ARTICLE: The Untouchables - An Ode to Choss

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 UKC Articles 23 Feb 2022

Peter Black argues that we should show more appreciation for unaesthetically pleasing, less-than-solid crags and embrace the choss with an open mind, a delicate touch and perhaps some mild trepidation...

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 Offwidth 23 Feb 2022
In reply to UKC Articles:

You don't need a Rotwand when you have Stannington Ruffs in Sheffield, with numbered routes in the BMC 'Burbage' definitive guide, how bad could it be?. Engulf yourself in an experience that will make you appreciate good rock... as you ponder on the fact that no point of contact is secure and you have no protection and if you fall you will hit soft coffin soil full of broken glass and rusted metal....   or better still, maybe just climb good quality obscure rock instead.

In reply to Offwidth:

When I lived on Stannington Road, I spent time down there ticking Galvo Groove, 1847 and all the other quality climbs at the Ruffs. Not as bad as Generously Cut Trousers in Chee Dale, or Chocolate Blancmange Gully at Horseshoe, or most things in Lancashire 😂

 Offwidth 23 Feb 2022
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:

Let me guess..... that was a few decades back? To be fair there is a nice, if short, winter climb there in a very hard frost.

GCT and CBG are on my list, being part of the old On Peak Rock top ten esoterica.

Everything I've done so far in Lancashire has been between good and amazing (Blackstone Edge bouldering) but I've not climbed so much there.

Post edited at 16:36
 Mick Ward 23 Feb 2022
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:

>  or most things in Lancashire 😂


One way bus pass to Langcliffe. (It's OK... you won't need the return.)


In reply to Mick Ward:

Reminds me of a day new routing in Intake Quarry, where heading across the base of the quarry, it seemed like our voices brought down the tower of rock which was our objective. We dodged a bullet that day. I’m guessing Langcliffe is the same?

 Jimbo C 23 Feb 2022
In reply to UKC Articles:

The line about 'single use holds' made me chuckle to myself and think about Stannington Ruffs. What a coincidence! 

 Mick Ward 24 Feb 2022
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:

Tis rumoured none other than Mick Fowler passed on Langcliffe. Not enough death potential? Far too much??

Visits and:

0 routes done = wise person

1 route done = hero

2 routes done = feckin' eijit

3/+ routes done = legend


P.S. You can only dodge bullets for so long - no matter who you are. 

 leland stamper 24 Feb 2022
In reply to UKC Articles:

What do you mean, personal hygiene?

In reply to UKC Articles:

Great article!  There's such an essential truth in there: "To truly appreciate great routes on solid rock you must also experience the exact opposite"

I only missed a nod to some of our dusty guano infested seacliffs that are crumbling down into the sea at a marginally slower rate than desperate leaders scrabble up them

 simoninger 24 Feb 2022
In reply to UKC Articles:

Down here in Zummerzett, Fairy Cave Quarry is reckoned a Mendip gem, gets very busy and is much beloved by some. Says something about the rest of the Mendips…

(That’s me off the list of access code-holders)

 Dave Ferguson 24 Feb 2022
In reply to Mick Ward:

yep did 1 route at Langcliffe and ran away.

Did 4 routes at  Eston Nabto justify the drive, now that was stupid.

I get where he's coming from though, one of the most memorable experiences for me was doing most of a route on the Lleyn, being too frightened to top out and downclimbing the whole thing as I didn't trust any of the gear to lower off. 

 Mick Ward 24 Feb 2022
In reply to Dave Ferguson:

Famously Stevie Haston made three attempts on a certain route on the Lleyn. On the third, he lowered off three skyhooks, shook the rope and all three fell to the ground. He swore he'd never go back - and he didn't. 


 pec 24 Feb 2022
In reply to Jimbo C:

> The line about 'single use holds' made me chuckle to myself and think about Stannington Ruffs. What a coincidence! 

So how does Stannington compare for single use holds with this?

 diyduffer 25 Feb 2022
In reply to pec:

Joe brown said about loose rock, to paraphase

'You don't pull on owt, just press or  push it back in place'.

wise words..

[northern dictionary :owt = anything,

also see Nowt, the opposite of owt.]

In reply to UKC Articles:

After many years of weekend and evening climbing in the Peak District, I seemed to plateau around E3 and one year decided on seeking out the Black Spotted routes.  As it was my idea, I always ended up in the lead but when 'rearranging' the holds, it did sometimes feel the safest place.

My other goal was to climb to the top of a crag without touching rock- I managed this during an Easter weekend trip on a new route at Wintour's Leap which I called Proper Limestone, and on an unclaimed line at Ravensdale near Beachcomber!

 Offwidth 25 Feb 2022
In reply to pec:

Obviously Stannington is shortish single pitch and a lot more solid. The thing is it's dismal: oh to risk death or injury or tetinus in a damp rubbish dump!

Those of us who climb choss do so for many reasons from the good to the bad: sometimes out of choice like Dave in that excellent film; more often because it's a small part of a larger classic route; sometimes because it's degraded over time (say frost action on limestone); sometimes because although we expected adventure the description was dishonest.

I wasn't frightened at Stannington I was more disgusted. To me it was in the fourth category where you could choose lower risk options. I can understand why some with transport problems might climb there during foot and mouth when nearly everything else is banned.

I've been most focussed on a Severe called Ossam's climb, which is a straight up piece of esoterica, just left of the start of the esoteric classic Cumberbund in the Manifold. I first did it by mistake trying to find the line on Cumberbund: it was looseish but fun with a solid tree belay on the midway ledge. 15 years later I tried it again and the surface had become fundamentally fractured such that no hold on the route was trustworthy. By the time I realised something was badly wrong, I felt it was easier to go up to the ledge, and abseil, than try to down climb but when I got there the solid tree had rotted to papier-mâché and there was nothing else solid. Having been at the convex brambly top before I knew it would be slow and complex process to arrange a top-rope so for some reason I 'turned my brain off' and carefully finished the remaining 20m of choss. I've never been so happy to pull on top-out brambles. I climbed it well but personally wouldn't chose to do something like that again. Maybe 4a X as a grade but its hard to tell in full focus as you climb better then.

In contrast I chose to climb Pickering Ridge in Dovedale, knowing its character... I remember it as good loose fun with a simul-abseil escape off opposite sides as there was no solid belay on top.

The loosest rock I've tried (and failed) to climb is a shale crag in a park near the railway in south-east Nottingham... that makes the rock in Dave's film look good! Worse than the shale bands in the cloughs under Kinder.

I've also been underwhelmed by the legend of choss: Wreckers Slab was pretty much solid where it mattered and felt more like a classic Severe 4a in Yorkshire grading. Quite a few north Devon climbs I've done were a delight and completely solid.

Post edited at 11:38
 leland stamper 26 Feb 2022
In reply to simoninger:

Are you suggesting FCQ is choss? You need to get out more(in the Mendips).

 kmsands 05 Mar 2022
In reply to UKC Articles:

Not sure I get the appeal of such crags myself, but it's interesting that (probably) the best ever climbing novel, "Climbers" by M John Harrison revolves around these kinds of places.

In reply to UKC Articles:

A fantastically absorbing article!. I've been there. Try Gad cliff between kimmeridge and lulworth in Dorset. That nearly stopped me climbing all together. 

 Denislejeune 18 Mar 2022
In reply to UKC Articles:

Not true re. Ondra, he s famous for enjoying ugly lines in ugly nooks and crannies. He actually often feels that he's got to justify these choices by his interest in the inherent movements and sequences of these lines.

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