28 June 2012

Shipley Glen - No one gets out of here alive


Like bit part players in Apocaplypse Now, we headed down below the car park at the Glen. The evocative smell of roll your own herbal cigarettes drifted through the warm, sticky air and took you back to another decade, another summer of love. The humidity was  high, every now and then rain condensed out of the very air you where breathing wetting you though and making you feel unclean.

Conditions where beyond belief in this new Heart of Darkness in which we found ourselves. We climbed, well we tried but the impetus was elsewhere, we stuttered, slipped and fell. A strange brooding presence sapped our will leaving us spent and empty as the trees closed in over our heads dimming the feeble light. Resistance was hopeless our fate sealed, we were to become one with the forest.

Now becoming edgy, a little paranoid and with madness knocking on the door, it seemed time to escape with some of our minds intact. The forest was winning we were no longer welcome, we were becoming victims. Only a 100 yards from the road but lost in another time we blundered around in the woods heading down instead of up, going deeper towards the main vein the very epicentre, the pulsing dark heart.

A short, balding guy with a facial tattoo in the shape of a tear drop below his left eye. Stripped to the waist and moody looking, appeared from behind a mossy boulder. He had what could have been a blowpipe or maybe a pool cue in it's case slung over one shoulder. His shell-suited legs overhung by his pregnant beer belly. Toward us he staggered, eyes wide, staring beyond. A half empty Stella can in one hand and what looked  suspiciously like an underfed, ill-tempered dangerous dog breed in the other. We turned around in a hurry and left at a trot.

The harsh rock flayed our skin and cut in at the ankles as we made it back to the edge via the first rocky gully we saw. Pursued by the  urban pygmy, his crazed dog snarling and drooling and snapping at our heels. Then back at the lip where worlds collide, were the cars,  Civilisation, Salvation.

Shipley Glen in the Summer is a little more serious.
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Climbing Walls in the Leeds Bradford area - Yorkshire



Anybody who regularly reads this blog will know of my love/hate relationship with climbing walls. Thing is in the winter when its cold, dark and raining, unless you are made of sterner stuff than me, going outdoors mid-week for 6 months of the year on an evening, is really a non-starter. Here are reviews and details of my favourite Climbing Walls in and around the Leeds, Harrogate and  Bradford area. What they offer and what I and some of my mates think about them as places to pull on 
convenience plastic.


Quick Links to reviews

The Depot
The Climbing Barn
Leeds Wall

Harrogate Climbing Centre

My Local climbing wall and a favourite. Mainly because the staff are really friendly and welcoming and not full of themselves, which seems to be the case quite often. They offer a 15m leading wall, with a mix of top roping and leading and there is an autobleay too if you like that sort of thing. Personally they always scare me sensless at the point at which you have to let go to descend. The main leading wall manages to overhang over its whole width and still fit in some lower and middle grade routes by using some big holds. There is plenty of potential beyond 7a too if you can pull on small, overhanging holds. Add to this a good range of top-roped and quick draw equipped lines down two corridors, and you have more than enough to keep you busy for an evening.  Here is their promotional video:


The bouldering area is a room and it is not the biggest, but HCC always seem to manage to have a really good set of problems, from easy to Superwad standard . As they have world cup boulderer Dave Barrens setting the problems you can rest assured they will be a subtle mixture of butch and technical at what ever grade you operate. A bouldering league runs though the winter and its friendly and attracts some good climbers Andy Swann turned up last year, oddly he never looked that comfortable but he never seemed to find a problem he couldn't do a sign of class perhaps? The comp thing helps keep up my interest levels when I don't fancy turning out on those dark February nights so its a win for me.

