Top Banner
The Stell—A Bouldering Guide Part Two A series of downloadable PDF guides to new bouldering venues , problems, highballs and routes in Northumberland, including: The Stell Whiteheugh Raven’s Crag Caller Crag , Corby’s and Edlingham Greensheen Hill Parkside Wood The Maiden Chambers Area St Cuthbert’s Cave The Bowden Area The Wanneys Group Beanly Moor and Hunterheugh Blakey’s Bloc Cockenheugh Kyloe Out Rothley The Ravensheugh Area Banno Crags Titlington and the Turban South Yardhope Brady’s Crag Coquet View Shitlington Lostworld Lookwide Howlerhirst High Crag NMC Northumbrian Mountaineering Club Alec Burns On The Figurehead Bob Smith Northumbrian Mountaineering Club Supplement

The Stell Part Two

Jul 21, 2016



Rothbury Moors
Welcome message from author
This document is posted to help you gain knowledge. Please leave a comment to let me know what you think about it! Share it to your friends and learn new things together.
  • The StellA Bouldering Guide

    Part Two

    A series of downloadable PDF guides to new bouldering venues , problems, highballs and routes in Northumberland, including:

    The Stell Whiteheugh Ravens Crag

    Caller Crag , Corbys and Edlingham Greensheen Hill Parkside Wood

    The Maiden Chambers Area St Cuthberts Cave The Bowden Area

    The Wanneys Group Beanly Moor and Hunterheugh Blakeys Bloc

    Cockenheugh Kyloe Out Rothley

    The Ravensheugh Area Banno Crags Titlington and the Turban

    South Yardhope Bradys Crag Coquet View

    Shitlington Lostworld Lookwide

    Howlerhirst High Crag

    NMC Northumbrian



    Alec Burns

    On The Figurehead

    Bob Smith








    ering C





  • Introduction... ...Northumberland Bouldering


    The location of each crag is indicated by its Grid Reference.


    The County is covered by seven Ordnance Survey Explorer (1:25,000) maps. Sheets 339 (Kelso), 340 (Holy Island), OL16 (The Cheviot Hills), 332 (Alnwick and Amble), OL42 (Kielder Water), 325 (Morpeth) and OL43 (Hadrians Wall). The majority of the crags lie on sheets 340 and 332.


    On occasions the problems are referenced to routes that are not described in the climbing guide, or in the second edition bouldering guide. These are highlighted in blue italics. You may need these guides or to ask a local climber help you locate the problems.

    Sit Starts

    Most problems are written up as standing starts off one mat only! Generally sit starts are added at the end of a description where they add either to the difficulty, or quality. Only rarely will a sit start be separately named.


    It has long been understood in Northumberland that if a twig is found on a good foothold, then the foothold is out of bounds. The same applies to bedding planes , ledges and footholds in contact with the ground. Usually these are out of bounds. The previous guide wisely suggested that if you are wondering if the foothold is in, then it probably is not!

    Further Information

    The NMC website has a variety of resources relating to climbing in the County. If you have this PDF youve probably found it already. Otherwise go to:

    New Problems

    Descriptions of new problems and routes should be sent to newroutes A descrip-tion, grade, date and name of first ascentionist should be included. A photo with a line marking the route would also help.

    Bob Smith

    Greensheen Slopers Traverse

    Greensheen Hill


    It is true to say that there are only two grades, the problems and routes you can do, and those you cant. To the keen boulderer however it soon becomes apparent that this can be sub divided into the problems you can do and your mates cant, and vice versa! Grading boulder problems (and some routes) is an almost impossible task. The table below is a rough comparison of the common systems in use. Visitors to the County will probably find that, until they get used to the style of the problems and the intricacies of climbing on the Countys various Sandstones, the accuracy of the table will be questionable. Grades are an art rather than a science, and while difficulty is central to bouldering , it is easily confused with quality. The pursuit of which is an equally rewarding endeavour.

    The various grading systems are well understood, and like grades are an ongoing source of debate regarding their respective mer-its.

    In these PDF guides we have retained the Font grades introduced in the last guidebook and their use is now established and un-derstood.


