Lakeland Activist Q&A: Rob Greenwood

We talk to the climbers racking up in the valleys, roosting in the crags, and reliving their ascents in the pubs of the Lakes this summer. This week we have the ever-enthusiastic Rob Greenwood.

 

Name, Age, Main activity when not climbing;

Rob Greenwood, 33, thinking about climbing 😉

 

Your favourite lake District Route and why?

This is an impossible question to answer, so I’m going to answer with a curveball: a route I haven’t actually done. Fast and Furious at Dove Crag has long been on my to-do list, but for reasons unknown I’ve never made it up there. Seeing as one of my favourite things in this world is visiting new places I think this loosely qualifies as answering the question, but I’ll admit it’s quite tenuous…

 

What does finding a true trad partner feel like?

When I started climbing I climbed with anyone and everyone, but that’s changed in recent years and I tend to climb with quite a select crew. When you’re climbing with the right person/people everything flows, there’s no friction, and things are just easy Walk-ins seem short and the chat just flows, but most of all there’s a whole lot of fun and laughter.

 

What climbs keep you awake at night?

I’ve been up to Scafell a lot of times, but every time I’ve skirted around the main event – Ringwraith. There’s only so long you can put these things off for and I’ve put it off for as long as I can, hence it keeps coming back to me – I need to climb this route. Knowing people like Tom Briggs and Ged Desforges (two very accomplished trad climbers) have fallen off the top pitch certainly adds to the intimidation, so it just requires me to get on it, stop worrying about it, and see what happens.

 

What’s your worst climbing habit?

I’m always in a rush. Whilst I’d love to say ‘I embrace the moment’ I do, I just like to embrace it quickly, then embrace the next one – hence there’s not much time chilling at the top of a crag and this can drive some climbing partners a little crazy (although most have just got used to it).

 

What’s your most treasured piece of kit?

My guidebooks I guess, as they’re the key to it all. Open a guide an it’s impossible not to be inspired.

 

Which notable climbers would you invite to your dream crag day out?

Stephen Reid, the owner of Needle Sports, has been asking me to head up to Pillar with him for years but we’ve never quite managed to get the dates together for it – as such I’d ask him. Stephen may not be known to a younger generation of climbers but he’s a total legend: he’s ticked Hard Rock, he’s edited guidebooks for the FRCC, and he’s currently working on a large historical tribute to Pillar (hence wanting to go up there). Over the years I’ve admired his passion and interest for climbing, its history, and its heritage. He’s also a complete all-rounder both in summer and winter, and whilst he may not be a superstar in terms of big numbers he’s someone that’s lived and breathed it – there’s a lot to admire in that.

 

What about the current state of climbing makes you unhappy?

I could probably go off on a negative diatribe here, but that wouldn’t be good for me so I’ll talk about something that made me happy instead. A month or so ago I was lucky enough to be camped up at Scafell, where we did – amongst other things – Central Buttress right at the end of the day, in the evening sun, with two good friends. I reckon we were the twelfth party up the route that day, which is incredible. I thought people were saying trad was dead and that nobody climbs in the Lakes, yet here we are with parties all over the crag, enjoying themselves, and making the most of this wonderful weather we’ve been having. The future is bright…

 

What’s the most important lesson trad has taught you?

Generally speaking people worry about routes, their reputation, and how it’s going to be far too much beforehand. I used to use the phrase ‘going for a look’ to dispel the tension and generally speaking it worked, because as soon as I stepped onto the rock I was engaged in something real rather than worrying about something imagined. That said, I’m still as guilty as the next when it comes to over-thinking the next route – take Ringwraith for example!

 

To what do you owe your climbing mentors?

A belay…

 

What’s the worst climb you’ve ever done?

This is a tough call, because I’ve always thought there’s pleasure to be had in climbing poor routes. Even the worst routes usually have something about them. Still, if I’d have to choose one it wouldn’t actually be in the Lakes, it would be in the Himalayas, where Jack Geldard and I tried to climb a new route on Peak 41. It was horrendous and led to me abseiling off a bulldog hammered into a tottering ridge of shale. Still, horrific though this experience was it did remind me just how good trad climbing in the UK is, and I’ve basically been a full-time rock climber (as opposed to ice/winter climber) ever since.

 

What single thing would improve the quality of your climbing?

Taking a few moments out to actually sit back, relax, and watch the sunset. Rushing is great, it gets lots done, but you do miss out on the finer details as a result. Penny – my partner – is always good at reminding me of this and I think/hope I’ve got better at it over the years.

 

Tell us a lake district secret?

‘Lakes E4’ basically means E5, although maybe this isn’t that much of a secret?

 

If you could bring something of climbings past back to life, what would it be?

The past is ingrained within the routes, so if you want a piece of it just go do them. Kern Knotts Crack is a good example of this, as it provides something of a shock even to the modern leader (it’s no pushover at VS…) and yet it received its first ascent courtesy of O.G. Jones in 1897, which is – as you’re there thrutching up this horrific cleft – utterly obscene.

