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Best XS Routes

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.
 Tom Green 28 Mar 2020

I've been thinking that we will all need some extra adventure in our lives after months of being closeted away with no climbing fix... So, I've started thinking about some spicy routes for after the shutdown. 

What are your 'favourite' routes that get given MXS, XS or HXS?! 

 Cusco 28 Mar 2020
In reply to Tom Green:

Look at the old North Devon and Cornwall guide and a Lleyn Peninsula guide.

Ask Mick Fowler.

And don't die doing it!

Here's an old article from Javu from years back.

http://javu.co.uk/Climbing/Articles/RubbleTrubble/index.shtml

There's a good video of Dave Thomas on Breakaway on a climbing DVD (can't remember which) which may help you change your mind!

Stay safe!

 ianstevens 28 Mar 2020
In reply to Cusco:

> Look at the old North Devon and Cornwall guide and a Lleyn Peninsula guide.

> Ask Mick Fowler.

> And don't die doing it!

> Here's an old article from Javu from years back.

> There's a good video of Dave Thomas on Breakaway on a climbing DVD (can't remember which) which may help you change your mind!

Fittingly, it’s Hard XS

 Tom Green 28 Mar 2020
In reply to Cusco:

Excellent! That’s tonight’s nightmares sorted!

 Brown 29 Mar 2020
In reply to Tom Green:

Mild XS - Skeleton Ridge (HVS 4c)

A great day out. After arranging access and waiting for the Fort to open we were running slightly late to catch the tide. Fortunately, it was an outrageously perfect day, millpond calm and sunny. I even swam out to the next pinnacle out in a misguided attempt to solo it before the tidal race started.

The positions on the route are stunning and the chalk is basically solid.

XS - Error of Judgement (E1 5a)

This gets E1 but in my opinion, is a prime candidate for XS. Very well named!

I distinctly recall teetering upwards, getting further and further up the cliff, yet still finding nothing but an absence of gear and loose rock. This culminated in a hand traverse to a ledge, this hand traverse was entirely on (hopefully) keyed in rocks, all independently removable but collectively solid enough. 

Once on the ledge, I eyed the wide crack and good rock capping the cliff with delight until the realisation that my size 4 cam was too small. I searched high and low, quarried into the shale looking for solid gear but eventually conceded defeat. There was no gear. Prudence got the better of valour and I untied and dropped the ropes whilst perched on my foot ledge. After an eternity, though probably no more than half an hour, the rope came down from above and I finished on top rope. One to return for!

HXS - The Nose (E4 6a)

This probably scrapes into HXS with N Devon coast style shale climbing for the first few pitches followed by 250 m of generally loose, or soft sandstone protected by aggressive wildlife.

OHXS - Outrageously Hard Excessively Severe

There must be candidates for this logical grade expansion to prevent the problem of grade boundary expansion rendering the XS scale redundant.

 Tom Green 29 Mar 2020
In reply to Brown:

> OHXS - Outrageously Hard Excessively Severe

Great shout!

 Richard J 29 Mar 2020
In reply to Brown:

> This gets E1 but in my opinion, is a prime candidate for XS. Very well named!

I'm impressed and a bit surprised that anyone else has done this route, given the guidebook description.  Doing it on-sight, ground-up was definitely one of the high-points of my stint as Brian Davison's luckless side-kick.  He did the 2nd ascent (I believe) of Breakaway soon afterwards but I called in sick for that weekend.

 Brown 29 Mar 2020
In reply to Richard J:

The 2002 CC guide is quite understated.

"This takes the prominent right-facing corner with a flake in it and chimney / off-width crack at the top. The impressive vertical wall of Stigmarta Buttress forms its right wall. The grade is even more suspect than the rock"

Although there was a further clue in the FA section - "Error of Judgement, it certainly was, an appallingly loose line"!!!!!!

Loose even by Doris standards

 Richard J 29 Mar 2020
In reply to Brown:

> Loose even by Doris standards

Can there be higher praise?

In reply to Richard J and Brown:

> I'm impressed and a bit surprised that anyone else has done this route, given the guidebook description.  Doing it on-sight, ground-up was definitely one of the high-points of my stint as Brian Davison's luckless side-kick.  He did the 2nd ascent (I believe) of Breakaway soon afterwards but I called in sick for that weekend.

