In praise of “holes in the ground”

Another scorcher on Sunday, but we only had a short day available, so the east facing, lefthand walls of The Racetrack sector at Harpur Hill. Amazing what a bit of sunshine does…

We did a bunch of “Whacky Races” themed routes – nothing outstanding, but all very pleasant, on surprisingly frictiony and generally solid rock. Here’s Helen leading Pole Position, 6a+

Fittingly, we bumped into Gary Gibson (the man responsible for probably 80% of the routes in this and the other unfairly maligned “holes in the ground” – must be well over a thousand in Derbyshire alone!) We had a good chat about Gary’s plans for global expansion, with projects in Leonidio and Kalymnos – retirement is clearly suiting him and the climbing community owes him a huge debt of gratitude.

Monday starts sunny but with a forecast for rain later, so we pick another handy crag. Slaley Brook is very much at the BANNED end of the access spectrum (running from “tolerated” to “patrolled”!) and is less visited than some. We’d only been once previously, and were struck by the extent to which nature has recolonised the formerly Industrial landscape.

Marble Wall is actually a really quite decent bit of rock, but tends to accumulate a covering of dust and cobwebs. We did the no-star Crystal Maths, 6a, at the right hand end of the sector and thought it was reasonable, and the “route of the wall” The Calcspa, 6b+, which is very good but really tough to start.

This wasn’t helped by the sweat stinging my eyes and drenching the holds – it was way too hot to be on a south facing crag in full sun.

Time to relocate 10 minutes down the road to Intake / Caretaker Quarry; another alien landscape, rich in flora and fauna.

The appropriately named Darkness Walls offered ideal climbing conditions and we managed a few more routes on the chert and crinoid crusted walls. Here’s Helen on Intake it or leave it, 6b (or maybe c?)

… with Tucker’s Grave up the centre of the wall on the right. Something of a soft touch at 7a, but good climbing and it brought up my 7a tally to 50 for the year so I can get back to trad climbing for the rest of the summer 🙂

They might be “holes in the ground” but they’re slowly turning back into quite wild and precious places, and certainly provide plenty of fun climbing.

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