 

What does the future of climbing hold for you?

This is something I think about a lot. Climbing has consumed so much of my life, and will no doubt continue to do so, but things do change. Take performance for example, as there’s going to be a day when I can no longer perform to the standard I used to. If climbing hard is all that climbing means to you then you’re basically in a cul-de-sac; if climbing means something else, something more, then there’s countless days out just waiting to be had – they just might not consist of multiple extremes!

Lakeland Activist Q&A: Nick Rice

Nick Rice, Expert in crag angles and probability of dry rock equations.

 

Name, Age, Main activity when not climbing;
Nick Rice. 56. Physics teacher.

Your favourite lake District Route and why?
I was born in Liverpool and my first climbing experiences were in the days before we had ready access to transport so consisted of visits to Pex Hill, Helsby, Frodsham and, if we were lucky, Wilton. One day somebody gave me a lift to The Lakes for the weekend and we did a bunch of routes around Wasdale. One of these was Tophet Wall. I couldn’t believe how brilliant it was and was completely hooked from then on. I’ve done many fantastic routes since but that one still stands out as unforgettable. I feel very fortunate to now live 30 minutes drive from Wasdale.

What words or phrases do you most overuse when tradding in the Lakes?
I’m just going to back up that last runner with another one six inches above it. Gosh, look at that view. We need to get a move on, it looks like it might rain soon.

What climbs keep you awake at night?
Offwidths.

What’s your worst climbing habit?
Constantly getting lost as a result of not reading the guidebook instructions when descending from a route.

What’s your most treasured piece of kit?
The last piece I placed.

Which notable climbers would you invite to your dream crag day out?
Tom Randall, he could help me with offwidths. Hazel Findley, she could provide some much needed mental coaching.

What about the current state of climbing makes you unhappy?
Nothing, I think climbing is in a pretty healthy state.

What’s the most important lesson trad has taught you?
Sometimes you can only rely on yourself.

To what do you owe your climbing mentors?
They literally taught me the ropes. I’m lucky to have started at a time when it was normal to learn by simply going out with somebody with a bit more experience.

What’s the worst climb you’ve ever done?
I’m always happy to just be out. Having said that I can’t ever remember really enjoying The Breck, a sandstone venue near Liverpool.

What’s your trad outfit of choice?
Lightweight trousers. T-shirt. Lightweight windproof jacket attached to my harness. Helmet. Although round here I quite often end up wearing a lot more than this.

What single thing would improve the quality of your climbing?
Bravery. Having the confidence to lead at the same level I can boulder.

If you could bring something of climbings past back to life, what would it be?
Less polish.

Tell us a lake district secret?
The walk in to Scafell isn’t actually that far.

What does the future of climbing hold for you?
I’m too old to be chasing grades so I just want to continue to get out for as long as I possibly can.


Photo: I haven’t actually got a recent picture of me climbing so here’s a selfie of me relaxing after soloing Needle Ridge and about to climb Westmoreland Crags to the top of Gable. 250m climbing after work, what could be better.

Cumbria’s best kept secret

Words: Cathy Casey, The Climber’s Shop

Did you know that you can climb straight off the beach in Cumbria?

Nestled in deciduous woodland, the delightful Armathwaite Crag offers something for everyone with a huge range of grades winding up its collection of orange Penrith Sandstone walls. It’s sheltered south facing aspect overlooking the Eden River often makes the best of the weather when conditions in the mountains are less favourable and you can have lunch on the little sandy beach as a bonus! Add to this a level and short walk in, art installations and the nearby village shop and pubs and you have the recipe for probably one of the best little crags you’ve never heard of!

Our favourite time to visit is in the late Spring where, after parking at the bridge in the village you follow the winding footpath through Coombs Wood amid carpets of native bluebells and wild garlic before cutting down the steep climber’s path to Beach Bay. It’s only small but a great place for a picnic if you are visiting with family or welcome soft landing for avid boulderers.

If the river is low it is possible to traverse downstream, around to some old carved faces, there are five in total along with a salmon and a fishermans poem; a quotation from Isaac Watson’s “Compleat Angler” all said to be carved into the rock by an eccentric local scholar and traveller William Mounsey in 1855.

In addition to the excellent Glenwillie Grooves taking a straight line up off the beach there are a multitude of starred routes to enjoy along the crag with The Bullgine Run (Vdiff), Ituna (S) and Flasherman(VS) rating as some of our favourites, we’ve even been known to pitch The Bullgine Run with the kids and have cup cakes on the huge tree belay before heading up to finish at one of the Eden benchmark sculptures on the path above. “Vista” is a carved boulder where a pair of boots, a rucsack and clothing emerges out of the rock. If you look closely at the cap there is a small face that was carved to mimic one of the stone faces on the main crag below.