The bouldering room can get pretty busy on an evening and when it does it can be fairly sweaty too. At is point I usually head for the new circuit board. This is your standard overhanging plywood Moon board with a mix of "up" problems and a fewer longer circuits, if you want to lap things for stamina. This usually finishes me off and I head for the cafe, the very acceptable Indulge Cafe which is a cut above the usual climbing wall offerings. It isn't tied to the climbing wall and it serves the dance studio and gym which share the same building, it does some pretty decent meals and  snacks as well as a good coffee too. HCC have their own shop with a good range of gear, shoes and clothing and finally you can have children's parties there too. My 6 year old had a whale of a time last summer and he's been back with me on a top rope a couple of times since. All in all it feels like a nice little community rather than a cycnical attack on your wallet, reccomended

Contact info/prices

Admission Prices

Opening times

Mon-Fri: 10am-10pm
Sat: 10am – 8pm, Sun: 10am – 6pm

Address

Hornbeam Park Avenue
Hornbeam Park
Harrogate
HG2 8QT

Tel: 01423 81502

Map

The Depot


An all-bouldering no-leading bouldering venue sounds like it might make for quite a limited indoor climbing expereince. The depot does a real good job of being a slightly different offering to the mainstream with loads to do. Its a huge bouldering area with loads of different styles of problems you get slabs walls, roofs, barrels and all types of problem in between. If you have a favourite style or your working on a weakness The Depot will have something to suit. As there are so many problems,  (there must be two hundred or so). the circuits are finely graded and you can easily find yourself a set of problems at your favourite grade. They have problems set by Dave Barrans and Tom Newman who both know how to put their top level experince into a problem that can please a punter and usually you will find some moves that you won't have found anywhere else.


There is no heating so on a really cold winters night take a hat, as it can get pretty chilly. The cafe is just a behind the counter job but its tea, cakes and prices are good. My favourite thing about The Depot is just the huge variety of styles of problem. Its like your dream crag in many ways or like going to Stanage for the very first time. There is loads to go at, more than you can get though in a session. It will of course beast you and I guess that's the point. The folk behind the counter are pretty friendly but it does feel a little more serious and focused than Harrogate.

There is a room with a wooden Beastmaker stlye board and some campus boards if you need that sort of thing but to be honest its not somewhere I spend much time. They have a good well stocked shop and sometimes their sales are pretty good.

On a Friday night if you go down you get free pizza to over-replace some of the calories you are burning off which is a nice touch. They have a bouldering league running over the winter which is more of a turn up on a Friday night style event than Harrogate's which runs over a month. What they do host is The Battle of Britain which is an open bouldering comp where you get to chance your arm against some of the country's finest. You can then watch them fight to the bouldering death after the qualifiers have eliminated you.

If I didn't have Harrogate just down the road from my house I would go to The Depot way more than I do. Its a quality destination and you won't see many places like it elsewhere. In fact if you are in the area and the heaven's have opened and you're looking for an indoor alternative to real rock The Depot is well worth a look.

Contact info/prices


Address

173 Richardshaw Lane
 Pudsey
 Leeds
Tel: 0113 3459295

Map

The Climbing Barn



Now I haven't been to the Climbing Barn as it is a relatively new kid on the block. I keep promising to go next time I get rained off Shipley Glen which happened loads last year, but this years the Gods have been kind and I have got away with it. Time Ticks blogger Bryn has been though. Here is what he had to say about it or read his full post here.
I was intrigued when I heard climbing wall manufacturer Hang Fast were setting up their own centre- The Climbing Barn- as to what they would come up with.
My suspicion that it would stand as a showpiece to their talents seem to be well founded. Arriving through the winding lanes of Crossflats, it certainly looks different to most climbing walls, utilising a traditional stone barn rather than a post industrial structure. As such, I was concerned as to how much climbing it would have on offer. However, the space has been well used, and the rustic feel carried on by leaving exposed beams. Indeed, it has that lovely feeling of a restored cottage with it's mix of new and old features. Being brand new does lead to a certain sterility in atmosphere, but I reckon that will fade over time and it's really nice to climb somewhere clean and freshly painted (climbing centres do seem to run out of steam when it gets to the top of the walls).
So what of the climbing? Well, the first thing to note is that it is a bouldering centre with some routes added on- my experience so far has normally been that it's the other way round. We didn't get round to trying the routes- top ropes on some lovely textured walls that Hang Fast manufacture- but wouldn't have had the energy after working some of the low grade circuits. There was certainly plenty to keep us busy, and the setting nicely graded to keep you on your toes. They also seemed to have put a lot of time and thought into a proper kid's circuit, which went up to v5!
The Barn obviously has a bit of way to go until it is being fully utilised, but its a damn fine start and shows lots of promise. I just hope it gets the punters in suitable numbers. I'll certainly be planning another trip, and imagine it'll be an ideal spot if we ever get rained off Earl Crag or Shipley Glen.

