Actually Enjoying Climbing at Hutton Roof

28 08 2014

Sat 23 August 2014
After failing miserably for the last couple of years at the Harrogate Indoor Wall to find an outdoor climbing partner who is willing to drag me up various easy crags in the area, I decided my best course of action is to contact one of the local clubs who climb. Harrogate Climbing Wall do climb outdoors but only on gritstone which I really can’t do – the holds are just too rounded for my awful technique. What I was looking for was some nice limestone – I was sure I’d like that…

I contacted our most local club a few months ago and the rules are that I have to attend 3 outdoor meets (either climbing or walking) before I can be considered as a member. This is pretty standard for most clubs – naturally they want to meet you before they admit you. I didn’t see the point in attending any walking meets at all and just scanned their calendar for limestone outdoor climbing meets.

There were quite a few and the first one I selected was to be at Twistleton Scar across from my friend’s farm near Chapel-le-Dale/Ingleton. I knew the crag fairly well by sight – it covers an extensive area and isn’t very high – ideal. I immediately booked myself on that meet.

Come a day or so before the meet and the weather forecast was slightly more than dire – heavy rain all day – you can’t climb limestone in the wet! The meet was put back to the Sunday when the weather was scheduled to be much better (and luckily was) but, due to the day before’s abundance of rain, the meet was moved to a faster drying crag at Crummackdale above Austwick.

I knew nothing about Crummackdale for climbing so I hoped all would be okay but thought I’d best ring to check there would be something I could do. The lowest grade climbs on the crag are ‘Severe’ which is at least two grades harder than I’ve climbed outdoors (I’d only done two climbs by then anyway and they were both ‘Diffs’).

I turned up on the day and it was indeed lovely, sunny and warm – just right for idling below a crag and watching the experts! After introducing myself and telling of my woeful lack of experience outdoors, the leader and his partner decided we’d need to move to another area of the wall from where they’d been hoping to climb as the easiest grades there were HVS. I felt a tad guilty but thought I wouldn’t stay long – I’d just do a couple of climbs and be on my way.

I did the first of three ‘Severe’ climbs available and was fine until I got near the top where I stuck for quite a while scratching my head (or I would have been if I could have let go of my handholds) about footholds. Eventually the light dawned and I found the good foothold on my left and was up the wall – phew. On descending the grass back to the foot of the crag, however, I didn’t feel I wanted to go up anything else as I hadn’t really enjoyed it.

A second climb was suggested however so I thought I’d best try one more. This climb went very badly when I reached the crux and I stuck for absolutely ages while people shouted advice up from below. Eventually, I trusted to a small rugosity for my right foot which didn’t seem like any hold at all but luckily my foot held and I eventually got up.

At the foot of this, I really didn’t want to go up anything else… One of the things putting me off, in addition to my struggles on the apparently holdless bits, was the friability of the crag – quite a lot of it wanted to fall off and join the vast area of scree below! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Someone led up the third severe and then I was told to tie on as I was next. Rather than say I didn’t want to do any more, I thought I’d best do as I was told and tie in. This climb was longer but fortunately I found it very easy and sailed up it, thus restoring my faith in my abilities a little. I still wasn’t sure I’d enjoyed it though and, after sunbathing and watching the others on a VS, wasn’t sure I was cut out to be a climber really.

On this last Bank Holiday Saturday, I’d decided to try again as the meet was at Hutton Roof Crags, which I knew to be very small and supposedly easy. I arrived in bright sunshine on a lovely morning and quickly appraised the crag – it looked delightful! I quickly introduced myself and was soon invited to have a try at a mere ‘Diff’ called ‘West Coast’ (B on the link above if you hover over ‘Hutton Roof Crags’). This had a slightly difficult bulge to start but, if doubtful, you could try an easier start just to the left. The bulge looked okay to me as it had superb handholds above so I went for it and had no problem.

This time, I really enjoyed the climb and arrived at the top smiling widely having had no problems whatsoever and admiring some lovely pink flowers in a crack on the way up. I thanked my belayer and romped off down the easy scramble just to the left keen to try some more – what a change in me!

I did a couple more climbs which I found exceedingly easy, a variation of West Coast which set off up the easier start and went slightly left of it but which doesn’t appear to match any official climb descriptions. I then sailed with just as much ease up ‘Sendero Luminoso’ – apparently Hard Severe (C on the attached link).