    The height of many crags in the County demands a highball ap-proach. Mats can reduce the consequences when highballing goes wrong, but there comes a point when they look very small. Many of these problems would have been considered small routes not long back, (though some in this new series are not so small) and occasionally are compounded with bad landings. Fall-ing off them should not be treated casually. While it should be self-evident, those that fall into this category get an (H) symbol indicating the potential Highball, Helicopter and Hospital factor. Be careful!


    3 4c VB

    4 5a


    4+ 5b

    5 V1

    5+ 5c

    6a V2

    6a+ 6a V3


    6b+ V4



    6b V5

    7a V6

    7a+ 6c V7


    7b+ V8

    7c V9

    7c+ V10

    8a 7a V11

    8a+ V12

    8b 7b V13

    8b V14

    Steve Blake

    Shitlington Wall


    Photo: Alec Burns

  • Introduction... ...Northumberland Bouldering


    The quality and durability of Sandstone in North-umberland varies significantly both on and be-tween crags. Iron hard rock with a case hard-ened patina can coexist with a super soft cheesy substance soft enough to be shaped by hand. Sadly there is much evidence that the tough pati-na when worn away reveals a soft inner that rap-idly erodes. There are many examples, but Vien-na at Bowden Doors is probably the most famous example, which in its current deplorable state is a much easier and sad shadow of the original .

    Over the last thirty years the popularity of Rock Climbing and Bouldering has accelerated and there is much similar evidence of our impact on the crags. Routes and problems on Sandstone, especially on fragile and well-used Sandstone, are a finite resource and need careful and sensi-tive protection if they are to survive.

    It is worth repeating that you should not climb on sandstone when there is any evidence of damp-ness. The rock becomes significantly weaker los-ing its bonding when damp, and is susceptible to accelerated erosion and breakage. Once a break occurs, or the outer patina is penetrated, then the effects of erosion are exponential.

    Many magnificent routes in Northumberland have es-caped significant damage, principally because the habit of top roping hard routes has not been adopted as readily as elsewhere. Bouldering however, is a particu-larly intensive game which can see a team cycling through repeated attempts on a problem, brushing and ragging between each effort. The impact of this can be seen on relatively recent problems on which holds are already bleaching out., and this is on rock thought of as hard.

    We are the stewards of these places. There are many things we can do to minimise our direct impact on them:

    1. Everyone should acknowledge and understand the fragility of the medium and learn to walk away if there is any suggestion of dampness and the rock is not in condition.

    2. Set yourself a realistic number of attempts at a problem, if you cant do it, leave it until you can do it


    Bowden Doors

    David Murray

    On Barnaby Rudge

    The Good Book Section, The Stell.

    Alec Burns collection

    without beating it into submission. We need to have enough humility to understand that the rocks needs are more important than our egos. Learn to walk away and come back when youre capable.

    3. Be gentle with brushwork, and minimal with your chalk. Climbing indoors, we can brush the holds to our hearts content; outdoors, the effect can be catastrophic.

    4. Poor footwork also impacts, so clean your shoes before you begin an attempt. Modern shoes allow a huge amount of force to be exerted through the feet, eg twisting on smears has a grinding effect that speeds up erosion. Be aware, use good footwork and tread lightly.

    5. Dont use the problems for training. Running laps may look cool, but do it indoors on plastic, not on the rock.

    6. Take your junk home, dont light fires, dont leave gates open. If you must, learn how to shit in the woods. Do not be generally antisocial.


    The crag is located on Debdon Moor, approximately 1.5 miles north of Rothbury, a market town

    north west of Morpeth, and south west of Alnwick. Rothbury and its environs are shown on OS

    1:50,000 map sheet 81 and the 1:25,000 sheet OL332 at GR 064041.

    The crag is approximately 120m long and faces north west. It catches the afternoon and evening

    sun in the summer. It is exposed and doesnt carry much drainage. As such it dries out quickly. This

    also means that if the wind is blowing from the west then you will feel it.