Wow, the lunatics really are coming out the woodwork here - I'm another one of the idiots that decided Error of Judgement looked like a good idea. It's not exactly like there isn't a clue in the name either

I did it in/around a time where I was climbing a lot of loose rock, so was (or at least I thought I was) familiar with the medium; however, Error of Judgement really does represent the next level of looseness. The whole thing was falling down quicker than I could climb it and my belayer must have felt like they were in a warzone there was so much shrapnel coming down from the dogfight that was occurring above. Thankfully I managed to move upwards fractionally quicker than the route itself was tumbling down...

Funnily enough this is the second time this route has been mentioned within the space of a week, as Mick Lovett is currently working on the Craig Doris chapter for the forthcoming Lleyn guide. You'll be glad to hear Error of Judgement has been raised from a suicidal E1 to still suicidal XS.

I'll have a think and most some of my other favourites of the grade a little later.

In reply to Tom Green:

First and foremost, great thread...

MXS - Aiguille Merlot Traverse (AD+)

Ok, I'll grant you that it doesn't actually get MXS - it gets an alpine grade of AD - but the reality is that this is for entertainment value only and the route as a whole has a very MXS feel about it (i.e. it's easy, entertaining, but loose as sin and if you fell you'd probably die).

I did this last year and it was absolutely hilarious. This rotting fin is crawled for the most part, but there is the very occasional steepening where, despite the fact it's still quite slabby, things feel impressively cruxy. Throughout the route your main concern, aside from the individual clusters of shale your clinging to, is the structural integrity of the ridge itself, which feels like it could collapse at any moment. They key to success is to suppress your sense of imagination and utilise the vegetation as best you can, because the clods of moss are without doubt the most solid holds on the route.

XS - Opening Gambit (XS)

I'd love to have included some sort of sea cliff adventure, but wasn't quite sure - in light of my previous post - that I could legitimately classify Error of Judgement as my favourite anything, apart from perhaps my favourite near death experience?

Opening Gambit is worth doing just for the approach, which takes you right into the bottom of the 'big hole'. It then takes the line of loosest resistance up the back wall, which other high quality rock climbs such as The Quarryman + The Meltdown cleverly avoid in favour of climbing actual rock. My experience on this was made all the more memorable because of my partner that day, Ian Parnell, and I just remember the two of us laughing at the looseness all the way up. It really is an adventure through time and given that it was first climbed by Joe Brown - a man that didn't put up a single bad route - how wrong can he have been?!? 

HXS -

I can't comment, but surely Breakaway (XS 5b) has to be the ultimate? I was always tempted, but fear that my prime is past me as far as taking unjustifiable risks is concerned. Probably for the best, because really - deep down - does anyone really want to put themselves through this?!

Answer: probably

 Richard J 29 Mar 2020
In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

> I'd love to have included some sort of sea cliff adventure, but wasn't quite sure - in light of my previous post - that I could legitimately classify Error of Judgement as my favourite anything, apart from perhaps my favourite near death experience?

> Opening Gambit is worth doing just for the approach, which takes you right into the bottom of the 'big hole'. It then takes the line of loosest resistance up the back wall, which other high quality rock climbs such as The Quarryman + The Meltdown cleverly avoid in favour of climbing actual rock.

I did Opening Gambit a year or so after doing Error of Judgement, and I don't remember it being that bad, certainly by comparison (it's possible that some of it has since fallen down too).  But the atmosphere and ambience were indeed fantastic.  

 Brown 29 Mar 2020
In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

I felt constrained by suggesting things I'd climbed.

Breakaway does appear to be the standout benchmark for the HXS grade. Helped by the film.

 Brown 29 Mar 2020
In reply to Richard J:

Another highly specialist crag I hold strong memories of is Purple Zawn at  Trefasser Area.

The rock architecture is fantastic and the climbing was unique. I've tried to encourage many people to visit but have yet to succeed.

Post edited at 15:51
 Tom Green 29 Mar 2020
In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

> MXS - Aiguille Merlot Traverse (AD+) it's easy, entertaining, but loose as sin and if you fell you'd probably die.

Sounds like it needs to go straight on the list!

> My experience on this was made all the more memorable because of my partner that day, Ian Parnell,

What is it with Ian and Twll Mawr XS routes?! He talked me in to doing Scorpion (XS) after we’d previously arranged to have a nice chilled day in Vivian! ;-p

>Probably for the best, because really - deep down - does anyone really want to put themselves through this?!

