BMC Urge Climbers to Avoid Southern Sandstone Crags


The BMC Access Team are urging climbers to temporarily stay away from southern sandstone crags during England's 'lockdown 2' in order to help prevent irreversible damage to the very delicate, friable rock. Photos from last weekend show a large number of people climbing on still-damp and wet rock at Harrison's Rocks, causing multiple holds to break off some classic routes and problems.

Busy scenes at Harrison's last weekend.

With many climbers turning to the sandstone crags due to climbing walls being shut, the BMC are now urging people to avoid all forms of climbing on southern sandstone during in the short term during the upcoming months of wet weather.

Top-roping on wet rock.  © BMC
Top-roping on wet rock.

Sandstone is fragile when dry, but becomes especially so when wet or damp. Typically, the BMC have relied on climbers' judgement to help protect the areas, but given the actions of last weekend's group and the consequences for the rock, they've been forced to intervene with a temporary climbing ban.

Broken holds due to climbing on wet sandstone.  © BMC
Broken holds due to climbing on wet sandstone.

The statement on the BMC website reads:

'We've got a very unusual ask of all London and South East climbers for the coming months: please avoid climbing on the Southern Sandstone crags for the time being. As late autumn and winter kick in, there is unlikely to be a stretch of good weather long enough to dry anything other than very small parts of some crags.

'These tiny dry areas can't accommodate the high numbers of climbers visiting and will be damaged from sheer numbers in a sort space of time. Alongside this the temptation will be strong to spill out onto empty but damp parts of the crag and if this happens further damage will certainly be the result.

'We appreciate that this is a very difficult time for everyone and we don't make this plea lightly. We know with indoor walls closed and us asking you to avoid the crags, that unless you're one of the lucky few with a home woody, climbing is off the cards until December. We know how hard that is to stomach.

'However, if climbing continues like last weekend, irreparable damage will be done to more routes and problems. Once holds are snapped off, they can't be replaced. We've already seen heart breaking damage to some of the area's most classic routes – let's make sure what is left is looked after so this amazing resource is still there to climb on after the winter.

'Now is a great time to focus instead on home training and getting strong ready for when the weather improves and climbing on dry rock is possible again. Don't forget too that there are a number of outdoor artificial boulders in parks around London and the South East that could provide a much needed fix if you live nearby.'

Scarring on Southern Sandstone.  © BMC
Scarring on Southern Sandstone.

BMC Southern Sandstone Access Rep Adrian Paisey will be answering questions about the situation on Thursday 12th November 13.30

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10 Nov, 2020

This is strange - has the second lockdown affected climbers' ability to judge conditions?

10 Nov, 2020

I think it's just driven a huge number of inexperienced people outdoors, there were reports of something similar in the first lockdown.

10 Nov, 2020

Ah, because walls have closed? I didn't get at first why more folk were climbing because of a lockdown.

10 Nov, 2020

Also because a great many people were furloughed and the weather was great.

10 Nov, 2020

And because they shouldn't be driving from the SE to the Peak to climb.......

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