21 April 2013

Only the crumbliest, flakiest gritstone

We get spoiled living in the midst of a gritstone paradise- sure, the well-worn holds of Almscliff can get pretty polished, but you don't have to go far to find sticky, gritty rock- just try more than an hour on Lord's Seat without getting full-hand exfoliation. However, start to head east and things start to get sandy. Last week we had been out on the North York Moors on the Bridestones, and at times had wondered if we should have brought a bucket, spade, and a deckchair. But you don't have to go that far to feel the sand between your fingers- closer to home lie the Spofforth Pinnacles. I've been a few times before, mostly on a lunch break when I've been driving past. Their location on the Harrogate bypass makes them very easy to get to, and the walk in from the layby takes only a few minutes. It's also a very pleasant spot, especially when the sun is shining. So it was a no-brainer when Louis, who was supporting the troops at the nearby Yorkshire Warrior event, suggested meeting up to enjoy a fine Spring afternoon.

Josie ponders the sit start.
Spofforth offers a wide variety of shapes of rock, but it's unlikely you'll want to climb all of them. Many are too crumbly, too dirty, or too easy. However, some of the free-standing rocks offer the best climbing. We started on Scoop Block, easily identified in the centre of the field by looking like someone has just scooped a big dollop of sandy ice cream out of one side. Apparently the scoop goes at 7a, but it would involve bridging and smearing up a wall that looks particularly unsmeary! Louis quickly got stuck into either side of the scoop though, which go at much lower grades. They too, however, offer their challenges being both high and rather sketchy. Both Cosmo and myself started with a more sedate play around elsewhere- Cosmo loving the stepped arete to the right, and myself finding a nice 4b (?) on the opposite side. We then moved on to Green Wall around the corner from the scoop, working up slopey breaks to a top out that got the adrenaline going- it's been a while since I'd got that buzz from being high up and slightly tenuous. Louis got tempted across to the a neighbouring scooped out roof for a quick mantle, ably assisted by Dave's dog Josie.

Cosmo tops out Tower Block arete.
We finished the session by heading over to Tower Block, probably the largest rock on offer, and certainly the best preserved. The wall as you approach is striped with diagonal breaks and riddled with lovely bullet-hole pockets, and last year I had managed to get stuck at the top out of the centre of the wall for what seemed like an eternity. This time, we moved onto the right arete of the face instead, which offers lovely climbing all the way up and a cracker of a jug at the top. Louis tried the direct ascent, which proved a bit too physical, and Cosmo and myself took a less strenuous approach. We found a lovely route to the right, with a nice layback start, before heading back round the corner.The centre of the wall remained unclaimed, and Louis headed up only to find the top as unpleasant and sketchy as I had done. Unlike me, however, he managed the retreat a lot faster, and we decided to call it a day.

Had we climbed this sunny Saturday at Almscliff I imagine we would have shared it with a few dozen others at least, and it was nice to enjoy some peace and quiet instead. The only other sign of visitors were some offerings that had been left dotted around- donations of cash left to keep the spirits of the rocks happy? The rocks are often the site of more bloody sacrifices, where birds of prey leave the remains of their dinner, so getting rid of your small change seems a much more tasteful way to pay respects. We left the cash, along with a few chalk marks, and plan to come back to see if there is a return on our investments.
Pagan crucifix cash converter?

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