Kilnsey, the popular limestone sport climbing cliff in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, is currently listed for sale at a guide price of £150,000 as part of an area of land measuring 18.76 acres. The listing of a British crag on the open market is believed to be unprecedented.
> Maybe nobody buys it and everyone carries on as usual.
Or a group well meaning conservationists buy it and access is restricted. All options exist and 150k isn't really that much money, plenty retirees could take that out of their pension pot and purchase it.
How much could access be restricted outside of the 20 days a year (or whatever it is under CROW)? I guess the new owners could stop bolting taking place, but I think access for climbing is specifically protected under access land?
The BMC are carefully exploring all options and have not come to any decisions yet.
As has been posted already there are some risks associated with a change of ownership, but given the land designations these are considered relatively low.
The BMC has a very limited fund set aside for the purchase and management of crags on a last resort basis. A full purchase of Kilnsey at the guide price, plus management costs would use up a large proportion of this and can't be justified within the terms of the fund given the low risk to access and opportunity cost of using up the fund.
However, given Kilnsey's exceptional importance and our recognition that ownership would secure untroubled access for the long term the BMC would do whatever it can within its means, to support a serious crowdfunded bid and would be keen to discuss this in detail with any individual or group thinking along those lines.
Here in South Africa our BMC equivalent, the MCSA, has a long history of buying crags. Unlike the UK, access to wild places in SA is mostly privately controlled, so MCSA crag ownership has been key to securing perpetual climbing access (and in preserving the wildness of some places which would have otherwise been turned into resorts). If there is any option for climbers to own a crag like Kilnsey it should be jumped at! The benefits to current and future generations of climbers can't be overstated. And, even converting the selling price to our weak Rand, its pretty cheap! The MCSA has spent more than that in recent years to buy prime crags, and its membership numbers are tiny compared to the BMC.
This is good to hear. If the land is genuinely worth that amount then the BMC could recoup some of the cost by reselling most of it. However, this does seem to be valued above similar in the area which is odd as, for whatever reason, the sheep don’t graze under most of the area below the crag and other parts are covered in scree.
So my view is the BMC should buy it but not at a net cost of £150k
> I agree that one consideration the BMC should apply when considering purchasing a crag like Kilnsey is the proportion of BMC members who would benefit.
I don't understand why this keeps coming up. Kilnsey is not a minority crag - sport climbing in the 7th grade hasn't been niche for years. The loss to British sport climbing would be absolutely huge if access was lost - it is one of the few bolted crags in the country that can compare to places in Spain and Greece for quality, and the fact that there is little there for beginners does not change that.
> Harrisons Rocks or Bwlch y Moch it isn't.
This is demonstrably wrong, just look at the logs. Since the start of May all 3 crags have had several teams on them almost every day so in terms of popularity, Harrison's or Bwlch y Moch it pretty much is! In comparison Crookrise, Aldery Cliff, and even to an extent Longridge and Stone Farm Rocks have been very quiet. If the BMC were only interested in conserving big-hitter crags with loads of VSs on we would all be screwed, but thankfully they appear to be less short-sighted than that.
> Why is access suddenly 'being lost'? The crag is on CROW land?
> I can't imagine this sale going through anyway (to anyone but the BMC).
> It would be a totally irresponsible use of BMC funds to buy the crag, but probably more worthwhile than a cack-handed corporate rebranding exercise.
Completely agree with you. Why are so many people either willing to throw away 150k of BMC money pointlessly or even donate to the purchase? If CRoW access status could be reversed I'd see the logic. Hopefully, if Labour come good, access will be gained to a lot more in the coming years.
I'd certainly prefer most of the cost of such purchases to be crowdfunded in normal times (the BMC had a deficit in 2022). If everyone who has climbed (or is looking to climb) the most popular routes there just put in a tenner, and we had a number of bigger donations, it might be close to meeting the advertised cost (and such purchase prices can often be negotiated).
I'd add, if purchased, it will probably need a local volunteer management team (as per other BMC crags).
