Climbing My Local Quarry at Last!

25 08 2019

Tue 20 Aug 2019
Since I moved up to Cumbria two and half years ago, I’ve been dying to get at my local quarry for climbing. I’ve got so frustrated waiting sometimes that I’ve just scrambled up some of the easier routes without a rope. I decided I needed to join a club and then I can get to climb it properly and chose Keswick Mountaineering Club – mainly because they had it on their meets list.


Head End Quarry, Sandale

All photos:
my Canon point-and-shoot digi camera
click on photos for full size/resolution

This was my first climbing in 3 years as I had a year off prior to my hip replacement due to not being supple enough to climb (except at the climbing wall where you can generally manage something!) and then I had a year off for my hip replacement and because I’d left my other club. I suspected this would mean I’d be fairly rubbish!

My first meet with my new club was the week before at a barbecue at a member’s house – a great evening was had by all and ended up with various instruments (varying from a fiddle to a ukelele) being fished out and played.

As I set off for the 2.5 mile uphill walk to the quarry above my house, I actually felt quite nervous. I often feel nervous before climbing outside but didn’t expect to for such a lovely little quarry. I think it was partly because these guys hadn’t seen me climb before and I wasn’t expecting to put on a good show…

Despite the meet officially starting at 1600, when I arrived about quarter to, everyone was already climbing. It was lovely and sunny but a bitterly cold wind up there – not strong enough to be troublesome though – apart from making communication difficult between the top of the crag and the bottom anyway.

The quarry is limestone, a maximum of 33 feet high and very firm for limestone but quite polished on some walls. It is staked at the top for belaying…

The top of the quarry is staked

I was initially taken under the wing of one kindly gent (the guy who’d had the barbecue) who found me a nice easy climb to start (West End Groove (HD)) – one I’d had my eye on so much I’d almost been climbing it without a rope on previous visits to the crag. The climb was superbly easy, very enjoyable but pretty polished and I had to remove gear.

With my previous club, I was often third on the rope which meant the first guy led (obviously these were sometimes women), the second climbed and took the gear out and then they threw the rope back down for me. This means I haven’t removed gear very often and I struggle and faff badly. It’s not so much the getting the gear out of the cracks, it’s the clipping everything away on my harness and then reclipping the nut removal key (oo-errr).

My climbing was fine but I faffed horribly and was ages pratting around with the gear – luckily, there’s only room for maybe two lots at most as the crag is so small. I thanked him for his patience at the top, remarked what a nice climb it was, and then we headed off down the easy descent to immediately do the next one along (West End Direct (VDiff)).

This was a bit harder as the holds were less obvious and smaller and this whole wall (West End Wall) was highly polished due to being easy and popular with groups. Nonetheless, I got up it fine although I didn’t find it anything like as enjoyable as the previous climb.

Red Dots – my first climb, Yellow dots, my second climb, blue markings – a climb I wanted to do but didn’t end up getting a chance to

Things then went wrong a bit… I tried the climb with the crack to the right of my second climb (the left of the two cracks on the above photo) but, after getting about 6 feet up, I couldn’t find anything at all for either hand or footholds on the polished face. I faffed around for quite a while then said I couldn’t get up.

My mentor had let another guy lead this time so he could stay at the bottom and advise me. He said just to try to get up anywhere and not bother about the line. I shouted up to the belayer to have the rope moved to my left a bit (I didn’t want to pendulum if I came off) and tried further left. Still nope… We then had the belayer move the rope even further to my left and I did a huge stride to my left onto my previous ledge and just went up the preceding climb again. I felt a bit useless though…

I then ended up climbing with the only other lady at the meet – Judith. The first climb I did with her was absolutely ace – very easy and called ‘Birds Nest Direct’ – this was only a diff. It was a lovely blocky arete and she even found a birds nest (abandoned) in a hole when she went to place her gear. There was only the one piece of gear to remove and, although I faffed, I was up the climb itself pretty quickly so it possibly didn’t matter. I found this climb so easy and safe I reckon you could easily just scramble it without a rope!

She then took us round to the final wall ‘Terrace Wall’ where we tackled ‘Bobtail’ another nice diff. This was very easy in the early stages but I struggled slightly with the second half of the wall from the grassy ledge. Very enjoyable nonetheless…

I personally think this is the easiest wall at the quarry and groups of kids are often on it – it has plenty of grip, it isn’t as polished and you have that nice, comforting grass ledge half-way up!

Judith then wanted to lead West End Direct and I said I’d found it so enjoyable I’d second it again.

