Rachel Crolla recalls the highs and lows of completing all 83 climbs in Ken Wilson's book Classic Rock. Puerile tickers, take note...
Soaked to the skin by driving rain, rattling off a string of expletives, crushed between the sides of an impossibly slimy chimney and squirming in the filth with an unwieldy rucksack… that was when I became hooked. It was a terrifically feisty VDiff, which no one would find easy. The climb was Great Gully on Craig Y Ysfa and from this point on I was obsessed with Classic Rock.
There are photos in my gallery of a drier Clachaig Gully for others interested in a drier ascent for the list. We really need a replacement Cornish climb for Terrior's Tooth where the start fell off. Lynn and I still have a few to go... notably the Cairngorm climbs and The Chasm.
Good stuff. Clachaig Gully is well worth it's inclusion - after all, it's a traditional 'classic', with all that that implies. And the essay is excellent. But it's definitely not to be taken lightly at the grade.
Didn't Ken Wilson say that he regretted not including Right Angle (HS 4b) in Classic Rock? That would make a good replacement.
If it has to be the same crag then Pegasus (HS 4b) is supposed to be cracking.
Either would be OK by me. Terrior's was a HS mascarading as a VD in any case (for the bold true start). Maybe Lands End Long Climb would be the best replacement (another varied VD that should be HS for the true line). I should imagine The Chasm stops most completing the list (a very long VS with traditional technique required at the grade and not often in best condition...... defeats a few extreme leaders)
A fun thread might be which Classic Rock routes could (theoretically) be replaced with better alternatives. Raeburn's Arete into North-East Buttress would seem like a good swap for The Long Climb.
I've ticked most of those south of the border but had desperately poor weather whenever I've gone north of the border. 3 trips alone to Being Shuas were washed out. Likewise the Cioch Nose. And my last visit to the remoter crags of Cairngorm resulted in 84mph winds! Perhaps I should attempt them in winter as it seems to have much better weather.
I really enjoyed the article though. Well done!
What a great read!
as somebody at the start of their own Classic Rock odyssey (two ticked off on Tryfan last weekend!) I enjoyed this enormously and it got me even more motivated. Thanks!
> A fun thread might be which Classic Rock routes could (theoretically) be replaced with better alternatives.
That would be a good thread, definitely. For the Lakes, VS or below, maybe:
1. North West Arete
2. D Route
3. Haste Not
4. Bilberry Buttress
5. Eliminate A
6. Giant's Crawl
7. Moss Ledge Direct and Jones' Arete
8. Mickledore Grooves
9. Bridge's Route
10. Innominate Crack
11. Eagle's Nest Ridge Direct
12. Eagle Front
13. Oxford and Cambridge Direct
14. The Coffin
15. New-West Climb
To be fair, you can't improve at the grade on Bowfell Buttress (VDiff), Tophet Wall, Murray's Route or Troutdale Pinnacle.
There is this ticklist which has the alternatives suggested in one edition:
That list appears in the first edition under ‘Other good routes’ (a list of alternatives to the main ones in the book and ‘Other worthwhile climbs’.
Seems a way better combination than Long Climb in my view.
Hi Rachel - Without a shadow of doubt, this is by far and away the best article that I have read on UKC for a long time, it really resonated with me.
Thank you for sharing the magic.
A really really good read. You can feel the adventure and the pleasure you’ve taken from it all, oozing from every line. Kudos for completing it and extra kudos for this fab article.
One of the best articles I've read on UKC in ages. I usually get bored reading them and just look at the pictures but this kept my interest all the way to the end.
Great article and great achievement Rachel.
Absolutely first class read, Thanks!
Great photos too. I'm glad to say I had a much drier Clachaig Gully experience, though I did manage to spend 24 hours in it.
Great article, very enjoyable - I still have a bunch in Scotland to do....