One thing I was really noticing at this crag was the superb firmness – absolutely nothing was about to fall off – a nice change from the Crummackdale crag.

People were then having a break in the sun and a bite to eat and I found myself perusing the crag for harder lines. I found what I thought was probably a climb – it looked really hard. One of the climbers came across with the guide to look at it and said it was a VS 5a called ‘Belize’ (D on the attached link). I asked how on earth you were supposed to get started on the polished but holdless-looking wall. We decided the very thin crack was the key. I felt a tinge of ambition start to burn…

Happily, it was decided that a top-rope should be set up (no-one wanted to lead it and I don’t blame them) and whoever wanted could have a go. I didn’t say anything at that point as I wanted to watch the experienced climbers tackle it as I had no idea what you would use.

The first girl had a go and got stuck after the single handhold as there didn’t appear to be any others above it within reach. She came back down and another guy had a go. He pretty much got up without much difficulty so she had another go. This time, after quite a struggle and lots of determination and effort, she too got up. Someone else had a go but, after struggling valiantly with the first section, eventually gave up.

I’d got the idea by now and decided it was worth a shot, although I was pretty sure I wouldn’t finish the climb as it finished with quite an overhang and I haven’t really done much in the way of overhangs and I’m pretty weak in the arms! I had an idea I might not struggle with the lower part in the crack where others had struggled though…

I tied in and set off, grasping the one good handhold and trying to find something for my feet to get me to the crucial hold for my left foot not far below the handhold… The rock was exceedingly polished and my feet scrabbled about for ages trying to get a grip. After a few minutes, however, I reached the crucial foothold and set about trying to get my right foot to keep still so I could launch upwards from my left foot for the handhold at the top of the crack.

After what seemed like quite a while, and with much encouragement from below, I finally managed to get my right foot up higher on a very good hold and ‘went for it’ to grab the higher handhold. I have to say that I grabbed the same part of the crack the others had and didn’t like it one bit – it was no handhold to me! There was a ‘V’ of rock wedged at the top of the crack and I tried the crack to the right of the V – nope – hated that too. I tried the top of the V of rock but hated that too – very small, smooth and polished – yuck.

In the end I tried putting my hand up under the triangular rock and found there was a nice hollow I could pull outwards on – that would do fine. From there I was soon up to the underneath of the overhang where I thought the end of my climb would definitely come. I’d best have a go at it though – I was pretty doubtful…

There was some quite plain wall leading up to the handholds on the overhang and I had to make a bit of a lunge for the left handhold – a long, deep and horizontal crack running along above the overhang. That was a great handhold but now I needed another for my right hand – I knew I was supposed to put my hand in the wide crack to the right of the overhang but didn’t feel I could reach without falling off as my feet weren’t really on anything much.

All this time, Kim who was belaying me from above, had me on an extremely tight rope indeed and was giving me very much encouragement from above. I was also still getting encouragement from below from the folks who thought I’d ‘cracked it’. I told them all I had severe doubts about me getting any further but continued to try.

I eventually lunged upwards and managed to thrust my right hand into the crack and grab the back of a very firm piece of rock – I found it was slightly polished though which was putting me off.

I was advised to dangle and take a rest and shake my arms out – I wasn’t keen as I’d reached my two handholds and was worried I might not reclaim them but, in the end, I knew it was necessary if I was to continue. By now, I’d lost so much energy out of my body through my arms, my legs had started to shake – it wasn’t nerves as I didn’t feel at all worried – it was just a total energy-drain. I was also suddenly dying of thirst.

I could see I needed to get my left foot up onto a good horizontal crack but it was up by my hip and out on the overhang! After much struggling and heavy panting, I eventually managed to get my foot that high but didn’t like anything for my right foot – it was going to be just a case of hauling myself outwards and upwards from my right arm combined with a quick push from my right foot below the overhang. I was sure I wouldn’t have the arm strength…

I was listening mostly to Kim above who was not only telling me I could do it but also telling me what an achievement it would be if I made it to the top and how proud I’d be. In the end, I’m sure this was the spur I needed – I knew I’d be chuffed to bits if I made it… eventually, when I recovered that is!

