Corby’s Crag, Northumberland

Sitting in after a trip to Rock Antics in the afternoon I decided to get out of the house and take in a trip to Northumberland. Having spotted Corby’s Crag in the bouldering guide recently it looked an ideal destination, with plenty of each graded bouldering to be had (B1/2 or 4c/5a).

I have to say it took a bit longer to get there than I had estimated, nearly an hour. But by about 6.30pm I had reached the tarmac carpark, coming in from the A697. The rocks are very close to the roadside, almost spitting distance (although the spit would have landed on someones head, so best not too).

Unfortunately it was still a little damp, even though we had had two fairly nice days of weather with little rain. And its very soft sandstone. And its about 3 metres high. And I can’t boulder for toffee. I did manage to top out on one route (not in the guidebook I don’t think – just to the left of problem 14 on the southern buttress) and problem 11 looked like it might have been doable in the dry.

But on the bright side I was outside and the scenary was lovely! Can’t think of many better ways to enjoy a Sunday evening.

Rock Antics at Newton Aycliffe

Well first trip down to Rock Antics on Sunday (website under ‘construction’ – Very bad as they haven’t even left a phone number or address up – I would recommend phone number, email contact, address and opening times as a minimum).

The place is simply packed to the gills with walls, and each panel is covered in holds and features (normal array of holds, and the features are I believe the Bendcrete style, with a wide variety of shapes. They also use small ‘tags’ behind the holds to signify routes, rather than hold colours – this gives much more flexibility on routes, especially where holds have two or more tags each – some panels had nearly 10 routes on one wall – with holds colour alone you are pushing it to squeeze 4 in (plus you need to remove all the holds each time you want to change the routes). For those going however some quick acronyms for reference, FFF means Features For Feet, AFF means Anything For Feet and FFH means Feet Follow Hands.

I was there on my own but a friendly staff member (I think he was called Paul) took pity on me (or decided to torture me) and threw me up a lot of routes. The grading seems to be a little harder than I am used to at Sunderland Wall, one particular route being graded 4c+ felt more like 5b to me!

The height of the walls are all about 10m, although this isn’t a problem, and certainly feels high enough to me. There are two bouldering wall, a feature one on the front and another wooden one around the back. There is also a lead wall around the back although I’ve yet to experiment with indoor leading (and I didn’t have a rope with me anyway).

Bad points currently are that the bouldering wall could do with some more routes described on it (considering its size this shouldn’t be hard) and the wooden one around the back appears very sparse. Also the air conditioning is currently broken – not their fault and they are relying on the leisure centre to fix it so nothing they can do about it either.

Definitely gonna go back.

Brown Slabs, Shepherd Crags, Borrowdale

Oh my, what a day!

As a birthday present I got bought a days climbing instruction. The instructor took us to Shepherd Crag in Borrowdale for what was possibly one of the best days of my life.

The instructor was good (Mountain Activity Company – Nick was excellent), the weather was bright and sunny (after some of the worse weather the week before) and the climbing was excellent.

After a bit of theory on setting up anchors and the like we just dived straight onto the rock. The climbing was very easy (Brown Slabs – Diff) but it gave us plenty of time to practise the placement of good protection and to talk to Nick on the way up (he was self belaying on a rope to the side). I lead the first route and then half way up set up a belay stance, then Caroline came up, and led the second pitch. (The pitches are only small on Brown Slabs). Suprisingly enough this took us most of the morning! Time flies when you’re having fun.

After a quick lunch we jumped back on and Caroline lead the first pitch of Brown Slabs Face, a VDiff – a little bit harder and an excellent climb. Her stance was facing a huge rock with two friends as anchors, unnerving apparently, as they really do look weird, nuts look much safer.

Finally, we did a practise ‘retreat’ abseil with prusik loops and everything. A lot easier having seen and done it than it is to read it in a book.

The day was an immense success, and we are now fully equipped (in a practical, but not equipment sense) to explore the great outdoors! Now we just need to spend a large amount of cash to buy all the equipment we need (and it is a lot!) – but luckily Caroline is going to buy half and me the other half… Oh, but wait, we’re married and have a joint bank account – damn!

Edit: Oh yeah, scariest moment was when a karibiner decided to escape from someone’s hand climbing next to us and descend the rock at great speed, missing my head by about 1m. Glad I had a helmet on and definately puts a helmet on the list of essential items.

Edit 2: Damn, nearly forgot – at the end we even managed to see Chris Bonington! Didn’t disturb the big guy but it’s great to know he can still get out to the crags and have a good climb (he was belaying at the time though).

Local Climbing Walls

Sunderland Wall
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but I (and my wife) currently frequent Sunderland Wall for our weekly climbing fix (well, twice a week usually).

We’ve been going about 5 months now and have been steadily improving, climbing bigger and bigger wall, harder routes and things on bigger overhangs.

I can’t really compare Sunderland Wall to any other proper climbing walls yet as I haven’t been to many (plan on going to RockAntics at some point as its been recommended) but its been a good place to learn to climb. During the beginning of the year it was awfully cold, and now the summer is upon us its often awfully hot instead and the staff range from grumpy to mad/weird (mad/weird is good, but grumpy isn’t).