BTW the ticklist is here, I was a bit surprised it wasn't included in the article. https://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/set.php?id=8
Brilliant account, Rachel. I am ticking my way through Snowdonia Classic Rock for the Joe Brown Challenge. Whilst I have climbed many of them already, I am enjoying the focus that comes from a list as well as the mild anxiety that "shall we go to the coast" brings, as there is nothing on my list at the coast! Bravo, great piece.
> A fun thread might be which Classic Rock routes could (theoretically) be replaced with better alternatives. Raeburn's Arete into North-East Buttress would seem like a good swap for The Long Climb.
Provided that in no way it was then thought of as 'Classic Rock' ! I think part of the the appeal of the the Classic/Hard/Extreme series is the outright quirkiness of the selection. It most certainly isn't, or never was, just another 'best of' compilation.
I think its me and my mate Phil who are on Napes Needle in the photograph in Classic Rock. I never spotted it for years. I remember Phil saying at the time he'd been talking to a photographer on Needle Ridge. It was a long time ago 1975ish I'd guess.
Excellent article and well done for completing the whole tick list. These climbs are the foundation of climbing as I knew it. There are some great climbs here and many of them are more difficult than the grade suggests.
I started climbing in North Wales in 1958 and we worked our way through these climbs in all kinds of weather with minimal gear - it was our learning experience. I had only just started climbing and I particularly remember a cold, wet November day when we did Hope, Lazarus and Groove Above. It was not an easy day out.
I did all the climbs but one that are listed in the Wales section.
When Ken was writing Classic Rock he needed a photo of the Cioch Nose and I gave him, one but he rejected it because he said it was not sharp. Odd, because when I submitted that photo to UKC it was voted a "5"
Anyway, well done again for such an entertaining article.
Great article Rachel.
I'm also a female "puerile ticker" so I completely understand your sentiments about structure, focus etc. I get really excited planning stuff.
Classic Rock is such fun - I'll probably never finish it now as while I've only the Pillar routes left south of the border there's a few Scottish ones that are probably out of my league now. I did get Clachaig Gully done though, many years ago. I just remember thinking "how much longer is this going on? Can't we get out of this bloody gully?"
I know you've done most of the routes with 1 partner but for me they've almost all been with different partners. I feel as if I've got my own set of narratives and stories, a bit like CR, which is very precious to me.
I'm sure you've inspired loads of people in the same way that Ken inspired you and I.
Maybe Diocese or South Face Direct? Both a bit harder than Terrier's, but both excellent and classic, especially Diocese, best VS I've ever done. However, I think it would be hard to beat Right Angle for the grade! (at least in Cornwall)
Admitting to having a wee fully clothed just to warm up: a hilarious and thoroughly accurate evocation of mountain cragging in Scotland. Loved it
Both much too hard for classic rock. Diocese especially, which is borderline hvs. The vs routes in CR (in England at least) are low in the grade and/or 4b.
Should probably know more about classic rock before commenting on a thread about classic rock :/
I think the Clachaig Gully with normal dry day flow and The Chasm in anything less than a drought would both be adjectvally harder than those two Cornish VS climbs combined. Some might argue Long Climb is HVS 4b for rock quality, route finding and length. The old adjectival grades in Classic Rock are simply not to be trusted.
One question for Rachel: what next? Where do you go after Classic Rock?
This - "not to improve my grade, not to lose my skin and temper on hard-won short and tough local gritstone crags, but to travel on what felt like secret ways up mountains and imposing cliffs; not breaking new ground but following in the footsteps of trusted pioneers."
Thank you for a great article Rachel. After spending a weekend at a sport crag surrounded by people obsessed with grades, I needed a reminder that climbing is just as much about the adventure and enjoying the great outdoors.
Great Article! thanks for a very enjoyable read Rachel. It certainty evokes memories of a fairly torrid time in Clachaig Gully! Certainty one I would like to re-visit after a drought just out of curiosity, also one of my favourite write ups in the book.