The BMC Access Team are urging climbers to stay away from southern sandstone crags during England's 'lockdown 2' in order to help prevent irreversible damage to the very delicate, friable rock. Photos from last weekend show a large number of people climbing on still-damp and wet rock at Harrison's Rocks, causing multiple holds to break off some classic routes and problems.
Due to improper management of Harrison's Rock area, BMC is stigmatizing climbers who went climbing there last weekend. I’m pretty sure all climbers made an effort to find dry spots and easy climbs. Due to the closure of all climbing facilities (sports facilities generally), people are seeking how to get away and have a mental escape from the covid situation. Climbers are not runners nor bikers, they climb on rocks. If BMC was more foreseeing they should have predicted easily what would happen on the weekend and closed off the crag. Ironically in the newest Summit magazine on page 57 they recommend enjoying Autumn Escape on Southern Sandstone. Is the Autumn in the UK dry&sunny? Although I understand the environmental issue and efforts to protect the state of the abused for generation routes at Harrison's Rock, I have found irritating that the best thing BMC can do is to post photos with stupidly covered faces and write stigmatizing and instructive article and post. That is really not helping everyone to go through this difficult time.
PS. Rocks break and wear off everywhere we climb. Don't fool yourself that we make no impact.
We happened to run through Harrison’s at dusk on Saturday, and were surprised to find it absolutely heaving- in November? And then we realised, of course, lockdown again. I understand why people want to visit, they want to climb, I climb, I travel to climb. And it was a lovely day.
I think the big problem has been climbers who don’t understand the local environment, who treat the sandstone like a climbing wall or a sport climbing venue, when it isn’t, and it needs to be treated with a bit more care. Back in lockdown one there were so many groups dogging the routes, lowering off instead of topping out, trashing cherished sandstone routes, sending groups of kids repeatedly up climbs that were way too hard, and so on. That was bad enough but at least it was bone dry then. Now it’s soaking. I know, I had a look today. And when it’s wet, if you do the above, the rock disappears, it’s soooo fragile. Yes, all rock breaks eventually, but southern sandstone really is different.
Every single climbing wall in London and the south east should be sharing the hell out of this article. Posting it on their social media, sending it out in mailing lists to their members and doing whatever they can to spread the word. If they don't they're neglecting their duty as gatekeepers of the local climbing scene and allowing the ONLY rock (not counting the chalk cliffs) in that part of the country to get completely trashed in the process.
It's not ok to climb on this rock when is wet. I get the point.
Is not ok to post people photos without their consents. A subtle conversation at the scene was good enough as 99% backed off.
BMC should do better job than sending undercover representative to sneak out and made those photos and later play a role of smart ass. They should close area off beforehand.
The only strange thing I see here is the use of the word "classic" to describe tiny, chossy, disintegrating inland beaches!
(Yeah, yeah, I know, it's all anyone in the SE has access to)
If this rock are so important for the area just ban all climbing on them instead of negotiating unsolvable problem.
Those rock immensely wear off and break even in the sunniest and driest day.
By the way can you explain to me a geological process which leads to development of concrete on the top of sandstone?
Who did that? Beginners? Families with kids?
I was not kin how BMC representative approach a problem. Sneaking undercover and making photos, posting them and playing a role of the smart guy.
Trying to "protect" Southern sandstone is pissing in the wind. The demand is far too high.
The bmc could appoint a technician with a damp meter, clipboard and nasal voice to bray loudly "the rock is 0.02 too moist today, please climb elsewhere".
There are some alternatives
1. Let it go, the routes will only tolerate a finite number of ascents before they change, this will happen eventually whatever measures are in place.
2. Embrace it, make on outdoor Ratho, the weather is mild darn sarf so a roof and some fans should make it a year round venue. Encourage the use of pof to help stabilise the holds. Bolts, lower offs, cafes and a creche. Build some wind breaks out of ply with holds on them. Charge an entry fee.
Caveat I have never climbed on Southern sandstone, it is my ambition never to do so.
Outdoor gyms fall under the forced closure. Nearby Bowles is a privately owned crag and that's closed throughout so I don't think it'd be relevant in this instance, and people would go to their local wall at any other time unless the outdoor wall was truly cutting edge or had some other unique novelty.
Plus Eridge was closed after the increased usage from the first lockdown. You'll probably get people from the south ranging northward now to add to the gripes of the locals up there.
> If BMC was more foreseeing they should have predicted easily what would happen on the weekend and closed off the crag. >
I certainly didn't predict it. Wouldn't have expected many folk to be out in November!
> It's not ok to climb on this rock when is wet. I get the point.
> Is not ok to post people photos without their consents. A subtle conversation at the scene was good enough as 99% backed off.
