Costa del Silverdale and Runestones – seaside and slate sport

Heading up to the Lakes for Dave’s 60th, with an iffy forecast for the big hills, it seemed like a good opportunity to sample the newly-developed sports climbing on Morecambe Bay near the village of Silverdale – especially as we could also catch up with Keefe and Tansy near their new home.

Ironically christened “Costa del Silverdale” the routes were put up over the last couple of years on the better bits of rock on a short stretch of cliff between Arnside and Silverdale – initially with some controversy and access issues, the consensus seems to have settled down as a useful if somewhat esoteric local resource. Only one way to find out…

We got lucky with parking at the end of the road on the edge of the beach (only room for 3 vehicles and if it’s full you can see how you could hack off the locals by inconsiderately blocking the lane, so best to do the decent thing and park sensitively in the village).

There’s no doubting it’s an unusual and attractive spot to climb – even on a grim grey day (and it’s open to individual taste whether the Heysham nuclear power station; Barrow boat yard and Morecambe Bay gas field are eyesores or part of our proud industrial heritage and vital infrastructure).

We were forearmed with the information that the routes weren’t huge (3 bolts typically and up to 5, in a height of maybe 6 to 8 metres) but you can’t criticise the quality of the gear that’s been installed or the effort that’s been put in by the first ascentionists.

Sector names like Los Huecos, Frontals and El Barranco continue the tongue-in-cheek theme. Here’s a couple on a grade 3 on sector Pillar

… and Keefe styling the tough Jele (bouldery, but what do you expect from a 20ft 6b?)

The highlight of the day was a chance to catch up and chinwag – the climbing a pleasant excuse / distraction. Worth popping in if you are passing and either short of time, escaping the weather or desperate for a bolted seacliff fix.

More catching up with people we hadn’t seen in ages at the party, which was great fun (you’ve been spared the photos of vikings and spacemen, though they have been retained in case the payments get behind schedule ;-))

Sunday dawned sunny but without huge enthusiasm for a big walk-in, so thoughts turned to another newly bolted venue. Runestones is a multi-level slate quarry near Tilberthwaite, arrayed as a North-South slot, which has been rescued from the obscurity of its few forgotten trad routes and been transformed into a well-used venue by some local climbers and the Lakes bolt fund. We had lined up the perfect guide, as Robin had been one of the prime movers and shakers in the development.

We made the mistake of arriving before our guide and without a guidebook, so threw ourselves at the first couple of routes we stumbled across in the lower quarry.

These turned out (in hindsight) to be Route 1 (according to UKC – new and still settling down) 6a

… and Caspian, 5b (more stable, to its right).

Robin arrived to point us up the excellent arete of Gandalf, 6b+ and no giveaway at that – must have been harrowing as an E3 5c protected by a wobbly peg at 1/3 height!

Then lead the way up to the middle quarry, past great views over the Langdale Pikes.

It’s a magical world of ravines and old quarry buildings, straight out of a Lord of the Rings set…

The centrepiece of the climbing is a broad slab in the middle quarry, dotted with a dozen quality routes from 5s to mid 6s and with the benefit of afternoon sun and shelter – should be a good end-of-season option. We did Wide Open and three 6a+/bs to the right with a Covid theme including Viral Visions.

Meanwhile, Robin had been busying himself putting the finishing touches to a long standing project, adding the final few bolts.

… and once these had dried he very kindly offered Ade and me the first ascent.

Very tricky moves past the obvious blankness between bolts 3 and 4

… then steady away up surprisingly good (though occasionally rattly) juggy holds to the top.

Almost 30m of great climbing, a classic in the making and worth a couple of stars and probably 6c. Already named by Robin: Nirbhaya – “Fearless”.

Big thank you to Robin for all his bolting efforts and for sharing this project with a couple of Manchester raiders – donation to the bolt fund on the way!

You can support the work too 🙂

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