/ Out of the limelight: favourite esoteric or unfashionable crags

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Duncan Bourne - on 08 Jan 2017
Everyone has been to Stanage, Benidorm, Yosemite and all those other high profile popular veunes. But what of those other little know little frequented venues that lurk behind the bright lights of the Rockfax guides. known only through local guides or obscure out of print tomes of sketchy online topos?
I thought I would pick three climbs at non-main stream venues that I really enjoyed.
1) Lethal Flattery E2 5c Pandy outcrop, the Old Quarry section - starting to revert to nature when I climbed it back in 2000. The first part steep and a bit sketchy but with a great bed of bambles to break your fall. But the joy of it was heaving over the lip onto the upper slab which was sustained, necky and quite technical. There is the even better "Bawls like a bull" at E3 but we didn't do that one.
2) Le Chateau de Cartes 4b Pen Hir, Brittany - Cornwall comes to France. Pen Hir is not everyones cup of tea originally one of Frances few trad venues it now has several sports routes which are very popular. But the old trad lines are still there if less trafficed. We really enjoyed this low grade multi-pitch. An exciting traverse led to a sketchy chimney above a crashing sea. A sheltered ledge and then a final steep section followed by another exciting scamble to get back down to the exciting traverse. Quality adventure.
3) Pharaoh's Chimney IV Jebal Fara, Sinai - In 2007 on recomendation from a UKC user we visited the Desert mountains of St Catherine's in Sinai. At the time all we could find to guide us was an ancient online Israeli topo and when we arrived we were quite literally the only rock climbers in the valley. Having spent a day in reconaisnace figuring out how we would get off the top after our climb we set off early for our route, chosen for its shade as the temperature in the sun was scorchio! It turned out to very cool in the shade and we climbed with jumpers until we had warmed up a bit. The first few pitches were not technically hard but loose exfoliating rock abounded and you had to be careful what you pulled on. The third pitch was the best an almost gritstone like face with rounded breaks and good gear through out. After that we sailed on until we came to the last pitch a tricky 5b/c move with little gear up an elephant's bum chunk of rock (we spurned the alternative loose, very loose chimney). An exciting finish to a great adventure and although we saw desert foxes and eagles we saw not a single other person the whole day.

So what are you best unsung gems? Has there been somewhere you climbed and you thought why does no one else ever climb here? Or are there dark haunted places that you emerged from wild eyed and clothes torn just glad to be alive?
1
zimpara - on 08 Jan 2017
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Interesting thread. I would be interested to hear about routes in China
3
L Vector686 on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

> Or are there dark haunted places that you emerged from wild eyed and clothes torn just glad to be alive?

Gwern Gof Uchaf toilet
Dave Kerr - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

I had a lovely day recently soloing at Birk Gill and Brown Beck crags.
Frank the Husky - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to Duncan Bourne:
Interesting choice at no.3 - I remember doing that a few years ago and watching a sizeable chunk making it's way down the chimney towards myself and Mrs Offwidth. Needless to say we both survived but yes, what a good adventure. We finished up a thin corner somewhere out left that was probably a decent 5b. You were probably the only climbers on the Sinai peninsula. There are some fabulous climbs in the Blue Desert a couple of hours out of town, and then a lifetime's worth in the deserts to the west and north of the town. On that same trip we had 8 days in the desert and under the stars and we did smething like 40 new routes between Diff and E2.

The whole of the Sinai is easily labelled esoteric. As Offwidth himself once said "It's not esoteric, it's effort."
Post edited at 08:34
Mick Ward - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

> So what are you best unsung gems? Has there been somewhere you climbed and you thought why does no one else ever climb here? Or are there dark haunted places that you emerged from wild eyed and clothes torn just glad to be alive?

The old 1960s routes in Langcliffe Quarry. Tabula Rosa is still etched on what's left of my brain, nearly forty years later. The horror! Grade not so much irrelevant as a sick joke played on those who might still want to live. As one of the suspiciously few logbook entries note:

'A truly character deforming experience.'

Mick

Offwidth - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to Frank the Husky:

Those big main cliffs around St Catherines were bloody exciting at times ...long, serious, occasionally loose, often needing to be careful with the military and put up by hardcore Isrealis and Russians with some 1970's Northumberland style grades. The stuff put up by brits further out around the wadis and in the painted desert were much more solid and brilliant. Its a crying shame the airport, security wasn't better and so its a swine to get to and get insured for now from the UK. It will always have a special place in my heart for the local people, our crew, and onsight new routing at my limit with serious consequencies if things went wrong.

