Southern Sandstone Round-Up 2022

© Hallam O'Shea

2022 has been another eventful year in the South East, with plenty of new additions, repeats and, thankfully, some positive access news to report!

Tom Gore on The True Pursuit of Joy, 8A  © Tom Gore
Tom Gore on The True Pursuit of Joy, 8A
© Tom Gore

Bowles Rocks has been a popular crag for development and hard repeats, particularly in regards to bouldering. In February I finally completed my on and off project on Fandango Wall of linking together Nicotine Alley - Variation (f7A+) into Nicotine Alley Variation reverse (7A+) into Phasis (f7C) (the 7C method). This is a harder version of the link up Joyride (7C+), so the name 'The True Pursuit of Joy' 8A (video) seemed appropriate, and it certainly brought me joy to finish this off! Shortly afterwards Peter Wycislik made a much quicker second ascent commenting that due to its length it felt more like an 8b sport route.

In April, Fred High also completed his long term project on Fandango Wall and got the fourth ascent of Face me (f8A) (video) at Bowles, a viciously crimpy test-piece that has seen off a number of strong contenders. Fred has clearly been going through something of a purple patch as in September he also got the third ascent of Phasis (f7C) (video), and has proposed an upgrade to 7C+ for the boulder as it was originally climbed, rather than the easier way it is normally climbed today. The final addition to Fandango Wall (how much more can be added?!) was in May when Anthony Trigg squeezed in another traverse which climbs on barely noticeable holds under Nicotine Alley Variation, which he has dubbed Silk Road (f7C+).

Fred High on Face Me, 8A  © Fred High
Fred High on Face Me, 8A
© Fred High

Away from Fandango wall the last addition of interest is a bit of a strange one, in that it is a boulder problem that can be found half way up Bowles Rocks. To clarify, there is a big ledge with a boulder on, but you would really not want to fall all the way to the ground! In May I added Rock Around the Block (f6C+) (video) which climbs up and along the lip of this boulder, and I am sure it would have been noticed before if it was at ground level as the climbing is great fun!

Bulls Hollow Rocks and Toad Rocks (Denny Bottom Rocks) have also seen some attention this year as well. The most significant ascent (possibly of the year for the southern sandstone) was in July when Peter Wycislik climbed the much eyed wall to the right of Taurus Wall at Bulls Hollow. This is one of those classic unclimbed gems where you can see the holds, and many including myself have put a rope on it and pulled onto the holds, but being able to move between them feels impossible. Peter named the climb Rusty Wall (video) and adds another much coveted first ascent to his already bulging sandstone CV. For good measure he also added Direttissima (7a+) at the same crag.

Over the road at Toad Rocks I took advantage of the dry weather in August to add Big Cat (f7A+) (video), so named as it is basically two big moves on the Lion boulder. I climbed this with a jump start for the first move, but - for those who are interested - there is definitely potential for a more conventional start (or maybe even a sit) if we get another stretch of hot weather to dry the start holds out.

My final item to report from Toad Rocks is actually a postscript from June 2021, when Hallam O'Shea put up Crack Sparrow (f7A) and the harder (7A+) exit Captain Crack (video). Unfortunately I overlooked these problems in my 2021 round up, but having found out about them I got the second ascent in August this year. I can confirm that they are fairly unique to sandstone (involving a gut churning feet first roof crack) and are most definitely worth seeking out, although I did feel thoroughly beaten up by the experience, so worth climbing at the end of your day!

Hallam O'Shea on Crack Sparrow, 7A  © Hallam O'Shea
Hallam O'Shea on Crack Sparrow, 7A
© Hallam O'Shea

There have been fewer developments at Harrison's Rocks this year than at some of the other crags in the area, but in April I added a few problems to The Cave sector, climbing through the nicely sloping lip feature. The best two of these were The Lip Traverse (f6C) (video) which climbs along the entire feature, and Fat Lip (f7A) which starts round the corner in the depths of the cave itself and is a climb of contrasts, beginning on crimpy ironstone holds before finishing on the slopers of The Lip Traverse.

Finally, in July I added a climb to the right of The Bolts (7a) on a blank looking wall that unfortunately climbs above the uneven ground of a small stream that is muddy, even if it is not exactly flowing with water during the summer. The climbing was less strenuous than I had originally thought, with the crux involving getting your feet round the roof of the boulder before making a big move to the top, and Parmenter (f7A+) (video) is the result. I opted to climb this on a shunt rather than risk an unpredictable landing from the top move (particularly as I was on my own that day), but I think it is not unrealistic to climb this as a boulder problem.

Fred High on Phasis, 7C  © Fred High
Fred High on Phasis, 7C
© Fred High

I thought I would finish this article with the good news in relation to climbing access at Eridge Green Rocks. Eridge has been one of the most important (and popular) crags for the climbing scene in the South East for a number of years, but unfortunately in 2020 there were a number of issues that led to a temporary suspension of climbing access. In July, after careful negotiation with the Sussex Wildlife Trust (who own the land), climbing in certain sections of the crag has been granted following certain rules/conditions which are clearly shown in this video. I would strongly recommend watching this if you are interested or planning a visit. Probably one of the biggest changes is that chalk (in all its forms and including substitutes) is now banned at Eridge, and in the interests of preserving access to this climbing area I would like to gently remind anyone looking to climb at Eridge about this.

So that is a wrap for 2022. I hope everyone is able to get out and enjoy their climbing in 2023!

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