Contact info/Prices 


Address

Ryshworth Works
Keighley Road
Crossflatts
BD16 2ER

Tel: 01274 512990

Map

Leeds Wall



Time was the Leeds wall was your only Climbing wall choice round these parts so you went and you were very happy it existed at all. These days its still a big player and if you live in the city you will definately be going. There is a big leading and top roping area which seems pretty tall compared to the competition. For boulderers there is one side split up into bays with bouldering problems on it. In the middle there is an easy angle slabby, bridge feature if your just learning the ropes. For me Leeds Wall's strength is leading and top roping, there is a big range of routes and a good choice of styles with a really good main leading wall with some big roofs on it. The bouldering doesn't seem to be of such high quality and last time I went the holds were really shiny and looked like they needed changing round.

As its been there a fair few years everthing enevitably gets a bit dirty through the passage of lots of pairs of feet and you notice this when you compare it to the other centres which are all much newer. Upstairs is a well stocked in-house shop and a cafe which does some basic food but nothing too special. It can get pretty busy on an evening as it serving a whole major city and I have queued for routes before now. Having said that there are lots of routes so you can usually get on something even when it is pretty busy. They also  have a dry tooling tower so if your  preferences stretch to the dark arts of winter climbing you can go and scratch your ice tools in the summertime.

Sad to say it doesn't have the friendly feel of some of the other centres, you definately feel like a customer, but I guess that is the big city vibe coming to the fore. They are also really keen on checking your belaying which can get a bit intrusive. All in all don't expect to feel too welcome.

If I lived in Leeds I would be going a lot and whilst its annual fee is higher than many if you used it once a week though the winter it would be good value for money.They also do a boulder only option at around a fiver which is a nice option if that is all you want to do. One to use if you are in the area definately but I probably wouldn't make a special trip.

Contact info/prices

Admission Prices
Opening times




Address

The Leeds Wall
100a Gelderd Road
Leeds
LS12 6BY

Tel: 0113 2341554 or 0113 2442314


Map

Brick image The Art Guy
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23 June 2012

Footless Crow: The Hope Project continues its rise from the ashes...




This is a good article over on the mighty Footless crow showing the progress being made by the Hope Project where a family are fighting what can only be described as racism with a little help from the climbing community. I wish them well, if your down in St Agnes, Cornwall go and see them they deserve some love and support.
Footless Crow: The Hope Project continues its rise from the ashes...: It is over four months since To Hatch a Crow became the first outdoor media to publish and account of the racially motivated arson atta...
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21 June 2012

the Caley #tweetup


Meeting up as a group of climbers off twitter seemed to have been bubbling under as an idea for a month or two. Wednesday night it got going. Only everyone's ability to spot or process the information that Otley was shut due to the cycle racing, stopped us all getting there on time. We rolled in anything between half and an hour after we had threatened to be there.

As I got to the Sugarloaf with Stu-@LongHairStu, who will insist on making his life harder by uni-cycling into crags, Craig-@Probalm, Gareth-@MomentumPads and Dave-@davelozman where bothering Smear arete. It put up some resistance to me and Gareth  but eventually succumbed to a blend of stubbornness and careful footwork. Craig seemed to find it no problem. We all got beaten by the right hand version which claims to be the same grade, but not I reckon if you factor in the back bruising landing which is hard to spot or pad out well.