Crowd photos need everyone's consent ? 99% of people backing off ? BMC should have closed the crag ?
Seriously ? Have you thought any of this through ?
Even if their faces hadn't been obscured, there'd have been no issue in posting it. If you're in a publicly accessible place then there's no right to privacy or hiding from editorial use of your face. It's how the paps work!
For God's sake. When are people going to learn to stay away from wet sandstone??
Is it time for signs at the crags? Maybe there already are; it's a while since I was at Harrisons.
Completely agree with this decision, last Saturday was insane. Crowds of visiting climbers using bad practice on damp sandstone. Mostly got away with it during the first lockdown because it was so dry this year.
I heard that one group were drying stalactites by threading slings around them and using a sawing motion and reports of snapped holds on various routes.
Maybe more needs to be done to inform climbers at indoor walls before they venture out?
The article suggests that climbers visit one of the areas artificial boulder parks, which is a great suggestion, but I've just checked Fairlop Waters (London's largest aritficial boulder park?) and, same as lockdown 1, they've shut it. Probably fenced off the boulders like they did last time.
Over to you BMC, if you'd like to contact the park and appeal to them to open the boulders?
> BMC should do better job than sending undercover representative to sneak out and made those photos and later play a role of smart ass. They should close area off beforehand.
So you believe the BMC should be popping down Harrison's Rocks everytime the rock is wet in order to 'close' the crag? What about the other SS crags that the BMC does not own that are equally prone to damage? What's your solution for them? Seems pretty clear that people should be following the general advice about when not to climb on sandstone. No excuse for ignorance at Harrison's Rocks when there's a big sign there explaining the rules.
Doesn't matter if you're press or not, if somebody is in a public space (or on land you own as in this case) you don't need their permission to take their photograph, and the copyright of the photo belongs to the photographer.
Although it might have been a shit of a shit thing to do, the BMC would have been within their rights to publish the photo without obscuring faces.
Yeah, why not? Harrison's rocks is fantastic asset for the BMC, and is extremely fragile so having a volunteer pop down on wet weekends would seem a good idea to me.
If I owned it that what I'd do.
I've just read your profile. If you have the experience you claim to have then you know full well you shouldn't climb on wet sandstone. If you were climbing on wet sandstone, or you're defending those who were, then you're an arsehole. Simple as that.
Doesn’t matter if they’re ‘press’ or not. They’re reporting on an issue which is within their remit and of interest to their membership, therefore it is editorial. If they were trying to sell a brand of bouldering mat, or rope, or climbing shoe and you featured in it then you might have some recourse as it’d be a commercial use.
> The ultimate solutions is to ban climbing there. What is a difference if you break rock if is wet or when is sunny?
The difference is that it's more likely to happen when it's wet.
It's hard to imagine you don't know the above. I don't understand your angle. If you were indeed climbing wet sandstone recently, it's time to apologise, not start acting the victim.
> Yeah, why not? Harrison's rocks is fantastic asset for the BMC, and is extremely fragile so having a volunteer pop down on wet weekends would seem a good idea to me.>
While they're at it, perhaps they can go and clean some rarely climbed routes in the Lakes...
If you calling me arsehole than how would you call pepole who bolt that crag, poured concrete on the tops and cuts hundreds of three around in orther to do meanigless activity?
As somebody here said " is pissing against the wind". You are fooling yourselves. You can climb and not destroy the rocks.
All the best
I am not exactly sure what your point is here. Wet sandstone is damaged very easily, much more easily than dry sandstone. Classic problems have been lost in Font due to chunks of rock breaking off from people climbing them in the wet. I'm sure you know that. It is a perfectly reasonable request not to climb on sandstone in the wet, regardless of whatever other stabilisation measures have happened at the crag.
Why would it be the remit of the BMC to actively open and close the crag, and thus dictate who can and can't be on the land at any one time? Surely you can see that that is completely contrary to the values that most of us hold dear when it comes to access, and the values that the BMC try very hard to promote?
The onus is very clearly on the climber to not damage the environment with their actions. It's not hard: don't 'ck about on delicate rock that isn't in condition. 'Leave no trace' and all that. Easy. It doesn't need the establishment to come and tell you not to do it. Take some personal responsibility.
> You are fooling yourselves. You can climb and not destroy the rocks.
You can't climb on wet sandstone and not destroy the rock[s]. It is not possible.
To all my critics
1. I was climbing there - apologize. Mistake it was.
2. You see, my opinion is that you shouldn't be allow to climb there at all. Createing some artificial rules that hardly anyone follows is not a solution. What difference does it matter if you break rock when it is wet or dry, summer or fall? When you climb you erod rocks.
3. Protecting eviorment by bolting frigile rocks than pouring concrete and cuttings trees around in order to climb max 10m on top rope - are you kidingg me?
