During conversations over the weekend, the topic came round to the worst pitches ever climbed.
After a while we did come to the odd consensus - most pitches on Lliwedd, more or less every route at Cilan Head, every pitch on Jericho Wall on the Cromlech, and Dovestones Quarry came in for a fair bit of stick too.
There were also a fair number of crap ones in the Alps - the Bernese Oberland as an area didn't fair to well.
So I wondered what the UKC collective reckoned were their worst pitches.
For me, the single worst pitch I've ever had the misfortune to climb is a no brainer....
....the waterfall pitch at the top of the ramp on the Eiger NF (this does refer to a summer ascent, which is now I gather a bit of a no go area)
Without doubt the most disgusting, harrowing, insecure, exhausting, demoralising, soaking wet vertical river of satans shite in the entire climbing world.
Mind you, when it comes to shite pitches and shite climbing, you're spoilt for choice on the Eiger in the first place.
> ....the waterfall pitch at the top of the ramp on the Eiger NF (this does refer to a summer ascent, which is now I gather a bit of a no go area)
> Without doubt the most disgusting, harrowing, insecure, exhausting, demoralising, soaking wet vertical river of satans shite in the entire climbing world.
Wow, nice! Am just reading The White Spider. Brave folks.
Two spring to mind. One I don't know the name of. It's at the Sea Wall in the Avon Gorge, and it involves fighting upwards past what appears to be a sewer outlet, through near-vertical brambles (no pro), to a leftwards litter-infested hand-traverse on polished crumbly limestone (no pro) to a crumbly limestone stance with a very sick tree in it (no pro apart from the tree). The start involves excavating a rabbit-burrow. I wondered why my partner was so keen to let me lead it.
The other is Bollard Buttress Direct. The climbing is OK, apart from the upper half of the route being 75 degree turf. The gear is very emphatically not OK at all. In layman's terms, there isn't any.
In reply to Goucho:
Its got to be pitch one of Hades in the devils kitchen, mind numbingly terrifying choss with a belay we daren't abseil from, 5 equalised pieces, 2 of which ripped when I weighted them, escaped up the relativly solid advocates wall. Pretty memorable, but I won't be repeating it!
Though if I was going for the guidebook route-description of that Avon Gorge shite-fest, I'd probably want something like: "The best tactic for protection on this route may well be to wear a loose-knit woolly jumper and hope that, if you take a lob, it'll get snagged in the brambles".
Single pitch - Cullen Chimney at Logie Head. Looked great from the bottom but it rapidly turned out to be where all the guano & detritus from the birds nests got channelled, added on at least two grades I think...
Probably both nicer than the Eiger experiences mentioned though.
Accidentally finishing directly up the upper crack on Wen. My first time ever on a sea cliff iirc.
Running together two easier pitches in the middle of Via Cecilia on the Laston di Formin in the Dolomites. The first was one of those typical Dolomites in-between pitches, walking up rubble in the bed of a wide chimney at around Grade II/III. The second traversed out across the wall of the chimney in quite a nice position, but with none too great rock or gear, and hideous rope drag because I ran the two together "to save time". Brilliant route as a whole though.
The first - and last - ascent of a low level traverse at Markfield Quarry, that fell into the water while I was climbing it. Not unlike the top pitch of Wen, really, except the water was closer.
In reply to Goucho: Generously Cut Trousers in Chee Dale, where turning the grass cornice running with water was particularly challenging, the rest of this slime fest was easy by comparison. Our own fault as we sought out this esoteric 'gem'
In reply to Goucho: The last pitch to my first big wall in Monte Brento, after a day on the wall- we took it slow, we just wanted to get off and walk back to our camp, the last pitched was crumbly steep rock, hugely vegetated where i used my fingers as picks, the only bit of pro for 25m being a protruding root.
In reply to Goucho: Pandora's Box at Brean on the Beach. it gets some stars though I can't think why. After getting up a fairly none descript VS which is polished and a bit chossy in places you then run it out up a sandy grassy slope which felt 'orrible to a naff belay stake that we elected not to Ab off but walk round. Not as bad as many of you describe but I vowed not to climb trad there after the experience.
> Though if I was going for the guidebook route-description of that Avon Gorge shite-fest, I'd probably want something like: "The best tactic for protection on this route may well be to wear a loose-knit woolly jumper and hope that, if you take a lob, it'll get snagged in the brambles".
That's a description that really should be in a guidebook...
> (In reply to Goucho)
> - Something at Upper Scout Crag in the region of Rambler's Hangover - I just followed my nose and had to climb 3m of steep slime.... in big boots, 25 m up with no gear, and with a waist belay.
Come to think of it this may have been a new route. In which case it's at least 2 stars, modern classic, etc etc...
In reply to Tim Chappell: Extraordinarily unlikely that I will, but someone should!
My nomination for a terrible pitch would go to something in the Lancashire quarries, except that my memory has succeeding in placing all recall of such esoteric choss-topped dirty sandy delights into a quarantine area that I can't access for my own mental health. It'd probably be something in Lester Mill. I would nominate Terror Cotta in Anglezarke for the fusilade of missiles that rained down on me after my partner had reached the top but the climb itself was rather good, if quite intimidating.
