Thursday, 4 December 2008

Friday, 26 September 2008

Climbing In Leicestershire... an article for climber...

It’s ten o’clock on an early May morning and I’m at home in Leicester, doing a bit of work at home. The phone rings.. It’s Martin Kocsis from the BMC office.. Can you write an article on climbing in Leicestershire… 800 words with some pictures… no problem I thought now then, where to start, I thought. The old Leicestershire guide is as good as any…

“It is usually thought that there is little or no worthwhile climbing in Leicestershire. There are two reasons . The first is that there really isn’t a lot of climbing in Leicestershire and the second is that the guide book to what there is has been out of print for many years.”

This is the opening paragraph to the introduction of the Leicestershire Climbs guide book written by Geoff Mason and the late Ken Vickers.

Who would have thought that 14 years after it was published we would be summing up an article on climbing in Leicestershire referring to the situation that now bestows us. Although it is 14 years since the last guide went out of print, so much has changed in many places.

Leicestershire is one of the few areas where the vast majority of climbing focuses on quarries, it is an area where whole quarries have been known to disappear, Enderby, Crag Y or Whitwick to name but a few, or areas re appear as modern climbing takes on new forms and Bouldering and Sport Climbing become more fashionable as is evident in Cademan Woods or Morley Quarry. Although both were documented in the previous guide book, they were not deemed worthy of much coverage.

The climbs themselves tend to undergo similar technical rearrangements, which could be most embarrassing if you find your pleasant E1 5b is in reality a necky E3 5c only after committing yourself to the crux.

The access to climbing sites and areas is certainly one of the biggest challenges facing the Leicestershire Climber and those visiting the area. From the very first publications of climbing in Leicestershire and with the rise in popularity of the sport and more climbers out climbing, climbing areas in Leicester have had more owners, parish councils, administrators and wardens worry about their presence.

Fearing law suites, the impact on the a fragile environment and the arrival of crowds of dare devil climbers, more often than not simple ignorance of what the real impact will be or as to what the real essence of climbing is, has resulted in the access to numerous sites being threatened or simply banned.

Climbing is mainly about enjoyment, personal enjoyment. It doesn’t matter how you climb, or how hard you climb, as long as you enjoy your climbing and respect the crags, the ethics and the environment in which the climbing is situated.

Summit Interview...

What do you currently do?

Where do I start... some people say too much! I run The Tower Climbing Centre in Leicester, through this I became involved with the Climbing Wall Committee which promptly led to editing and writing the Climbing Wall Manual along with Rob Adie.

Following on from this I have taken on the task of rewriting the Leicestershire Guide which at first seemed like it would be straightforward but with a combination of access issues, bad weather and so much work needing done in the area it is taking longer than expected.

Anything else?

erm... would being the Midlands Area Chair and writing the Midlands Area Newsletter count??

Running a Climbing Wall sounds like a dream job, how did you get into that?

Originally I did a Design Management Degree and worked as a graphic designer for a well known car magazine, although I enjoyed my job I was becoming more and more involved with the wall and decided trying to split my time effectively between the two was impossible, so I chose to go down lifestyle route and didn’t look back!

Any regrets?

I do not regret changing jobs, although it is time consuming, I try to balance my home life, job, team and BMC commitments along with making sure I get time to climb and remember why I do what I do.

So running a Climbing Wall you must spend loads of time climbing?

I wish! Sadly it is not that simple, we do try to do a staff session once a week and along with route setting I will possibly climb twice a week at the wall, I imagine most of the customers at the wall don’t know who I am! I don’t usually get finished up till late and I find it hard to stay on and not get involved in work when I have finished for the day... I usually end up in Grade Debates with customers!

Trad, sport, bouldering, mountains... what grabs you most if it is not the indoors?

I am split between Ice and DWS, right now I suppose Deep Water Soloing. It’s exhilarating, fun and adventurous with virtually no serious risk and hassle with ropes and gear and need to stress about gear placements etc.. it is just a shame we have such a small window in this country for the right weather and the right tides.

There is not much DWS or Ice in Leicestershire is there?

Well that depends on how much rain we have had... Leicestershire is a county made of disused quarries and small outcrops... but no, there is no DWS in Leicestershire ... Yet!

Yet.. sounds interesting?

There are a few routes that go above water, the aptly named Baptism at Markfield being one. But sadly with current access issues and a big fence these routes are suffering at the hands of mother nature and becoming overgrown.

Is access the biggest problem in Leicestershire?

Due to the nature of climbing in the county, much of it is on Private Land or quarries, so there is a fine line of negotiation to be had, landowners seem to perceive the risk of climbing higher and assume we will sue as soon as something goes wrong. So rather come to an agreement they just go for the all out ban which is never a good solution. There are some very good landowners and there are rules in place for these locations. As long as they are upheld they are happy for people to climb in what is effectively someone’s back garden.

What do you enjoy about climbing in Leicestershire?

Proving people wrong when they assume there is no good climbing in Leicestershire.

In what way?

Leicestershire can’t be compared to the likes of the Peak, Yorkshire, etc. What Leicester has is a good selection of small venues that suit people for a few hours after work or for an afternoon, be it bouldering at Beacon Hill, easy stuff in Markfield or hard steep slate in Forest Rock or the Brand. When these are combined you have the makings of a great day out on all sorts of different rock.

What Would a Great Day Out be?

All the crags are in relative close proximity and take 10-15 minutes to drive between, there are no big walkin’s, so you could have 3 hours bouldering at Beacon Hill (Hornstone), 2-3 hours doing scary relatively unprotected VS-E1 at Craig Buddon (Granite), 1.5 hours on some steep E1-E5 at Forest Rock (Steep Precambrian Slate) and then finish with some very committing HVS – E8 routes in the Brand (Slate) if you have any strength left!

What are the plans for the Guidebook?

Well, hopefully getting it finished this side of Christmas, and out next year. I have started the layout and so far there has been a great response to the initial sections. Just finding the right weather and conditions for photos and topos now. The BMC are publishing it so it is in the BMC style.

Chocolate Flapjack, Cream Horn or Fruit Slice?

I had a moment with a Swanage Badger over a fruit slice so I would be inclined to go for the Flapjack.