Hi Zimpara, it's not quite so silly as you would assume. Southern Sandstone is the softest rock climbable in the UK and generally the soil around the rock, i.e. the base erodes very quickly. Using a pad protects the soil from erosion to a considerable degree.
There are some routes on SS which start several inches lower than at the time of the first ascent or even just a few years ago depending on the popularity of the route.
> Using a pad protects the soil from erosion to a considerable degree.
When bouldering mats were just appearing, I heard (or read somewhere? I can't remember) the same argument being made in the Peak. But then, to watch these mats being dragged around the bases of crags - and, in some cases, thrown around - made the whole claim seem like a joke.
Is there *any* evidence that the appearance of mats has reduced the problem of erosion at the base of crags?
Hi Rob, there is definitely sense in what you are saying to my mind. If people are dragging pads about, it just creates a different problem.
I think if a mat is carefully placed at the start of a route then the downforce caused by lifting off the ground is going to be distributed lightly across a greater area. I am admittedly no expert on such matters, but that is the practice I use, i.e. based on common sense and I don't drag the mat around. I'm unaware of any body of evidence, however I think like most regular users of SS it would be good to understand this better and develop a best practice method. What do you think? I'm sure there are a few engineering types in the community who could offer a more solid opinion.
This is a real shame, I hope it is temporary. My first SS route was at High Rocks, it was Advertisement Wall Direct (Advertisment Wall Direct (6b 5c)). There is a whole heap of climbing history in this small area, including the remains of an Alpine Hut with climbers names scratched into the rock, bloody vandals
I've not climbed there for many years, but still think it's a loss to the climbing community.
> Hi Rob, there is definitely sense in what you are saying to my mind. If people are dragging pads about, it just creates a different problem.
> I think if a mat is carefully placed at the start of a route then the downforce caused by lifting off the ground is going to be distributed lightly across a greater area. I am admittedly no expert on such matters, but that is the practice I use, i.e. based on common sense and I don't drag the mat around. I'm unaware of any body of evidence, however I think like most regular users of SS it would be good to understand this better and develop a best practice method. What do you think? I'm sure there are a few engineering types in the community who could offer a more solid opinion.
I cut my climbing teeth on the Southern Sandstone, but I haven't climbed there for many years now so it's not my place to get involved. I guess the first thing here is try to understand what the objections of the owners to boulderers (*) and/or mats are, and then work from there to try to provide some amelioration and or good practice guidelines - if possible. Good luck.
(* Maybe the owners just have thing about beanies ...)
A counter-argument to the 'mats protect the ground' claim is that the availability of mats increases frequency of use and overall traffic. I've seen that in the Peak: now that highballs can be jumped of with (some) impunity, there are many more people giving them a go, and many more landings as a result.
In reply to Rob Parsons: I kind of understand with high rocks that they charge a high fee to limit numbers and they are private gardens. But rich toffs own so much of the land around there and often in large swathes and for much of that climbing is charged for or banned, it just doesn't feel at all right to me. Call me a hippy.
I don't think bowles should charge explicitly for climbing they are an outdoor centre and I think it sets a bad precedent even if they are a charity. If they charged for parking and use of the private road it would at least seem more inline with the ethos of climbing. I'm also sure they could make a killing with a small shop / cafe
As you suggest, it could simply be a case of association, I only heard from someone at the wall last night but haven't heard anything beyond the ban itself. I had a couple of sessions at The Annexe last week/weekend and attracted suspicious looks from the staff at High Rocks (they seem a good bunch in my experience) as I was walking towards the rail bridge from the car park. I wasn't aware of the ban at the time.
I guess with anything, you have to let habits evolve a little before any facts can be established from the practice. Is there any suggestion that highballing above mats is causing a problem in the Peak?
"You live in Scotland, right? Take a look land at ownership in that country, before worrying about 'rich toffs' down in Kent!"
I live in Scotland yeah, but I'm not Scottish. I first climbed on southern sandstone as a scout when I lived in London now over 30 years ago. Also I consider my home Brighton and I've lived there for 10 years of the last 20. So you could say I've climbed rather a lot on SS and at some of the prohibited venues and the discussion is relevant to me.
I much prefer the land use situation in Scotland to the SE its a far better set up for the average Stevo.
> The BMC - far-sightedly - now has ownership of Harrison's Rocks.
Completely irrelevant to this thread but I would argue that the BMC are rather being very short-sighted.
By combining free access with a complete failure to enforce good practice they have ensured that Harrison's future as a venue is likely to be very short indeed.
> "Bouldering has always been an issue with the owner, due to some unfortunate incidents in the past with boulderers"
> Anyone care to elaborate? I guess the boulders were blamed as a group that didn't pay?