It is possible, through the BMC office, to arrange to donate (bequest etc) to an internal BMC charity: the BMC Land and Property Trust, who own some of the BMC crags and make grants for upkeep etc (it's frustrating to me there still isn't a direct web link to the Trust with a gift aid facility)...those who can afford to donate will help the BMC respond to emergency purchases in the future (being in a Trust, the money is ring fenced for Trust aims).
The BMC is also actively searching for new volunteers on the Land Management Group that considers all BMC owned and BMC managed crags, as advertised in the recent article on Kilnsey:
> I don't understand why this keeps coming up. Kilnsey is not a minority crag - sport climbing in the 7th grade hasn't been niche for years. The loss to British sport climbing would be absolutely huge if access was lost - it is one of the few bolted crags in the country that can compare to places in Spain and Greece for quality, and the fact that there is little there for beginners does not change that.
Couple of points, I'd bet Kilnsey is a minority crag in that less than 50% of climbers (let alone BMC members) could lead anything worthwhile there. More likely that more than 50% of climbers would aspire to climb something there.
Apart from that I agree, it is a world quality climbing asset that it is important to retain access to. Whether the BMC should be buying it is a slightly different matter.
IMO BMC should only buy at £150k if the alternative was complete loss of access.
I would be a little careful what you wish for.... a biodiversity focused owner would not necessarily be very climbing friendly. We might all love nature but high trafficked areas of rock don't tend to hold as much biodiversity (some student projects I know of do show this. but anecdotally its clearly the case also) and also erosion , disturbance etc etc etc. someone who is only acting in the interest of nature above all else wont necessarily think climbing is a good thing... where as a farmer who doesn't have some rare lichen's best interests as their primary motivation is probably less bothered ...
> IMO BMC should only buy at £150k if the alternative was complete loss of access.
I agree but mainly because, compared to other land it seems overpriced, probably no more than half the 18 acres are actually grazed on and there is zero chance of any sort of development. I think with some crowd funding it could be bought without too much cost to the BMC. On the other hand, maybe £50-£75k (£50k from crowd funding and then some negotiation on the price) is too much to ensure access in perpetuity when the risk of losing that access is so low (even if it is one of the top 3 most important crags in England and Wales)
> Couple of points, I'd bet Kilnsey is a minority crag in that less than 50% of climbers (let alone BMC members) could lead anything worthwhile there. More likely that more than 50% of climbers would aspire to climb something there.
That's a very odd definition of minority crag. I'm sure way less than 50% of climbers have urgent strong intentions of actually climbing at *any* single crag in the UK. Mainly based on location.
But that doesn't mean it's not of interest to people who do want to climb there.
Look at it another way: What would you say is the most unique, well used crag in the UK whose loss would have the greatest impact?
I'm sure Kilnsey would be right up there. I have no interest whatsoever in hard sport climbing, but get the distinct impression that it is in a league with Malham only ( and gordale I guess if you like dank windtunnels) as far as inspiring hard sport routes go.
Even stanage, the obvious answer, probably has more similar alternatives available than Kilnsey.
Ben Nevis is the only one I can think of that is more in a class of its own.
> Why is access suddenly 'being lost'? The crag is on CROW land?
Little chance of access being lost, except for the 30 days a year of whatever; every chance that the new landowner won’t be happy with drilling bolts, which is a somewhat critical part of a largely sport climbing crag!
Land prices are only going up, so I can imagine there are plenty of people who would buy this just to add to a portfolio.
> every chance that the new landowner won’t be happy with drilling bolts, which is a somewhat critical part of a largely sport climbing crag!
I doubt it. Given that there are probably hundreds of bolts already placed what objections to a few more could there be? It's not even as if lots more are being placed. Kilnsey doesn't seem to be a hotbed of development these days. The big proliferation of bolts in the Dales is on smaller stuff, often retro bolting and I suspect landowners are either not consulted or not interested in the nuances of sport/trad.
Well the ones that are there don’t last forever. The objections could be based on a variety of causes, potential liability (mistakenly assumed or otherwise) is always a good one. There has also been a decent amount of development at Kilnsey over the last few years, with new lines through big roof and extensions to various existing lines.
> > I agree that one consideration the BMC should apply when considering purchasing a crag like Kilnsey is the proportion of BMC members who would benefit. Harrisons Rocks or Bwlch y Moch it isn't.