Probably the worst *climbing* I've ever done was at the frankly lethal Lundie Craigs in Dundee's very own Sidlaws. The sensation of climbing on something that is falling down almost faster than you can go up it is unbelievably unpleasant. Like trying to walk up a down escalator, only with someone at the top of the escalator lobbing microwave-sized lumps down at you the whole time you're doing it.
But that was terrible *climbing*, not a terrible *pitch*, because what I climbed at Lundie isn't a route, because no one except me has been mad enough to try it. If it was a route, the route name should be "Don't".
Indeed. On Skye when the Cuillins were clagged in, we went to a small basalt cliff near the sea. The description of the climb should have been 'Climb upwards with increasing speed and anxiety on a series of disposable holds. The route will be very different, but no less traumatic, for your second'.
Climbed any of the basalt pinnacles around the Old Man of Storr? I've done a couple of those. Never again. They were both brown-trouser experiences. The route description for those could read simply "You will wish you hadn't".
The top pitch of The Yellow Edge in the Dollies: survival of the party is ensured by touching as little of the rock as you can!
In this country, pretty well any of the sports routes in Cheedale. Of course Horsesh*te Qy is a no-brainer.
The worst place I've climbed in the Lakes is Boat Howe Crags - two inch thick layer of moss on a north facing crag, yeuch. Never climbed on the crag above Wharnescale Bottom with Paper Tiger on it though which might be as bad.
Only the third route I ever climbed - Clachaig Gully, went the wrong way and ended up on a loose rubble heap held together (partially) by grass & heather. At one point I had to rearrange a ledge full of tv sized blocks to prevent total collapse as I had a sling round one of them. Nearly a very short climbing career for me.
> (In reply to Goucho)
> The top pitch of The Yellow Edge in the Dollies: survival of the party is ensured by touching as little of the rock as you can!
> In this country, pretty well any of the sports routes in Cheedale.
Goodness, what sensitive plants some of you people are.
The top pitch of Yellow Edge, for example – I did that a year or two ago; I don’t even remember this pitch as different from the rest – pretty ordinary limestone-mountain stuff, I’d have said. If that’s going to be the worst experience of your climbing career I’d have thought steering well clear of the Dolomites in general was a good plan.
We may have been on the wrong line - just remember bridging up a chimney for 50m not wanting to touch anything especially since there was a party behind us who would have been directly in the firing line.
Back in the UK, the first pitch of Extol on Dove Crag is pretty dire even for lovers of foliage. (the second pitch isn't much better)
In reply to johncoxmysteriously: I think there seems some confusion between most harrowing pitch and worst pitch on this thread.
The first pitch of Shelob on Gower that I nominated earlier is far from the most harrowing experience I've had on a pitch, but in terms of quality it really is the pits.
My partner thought he spotted a cleaner line through the jungle starting from lower down and further right than the usual start, this turned out to be illusory and just meant the bushwhacking was substantially extended. This pitch requires more than a trowel and secetaurs to make it resemble a rock climb - napalm perhaps!
In terms of quality there can barely be a climb with two pitches that contrast so markedly, the second pitch is 'out there' for the HS grade - bridging up a cave with wild exposure to escape via a squeeze through an exit hole.
'The Trough' on Carrock Fell was one of our less bright ideas during a lakeland monsoon period.
There are also many places along the UAE and Oman border where I can honestly recommend that people should not attempt second ascents - either due to the pathetic nature of the climbing, or the almost total lack of solidity. I believe it may be the place where the term 'chossaneering' was coined.
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
> The single worst pitch you've EVER climbed?
Nah not really. Certainly the biggest disparity between hype and reality though.
> What a charmed life you've had Jon. So you prefer anything Horseshite Quarry then.
I guess not. The answers I usually give to this question are Boomerang at Willersley, or that crap VS at Black Rocks that gets 3* despite the fact it's mainly grass and broken glass, with two little patches of polished rock at the start and finish. That said, the approach pitch to Falcon is quite horrible, especially if you get rained off without even climbing the route.
I suppose technically you could say that the pitches of steep grass at the LHS of Gogarth Main Cliff or Easter Island Gully are worse than "proper" pitches like Lean Man's Climb, but I kind of like them as I've always just climbed an amazing route and am about to get back alive.
> (In reply to Jonny2vests)
> i'd forgotten about that one. start is horrible but the top is much better. i nearly came off 10m up when a hold came off in my hand - that was before i'd found any gear placements.
> off the top of my head i'd probably say p1 of aurora at stoney. much like the start of mortuary steps (crap rock, crap protection, crap climbing) but without the better part at the top
Yes, a very scary pitch, but there's much worse than that. For example, some of the trad routes at Taffs Well were absolutely terrifying (I see a lot aren't even mentioned in latest guidebook).
Hah - as it happens, on my first visit to Tremadog I climbed a route called Axminster. In retrospect, the clue was in the name.