You could visit Armathwaite and just climb the suggested Lakeland Revival route to claim your t-shirt but we would heartily recommend taking half a day or even more to enjoy the routes this crag has to offer and to savour the peace and tranquillity of this little known slice of Eden.

Check out Glenwillie Grooves on the ‘Valley Routes’ route card HERE.

Armathwaite crags are just upstream of the sleepy Pennine village of the same name which is served by the Settle to Carlisle railway. The Eden Valley & South Lakes Limestone Guide covers the crag in full and if you are visiting be sure to pop into the local shop and pubs.

Access information can be found HERE.

Top Tip: Keep an eye out for Adders.

The Lakeland Activist Q & A: James Mchaffie

We talk to the climbers racking up in the valleys, roosting in the crags, and reliving their ascents in the pubs of the Lake District this summer. First up is James McHaffie, Extremely Proficient Rock Climber, and BMC Youth and Partnerships Officer. Lake District Born.
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Name, age, Main activity when not climbing;
James, 37, when not climbing probably reading or plotting something…
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Your favourite Lake District Route and why?
Very tricky to choose between the best routes on earth but…’Bitter Oasis’ E4 5c, Goats Crag, Borrowdale. It was put up by Pete Livesey who I had massive regard for both for his vision and dry humour. It cuts through wild terrain and when I first did it it felt a pushy lead and was the start of a great few years of climbing as a teenager.
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What does finding a true trad partner feel like?
Shared experiences can be powerful thing and trad can offer many great adventures to have with people, which ingrains trust. Most of my main trad partners I love to go to the pub with as much as the crag. Apart from Calum, doesn’t drink!
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Which climb keeps you awake at night?
The current one I’ve tried in Ireland is a Ricky Bell route called ‘Rathlin Effect’ E8 6c. I knew it would be hard from seeing the pics and speaking to Ricky. 65 metres long and it might be the wildest pitch I’ve ever been on. Dropped a dyno on it yesterday. It’s probably my dream route I think, bold technical wall climbing, wild laybacks and aretes. A mind blowing route.
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What’s your worst climbing habit?
Probably saying sorry a lot, I think it could be my coping mechanism when the going gets tough.
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What’s your most treasured piece of kit?
My talon skyhooks. I love and hate them!
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Which notable climbers would you invite to your dream crag day out?
Notable climbers crag day out: Emma Twyford, Maddy Cope, Katy Whitt, Sierra Blair, Sasha, Mina….no blokes are invited.
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What about the current state of climbing makes you unhappy?
The emphasis on training, improvement and self promotion I find a bit strange and sometimes off putting. What happens to peoples motivation if they don’t achieve the next grade and is climbing all about improvement? I don’t think it’s just within climbing though, with the world having changed so rapidly with things like social media and constant updates from everyone with a phone I think climbing is just trying to integrate this into it. Before news none got told when someone did something, now its tricky to pick out news from the ‘noise’ of everyday stuff.
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What’s the most important lesson trad has taught you?
Trad has taught me to be calm and focused (not all the time obvs) but those moments when you are in great need and you find that focused ‘heat’ which gets you through. I’ve definitely found it useful in other areas of life.
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To what do you owe your climbing mentors?
Some mentors like Colin Downer taught me to be safer and reduced the likelihood of dying young. You can learn a lot from people you respect. Often mentors won’t be climbers but people who find fulfilment or excel at something they enjoy or work. I think if someone has a passion for something it shows up, from people who are great crafts people to people who can recall everything from their memory. You can take a lot of traits from people you admire and work on them yourself.
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What’s the worst climb you’ve ever done?
‘Final Act’ E2 5c. A route on the far end of Shepherds dad cleaned up. I went back to find it and couldn’t even see a climb beneath the moss. Where did we go?
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What single thing would improve the quality of your climbing?
Resting more usually is the key to improve my climbing, but then I wouldn’t get as much done!
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Tell us a Lake District Secret?
There is an extra subject kids have to do in Cumbrian schools: The art of morbidity. Have you ever met more dower people from anywhere? Maybe Yorkshire.
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If you could bring something of climbings past back to life, what would it be?
I’d bring back open air raves in the slate quarries. I feel I’ve really missed out on a great cultural heritage.
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What does the future of climbing hold for you?
More trad adventures, I’ll hopefully be within striking distance of extreme rock later this year, depending on Scottish conditions. I’ll continue to help set up youth trad meets and oversee accessible climbing courses and things like the fundraiser campaign we did at the end of march this year. I’d be keen if I could just grow old as gracefully as possible and help some people out if possible along the way. We’ll have to see how things go though, sometimes I enjoy just going nuclear.
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Below: James Mchaffie making the first ascent of ‘The Royal Westing’ just a few days ago.
Below: A charity fundraiser which Caff did with Climbing for all Sheffield.