Wednesday, April 30, 2014

No picnic at Hanging Rock

Ken Wilson's photo of proto hipster,John Beck struggling up the final section of the now departed Deer Bield Crack:

I was reading on the BMC site about the number of rock climbs which have either been completely destroyed ,or drastically altered by the March storms. Coastal cliffs especially, have been seriously affected with the classic Cornish climb Terrier’s Tooth seeing its first pitch washed away. Of course, rockfall and route obliteration/alteration has always been part and parcel of the game. Off the top of my head, I can think of several routes which have either disappeared or been changed-usually for the worse-by sections of rock peeling off. 

Possibly the best known was the 1930’s AT Hargreaves’s thug fest, Deer Bield Crack which went for a burton in 1997 along with DB Chimney and DB Buttress. Ken Smith’s Footless Crow article gives full details. In North Wales, classic VS Climbs like Merlin at Tremadog and Nea in the Pass have seen pitches fall down with new alternatives developed. The dolerite cliffs of Tremadog in particular have seen several climbs and entire faces disappear since they were developed in earnest in the 1950’s. Tony Moulam’s  Rienetta is now virtually an entirely different route from its 1952 version. In 1967, Tony Wilmott’s crux pitch of Fandango disappeared whilst a few years earlier, an even more dramatic event altered the Tremadog landscape when Caernarfonshire County Council dynamited Hounds Head Buttress because they were frightened it would fall down and spill onto the nearby road.

A possibility perhaps not unfounded considering that in 1977 a section of cliff between Bwlch y Moch and Pant Ifan fell down and destroyed a house below. The female occupant being fortunate to escape with her life . 

In the current Tremadog guidebook is an obscure and rarely repeated route of my own on the beautiful lakeside crag of Craig Penmaen Brith. ‘Red Star Belgrade’  is a three pitch VS route described by second ascentionist Pat Littlejohn as ‘an execrable route’...thanks! I guess climbing up vegetated walls and battling through holly is an acquired taste. However, it did have a good first pitch which started in a smooth bay before escaping left at the top to reach a nice section of juggy climbing. Problem is, last time I walked passed by, it appeared the entire slabby bay had gone! The current guidebook doesn’t mention it so I don’t know if the current description takes account of this?

It must have been quite a fall though as it looks like a sizable section of cliff has completely disappeared. I'm sure I'm not the only one to have pondered what it would be like to be climbing when the entire face you are on parts company with the main cliff. A possibility perhaps for anyone climbing on Lakelands Castle Rock of Triermain  in the future. It will bring an entirely new meaning to the description... North Crag Eliminate!

1 comment:

  1. Me and the late Mark Phillips climbed Deer Bield Buttress in the late 80s and found that the top pich had fallen off and been replaced by a long, slabby groove/rampline, at a lower grade. I guess that was an indication that the cliff was in a state of flux!