Sure, several years ago many people entered the site directly from the car park deliberately breaking and flattening the fence. This was both destructive and avoided the entrance charge, which was less of a deal, I recall.
Was this boulderers, in the main? Yes, I'm afraid.
> By combining free access with a complete failure to enforce good practice they have ensured that Harrison's future as a venue is likely to be very short indeed.
Could you elaborate on that?
I'm not suggesting you are wrong as I don't claim to know everything going on with SS. I can say Harrison's has signs posted advising on ethics and practice. In addition, most regulars will always (in my experience) advise on this also.
A big problem is that many people come to the crag once in a blue moon and have an attitude of, "it's only once, it wont hurt". Times that by a couple thousand one off visits per year, then you've got erosion at the bottom and rope marks at the top of routes. Unfortunately, not everything can be policed all the time.
> Could you elaborate on that?
> I can say Harrison's has signs posted advising on ethics and practice. In addition, most regulars will always (in my experience) advise on this also.
They do and yet on an average visit , in my experience, (especially on a busy day) you will see many more groups violating the code of practice in some way than following it. The current approach therefore clearly isn't working and never has.
My view is that the BMC, as landowner has a duty to try and maintain this venue for the future and that if damage continues, at the rates we are currently seeing, that future is likely to be only a handful of years.
I therefore think that it's time to abandon the current stance of allowing the regulars to do all the work (and take all the risks involved), charge for access and use the money raised to preserve the rock by policing the code of practice. This might only be financially viable on summer weekends but that's when the bulk of the damage gets done.
In reply to Fishmate: I would personally like to see climbing in anything but rock boots or bare feet banned. Its not uncommon to see groups of kids scrapping away the rock with trainers on.
I would also like to see down climbing banned purely on the basis that its wearing away the rock further and the time It takes to walk around is worth preserving the rock for.
Climbing on damp rock also happens much more than it should, unfortunately this means some years only a very small subset of climbs are in reasonable condition for much of the summer!
I also wonder if the hardening chemical that is used on eroded rock and also on some of the harder climbs before the erode to maintain their climbable state should be used more widely in a hope to preserve the crags. Lets face it they aren't going to stand up well at all to another 100 years use and I think stone farm is an example of what's quite likely to happen on a much more wide spread scale over the coming years.
Top rope grooves on top of the crag are one thing but the thin crust is likely to wear through from just the climbing too and then ofcourse you have areas lower down on the crags where the rope comes in to contact with the rock and wears is smooth destroying the harder outer layer.
Not sure why you got a dislike there as there is definitely truth and sense in what you are saying. Quite how a useful approach can be put in place would be quite a task. I am aware that a lot of good work is carried out by local committees and if I lived locally would definitely contribute. But getting to the crags as often as I do can be a challenge.
I think that each individual certainly needs to be informed that they carry a certain responsibility to look after what we have. For example, the route/problem I am projecting generally ensures that most suitors don't get off the floor. The buttress is a slab but the foot of this climb is now concave as a testament to many failed attempts. I decided from an ethical stance that I would avoid this and start with a high foot on the first break. It makes the whole thing a little harder but as Dave Mc says, "if it isn't hard, it probably isn't worth it!". Fortunately my limitation is more psychological than physical or technical hence my choice.
I think viewing routes in this manner can certainly help amongst many other things and not trying routes too far beyond your limit also should be encouraged. It's not uncommon to hear people at the crags say, "but I can do a 6a at the wall", clearly not understanding the difference between french sport and english tech grades, only to see them hang-dogging on dynamic ropes.
It isn't easy and requires thought. The fact that the more experienced haven't created a solution confirms that as you say. I gave you a like for the sake of balance and fairness
I agree with the footwear thing. Use of pads and even a towel to wipe shoes before pulling on should be common practice. Tarp or rope protectors at the top of routes also.
I do see a lot of people come down from London or elsewhere and because they've made the journey will insist on getting routes in when the rock isn't in condition. Rather than go to Bowles or go inside to Karma as we can now do, they stay at Harry's. Then they claim that climbing on SS is shi*e. The more local of our community have told me this on a few occasions. What to do?
In reply to Simon Caldwell: Banned as a form of descending the crag down established climbs. The rope is often tight and therefore causing more wear and a slip is more likely than climbing up and its just wearing down the climbs for no reason.
In reply to Simon Caldwell: Have you ever climbed on southern sandstone?
Some people enjoy abseiling but that is also banned. The issue is that some people are down climbing routes (often the one they climbed up) instead of walking around as abseiling and lowering is banned. Even if its not outright banned I think it would be worth saying something along the lines of only down climb routes solo or similar to deter people down climbing instead of lowering.
Maybe you should visit stone farm, its now rapidly turning in to a sandpit.
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