Berghaus Wall, Eldon Leisure, Newcastle
The first thing I will say about the Berghaus wall is that its hot, damn hot, and I sweat lots. But enough about my personal problems.

The wall itself is a brilliant bouldering venue, although it can be dauntingly high to start with. People keep complaining about the mats, but provided you move them to the right place (assuming they aren’t in use) then they are fine.

I would say that there isn’t altogether that much stuff in the very easy category, especially if you get hold of the little topo guidebook, which has barely anything in the 4a-4c range, and most things 5b+ (yes, thats right, it uses British technical grades).

Whickham Thorns, Dunston
At first sight this has to be one of the strangest looking structures ever, a convoluted giant exploded doughnut. But once you get used to that, plus the dizzy feeling you get when you stand up on the top its actually really good. Luckily I’ve been going with some people from work and I’ve found that really good, both from an encouragement point of view and also for finding interesting problems to try that a) aren’t obvious or b) I wouldn’t even sniff at under normal circustances. Whether this is just my lack of bouldering experience I’m not sure.

I have taken on nasty fall off the top when I just couldn’t pluck up the courage to get over the top and hand holds seemed to disappear, a nasty gash along my arms was the response from the gravel below, but generally you can get by without a mat provided you’ve got a spotter.

Rumour also has it that they’ve opened up a shop in the indoor complex (and there is also a climbing wall in their too, bizzare brieze block/stone affair but good for when the weather is crap, although it is often booked out by groups so phone in advance) but I haven’t been in yet.


[Listening to: Bite The Hand That Bleeds – Fear Factory – Archetype (04:09)]

16metres and climbing

I remember the first moment I successfully managed to complete a 10metre route at the local climbing wall. It was a triumphant moment – especially as I was about 2 weeks behind the lovely wife in this task.

The climbing wall has lots of wall. There is a bouldering wall that reaches about 4m, then an A-frame and a number of smaller routes at 8m. The majority of the routes are then in the 10m range, some with overhanging sections (between 20 and 40 degrees I think).

Finally there is the large central section, consisting of 2 walls at 16m on either side of 3 large 23m walls. The 16m walls are the last walls with top ropes on, to do the 23m you have to lead climb (you can lead on the 16m as well as most of the 10m walls).

Well Sunday was the first time I made it all the way to the top of a 16meter wall without a ‘roped’ rest (i.e. relying on the rope to rest, rather than resting an arm at a time and still holding onto the wall).

Its mainly been a battle of endurance, and pychology to get that high, and not really much technique (although when I get tired at the top I can feel my technique going to pot – resting then makes the next moves easier because you are rested and using better technique).

Next step: more 16m routes, lead climbing, then the 23m wall!

Langdale Boulders

Well after the day of bouldering over in Kentmere we very nearly didn’t go again. After being completely disheartened by our complete crapness I plucked up the courage to advocate an small trip after a half day walk.

We walked up to Crinkle Crags, along near Langdale so the boulder of choice was obviously the Langdale boulder. We’d seen a sign saying it was to be laser scanned the following tuesday so went to see what all the fuss was about.

Turned out to be a good session, completeing most of the V0 problems. Particularly enjoyable was the bottom boulder, with 2 excellent problems on the large face and two more on the top face.

So maybe there is a future for me in the bouldering world after all.
Lakes Bloc for a partial guide to the Langdale Boulder and Rockfax website for a miniguide (£2.50).

Little Font – Kentmere

Well after the nightmare that was Badger Rock – we thought we’d give the ‘Little Font’ area just along the path a quick look before giving up on the entire day.

Turned out to be slightly more fun than Badger Rock, with a couple more problems I could at least start on.

The landings where a different type of bad from Badger Rock, some with very close pine trees to hit on the way down and others with large rocks sticking into the air just where your mat should be. Plus some of the higher boulders had been taken over by large colonies of flies!

Managed a couple of the V0’s on the Pine Stone but couldn’t get some of the others which seemed to indicate sitting starts (boy am I crap at sitting starts!)

Maybe I should just give up on this whole bouldering lark, nah, must get stronger!

Check out Lakes Bloc for topo guide.

Badger Rock Bouldering

Well, we took my new bouldering mat out for its first test drive, on holiday in the Lakes and inspired by walking past the Badger Rock boulder near Kentmere last time we where in the Lakes we set off for a day of bouldering.

This turned up a number of facts:

1) Badger Rock is flippin massive – at least to me it was. Almost all of the problems could be classified as highball in my opinion.
2) The landings at Badger Rock are really bad – not sharp, but on about 45 degree angles, meaning you might land on the mat but then roll half way down the hill – thats if the mat will stay still long enough and not slide itself!
3) Either the grades in that Topo are really hard or I can’t boulder for toffee (more on this later but I think its the later)

Anyway, we kept going for a bit, managed about 1 V0 problem (problem 20), chickened out on the crack on the north face (problem 19 – an easy!)

Complete washout!
Check out Lakes Bloc for topo guide.