> It’s a lot busier than Bwlch y Moch and that popularity is only going one way
Well, I had to rise to this challenge!
Xmas Curry (including both the standard and the Micah Finish variants has had over 130 UKC logged ascents so far in 2023. One Step has had 98. Merlin Direct 40, Meshach 37, Fang and Plum over 20 each and Vector 17.
I looked at the logged ascents for 3* routes in "accessible" grades (6's, 7's and up to E4) at Kilnsey and couldn't find any approaching those numbers. The most I could find were Directissima at 14, Dominatrix at 7, Vizzy Vu and Comedy at 6 and The Diedre at 5.
There's all sorts of reasons why these figures might not give an accurate assessment of relative popularity, but hardly reason enough, I would have thought, to reverse that pretty stark contrast between the two crags.
Having worked in the outdoors there are many routes I've probably done a 100 plus times, I never individually named repeats when climbing personally, in a logbook I'd just write Tremadog 3 routes, Stanage 20 etc... I expect there are several individuals who've done Xmas Curry, Borchgrevinck/PMP, oberon and yogi multiple times this year already.
Kilnsey is a well-known landmark and its iconic status is not only to climbers, so the asking price probably reflects a premium for that. A lot of rural grants are now for environmental improvements so that is possibly seen as a source of income.
Access is protected by CRoW, and any threat to future bolting is entirely speculative, so regardless of whether this is a "minority" crag on the face of it there seems to be no need for the BMC to consider purchasing it.
> Having worked in the outdoors there are many routes I've probably done a 100 plus times, I never individually named repeats when climbing personally, in a logbook I'd just write Tremadog 3 routes, Stanage 20 etc... I expect there are several individuals who've done Xmas Curry, Borchgrevinck/PMP, oberon and yogi multiple times this year already.
Which would, I think, add weight to my suggestion that Bwlch y Moch is considerably more popular than Kilnsey.
> Access is protected by CRoW, and any threat to future bolting is entirely speculative, so regardless of whether this is a "minority" crag on the face of it there seems to be no need for the BMC to consider purchasing it.
It might be speculative but Kilnsey is too important a venue to risk future access. In terms of quantity, quality and difficulty it rates in the top 5 sport crags in the UK and worthy of international recognition. Guaranteeing unfettered access and climbing in perpetuity would be a crown jewel for the BMC and I’m saying this as someone who doesn’t even have a strong attachment to the place.
> I looked at the logged ascents for 3* routes in "accessible" grades (6's, 7's and up to E4) at Kilnsey and couldn't find any approaching those numbers. The most I could find were Directissima at 14, Dominatrix at 7, Vizzy Vu and Comedy at 6 and The Diedre at 5.
Looking at logged ascents at a crag where the vast majority of routes are redpointed isn't going to give a representative view of how popular it is.
There were ~70 people at the crag a couple of Saturdays ago, that's not unusual for a weekend, particularly if it's too hot for Malham.
Even if we knew the answer where would that lead us?
BMC surveys show just under 80% of BMC members rock climb to some extent, that's just over 60k climbers out of what must be around a third of a million (pre pandemic national survey levels on statistica).
Comparing apples and pears.....Tremadoc is a lot wider and tree covered and unlike Kilnsey it's hard for anyone to know how many climbers are on all of it. Kilnsey can be rammed in good conditions whereas Tremadoc is often busiest on less than perfect conditions as in the best conditions climbers may be looking more at mountain crags.
I'm not so sure... on the one hand cars in traditional climbing spots are a higher probability of being walkers these days (really noticable on our recent Molwyns visits), but on the other hand climbers are more adaptable due to Tremadoc parking problems and a greater desire to use public transport or lift share. Where a Kilnsey classic has a queue, the same number of climbers on a Tremadoc classic could be queued, on different pitches or abseiling or walking down. I think any such comparison is irrelevant: they are both nationally important crags for different reasons.
Due to the difficulty of parking in both locations, and the lack (to my knowledge) of obvious walks, do you really think that a significant proportion of parked cars beneath either crag are likely to belong to walkers?