However, that wasn't why I remember it - atop the main pitch, I belayed by putting my one and only new sling round a tree and attaching it to myself with my one and only new screw-gate karabiner. My second then climbed the pitch and I lowered them off, preparatory to abseiling off the tree in what I then conceived to be the approved manner.
Unfortunately, when it came to it, I was unable to unscrew the screwgate. I can't now remember how I was rescued - I think some more experienced member of the (university) club was obliged to re-follow the pitch and use his stronger fingers on the thing - but I do remember the embarrassment.
> I suppose technically you could say that the pitches of steep grass at the LHS of Gogarth Main Cliff or Easter Island Gully are worse than "proper" pitches like Lean Man's Climb, but I kind of like them as I've always just climbed an amazing route and am about to get back alive.
Counting your chickens before they're hatched, perhaps?
I don't understand what you have against Lean Man's Climb at Black Rocks - a very fine climb. And Lean Man's Superdirect is one of the very best VSs on gritstone, if not THE best. The only other contender I can think of for the number one position is Birch Tree Wall at Brimham.
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: As a rock climb it is undoubtably 'Generously Cut Trousers' on the First Lift in Cheedale. See page 311 'On Peak Rock', though as a climbing experience 'Chocolate Blancmange Gully' on page 310 of the same publication runs it close.
In reply to Goucho: The first time I went sport climbing in Kalymnos, I did a 6a route in Arhi Right that I can't remember the name of now. The first two bolts were a boulder problem, ok but nothing special, which is what earned the route its 6a grade, while the rest of the route (a further 7 or 8 bolts) was an easy, uninteresting slab that was probably only a 4a or so. Nobody capable of the intitial boulder problem would have much interest in the scramble afterwards, and no beginner who would actually enjoy the scramble would have been able to do the start. It was a complete waste of time! Given how much amazing rock there is, not just in Kalymnos generally but particularly in the Arhi sector and most nearby sectors, one has to wonder why it was ever bolted.
In reply to a lakeland climber: Had a very similar experience at Boat Howe Crags. I was on a quest to find Lakeland crags I hadn't visited, and we went there during a very dry spell attracted by all the starred routes in the guidebook. We climbed one route brushing thick moss off every move and then bailed out to the Napes.
Another Lakeland pitch that is truly unpleasant is the first pitch of Prana, Black Crag traversing through the slimy streak. Top pitch more than makes up for it though.
Route III, VD, at Gardom's is a possibility. This was an ant infested vertical heather fest, where I wasted too much energy and turned into a lumpy mud creature, after excavating in vain and pain for gear (my partner that day decided to never climb with me again and I decided in guidebook work I would give up on climbing every low grade listed route). Alternatively the straight up line left of Cumberbund on Ossam's Crag: which had no runners and not a single solid reliable hold in 50m and I've never been so glad to lacerate my hands on the brambly top out given I hadnt killed myself on a severe.
Despite once or twice ending up on some teitoring piles of choss (including 1 attempt at new routing at Sandwood bay), for some reason the thing that stands out in memory is a climb to the left at Dunkeld.
The name escapes me. It was my mates idea. He has a thing for the sort of dirty vegetated faces most would rather leave well alone. It started OK. I led up some distance, making my way to a good section of near vertical peat. It was reminiscent of climbing a snow gulley. Except for the kicking in with rockboots not crampons, and placing ones hands in loose, personally created hand-holds or, if you were lucky, pulling on poorly attached heather. Then i found some respite, and more importantly good gear. Enough for a belay. I had plenty of rope left to get to the top, but then after all, he wanted to do the route. So only fair to let him lead the rest of it, eh?...
> (In reply to Jonny2vests)
> And Neist...
> By the way - where does the line between basalt and dolerite lie? I've seen all of those crags described as dolerite, but Tremadog is allegedly dolerite too, and it's a whole different kettle of fish.
The geology books say that it's about crystal size - basalt is said to be a lava, cooling quickly so very fine grained. Dolerite is said to be an intrusive rock, so cools more slowly making bigger crystals (but not a plutonic rock, cooling very slowly at depth making big crystals - that would be gabbro). Personally, I find it hard to distinguish them.
In reply to Goucho:
Risk of Infection at Ardnamurchan is pretty rubbish... A couple of good moves followed by a bit of loose but easy ground and then it's all over. Disappointing as it looks good from the ground and the quality of the rock there is generally brilliant. Ah well...
In reply to Goucho: For me it was the first pitch of "policeman stole my walkie talkie" at Los Cotos in El Chorro; we waded through the jungle to escape the polish and found what was meant to be a low graded route "Embolia Cerebral" (literally; the stroke) where even reaching the first bolt took a committing move on a polished smear, and led to the second bolt approximatly decking height above the first, then a similar run out to a blind english 5a move that felt 5c to me becuase I missed the hidden jug! Not what I was expecting from a warm up route, I ended up sunburnt and deflated, didn't bother with the 6b continuation, would not recieve my recomendation unless you lead E2!!!