    The crag is on Access Land and climbers have a right of access to the crags. However the moor has

    signs of being a managed shoot. It is possible that applications for temporary closure could be ap-

    plied for. These would have to be agreed by Natural England and posted on the Access Land web

    site. This can be found at

    The diagrams opposite should be sufficient to get a newcomer to the crag.

    1 2

    The Stell


    The rock is good quality, blocky fell sand-

    stone, which has probably been quarried

    in antiquity. The problems range in diffi-

    culty from 5+ through to 8b. There are

    both highballs and problems of a more

    modest height, and many will test your

    mantling technique to complete them in

    good style. Despite having been climbed

    on since 2008 some problems are show-

    ing signs of wear. The large side hold of

    Stuck In The Middle is already taking a

    beating. Please tread lightly.

    Steve Blake

    On The Joker


    Parking is available in the Debdon Forest pullout on the west side of the Rothbury/Alnwick road

    (B6341) Please do not block either the access to the forestry yard, or the main track which provides

    access for farms on Debdon Moor.

    The crag is a 15 minute walk from the parking area. Follow the track west, and once through the gate

    follow another track north. This passes through a small quarry and then a birchwood. Once clear of

    the wood, strike north across the moor, passing to the right of the power pole. The crag cant be seen

    but will be reached in five minutes, following a variety of quad and sheep tracks cross the moor. Note

    that it is prone to being boggy, but a wet hike does not necessarily mean the crag will be damp.









    OS Map Sheet OL332 : GR 064041

    Altitude: 213m

    Aspect: North West Facing

    Approach: 15 Minutes

    Right of Access Under CROW

    ...The Stell

  • Introduction...

    2 3


    The crag was discovered in 2008 by Steve Blake as part of his ongoing forensic exploration of the

    Countys undiscovered crags. It was a surprising discovery given the crag is marked on the map and

    can be seen from the Carriage Walk (a popular ramble to the West of Debdon Moor). Its discovery is

    all the more fortuitous given Steve almost turned back when nothing could be seen on the first ap-


    Development by Steve and the Back in the Day team followed pretty promptly . Blake snapped up

    the highball lines on the pinnacle and several shorter problems on the rest of the crag. These lines

    were either cleaned on the go or with a very long cleaning brush! They are all excellent. Bob Smith,

    Alec Burns, Ian and David Murray, and John Earl all got in on the act. Bobs Wandering Minstrel trav-

    erse being notable, as is the mantle problem on the Blocky Block. Martin Waugh eventually subdued

    the steep Doctors Orders and Chris Sowden, a Yorkshire visitor, nipped in to claim the steep Sowdens


    Chris Graham visited and added a characteristically hard and direct start to Stuck in the Middle, while

    Dan Varian was made aware of the crag after a Mark Savage photo shoot. After a number of visits,

    Dans steely fingers established Great Expectations, (the hardest problem on the crag) . He, or Aido

    Holt, climbed the slopers and mantle to the left of Stucks (very) direct start thus adding a very hard

    and direct start to the Clown on the pinnacle . There may be others yet to do but they will undoubt-

    edly be very hard and eliminate in their nature.

    The crag is described from Left to Right. Key features are the Blocky Block, the Matterhorn Block, the

    Neb, the Great Expectations Block, Moby Dick and the West Wall.

    The Left Hand Section

    Steve Blake

    Making use of his span.

    Stuck in the Middle.

    Bob Smith

    The Centre

    The Right Hand Section

    ...The Stell

    Matterhorn Block Blocky Block Last & First

    The Neb Great Expectations Wandering Minstrel

    Great Expectations Moby Dick

    West Wall

    The Doldrums

  • 4 5

    21. The Gully Wall 6b+ SB

    Sit Start. Up the innocuous arte.

    22. The Lonely Block. 6b+ BS

    Sit Start. Gain the arte and layaway up this to an awkward finish.

    23. Holly Wall. 6b BS Sit Start. Gain the arte and layaway up

    this to an awkward finish. A variety of foot rules can be applied ..

    24. The Wandering Minstrel. 6C BS

    This is something of a ballad. Start with some hard , low level

    crimping, span the gap to a pocket and some palming action, cross

    the crack and continue with your hands on the edge. Excellent!

