There is a meeting at Kendal Wall on Tuesday 20th August at 7.00p to discuss winter climbing issues in the Lakes.
The meeting is open to all
SOME BACKGROUND NOTES BELOW
Mixed climbing in winter.
The renewed interest and increasing popularity of winter climbing in Britain has created tension between rock climbers and mixed climbers. Recent winter seasons have been hard and long; previously thought-of but untried lines have whitened. Consequently more winter climbers are out on the crags. At the top-end, this desire to find and succeed on more difficult mixed problems is understandable, the technically talented and strong will continue to push the limit of what’s possible in mixed climbing. Indeed some mixed climbers take the view that any line is available.
Whilst this might be true for many Scottish crags, the predominant activity on the crags in the Lake District is rock climbing. Good climbing is not unlimited, which means that the best rock climbs are already heavily overused and aesthetically damaged. Our mountains are lower with less extensive high ground, close to the sea and in a warmer region of the UK. In winter, conditions are fragile and unpredictable, often changing from hour to hour. Historical accounts and a lack of distinction between summer and winter cloud the issue. Routes were climbed at Christmas or Easter meets, often in conditions of snow and ice when nailed boots acted as crampons. Winter ascents will necessarily create scratches and climbers in general are increasingly justifiably concerned that routes are becoming aesthetically harmed. More critically, there is concern that crucial protection placements will be damaged, compromising the climb; which ultimately will affect both summer and winter ascents. The mounting tension suggests some compromise should be reached.
The revolution that has taken place in communication provides a far more efficient means for the transfer of text and images than used to be the case. Driven by expectations of magazine presentation style and the need for financial support, the cult of the celebrity extends into climbing – and climbing high E numbers grabs headlines.
During the winter of 2012/13 an E5 on Flat crags, 1984, was climbed; the second stripping the route in thawing conditions. The ascent made the headlines of the climbing website ukc. Subsequent inspection found that the rock had been damaged.
In previous winters other marginal ascents were recorded – Snicker Snack, Gable (2003) D Route and Asterisk, Gimmer (2010) The Angel of Mercy, Gable (2011), and much earlier Central Buttress, Scafell (1986). These are all first class rock routes with no significant drainage or vegetation. They will rarely, if ever be in a winter condition where rock placements could not be used. With today’s modern tools and techniques it seems that anything can be ruled in when it’s cold and days are short. If we are to preserve these rock routes for the future we must challenge these ascents.
In Wales a clear message has been posted – that classic rock climbs should not be climbed with winter tools. This should apply equally in the Lakes.
There may be exceptions, but before you go out, ask yourself if it is necessary to climb your chosen crag in winter, or to harbor dreams of making the first single push ascent of some famous classic rock route, when round the corner or in another valley there are unclimbed lines of untold difficulty on unfrequented crags; potential future winter classics awaiting an ascent? Dismissing the celebritisation of winter ascents of extremely demanding rock climbs is essential to preserve their integrity.
Containing no significant rock climbing some crags present no real issues – Great End, Dove Crag Grasmoor, the high crags of the eastern wall of the Helvellyn range and the crags beyond Pillar on the rim of Ennerdale. Others provide good sport in both winter and summer with no competing interest – the deep gullies and broken buttresses of Scafell, vegetated Pikes Crag, the wet parts of Pavey Ark, are accepted targets; as are vegetated crags that have been dropped from rock climbing guides.
The protection of rare plants has already been embraced by winter climbers in this area and an ascent is considered to be flawed if the vegetation is not frozen hard. If you find yourself faced with unfrozen ground – back off and go elsewhere - all you are doing is wrecking the route and the habitat! Equally, if you are faced with the possibility of compromising the integrity of a rock route, back off and go somewhere else.
We must all recognise the responsibilities that rest upon our shoulders – to manage the mountain environment for future generations. As the publisher of the Lake District climbing guides (winter guide a joint venture with Cicerone) the FRCC has a special role. The burden of responsibility is heavy as we strive to balance the principal of keeping a definitive account of climbing activity in the Lake District with the preservation of the things that we cherish. Our aim is to secure the harmonious co-existence of competing interests within our sport. Our legacy must be the creation of a sustainable future for climbing through reconciliation of these competing styles.