I had another little rest but didn’t really feel like I had anything left to give. There was still the insistent voice above telling me how good I’d feel though, which had been joined by an inner voice agreeing with her. Suddenly, I went for it and gave an almighty heave on my right arm and a push on my legs and I was up above my left foot – yippee!

From there it was pretty much plain sailing to the top – luckily as my arms had more or less given up. I joined Kim at the top, totally out of breath and with two dead arms and flopped down beside her to try to untie. It took me some time to manage to undo the knots as I felt I couldn’t use my arms any more at all. She said I must be really pleased with myself but I just told her I might be in ten minutes or so if I could reclaim some energy.

Despite Kim having to sort out all the ropes at the top of the climb, I still descended after her – I was too exhausted to move for the first few minutes. It was a lovely view though apart from the fact that I could see a huge raincloud coming our way…

I flopped back on the grass to congratulations from everyone and ate my banana and drank more water. My arms still felt dead but I was watching a couple of the group on a very easy-looking climb to the right and was yet again enthused to have a go at it myself. Unfortunately for me, just as we were gearing up at the foot of it, the rain hit and, when it didn’t stop for twenty minutes or so, and someone had bobbed up the hill and said it didn’t look like it would stop for a couple of hours, we decided to call off the rest of the meet and adjourn to the pub.

We went to The Plough back on the A65 which was a very nice pub and looked to do excellent food. I found I had quite some difficulty grasping and lifting my half-pint glass of lime and soda but I managed to eat a lush piece of Victoria Sponge okay ๐Ÿ™‚

Feeling slightly better after an hour’s sitting and chatting in the pub, I drove off back up to my caravan in Cumbria, stopping on the way to have a little walk up Shap Fell to the true ‘Shap Summit’. Although it was a very short walk, I found I ‘ran out of calories’ again on the descent and adjourned to the Little Chef at Penrith for a great meal and nice, sticky, chocolatey ice-cream sundae – I felt much better – what a great day ๐Ÿ™‚



8 responses

3 09 2014

Are you sure you are not 26 Carol ?. I gave up climbing years ago as it was too hard on the body and I got fed up lugging ropes and gear to the tops of mountains. Severe and Hard Severe are respectable grades. Above VS the rock architecture is usually less impressive anyway as it is all steep walls. I enjoyed chimneys, ledges, caves and cracks more which you tend to get on the lower grades.


5 09 2014

I’ve actually been thinking about all the people who’ve told me they USED to climb when they were younger but have now given up – funny I’m just starting out! I’m still not sure whether I’ll actually take it up. I can’t see I’ll ever want to lead outdoors (placing protection would worry me) and I’m not at all mad on most multi-pitch. I just seem to like the small, fun and fairly easy crags.

I haven’t been lugging any gear so far and my latest climbing has been very easy to get to…


29 08 2014

Very entertaining read! I think panic-stricken is a good way to describe me when I go on outdoor climbs with groups of experienced cilmbers. We just try our best! I do prefer outdoor climbing-part of it is more options and part of it I think is I’m more likely to take risks. At the climbing gym if I don’t like a route or a hold I’ll just pop off…:)


5 09 2014

Thanks Sarah.

There are definitely more options outdoors and I love that aspect of it – I think that’s why I find it slightly easier outdoors – I don’t have to reach a particular hold, just follow a line as closely as I can. You can also use your imagination a lot more and there’s more problem-solving which is great ๐Ÿ™‚


29 08 2014

I think that’s the second or third time this year our paths nearly crossed!!
Glad to see your still slowly climbing the grades :D. I thought some of the outcrops on Farleton Fell would be good for bouldering – although I didn’t notice any on Hutton Roof Crags but I cheated and started from the road ๐Ÿ˜‰

Cheers Simon


5 09 2014

Yeah – we definitely keep just missing each other on outings – who’s following who? ๐Ÿ˜‰


28 08 2014
Johann Briffa

Glad you enjoyed your outing in the end! Don’t fuss too much about the grades, it’s really more about the style of the specific climbs…


28 08 2014

Thanks Johann – I do seem to do a bit better outdoors – I think it’s when I don’t have to reach a particular hold and can choose anything which will keep me up there ๐Ÿ˜‰


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