    25. Slapple. 6b+ BS

    From an obvious slot pull up to a crimp then the large sloper, mak-

    ing a long reach from this to the top.

    26. The Bookend. 6b+ BS

    The impending indefinite arte of the Wandering Minstrel. Small fingerholds facilitate a clamp.

    Some cunning heel work leads to a difficult finish.

    16 22





    The Wandering Minstrel ...The Stell The Stell The M atterhorn

    Dan Adams

    On The Bookend

    Mark Savage collection



  • 6 7

    26. The Bookend

    27. The Crack. 4 Dare you?

    28. The Concave Wall. 6b SB

    Up large crimps to reach the top, palm along this to the left and rock over to finish.

    29. Martins Arete. 7b AH (Martin Waugh generously let Aido have a try1)

    The left side of the angled nose. Pull out up the vertical wall.

    30. Unpleasant Medicine. 7a+ MW

    The right side of the nose, again pull out up the short wall.

    An interesting eliminate uses the hands on 26, and feet on 25!...................

    28 26




    Aido Holt

    Holt On

    Mark Savage Photography

    The Neb ...The Stell The Wandering Minstrel ...The Stell

    Martin Waugh

    Unpleasant Medicine

    Mark Savage Photography

    It is the sign of these modern times that an

    interesting eliminate which uses the hands

    on 26 and hooks feet onto 25 has been es-

    tablished. Photographic evidence suggests it

    responds well to a technique which would

    come naturally to a Land Crab!

    It has not been possible to establish which

    body parts reach the top first


  • 8 9

    The Good Book Bloc

    31. Barnaby Rudge. 6b+ DM

    Standing on the block, pull onto the wall reach up to the lip and rock out the finish.

    32. Great Expectations. 8a+ DV

    Like the original, this will be a weekly serial for most! The hardest problem currently on the crag

    Sit Start. Tiny ,two-tip crimps lead rightwards to a veritable jug at the junction with Hard Times. Up

    and over.

    33. Hard Times. 7a SB

    Sit Start (the boulder to the right is out). Up the arte to the finger jug, move left to top out. 6b+ from



    32 33

    Great Expectations was one of Dans North-

    umbrian obsessions. The challenge it

    posed was obvious, the fingertip nicks at

    chest height were noted and fondled on the

    first visit, but needed a strength and tech-

    nique beyond that which the initial devel-

    opers possessed. Of the several local activ-

    ists perhaps capable, Dan stepped forward

    and invested the necessary time, effort and

    frustration to complete the problem.

    Currently the problem has been done from

    the stand, while from the sit Dan has estab-

    lished himself on the wall. From the stand

    Dan considers it 8a+ . It is by far the hardest

    problem at the crag. Dan considers this an

    open project. Get to it!

    Dan Varian

    Great Expectations

    Mark Savage Photography

    The Good Book Bloc ...The Stell The Stell ...The Good B ook Bloc

  • 10 11

    34. Bilberry Wall. 6c ?

    The delicate slab past the Bilberries. Both the Bilberries and Heather will probably disappear with



    The First Tower .

    35. The Wall. 6b CM

    Up the Wall to the overlap and a positive hold. Reach left then up to the top

    36. Canny Crack 5+ CM

    The leaning crack throughout.

    The Second Tower

    37. No Joke 6c SB

    Easily up the wall, pull over the overhang to an awkward finish. Another quiet nights work, no

    spotters and a wobbly top out!

    36 35


    The Doldrums ...The Stell The Stell ...The Doldrums

  • 12 13

    The Bow

    38. The Pequod . 6b+ AB

    The left side of the obvious prow.

    39. The Bowsprit . 6b+ AB

    Up the bow making like a figurehead.See the

    rear cover and above right. Very steep!

    41 40

    To the right of the prow is a vertical wall with two

    problems. Another, on a blunt arte, will be found

    by following the gully to the right .