Not esoteric but effort is right... a minor world class venue for the jetsetting tradclimber.

Your magnum opus, Over the Moors, has many minor venues that typify genuine esoteric delights. Some fun exploratory days with friends in some weird and slightly less wonderful places.
davidbeynon on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

I'm planning to do some climbing on Back Tor this year. Will report back if I make it out alive.
Adam Long - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Have also been meaning to go back for Bawls like a bull, for twenty years now! Lovely spot.
Babika - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Agden Rocher is quite esoteric
Mark Bannan - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

From recent experience, most of the Cairngorm mountain crags are very unfashionable at the moment for summer rock, based on the numbers of other parties (usually nil or one!) I've seen there (especially compared to the hordes that regularly descend on Kirrie Hill!).

M
GridNorth - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:

Hi Mick. Did you ever go back. I went there once in the late 60's, never again. Similar experience at Priestcliff Quarry near Buxton. I started climbing a finger crack that turned into a fist jam, then an elbow bar then a full on chimney with most of the rock ending up at the bottom and this was a listed climb

Al
Bulls Crack - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Crag Lough, whilst not obscure, is somewhere I remember always being deserted but with single pitch S-HVS routes as good/better than most outcrops of similar size
MarkAstley on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to Bulls Crack:

Just for info, there 3 major rock falls at Crag Lough last, all I think involving injuries to climbers requiring air ambulance removal.

Mark
Kevster - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to MarkAstley:

Doesn't surprise me, I got a little scared there and asked for rope. I recall moisture absorbing lichen on slightly frail rock with rusted peg for pro. Nice place to be, when the midges aren't there. ..
Duncan Bourne - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to Frank the Husky:

We did Fistuk Halabi on Jebal Salsafa too. More straight forward but with an interesting open slab about halfway. Like you say big chunks of loose rock to watch out for. Great place though.
alan moore - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

The slabs of Stones Green Quarry in The Forest enjoyed a brief spell of cleanliness in the early nineties but have now fallen from guidebook pages.

Just up the road, Point Quarry has a VDiff prow that is better than Snoozin Suzette as well as its own Forked Lightening crack; now gone back under the protection of the bird reserve.

Sheriffmuir Buttress on Dumyat also deserves more than the vague, incorrect sentiments awarded by the current guide.
Mick Ward - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to GridNorth:

Hi Al,

First time, I led The Corner with about five people following. Well Boggie led the top pitch but I realised long afterwards that the bugger must have twigged that the top band was much more solid. But yes, like you at Priestcliff, I bridged up a (rather large) flake which was just lying against the wall. As my foot left it, it gently peeled away and fell between the ropes, luckily missing the posse below. One of 'em, Duncan, had just survived an epic on the top of the Freney Pillar. He had the sick look of a man getting lightning striking the same place twice!

About two months later, Boggie insisted we went back. I'd forgotten a sling; it was still lying at the bottom of the crag - no crowds.

Tabula Rosa really was something else. I led the first pitch and Boggie refused to lead the second. We had a huge row on the (no) belay ledge. He came out with ever more inventive excuses, finally arriving at, "And I'm a married man!" This struck home. His wife, Dot, was a good mate. I can still remember the gleam of triumph in his eyes.

Fifteen feet out from the belay, I knew there was no way back. Every hold was in danger of collapse. Instead of 5a jug pulling, it was 5c crimping at the base of the tottering flakes. Rubbish/non-existent gear. One shit peg an eternity away. I nearly came a cropper trying to larksfoot it. To add insult to injury, Boggie volunteered to lead the top pitch once again ('cos he twigged that...) By then, I was past caring about anything.

In recent years, I've wondered how much of the looseness was superficial (Priestcliff sounds fundamental looseness) and could be cleaned up from an ab rope. Though, from my experiences on Portland, I know all too well that this can also be a walk on the wild side.

But, hey, it's a great memory! Did you ever get to Strawberry Rocks? Paul Mitchell took me to it once as the new Crag X. I walked straight out again. It made Stoney Quarry look like El Cap.

Mick
Will Hunt - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

www.unknownstones.com

For those in Yorkshire.
Dave Kerr - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to Will Hunt:

That's a lovely site.
Will Hunt - on 10 Jan 2017
In reply to Dave Kerr:

Thanks! Something of a labour of love for a few of us. If you enjoyed the stuff at Brown Beck and Birk Gill then there's certainly more to go at in that valley. High Crags (Colsterdale) is a good place to start.

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