Guidelines for Mixed Winter Climbing
The expansion of winter climbing activity in the Lake District is creating additional pressure on the mountain environment, endangering fragile eco-systems and damaging existing rock climbing routes. In an attempt to safeguard our climbing heritage and protect fragile and rare alpine plants we suggest these guidelines for winter ascents.
• Mixed rock and ice routes should be avoided if the use of bare rock is required for more than very short sections – 2 or 3 meters
• The climb should be easier using ice climbing tools and crampons
• Turf should be frozen hard
• Good style - a ground up ascent in one single push on leader placed gear
Protection on mixed or iced rock
• Cams are unreliable in iced cracks
• The presumption is against the use of pegs
• Where pegs are necessary, leave them in place
• Bolt protection should NOT be placed at all
Winter Ascents of Summer Rock Routes
Climbing any classic rock route that involves sections of dry-tooling for more than one or two moves is unacceptable
• Dry-Tooling is understood to be climbing steep rock using ice axes, with or without crampons
• Dry-Tooling should only be practiced at recognised and established venues such as The Works
• Be aware of the damage that can be caused to rare alpine plants.
Known sites should be avoided unless hard frozen conditions prevail.
Lakes has benefitted from several good winters in recent years which has led to a healthy mini explosion of winter climbing activity. However, this has involved an unhealthy tendency for climbers to simply concentrate on making winter ascents of established summer rock routes, rather than seeking out and developing new areas more suited to winter rather than summer routes. This may be convenient and such ascents may carry a degree of kudos but this approach cannot be in the long term interests of either summer or winter climbers, due to actual physical damage caused to the rock or the potential for it.
A compromise has to be reached and accepted. Currently, it is the summer climbers who are reacting to winter activities. But it would be the winter climbers who reacted if good ‘vegetated’ summer routes were gardened clean in the manner they were in the 1980s and ’90s. Therefore, this is an area where there can be ‘give and take’ by agreeing that named crags or areas are not cleaned for additional summer routes. This would involve the potential loss of good summer routes where the vegetation is staging a come back (as it tends to be after a succession of wet summers). The quid pro quo would be that some areas currently containing good or even classic winter routes would become ‘out of bounds’ in order to preserve both the nature of the rock and the quality of their summer routes.
This approach could be applied in varying degrees:
1. Whole crags or areas designated as winter or summer venues only.
Uncontentious examples might be:
Dove Crags cove, Grasmoor – dedicated winter climbing area. This
is currently undeveloped with the potential for routes in excess of
150m. No gardening of summer rock routes.
Contentious examples would be:
Gable Crag, the area between Engineers Chimney and to the right of
The Jabberwock/Unfinished Arete – dedicated summer climbing
area.This would preserve the summer routes on the finest buttress on
the crag, whilst leaving extensive areas of the crag free for winter
Gimmer Crag – dedicated summer venue for the whole crag.
2. Specific crags or buttresses designated as winter or summer venues
Uncontentious examples might be:
Blea Crag, Easedale – dedicated winter climbing crag. The northern
aspect and healthy drainage has meant that the existing summer
routes have become re-vegetated. There are excellent and difficult
(wet) rock routes that offer the potential for some very difficult
Contentious examples would be:
The summit crags around Bowfell, which are composed of a
relatively soft volcanic sandstone that is extremely vulnerable to
scratching and damage. Although at a high altitude for the Lake
District, the amount of hoar frost and spindrift is usually insufficient
to protect the rock and protection placements from damage by
crampons and axes: North Buttress, area from Scabbard to Gnomon
(inclusive) – dedicated summer venue as there is very limited
vegetation and only superficial winter ice build-up.
3. Specific routes designated as winter or summer venues only:
Uncontentious examples might be:
Crinkle Gill, Langdale – dedicated winter climbing crag for reasons
Contentious examples would be:
Flat Crags, right of Mary Ann – dedicated summer venue as there is
no substantial drainage or vegetation accept for the two routes
mentioned. But Flat Crag Corner and BB Corner could possibly
remain as winter routes as they carry both vegetation and drainage.
Cambridge Crag – free area for both summer and winter (a
traditional winter venue)
4. A combination of (2) and (3).
Contentious examples would be:
Bowfell Buttress, The White Wall area round to Right-Hand Wall (summer VS) – dedicated summer venue to avoid damage to the soft rock. The area left of Bowfell Buttress would need to be discussed – the summer routes of Silent Witness, Flight of the Ravens, Rubicon Groove and the main pitch of The Central Route will suffer badly if climbed in winter. This would leave the route of Bowfell Buttress still available as a winter climb, due to its long history as such, together with other areas of crag containing good winter climbs.