    40. Call me Ishmeal. 6b+ SB

    SS From the good hold, small flakes lead to the

    break. Undercut this up and left to an awkward


    41. Queequeg. 6b SB

    Follow the edge up and right. Pass the bilberries

    to the second ramp and up this to yet another

    awkward finish. It gets sneakily up highwatch


    38 39

    Bob Smith

    The Bowsprit

    Alec Burns

    The Doldrums ...The Stell The Stell ...T he Doldrums

    Katie Mundy

    Call me Ishmael

    Mark Savage collection

    Ian Murray

    The Pequod

    Alec Burns

  • 14 15

    44. Moby Dick Left 6b+ SB

    Moby Dick Right 7a

    From the back of the recess, traverse the

    diagonal break. Pull over the overhang

    and depending on your mood exit left, or


    45. Ahab 6c BS

    From the back of the overhang follow

    the break out left, reach up into a hold

    in the crack. Span out to an edge and

    them a hold on the lip. Pull out over

    the roof to another Stell mantle!


    45 42

    42. Downfall 6c SB

    Sit Start the blunt arte .

    In the early stages of development, Ste-

    ve Blake stepped through a heather cor-

    nice and back flipped into the gully,

    landing on his feet at the base of the rib.

    There are many other mantraps on the

    top of the crag beware!


    43. The Wee Block 6a JE

    Sit Start really you must!

    Steve Blake

    Moby Dick

    Alec Burns

    Moby Dick ...The Stell The Stell ...Moby Dick

    Katie Mundy

    On Ahab

    Mark Savage Photography

  • 16 17



    49 50


    46. The Smiling Bloc Left. 6c MW

    A morpho sit start. Easier for the short to start,

    but followed by a big span which leads to a diffi-

    cult finish!.

    47. The Smiling Bloc Right. 6b AB

    Use holds on the arte to reach up to a hold on

    the left.

    48. Easy Groove. 5. MW

    49. Wipe That Smile. 7a SB

    Sit Start. From the small flake, pull over the

    wall to, you guessed it, another Stell mantle!

    50. Ooher Wall. 7a+ MW

    Similar to, but harder than its neighbour. Us-

    ing the poor crescent and crimp, pull up to

    the obvious hold on the lip

    The Smiling Bloc ...The Stell The Stell ...The Smiling Bloc

    Stu Campbell

    The Smiling Block left

    Mark Savage Collection

    Micky Stainthorpe

    Wipe That Smile

    Mark Savage Collection

  • 18 19

    53 54




    54 53



    The Problems on the First and Last Block can be intermingled to suit your mood. They are shown in

    their original state. But play around and mix and match at willits all fun!

    51. Girdle Lover. 6c. MW

    The obvious mid height traverse, linking into Wee Cracker From the prominent flat hold pull and

    lean right to the break and arte. Join the Original and continue past its exit with your hands on the


    52. Wee Cracker. 6a SB

    Sit Start. The thin crack.

    53. The Arete. 6b SB

    SS follow the arte, its difficult not too.

    54. The Original. 6c SB

    The first problem established on the crag. Pull up the arte and span right onto the crescent , con-

    tinue right and pull over at its end.

    55. The Centre. 6b SB





    Bob Smith

    The Man from the Ministry

    Bob Smith Collection

    Tim Blake

    The Original

    Steve Blake Collection

    First & Last ...The Stell The Stell ...First & Last


  • 20 21


    Opposite the main crag about 250m North are a collection of boulders with a couple of established



    First Ascent Details:

    SB - Steve Blake Old - 61 69kg Past his best. Moderately strong.

    BS - Bob Smith Older - Small 55kg, in decline, flexible - techy.

    DV - Dan Varian Young , strong & technical

    CG - Chris Graham Not quite so young , but still very strong

    MW - Martin Waugh Old, and Strong but like an aging racehorse very


    AH - Aido Holt Younger and stronger, not tweaky.

    AB - Alec Burns Old, declined but still fighting gravity

    JE - John Earl The Oldest!

    DM - David Murray Was the youngestnot any moreStrong.

    CS - Chris Sowden Old but probably the lightest by quite a stretch!

    CM - Craig Mahone

    Chris Sowden

    The Reach

    Bob Smith

    Steve Blake

    The Clown

    Mark Savage Photography

    ...The Stell The Stell...