I then watched for a while as there was nothing I really fancied which was being proposed or climbed. There was one climb which was being done by two guys on a slightly different line which I had my eye on and I was tempted to shout for them to throw me the rope down to have a go at the easy line but I didn’t – probably because I don’t really know anyone well yet and didn’t want to impose.

Terrace Stairway – only a moderate and looks superb fun, especially the little staircase at the top!

Right at the end of the meet, I was watching two guys going up a climb on Summit Face. It was a slight arete with a small overhang at the top and, apart from the overhang, looked really easy. I’m rubbish at overhangs though… I can’t figure out from my guide (which doesn’t have a topo) which climb it is.

I could see the overhang had a block to the left with a good foothold on it so, when the guys shouted down did I want a toprope up it, I said I’d give it a go…

I shot up the climb until just below the overhang where I, predictably, stuck for quite a time. The face to the right had a few slight holds but seemed polished. I kept looking for the hold I’d seen on the block on my left but couldn’t see it anywhere. In the end, I just got my right foot a bit higher on a bit of a hold and literally heaved myself over the overhang with my poor arms! Surprisingly I just had a slight shoulder and upper arm ache the next day and no other ill effects but, no matter, I’d got up it!

There were a couple of funny moments during the afternoon… one was when one guy spectacularly fell off the big overhang and the guy at the top of the adjacent climb started filming him while he sorted himself out – I’d have hated that!

The funniest one though was when two adjacent climbs were being done. The guy belaying the right-hand climb yelled down “climb when ready” and the climber at the foot of the left-hand climb shouted “climbing” and set off up. The belayer, immediately realising the situation then shouted “Climb when you’ve changed your name to (whoever the correct guy was)”.

While I enjoyed most of my climbs, I felt I’d put in a pretty poor showing with my new club and am wondering what meet I dare put in for next! I might have to do Shepherds Crag – I’ve been avoiding that as I’m not sure I like the look of it but it’s supposedly easy in parts…

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15 responses

1 09 2019
tessapark1969

Nice post. I’ve only tried climbing once and was absolutely useless!

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2 09 2019
mountaincoward

I’ve got a feeling they thought I was!

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31 08 2019
Alli Templeton

I’ve got so much admiration for you, Carol. This is something I wouldn’t ever dream of trying, but I think you coped incredibly well. I’m glad you’ve found a nice club to join and I’m sure they’re more than happy to have you on board. Some good times ahead, I reckon. Very well done. 🙂

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2 09 2019
mountaincoward

The main problem is going to be the fact that, apparently, there isn’t much ‘single-pitch’ stuff in the Lakes (like my little 30 foot quarry) and I don’t enjoy multi-pitch – I find it very tense!

Liked by 1 person

2 09 2019
Alli Templeton

I’d find any of it tense! At least being a club like that will open up opportunities to climb the pitches you’re interested in with others in a supportive atmosphere. And they have BBQs! 🙂

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3 09 2019
mountaincoward

At least I’m pretty good at sighting climbs I’ll like and can do most of the time. Prevents a lot of time wasting!

Liked by 1 person

3 09 2019
Alli Templeton

Yes, that’d be a great advantage. You must have a keen eye. 🙂

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4 09 2019
mountaincoward

To be honest, I’ve always looked at crags with an eye to what route you’d take up it – well before I ever thought I’d take up climbing. So I’ve been assessing routes for decades now really…

Liked by 1 person

5 09 2019
Alli Templeton

That must be a very helpful skill. No-one can tell what will work for you better than your own instinct and judgement.

Liked by 1 person

26 08 2019
Blue Sky Scotland

Looks a good friendly quarry packed with routes. I’ve been to some that I’ve not even got the rope out as they were just too intimidating (Dumbarton springs to mind- starts at HVS) but that one looks great. Well done getting up them. Enjoyed your account.

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28 08 2019
mountaincoward

If you’re ever in North Lakes and fancy an afternoon or evening’s very easy climbing on it, give me a shout!

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26 08 2019
Paul Shorrock

Good for you! If you get the chance to climb at Shepherds, do it! You will love it!

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28 08 2019
mountaincoward

Is it multi-pitch though? I don’t like multi-pitch really. It also depends whether there’s an easy descent too (it looks like there might be)…

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26 08 2019
John Bainbridge

Many years since I’ve done any roped climbing. Nice little quarry.

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28 08 2019
mountaincoward

It’s a superb little quarry. It’s also a nature reserve which is nice 🙂

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