4. Is this all BCM can do? Acting post fact?
All the best to everyone
Marcin Piela - Climbing Instructor
> 2. You see, my opinion is that you should be allow to climb there at all. Createing some artificial rules that hardly anyone follows is not a solution. What difference does it matter if you break rock when it is wet or dry, summer or fall? When you climb you erod rocks.
Because when you climb dry sandstone, you don't completey 'ck it. When you climb wet sandstone, you do. How selfish would you have to be to think that it's okay to trash vast swathes of developed rock just for your own gratification?
It's not an artificial rule, it's one part common sense to two parts common decency.
I wouldn't venture north of about Darlington, by the way, lest you be shot on sight.
> To all my critics
> 1. I was climbing there - apologize. Mistake it was.
As a 'climbing instructor' you should know better.
> 2. You see, my opinion is that you shouldn't be allow to climb there at all. Createing some artificial rules that hardly anyone follows is not a solution. What difference does it matter if you break rock when it is wet or dry, summer or fall? When you climb you erod rocks.
Hang on, just a second ago you were saying you were there at the weekend, now you're saying people shouldn't be allowed to climb there at all? You seem confused.
Rate of erosion is much higher when sandstone is wet, that's what difference it makes.
> 3. Protecting eviorment by bolting frigile rocks than pouring concrete and cuttings trees around in order to climb max 10m on top rope - are you kidingg me?
The bolting and concrete pouring has been done to stop people rigging their own anchors each time and damaging the environment even further, and allow people to continue climbing there for further generations. If you don't like climbing 10m on top rope don't go.
> 4. Is this all BCM can do? Acting post fact?
I agree with this point, they ought to send someone down on wet winter weekends, especially whilst walls are closed, and turn around all the complete f*cking idiots.
> All the best to everyone
> Marcin Piela - Climbing Instructor
It would appear that instructors should have a licence or be registered. So that when do something like climbing on wet sandstone. Their registration could be suspend pending an investigation.
I would really like to point any of his potential customers to this thread and ask them if they want to be supporting a climbing instructor who doesn't give a shit about the rock.
In reply to Marcin78:
> I live in Poland mate
> It was nice to wind you up
Yeah whatever. Your website below says you've been living in London since 2004. Hopefully a few of your potential clients will read this thread and get a little insight into who they are potentially signing up with.
In reply to Marcin78:
It is disappointing you and some others On this thread (a minority) are trying to say fault lies with the BMC and this could be dealt with differently.
BMC volunteers invest a lot of their free time to go to these rocks and politely point out the sandstone code. In addition the local climbing community politely tries to point out where the sandstone code is not being adhered to (lowering off, poor top rope set up etc). Usually people are ok about it, sometimes they ignore, occasionally they get aggressive. But this approach is clearly not working. If the BMC closes Harrison’s who would police it?
the approach taken is completely reasonable and appropriate. I endorse the view above that climbing walls should be spreading the word
perhaps reconsider your position?
To be fair the BMC guidelines don't ban the use of a dynamic rope, they just say a static one is better.
And whilst Bluetooth speakers are obnoxious and anyone who does that is a knob, that’s not a gym thing, it’s just dickheads, and it happens at non-sandstone crags too!
I was at a crag in Spain once and there was a guy playing a recorder. Wanted to shove the thing where the sun don’t shine!
Visiting SS in recent years, it's become clear that climbers have absolutely trashed the rock. At the honeypot sites the scars from top ropes and gaping wounds pouring out sand are everywhere. I don't really see how it's justifiable to continue climbing there with climbing continuing to grow in popularity. Otherwise at what point do we stop - how damaged does it have to be before we call it a day?
Banning climbing would put the bmc in a very difficult position. Campaigning for access whilst banning climbing on their own land.
The bmc are very good at shooting themselves in the foot but surely not that good.
> Visiting SS in recent years, it's become clear that climbers have absolutely trashed the rock. At the honeypot sites the scars from top ropes and gaping wounds pouring out sand are everywhere. I don't really see how it's justifiable to continue climbing there with climbing continuing to grow in popularity. Otherwise at what point do we stop - how damaged does it have to be before we call it a day?
I climbed there a lot in the mid 1980s. There were many rope scars even then (I can't remember the route names but, where people regularly fell off, the damage was already grotesque.) I haven't been there since - some photos of the damage over the years would be very interesting.
Tbh that was my impression when I used to visit the SS as a London resident over 6 years ago. Bowles wasn't so bad, and I enjoyed the climbing there. Harrison's on the other hand seemed close to its sell by date due to the amount of wear. I don't miss the sloping, glassy horizontal breaks! I remember feeling a long way from London when climbing at the likes of Harrison's or Stone Farm, which was the main positive.