As part of my contract with Bowles Outdoor Centre, I check all the high access equipment, high ropes courses as well as checking the bolts on the rocks. I have been informed by a local climber that the tree at the top of Salamander Slab ‘wobbles’ when you pull on it. This is a bit of a worry as not only is the tree an important hand hold but most people also use it to attach their ropes to.
I don’t think it is good practice to use a tree that is perched on the edge of a cliff, especially one that is dead down one side! It can be set up with a rope using a Y hang without wobbly tree, but not many people do this.
To try and encourage sensible and safe practice, I have placed some bolts behind the tree so people can use a simple set up, instead of a more complex Y hang.
Currently, the bolts are not in use as some time is needed for the resin to set and I also need to order a connecting wire to link the two bolts.
The new bolts will usable in the next couple of weeks.
Legend has it that Satan once walked the cliffs at High Rocks, dressed up like a young man.
One day the Devil happened upon a beautiful young lady from the nearby town of Tunbridge Wells. He tricked her and trapped her hands in the roots of an old Oak Tree. Unknown to the Devil, she had in her hands, three drops of water from the nearby wishing well, which allowed her a single wish.
She was about to make her wish for freedom but paused when the lady caught sight of the Devils eyes (remember the devil was disguised as a handsome man). The Devil realised what was happening and quickly turned the lady into a block of stone(isolated boulder), which will forever remain trapped within the tree roots.
Near the wishing well the following advice is now carved into the rocks;
Pause ere if you wish
From idle wish refrain,
For what you wished
Not wish you wished, you gain
Wish Wall Font 6b+
Came across this today at stonefarm rocks today. Someone had scratched the rock in a heart shape but a few we of years later, nature has redesigned the graffiti.
Instructors who work in the outdoor industry use terms such as MIA and SPA without having to think about what they stand for and what they mean and wrongly expect the general public to understand these terms too. During this post I will explain the difference between these climbing qualifications which will help you make a informed choice when picking a climbing instructor.
All that anyone wants to know is whether his or her climbing instructor is qualified and if that climbing instructor can offer a fun, safe and educational experience. Unfortunately this can be very hard to work out.
There are a number of qualifications that can allow people to teach climbing. Some of the basic ones are site specific (only allow people to work in certain areas) such as the Southern Sandstone Leaders Award (SSLA). To gain this award you must have climbed around 30 sandstone routes, attended a 2-day training course and then passed a one-day assessment course.
There are some climbing qualifications such as the Climbing Wall Award (CWA) and Climbing Wall Leaders Award (CWLA) that allow people to work at indoor climbing walls and these follow a similar process as the Sandstone Award of a 2 day training course followed by an assessment day.
Outdoor climbing qualifications such as the Single Pitch Award are very popular. This is a strange name, it come from the fact that many cliffs can be climbed from top to bottom in one go (longer climbs have to be split into short sections). A section is called a pitch, therefore the Single Pitch Award (SPA) allows people to teach on cliffs that can be climbed without having the split the route into sections. There are also other limits to this award such as cliffs must be within 30 minutes of a road and have good access to either the top or the bottom of the cliff. This award used to be called a supervisors award as the holder is not allowed to teach lead climbing (a style of climbing where you place climbing equipment into the rock as you climb), therefore all climbing must be done with the rope above the climber.
The Single Pitch Award does not qualify people to teach how to set up ropes for climbing but it does allow the holder to teach the basic skills such as belaying (holding each others ropes) and tying knots.
There is another award called the Mountain Leader, this is an award that allows the holder to lead walking groups in the British mountain and although this is not a rock climbing award, it is a prerequisite of the climbing award called the Mountain Instructor Award.
The Mountain Instructor Award (MIA) allows the holder to teach any type of summer rock climbing in the UK. The holder is allowed to teach on mountain cliffs of any height and is also allowed to teach lead climbing and multipitch climbing. The holder is also allowed to teach at sea cliffs as wells as teaching skills such as setting up ropes and advanced rescue skills. The holder is also allowed to teach scrambling, unlike the Mountain Leader. To hold this award you should have gained the SPA and the ML and have gained a large amount of experience within the remit of these awards as well as a huge amount of personal climbing in the mountains. There is a 9 day training course, after which you are expected to practice your skills and gain a further 100 days of teaching, leading, walking and scrambling in the British mountains. This is then followed by a 5-day assessment course.
In summary – SSLA – a site specific climbing award for Southern Sandstone
SPA – a supervisors award for single pitch cliffs with easy access
ML – a mountain walking award
MIA – Able to teach all types of rock climbing and scrambling anywhere in the UK
It is worth noting that there is a Winter ML, which allows the holder to lead walking groups in winter conditions. There is also a MIC which allows the holder to teach winter climbing (ice climbing etc) and there is also another separate award called the Mountain Guide which is a world wide award and allows the holder to teach any type of climbing (rock or ice), anywhere in the world.
I attended the Sandstone meeting at Bowles Outdoor centre on Sunday night. The attendance was much less than last year but that meant we all got more free food (thanks Bowles staff).
The meeting started with a round up of the current access issues at High Rocks and discussed what climbers could do to stop the situation getting worse.
The agenda moved through the crags and when it came to Bowles rocks I explained about the cement and resin work that has been done, the problems of stolen ropes from the cliff and outlined future erosion management plans.
There was talk about bolt testing and best practice as well as planned management at Harrisons Rocks.
It seems there is still a huge division in people’s opinions in dogging routes, many feel that it should be banned where others feel that telling people they can’t do something would not be that effective. I agree that we should be encouraging and postive action and getting people to use carpets at the top of the rocks, which would limit/stop damage caused by resting on ropes and even reduce the damaged caused when we lower off. It was agreed that hauling your self up a climb using the rope is very poor practice and will damage to rocks.
I will soon be placing a hook at the Bowles notice board and hanging up old carpets for people to take.
The old blog has now moved to ths page. I am soon hoping to add all the old information, photos and tips onto this page as well as changing the layout ASAP.