they may be poor and they are unlikely to be regularly spaced like bolts would be on a sport route.  Does that answer the question?

In reply to George_Surf:

> There’s also a route down near pigeons cave, something Africa? Around 6c I think, goes up a big tufa? 

African Head Charge. 7a+ in the guide, I think. Pretty cool, if short lived. Starts off the approach to the descent into the cave.

 springfall2008 05 Oct 2021
In reply to Andy Hemsted:

There's some at Wyndcliff Quarry on the bottom left area and some at Gilwern


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