> Answer: probably

Answer: yes, during the lockdown period where I can’t! Reserve the right to backtrack when it’s actually possible though!!

In reply to Tom Green:

Tabula Rosa, HVS, Langcliffe.

HVS?? Well, it's Yorkshire! (Was VS when I did it.)

In the words of a (very) rare fellow ascentionist, Andy Say, 'A truly character deforming experience...'

In the words of another fellow ascentionist (that's almost got through 'em!), John Lumb, the best climbing writer you've never heard of:

'The approach. Be warned, this is the good bit. First stroll through the graveyard, then head across the council waste tip, brow the hill and cast your eyes on the horror facing you, 300 feet of seemingly blank limestone. No features, no obvious protection, in fact no obvious grace at all.'

Don't say you've not been warned!

Mick

 Richard J 29 Mar 2020
In reply to Brown:

Not been there, though I enjoyed some of the People's Cliff routes (relatively solid and protectable though they are).New Dawn Fades (E4 5c) on Penbwchdy was another adventure, entertaining enough getting to the bottom of it but another fine on-sight lead by Brian Davison.  

But I know, North Pembroke is surprisingly difficult to persuade people to go to.  And there's a whole stretch of almost entirely neglected shale between Newport and Cardigan; Brian did some routes there that seem never to have made it into the guidebook.

In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

The amazing news I've been waiting for - a new Lleyn guide! I'm very pleased.

 Brown 29 Mar 2020
In reply to Richard J:

I think some areas have been left behind by the current crop of really good guidebooks.

When stuff is only recorded in old style text guides it's a little harder to work out what's good. Possibly when that was the typical style everywhere that was not such an issue.

It's great to hear a new Llyn guide is in the pipeline. There is such a lot of good climbing down that way.

In reply to Tom Green:

If anyone hasn't really done any of this kind of thing and would like an easy taster to give them the idea without committing to multipitch tottering death I'd suggest this:   

Hassle (HVS 4b)

If this goes OK, you're then in the right area to go and pick something more adventurous.

Post edited at 09:29
 Tom Green 30 Mar 2020
In reply to Dave Garnett:

And extra points for it being a Keith Derbyshire route!

In reply to Tom Green:

> And extra points for it being a Keith Derbyshire route!

Yes, it's one of the Climbing Thatcher's (probably the easiest) so it has that going for it too.  

This doesn't seem to get done much, but I hear it may now be even looser than back when I did it:

Big Business (E3 5b)

But it's also single pitch and not too serious in the sense that rescue is possible.  Probably.

 malk 30 Mar 2020
In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

why isn't this impressive crag in UKC's database? many interesting new routes to explore -only mild XS ..

http://wiki.climbing.ie/index.php/Cliffs_Of_Moher

In reply to Brown:

> I felt constrained by suggesting things I'd climbed.

To be fair, The Nose does look absolutely amazing. Hearing Andy Reeve's hilarious account of it at a BMC Peak Area Meeting a few years back only made me more curious.

 Ian Parnell 30 Mar 2020
In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

Skeleton Ridge is the standout MXS I've done - unforgettable.

It always seemed like the end of a fault line so might now be an arete, but if not Monster Crack at Beachy Head was the best XS I did. One of the best lines in UK, with a nice mix of madness and actually having to climb properly at one point.

Deathtrap at Gogarth the best HXS. A quote from the poor (ex-military) lad belaying on the Mousetrap on the ledge beneath me. "This is worse than being on patrol in Belfast" as the holds rained down, bouncing off his helmet.

Special mention for Vulture at Cilan, which although given E4 and attempting to be a normal climb on the top pitch felt like a full on XS.

In reply to malk:

I think there's also a Ray Evans route somewhere here. Given that he made the first (ground-up!) attempt at Indian Face, in 1967(!!!), he probably quickly got bored with the place and decided it just wasn't exciting enough.

Mick

1
In reply to malk:

What can I say, it's a gross oversight. When Alan finds out I'm sure the retribution, not to mention the P45s, will be swiftly handed out

In reply to Ian Parnell:

> It always seemed like the end of a fault line so might now be an arete, but if not Monster Crack at Beachy Head was the best XS I did. One of the best lines in UK, with a nice mix of madness and actually having to climb properly at one point.

Now there's a proper XS...