Ian-@ianburtoncamera  and Andy-@AndyCornfield1 were next to arrive fresh from, but jaded by what sounded like and a rather wonderful trip to Namibia making a film, Ian driving a camera, Andy climbing and being belayed by a non climber? Their attention then turned to the Pinch whilst Dave, myself, Stu and Jordan had a look at the darker tree covered side of the Suckers Wall block. There are a couple of nice easy problems on its left side but it such a shame they have been chipped as they do feel a little artificial.

Back round the block's other side Ian made short work of The Pinch and had a go at what looked liked a pretty desperate line up the wall to its left. Not bad application for a man who was claiming to be trashed after his adventure in the deserts. Craig pinched and pinched and pinched and finally got some reward for his efforts as he sent The Pinch. I had a couple of token thrashes and managed to actually climb up to and hold the pinch for the first time which is progress, next to do something with it.

The weather was threatening, the sun of an hour ago had left us for dark, rain heavy looking clouds which were already giving up the odd drop of rain. It could go either way it seemed and this evening could turn out to be a very brief encounter. We headed below the track and under the trees looking for shelter.

Down to The Horn for what felt like another dose of punishment for my crimes committed in a former life. The Horn seems to be to be the hardest V4 in Yorkshire, it is driving me mad this was session 5. Whilst we were fitting boots, Gareth-@rockclimbinguk and his mate rocked up after an epic traffic struggle and a warm up down at the roadside. Most everybody bar me demolished The Horn in a few goes with a mixture of power and subtle technique. Everyone queueing up for their go and egging each other on good naturedley.

I at least I managed to latch that pocket that's been bothering me for my last two sessions with a new foot sequence, that meant I wasn't having to lunge for the pocket but going static. Somewhat inevitably in a state of euphoric shock at this hoped for progress, I cocked up the top slap and slithered onto the mat. I'm thinking this problem just moved onto the "next time" list. I've now got a sequence that works and only half a move left, so here's hoping. It doesn't half take it out of you though considering how small it is, I'm all ache as write this.

@rockclimbinguk on the Flapjack
We all moved down to the flapjack for a final fling. At some point in our Hornfest the threatened rain had evaporated and we were here for as long as finger ends and motivation allowed. The group divided neatly into Punters and Wads with a few flitting between both groups as energy levels and skin thicknesses dictated. Many eased up the scoop, with Ian and Gareth's mate (Lee?) managing the scoop, but having done the traverse across the wall first at a creditable and seemingly exhausting V7. Lots of people tried the sitter on the groove at an alleged 6c+ Craig maybe getting closest, but this it seems is a middle grade problem that shrugs off most suitors perhaps it is a tad under graded?

People by now were drifting away, taking memories of a good evening, some decent banter and sore fingers with them. It was nice to put a few faces to some @twitternames and good to watch some decent climbers make it look easy.
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20 June 2012

Clffhanger - The countdown begins




This piece is a nice article reflecting on and previewing Cliffhanger. I'm heading down with the family and meeting a few other people there. I'm looking forward to it after I got my head around the idea of a climbing festival where I probably do no climbing. I'm hoping to do little more than mill about, do some shopping and hopefully see some of the bouldering finals. If I could get on to Stanage for an hour too that would be fab, it's been an awfully long time.
Sam's Rock Climbing Life: The UK's biggest outdoors adventure sports event g...: Last July was hot. Very hot, if I do recall. And my biggest memory of this heat was being at Cliffhanger , sat in the sunshine, in Millhouse...
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17 June 2012

Small but perfectly formed - Little Almscliff

Little Almscliff:

In need of some rocks with which to amuse two small boys for an hour while Mrs Timeticks slept. 3 Prince's headed for Little Almscliff. You would think I was taking them to the dentist's for route canal work from the whinging as we walked in. I was threatened with all manner of punishments and told "Two to one dad we must go home now. "

Suffice to say two small hands where grabbed and the grumblers were virtually dragged the 200 yards to what is really just a small version of the Cliff. Its maybe 15ft at the top, climbing on three sides, sitting up above Menwith Hill with great views over to Sutton Bank. I wouldn't drive miles to climb on it but if your passing or heading to Hunter's Stones have a go its worth it.