5. Areas, crags or routes accepted as being traditional venues for both
summer and winter ascents.
Uncontentious examples might be:
Great End – free area for both summer and winter (a traditional
In reply to Michael Ryan - UKC and UKH:
I'm curious as to how
"Climbing any classic rock route that involves sections of dry-tooling for more than one or two moves is unacceptable"
will affect winter ascents of Bowfell Buttress?
"The presumption is against the use of pegs - Where pegs are necessary, leave them in place" - could get quite expensive on some easy gully routes?
Do you know how well known about this meeting is? As has been pointed out, it is likely that only local climbers will realistically be able to make the meeting, (although you could argue that it should be locals who make these decisions, that's a different discussion,) and surly we chance a good number of interested parties being away during August? For this to work surly we need as many people as possible at the meeting, if this was my aim I wouldn't have chosen a Tuesday evening in August.
Secondly, (general point,) are some people now referring to climbing rock, regardless of snow cover, as dry tooling? No mention of snow seems to have been made in the descriptions above. If so this is an erosion of part of what makes up British winter climbing. Climbing snowed up rock as part of or all of a route is very different to modern dry tooling as occurs at the works, (the example given above.) if it should take place on certain routes or crags is again a different discussion, but to call both activities dry tooling is, in my mind, very misleading and potentially seen as an emotive way of vilifying an aspect of winter climbing to help achieve certain individuals end goals.
I will try to be at the meeting on Tuesday, if family holidays allow, (which is dependant on weather forecasts,) but if this meeting is seen as driven by one parties particular agenda at a time most convenient for them then it will achieve nothing other than antagonise the situation even further.
I think initially this meeting was just for guidebook people to formulate some guidelines and good practice that people can follow, or not. I posted it for the organisers and it appears anyone who is interested can go now -
And yes, realistically only climbers who live nearby will attend. Not sure if there is an answer to that.
Yes, there are people with agendas, as you know. I think the agendas are quite diverse. Nothing unusual in that.
I think the main concern is conservation of the crag environment for all and also the perception of climbing to land managers especially with videos available that show climbers bashing metal things at rock - not a great image.
I think the North Wales winter climbing guidelines have been a success and the Lakes, having similar issues, are following the lead by climbers in Snowdonia.
Thanks for advertising and commenting on this Mick.
Despite UKC protestations about timings and alleged keenness to make points, when similarly contentious issues were raised in the Peak area Moff has had less than a handful of posted comments with apologies (and nearly all from folk who normally attend, some of whom don't even post on UKC). The only practical way to run such volunteer meetings is a midweek evening. Yes its problematic for some: for the Peak area we regularly have to leave work early to get there and we average just under a 2 hour journey at rush hour (so normally leave earlier still to avoid this); coming back averages around an hour. However, this is just 5 times a year at most. People can post comments on local area pages on the BMC and on the BMC area facebook pages, pass comments more formally through the secretary. Informal comments from UKC often get picked up... UKB folk with an issue nearly always turn up in person. Also people have asked to delay lesser agenda items if arriving late. I guess some people do stuff, some people sit in their armchairs and moan.
I commend the Lakes Area for opening this up and most of what they say makes sense to me (including the exclusion of Bowfell Buttress given its long winter history). As part of the package I'd still hope they could be much clearer that they do not support aggressive actions such as the bolt chopping at the Works (whilst recognizing the concerns of the activists involved).
I agree re the solution in North Wales; the Lakes would benefit from a similar approach.
I have found reference to this meeting on the BMC website now I've gone to look, but I can't see it on the FRCC site or in the June meeting's minutes which I looked at at the time.
My point, not particularly well put I suspect, is that to gain consensus everybody needs to be engaged. One long standing winter activist I spoke to did not attend the original Staveley Meeting specifically because he foresaw aspects of winter climbing getting a good slagging and didn't want it to be said "we agreed ... at the meeting and ... was there." If these activists are not engaged because they feel they will not get a fair hearing, (which possibly the timing of the meeting and the emotive misuse of the term dry tooling indicates,) then it doesn't matter what is decided.
Out of interest where did you get the examples you sighted above from - are they your own thoughts or ones that are being widely discussed in circles that would like to 'contain' winter climbing?
