UKC

FRI NIGHT VID: Skeleton Ridge - The Needles, Isle of Wight

Tonight's Friday Night Video from UKC user David Linnett is a short film about a trip to the Isle of Wight to climb one of the UK's most iconic adventure routes - Skeleton Ridge on The Needles by Totland Bay. First climbed by the legendary Mick Fowler in November 1984, this 5 star esoteric and chalky HVS has gained cult classic status over the years and comprises about 160 metres of climbing over 6 pitches with some of the most outrageous exposure to be found in the UK.

David describes his adventure below:


'Regarding the extraordinary 6th and final pitch, 'The Ridges of England, Wales and Ireland' by Dan Bailey rather succinctly quotes "if there is a more sensational pitch anywhere then you don't want to climb it"! Which kinda says it all really...

So on Saturday 28th of May at 8.15am, my partners in crime and I did a short ab into the Battery Moat to access the abseil stake, followed by a 90 metre chalky and chossy ab into Scratchell Bay. Spluttering, covered in white dust and resembling a bunch of dodgy plasterers we then scampered along the beach as quick as possible to catch the optimal low tide at 9am, thus negating the need to have a naughty wade to gain the start of the route. Unsurprisingly chalk is rather a strange medium to climb and I thought it would be a bit like climbing feta cheese! However it is remarkably hard and solid (for chalk!) although there is always a wee nagging doubt that a hold or ledge may explode at any time. Once established on the route, a rollercoaster ride of buttock-clenching ridge featuring amazeballs arêtes and fantastic fins of à cheval awesomeness on the edge of nothing are clambered whilst gaining around 90 metres in height all the way up to the Old Battery where we topped out just over 3 hours later at around 12 noon.

A huge thanks has to go to Scott and all his team at the Old Battery for making us all so welcome so thanks a million guys as it was muchly appreciated! An honourable mention must also go to Stoats Farm Caravan and Camping as it is a lovely place to stay and ideally situated for the ridge being only a few minute drive to the Needles.

For any parties interested in climbing Skeleton Ridge please note that you require advance permission from the National Trust Administrator on 01983 754772 at the Old Battery and also to notify the Solent Coastguard on 02392 552100 on the day of your climb, before and after so that a rescue is not mounted unnecessarily. Although the climb is technically not that hard or sustained, with the crux 3rd and 6th pitches graded at about 4c, it is a serious and committing outing requiring a steady leader and competent team, a 90 metre abseil into Scratchell Bay and the start of route is extremely tidal so make sure you get down well before low tide or you will be in for a wade or worse. I would recommend leaving a 50 metre rope in-situ at the top of the route due to the lack of anchors whilst most of the belays have an assortment of pegs in varying states of rusting decay which need backing up. We all carried rope ascenders as insurance in case of retreat and used a lot of large slings plus a few hexes and nuts on the route itself. It would also be fair to say that chalk is definitely not required so leave the chalk bags at home...' 

 



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