We got to the base of the crag and two cereal bars kept the grumblers quiet whilst they got used to being outside.  Whilst they weren't looking I nipped up Big Polished Pockets in my shoes, which was true to its name and good fun at 3+ ish. The rock was rough as you like with huge pebbles and plenty of pockets for the most part, but there was some polish in quite a few places. There looked like a little bit of scope at font 5 and 5+ but I never managed to get my rock shoes on to check.


We then spent an hour just playing on the rocks. Finding a perfect rock seat and some magical carving of unknown origin. I managed to sneak a couple more problems in between spotting duties at about 4- 4+ ish. Sounds rubbish but everybody had a great time and I had to virtually drag the former grumblers back to the car as we finished. Not a bad way to spend an hour.

Magical Carving
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10 June 2012

Widdop lakeside boulders - A mini Adventure


Round about Christmas Widdop got itself on my list of places to go. It looked idyllic, a circuit of nice, rough boulders by a lake what could be finer? I was in the car by 8am on Sunday morning and an hour later I was in Trawden, out of signal for my phone's GPS and using a large scale road atlas to try and find the road that should lead up to the crag. I found it eventually once I excepted that it was that narrow. I don't usually grade a drive-in but I claim a V point for just getting to the car park.

The walk in was rather easier, just a plod across the dam and then your at the boulders maybe 10 minutes. Now I don't really do God but the Intelligent Design fraternity are missing a trick where Widdop Lakeside boulders are concerned. There is no way that mere universal forces can devise a bouldering venue this good. Maybe a dozen big boulders all with fantastic landings, loads of lawns for sitting around on and all in the beautiful setting of a lush open valley hemmed in by crags, with a lake nestling in the valley floor. Don't tell Richard Dawkins but the creationists could be on to a winner if they start using Widdop as proof of the existence of the Almighty. 

When I got there the ground was wet but the sun was thinking about coming out and best of all the rock seemed dry. I was like a kid in a sweet shop no-one else around and all yet to be done. I got to grips with the Red Edges Left and right and both around  V2'ish. I flashed the Right but had to spend a bit of time working out the Left. Both quality problems and totally different styles of climbing even though they share an arete.


Here's a video
Faffing around on Four Square for ages was winding me up, I got it in the end but my finish wandered off right and it needs another go. A vole then came out of its burrow for it's morning constitutional. It saw me and scarped back down its hole. Good job the Kestrel that was hovering overhead would have been quite happy with it for breakfast.

Get Shorty a nice crimpy wall, would have indeed got the short but I could reach from the crimps and Runnel for your Life was a fun rock over and jug pull number where my mat floated above the pool at its base like the worlds worst life raft, glad I didn't come off.

I had a look at Pickpocket  Wall which was well on my list but it was high and with no spotters and no phone signal. I was acutely aware that a 10 minute walk would be an hour long hobble on a sprained ankle and moved on, pity it looked like my thing.

I had come all this way to have a go at Splashdown a rounded arete which usually sports a huge puddle at its base today was no different. Some superficial civil engineering to make a runnel in the turf and some bailing and most of the water was gone. I have never had to bail out a problem before. I then spent ages leaping off an undercut trying to grab a sloper. Oh so nearly twice, but couldn't quite hold it and each go was wearing finger skin alarmingly quickly. I tried a different sequence leaping of my right foot and that was working better, well I was barn-dooring less and getting more hand on the sloper. 

Splashdown


I found a few more lovely bits and bobs to play on whilst I saved myself for a final go on Splashdown. On my last go I caught the sloper the best yet and thought that I had stuck it, but it still peeled. Not so bad though it was warm and damp it will go on a better day.

I had four bleeding finger ends by now and stupidly had bought no tape, so I was out. There are better, quieter, more atmospheric crags to boulder on I'm sure but I suspect not that many, recommended.
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