I remember you mentioning this years ago and trying to enlist Dan McManus do go and do it. Initially be started by making the right noises, but eventually fell silent. Shame really, as Dan would in many ways be the perfect partner (i.e. he's better than me, extremely capable of climbing loose rock, and is ultimately the one who'd be leading all the crux pitches).

 Carless 30 Mar 2020
In reply to Cusco:

> Here's an old article from Javu from years back.

From the article

"If you want to make a name for yourself then how about a repeat of Echo Wall XS 5c, the super-gnarly sister route to Bird Brain. Apparently it features poor belays and "High Rocks 5c" climbing (mummy!)."

I assume it's been repeated a few times now. I don't remember it as that bad but admittedly I (wisely?) let Mick lead it all

Was disappointed to get my photos back from development as one of them (Mick abbing into the darkness off a dubious spike) would definitely have been front cover had my crappy camera not focused on the wrong bit (yeah I know - user error...)

 Brown 30 Mar 2020
In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

I've always thought that the big cliff behind Porth Ceiriad contained a LGP for the seekers of HXS.

Going directly off the beach and upwards. To the left of the comparatively stable Dinosaur Beach (E4 5c). I once spent a lazy afternoon on the beach as the only fool facing in and staring at the cliff instead of out to sea.

It looks really big and potentially possible!

 Brown 30 Mar 2020
In reply to Brown:

I was also always drawn to Darkness (E2 5c) at  Gordale Scar.

Has anybody climbed it?

Known anybody who has?

 dreadlockpasta 30 Mar 2020
In reply to Carless:

+1 for Bird brain. Still got the peg somewhere. Clipped it and it snapped off...

"King Arthur's crack" makes a good warm up. 

In reply to dreadlockpasta:

> +1 for Bird brain. Still got the peg somewhere. Clipped it and it snapped off...

Doesn't that count as a rest?

In reply to Cusco:

> Look at the old North Devon and Cornwall guide and a Lleyn Peninsula guide.

> Ask Mick Fowler.

> And don't die doing it!

> Here's an old article from Javu from years back.

> There's a good video of Dave Thomas on Breakaway on a climbing DVD (can't remember which) which may help you change your mind!

> Stay safe!

Also on the Youtubes  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCbw0lsMxKE&, one man going on an existential journey of enlightenment through the medium of climbing, one man thinking 'Really, why the f*ck am I here'?

 Michael Gordon 31 Mar 2020
In reply to Tom Green:

No doubt this is down to lack of repeats, but would be good to have a mention of some of the Hoy stuff, e.g. The Needle (XS 5c)

 cb294 31 Mar 2020
In reply to Bobling:

Seriously, WTF??? This must be one of the scariest climbing vids I have seen. I barely could stand watching it even though it is clear that there would not be a factor 2 on whatever they grandiously decide to call a belay....

CB

In reply to cb294:

It's rock Jim but not as we know it

[with apologies to Star Trek]

In reply to cb294:

Any route description that actively encourages you to abseil into the sea gets a thumbs up from me. That said, I clearly haven't done it...

At the other end of the country another place I've always been curious about is  Ladram Bay Stacks. Had a weekend lined up to climb The Big Picket a few years ago but had to cancel due to rain and never got round to re-scheduling, which goes to show how you really have to want to climb these things - it's all too easy to forget about them (psychologists would probably refer to this as repression).

In reply to Bobling:

> Also on the Youtubes  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCbw0lsMxKE&, one man going on an existential journey of enlightenment through the medium of climbing, one man thinking 'Really, why the f*ck am I here'?

Surely this must be a strong contender for the best climbing video ever? Watching Dave do what he does best is an absolute joy (well, if you're watching from the safety of your armchair, that is!)  And the expressions on the poor second's face...

Mick

1
 Brown 31 Mar 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

I recall a route description for a route on the cliffs down to the south of Ratwick Bay which began with the following:

"Abseil the length of your rope and off the end to fall into the sea. Swim to the ledge"

 Sam Beaton 31 Mar 2020
In reply to Bobling:

Best ever intro to a guidebook description? "Retreat would be at best appallingly difficult and at worst terminally easy"

 Carless 31 Mar 2020
In reply to Sam Beaton:

One of the advantages of teleworking is that I can actually find the guidebook in question at the appropriate time

The intro to Henna:  "Conveniently situated near the graveyard of Morwenstow Church"  and  "... Terrordactyls, ice-screws, stakes and a strong belief in one's immortality are the main requirements for an ascent"


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