Calum Muskett gives us a comprehensive rundown of trad and sport developments in North Wales from the past couple of years.
Does Caff's route 'The Fighback' go up the new wall exposed by the rockfall? It looks pale-ish on the photo.
Yes, it's seems pretty solid considering, but with a slightly worrying crevasse at the top.
Talking of 'pretty solid', good effort on Physically Distant Luke - it looks ace!
Wow that's brave! I wouldn't want to spend much time at all in the lost world these days, it looks like there is another big one due soon.
Nice one Calum, great round up there.
Impressed by 'all these routes had been climbed on-sight without any pegs'. I had assumed some of the pegs were in place for the first free ascents.
Having climbed quite a few of these routes at Forywn and Gogarth pre and post pegging I think the new pegs work well and could also work well in some places in Scotland.
UKC management - is the Scotland round up still a thing? Theres so much top end climbing going on (and being reported on UKC) I find myself feeling unintentionally underwhelmed by it. Maybe I'm just looking for more easily relatable news - I'm not sure Im alone there though? If you weren't on the scene you'd be forgiven for thinking the only exploratory/exciting activity was in Dave, Ian and Robbies new E8's.. Ken? I recall Dave M and Kev H did a round up in the past.
Part of the interest comes off the back of a massive surge in popularity in rock climbing and in particular bouldering in the Highlands. Im wondering about a way to bring that community together so that news, climbs and repeats can be accessed and shared easily. I understand UKC might just not be the place for that. It was Scottish Climbs but that faded into archival status.
I’m glad that the article has generated positive discussion about the pegging issue (see other thread). I’ve been speaking to a wide variety of local climbers about this issue to canvass opinion but think, with the importance of Gogarth to UK climbing, it should be an ‘open-shop’ discussion. My aim is that fixed gear replacement on trad routes is discussed prior to action, as dogmatic actions lead to dogmatic responses. I also think it’s unfair and elitist to say that we’re ok with, to all intents and purposes, bolts replacing peg stumps on E5’s and E6’s, when we’d be upset with bolts replacing the old peg stumps on easier classics like The Strand or Cenotaph Corner. Climbing standards and equipment (sticky rubber boots, cams…) have come a huge distance from the 50’s and even the 80’s – the period in which many of these routes were first climbed, some of which, like Citadel, were aid routes originally. The routes I described in the article, predominantly haven’t had pegs for fifteen years or more, just rotten stumps, but fortunately they all have good protection within one metre of those old peg stumps. Replacing these pegs has made the routes easier to climb (i.e. clip and go), but not necessarily any safer. Barbarossa is an interesting case as the original peg was drilled in place, so poor ethics even at the time, although still an admirable achievement by Jim Moran. All these routes have been on-sighted on numerous occasions without the pegs.
My personal opinion is that when routes get on-sighted without pegs, then that should be considered the new normal for that route. If that puts the route out of touch for some on lead, then you can still enjoy them on a top rope, without impacting the experience of other climbers. I think it’s unfair to say that we should replace the peg on Barbarossa so that an E6 climber can enjoy it, but not the pegs on The Strand so that an E1 climber can enjoy it. Climbing in Wales (and the rest of the UK) is a smorgasbord of styles and ethics that have happily co-existed and I think discussion is key to continuing to safeguard the adventurous spirit of climbing for future generations, who will no doubt be better than ourselves and also so that we can leave challenges for them.
I’d be interested to hear what others think of what I’ve said. It’s certainly been well received amongst the people I’ve spoken to so far but perhaps that’s because I’ve not spoken to a wide enough array of folks! I’d like to work on a loose statement, along with Tim Jepson, to take to the next BMC local area meeting that reflects some form of consensus on the matter to help guide climbers in future.
Calum have you acknowledged the origin of the Irish accent joke in your article?
I could not see any such
This remark was originally from Paul Williams in an old school Wales guide book. The route was at Rhoscolyn I believe
Hi Pete, as someone not really 'in the scene' (in terms of knowing what others have been doing), I'm always interested in what's been getting done.
Thanks for pointing this out. I incorrectly thought I'd heard this as a verbal anecdote originally and wanted to recycle it! I think it was in relation to the route Jub Jub Bird at Rhoscolyn. I'll ask Nick to update this.
Old quips should not be recycled, but left to rot. Once they are gone, people should make up their own gags.
I think that your presentation of the issues is slightly disingenuous. Replacing the pegs on The Strand isn't really like replacing the peg on Barbarossa. I climbed the Strand several times when Drummond's peg runners were still ok, but never clipped them because even then they made no difference to the grade. It is, however, a great example of how routes that see a bit of traffic remain clean and therefore onsightable - unlike most of its surrounding routes nowadays.
Barbarossa pegless onsights frequently (normally?) used a skyhook runner, which does have potential for rock damage in the event of a significant fall. After the E7 start, the rest of the route is no more than E4, so it's a lot more disjointed than the E5/6 version with a peg. And somewhat prone to lichen, though less so than routes further left.
Most people reading this debate will be unaware of the technology involved in the pegs, so will surely be assuming that replacing pegs simply postpones the issue as the rot sets in again on day 1. However, these are stainless steel and designed to eliminate any fracture propogation. They are placed using a rubber mallet, to avoid flecks of steel that cause chemical degradation. In vertical or slanting cracks some resin is placed, so that the peg doesn't dislodge over time. If this technology had been available 20, 30, 40 years ago, the discussion would have been simpler as the decision would genuinely be about the real issues: does the peg improve the route or detract? We need to balance this against the specific environment of this crag. Without exception, all the routes with one very hard crux sequence and no protection above foot level at the start of the sequence quickly become covered in lichen, so that you either need to invest a day or two wire-brushing the route, or respond to the beta when somebody else invests that effort.
