With the cranking season almost upon us, Duncan Campbell gets CragBanter fired up again with his thought on local crags, Stanage, and.. errr… running:
Local crags, in many ways these are the most important. Driving an extra hour to that amazing place for the weekend is but a drop in the ocean, but driving an hour after work to get your fix is usually unjustifiable. Local crags allow a climber to keep his hand in ready to unleash at the weekend.
Having moved from North Wales to Sheffield, the overall quality of crags that are near to me have dropped, but in terms of quick hits it has become more convenient, and therefore better. Don’t get me wrong, heading up the Pass after work was amazing but often more stressful than fun for me.
My most visited local crag is considered by many to be a jewel in British climbing, and I’m sure many rock-starved Londoners would kill to live near Stanage, to pop out for a quick couple of routes after a hard day in the office.
Despite visiting it often, I haven’t done that many routes there. Was it Johnny Dawes who said “Stanage is one big foothold”?
For me that means running. The rhythm, the burn, the flow, the view, perfect.
Where climbing is my passion, running is my therapy; after a long day at work, during a stressful time of life, or as an antidote to a busy and productive spell of climbing.
In their own ways, climbing and running sate primeval urges within me but it’s running that feels most natural. After all, humans are evolved to run to chase down prey over long distances over rough ground.
It’s for this reason that I think I find running so therapeutic – it feels like it connects my brain up properly to my body and in times of low climbing psyche/time it keeps me sane. It also heals me mentally. In times of mental stress sometimes climbing requires too much conscious thought, whereas running allows me to think things over. Often I will feel much better after a good long run even though most of the time nothing has changed.
For me, Stanage is a brilliant run; rolling inclines and declines, technical terrain, beautiful views and adaptable to your current fitness/time pressures.
Starting at Burbage Bridge run over the top of Stanage, after crossing the causeway path you can drop down underneath the crag at any point after High Neb, then enjoy the rolling path before the slog back up the causeway until you retrace your steps back over the top of Plantation and Popular. Not the most imaginative but I can’t get enough of it.
If it’s a climbing fix you want, Stanage is great – nip out for a few solos at Popular, a quick boulder at Plantation, or even tie on for a route or two.
“A keen crew had headed out, utilising snow chains to gain access to the crag.”
Despite rarely being the object of my climbing desire, one of my most cherished gritstone ascents was at Stanage. It was a beautiful winter’s day; sunny yet cold and crisp with a good dose of snow covering the ground. Unfortunately, we had not had the conditions to recreate the snow platforms that had allowed so many bold classics with poor landings to be tamed. Instead the snow was melting, and making many routes and problems unclimbable.
A keen crew had headed out, utilising snow chains to gain access to the crag. We spent the day mooching around looking for good, dry problems. It seemed like arêtes where in on the whole; both sides of the Pebble’s arête, and both sides of the classic Crescent Arête among others. Climbing Crescent Right-hand with more ease than usual I felt the gritstone flow.
Suddenly White Wand was mooted as a possible next dry objective: gulp! We threw the pads under it, not caring to ethically nod to our predecessors. It looked high. That arête at the top; so sharp yet still worrying. First go up I bail at the crux ‘testing the fall’.
Next go up, I have seen others commit, I know what to do and also seen how scared they have been. When will this opportunity arise again? I mantel onto the footledge, look up and begin, aiming for the lone pebble below the arête proper. All too soon I have my thumb over it, the previous months of grit climbing culminate in high feet, subtle body positions to allow my hands to clasp around that positive and very high upper arête.
Now stood on the pebble I can stop and consider; this is no place for a traditional slow and steady approach. I look down and briefly think about ‘testing the fall’ from here rather than risk it any higher.
No. The time is now.
Holding on firmly, I begin to leave the sanctuary of the pebble, committing to the smears I call on every ounce of calm within my body as I lay back higher and higher. A final move and I have the top! A quick traverse off to avoid the top solo and I can sit on the ledge and look out as the sun sets over a beautiful snowy vista.
White Wand, in that moment I felt the magic.