Originally this meeting on 20th August was to bring together a group of Lakeland activitists to look at the furture of winter climbing activities and draw up some guidelines - there was a list put together of 30 with involvements in the various "camps". There was no attempt to push any agendas but get folk together similar to what we understand was done in North Wales. The purpose of the meeting on the 20th was to try and get a consensus of ideas to put to the area BMC meeting on 3rd September which was seen as the Open Meeting. The meeting on 20th was not considered to be a closed meeting but wanted to get folk there with all opinions - and eventually reach an agreement which all will adhere to.
There are a number of issues and in order to save time and try and get to the main issues the summary papers were put together as a starting point - which hopefully will get us to an end point earlier. We all have other lives !
The Works is there - but the main issue which we seem to need to address is what about the crags !
> Winter Climbing in the Lakes – where to climb?>
> This would leave the route of Bowfell Buttress still available as a winter climb, due to its long history as such, together with other areas of crag containing good winter climbs.
So what dubious precedent gives you the right to propose that the classic rock climb Bowfell Buttress should be further destroyed by aid??
> (In reply to Michael Ryan - UKC and UKH)
> So what dubious precedent gives you the right to propose that the classic rock climb Bowfell Buttress should be further destroyed by aid??
The flip side to that has to be. Does anyone have the right to set guidelines on ethics?
Who has the right to impose their concept of "aid" onto others?
It's an interesting subject and I'm sure that plenty people will enjoy expelling a lot of hot air but at the end of the day all we will have is a set of unenforcable guidelines that have been set by a minority within a highly diverse sport.
> (In reply to Dave Cumberland)
> The flip side to that has to be. Does anyone have the right to set guidelines on ethics?
Yes, anyone can. You can, I can, the BMC can, the FRCC can. Whether these guidelines are followed or not is up to the individual climber.
> unenforcable guidelines
Yes they are unenforceable and they should be guidelines that outline good practice that ensure that winter climbing in the the Lake District is:
Sustainable: meaning that climbers of the future will have the opportunity to practice and enjoy winter climbing in the Lakes, and that our impact as climbers on the crag environment is minimised (both ecological and aesthetically).
If a free for all results and anything goes will have to pay the consequences with our freedom to climb.
I think winter climbers should avoid going round in circles trying to define what is acceptable and what is not and really think about sustainability and freedom, and have a set of general principles or guidelines that recommended good practice: and climbers can either follow these or not.
Lastly: Media: if you do stuff on the crag that could be viewed as destructive or damaging do not put videos or images on social networking sites or send to the outdoor media. Doing so justifies that kind of practice and encourages others to do similar things. Importanly it gives us a bad rap with land managers and owners.
> (In reply to timjones)
> Yes, anyone can. You can, I can, the BMC can, the FRCC can. Whether these guidelines are followed or not is up to the individual climber.
> Yes they are unenforceable and they should be guidelines that outline good practice that ensure that winter climbing in the the Lake District is:
> Sustainable: meaning that climbers of the future will have the opportunity to practice and enjoy winter climbing in the Lakes, and that our impact as climbers on the crag environment is minimised (both ecological and aesthetically).
> If a free for all results and anything goes will have to pay the consequences with our freedom to climb.
> I think winter climbers should avoid going round in circles trying to define what is acceptable and what is not and really think about sustainability and freedom, and have a set of general principles or guidelines that recommended good practice: and climbers can either follow these or not.
> Lastly: Media: if you do stuff on the crag that could be viewed as destructive or damaging do not put videos or images on social networking sites or send to the outdoor media. Doing so justifies that kind of practice and encourages others to do similar things. Importanly it gives us a bad rap with land managers and owners.
I'd to agrre on the ecological aspects but have little time fopr climbers that claim to be offended by aesthetics.
I lose patience when people start talking about "aid" on winter ascents of routes such as Bowfell buttress. Do they realy expect the entire climbing community to roll the clock back over 75 years? Winter ascents on high crags are not a new thing, they are a huge part of all of our climbing heritage. The frequency of both summer and winter ascents has increased massively, should we be considering winter use in isolation?
In reply to Michael Ryan - UKC and UKH: Is anyone going to film the meeting and post it? As an occasional lakes winter climber I felt like I learned a lot from the last meeting, which was filmed and posted here about the various parties view points.