Some people might say "well, if nobody is climbing it, let it go back to nature". There are plenty of examples of that around the UK. But most of those routes were poor, which is why they were neglected. However, these are quality climbs and the amount of traffic they received this year (you can read the feedback in UKC logbooks) shows that it was not a lack of quality that was leading to their demise.
But while we are on the subject of easier routes and "progress" what about the dozens of pegs that make an important component of the belay? Back to the Strand again, for example. This has had stainless pegs as the belay for a decade now and hardly anybody has even noticed, although I haven't seen many people refusing to use them. But the Red Walls, famed for being serious, have loads of peg anchors, including some of the belays. These are less prone to lichen growth, so these have not had the same attention as Upper Tier. But there are several 3 star classics that are not exactly clip ups(!) but will become extremely serious, and just as loose, when the pegs have rotted (perhaps the protection is already illusory). We have the technology to replace these with a permanent solution. No more peg scars, no more rotting gear. Just a runner.
So by all means, let's have a discussion, but let's be clear about what we are debating. Things have moved on since the "thin end of the wedge" discussions about bolts. We can set rules for where stainless pegs can go (incidentally they are currently only placed in existing cracks or holes, and only where pegs protected the routes as they appeared in the classic guidebook of their era). I think that the least that people who argue for their removal can do would be to commit to helping with the wire brushing every year or two, so that it remains genuinely possible to onsight these routes.
Incidentally, I have not placed a single one of these pegs, indeed I've only even clipped one or two of them. But I think that they offer a technological solution to a perennial issue of sustainability. It would be great if people who know these routes well can decide on a case-by-case basis which ones would benefit from this treatment, rather than getting drowned out by what works on different cliffs with different rock type and different micro-climate. Personally, I think a couple of them would be better removed, but there are a few other routes that would benefit from them - one example being the Wastelands, another perhaps being the Gauntlet (even if just a ground anchor). People who know these routes and their history will know what I mean.
Hi Pete, as far as knowing about new routes in Scotland I think this is where the UKC crag logs come into their own.
it’s pretty straightforward to add a new route description to the ukc crag page and andy think most folks putting up new routes would be motivated to do this.
The issue is now do you notify people about this?
I’m not sure if there’s a way to search for ‘all new entries’ or not but if not that would be a nice addition to the advanced search options.
Another nice feature would be to be able to ‘subscribe to all changes’ for a specific crag do you are notified if someone adds or changes any details.
Not sure that sounds like the best way. I say this mainly because many (the vast majority?) of new routes done in Scotland don't appear on UKC, at least not until a few years later when a few of them happen to be repeated by someone who wants to log their climbs and they input it to allow them to do so.
> Hi Pete, as far as knowing about new routes in Scotland I think this is where the UKC crag logs come into their own.
> it’s pretty straightforward to add a new route description to the ukc crag page and andy think most folks putting up new routes would be motivated to do this.
You're very much mistaken! The majority of new routers in Scotland don't use UKC.
I made this list a while back, but I had to add quite a high proportion of the routes, and even quite a few of the crags, myself: https://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/set.php?id=3730
And that's only routes proposed *** by the FAs.
Back to Pete's original point, I think it would be a bit harder to do for Scotland what Calum's done here. North Wales is a compact area and scene, everyone knows what everyone's been up to. Scotland is much more dispersed with far more new route activity. Unless, like Simon Richardson or Rob Lovell or whoever, you have access to the database of new route submissions, it would be a big ask to pull it all together into a digestible article. I guess someone could write a highlight summary based on the SMC Journal.
Almost all new routes I Scotland are recorded by the SMC and are then released as a new routes supplement (usually the following year). Andy Nisbet used to be the person you reported to, I think Simon Richardson has taken over this role since Andy passed away. He already does a new routes update throughout the winter on Scottishwinter.com
Guy Robertson used to do quite good round-up articles in Scottish Mountaineer (edit, or was it Climb?). It's the sort of thing either requiring your finger on the pulse as far as the various scenes go or a willingness to fire off a lot of emails (or both)! Not really a problem for the winter stuff as most see Simon's page as a valuable and fairly comprehensive source of info.
You're very much mistaken! The majority of new routers in Scotland don't use UKC
OK I stand corrected then.
Any particular reason for that?
I couldn't say. Different reasons for different people, I imagine.
A lot of climbers rarely or never look at UKC, you know.
Amongst other things I'm writing a round up-type article that will cover the last 1 or 2 years; the purpose of which is not to summarise comprehensively all new routes done in an area (the SMC have done that brilliantly for a long time) but to share a bit about bigger picture development, protagonists and the scene. A look back at the old area updates would give an idea.
We all have our own interpretations of what 'works', the 'why nots' and 'hows' but I'm not feeling too confined there.. The Scottish rock scene (bouldering, trad climbing and sport climbing) is growing all of the time. Its brilliant. My view is that sharing something is considerably more interesting than nothing. A bit of a celebration of whats been going on, if you like; with some nice snaps. This might in part fill the void that a list of new route descriptions (ie UKC route/SMC update) cannot and are not intended to account for.
I know the majority of protagonists and will be in touch with them in time. There are sure to be a few I will miss, which is OK. Sharing development isn't a requirement. However if anyone feels particularly excited about a new climb, a repeat or indeed about somebody else who invests time and effort in maintaining existing boulders, sport or trad cliffs, please drop me an email and we can chat.