Ey oop lad. A motley collection of walkers and climbers arrived at Catgill Campsite, Bolton Abbey, on Friday night between tea time and midnight, apart from the meet organiser who was too busy faffing in nearby Ilkley, although he did turn up the next morning with Tilly the Terrier.
Saturday 18th June
The walkers, comprising Caroline, Mo & 19-month old Nora together with Sarah, Dave Faff & 6-year old Tilly, set off up Trollers Gill. The name Trollers is nothing to do with social media pests but derives from “troll” and “ears” (meaning bottom) so the walkers were literally going up the Troll’s Arse. The small limestone gorge was festooned with sports climbers dangling off bolts but the walkers scrambled up by easier ways to the end of the gill and up to the exposed limestone plateau above.
Shelter from the wind was found for lunch before Faff’s route conveniently took them down to the wonderful Craven Arms in Appletreewick for “refreshments”. The pub sports a spectacular “crook” barn, lots of old timber and an annual ferret race through transparent tubes strung round the ceiling.
Once suitably refreshed the party took a sheltered stroll down the River Wharfe which eventually took the party back to the car. Nora and Tilly seemed fresh as daisies – probably because Caroline and Mo had carried Nora all the way round and Tilly had 4 legs.
The climbing party – Oli, Marie, Darren, Vic and Damien – headed for the (in)famous natural gritstone outcrop at Almscliff (or ARMScliff as they came to understand it) to test their jamming prowess. Parking by the side of the road and looking up at this God’s Own Rock formation, it is not hard to see why this is a revered crag, standing proud atop the hillside as it does.
Marie had a mission to get some Severes under her belt as part of her road to RCI, whilst Vic was recovering from a minor injury and had one main stipulation : “No traverses! ” (in order to avoid the possibility of swinging and hitting something, thereby aggravating the injury).
One of these was achieved, the other most definitely was not.
Wanting to ease into things, Oli and Vic went up Pinnacle Flake Climb (S 4a) whilst Damien, Darren and Maria went at Rough Crack (VDiff), both nice introductions to the Low Man wall. Mixing it up, Damien, Vic and Oli then took on Fluted Columns (HVD 3c) whilst Darren and Marie moved over to Pinnacle Flake Climb. Oli couldn’t help but be drawn to the impressive Matterhorn Boulder, which had an unnatural line transferring from it to the main face : Pigott’s Stride (VS 4c). It looked like a laugh (if you like extreme groin pain. Ed), so he and Damien jumped on and duly leapt across the void.
Moving to the upper walls, Damien, Oli and Vic took on South Wall Traverse (VS 4c), which had some surprisingly tricky sections with some nice exposure, and at the end of the weekend was voted the Climb of the Meet, despite being the first of the many traversing routes they were definitely not going to do. Damien and Darren then flew up Bird’s Nest Crack (HS 4b), before Oli and Damien tackled Fence Buttress (VS 5b), which had a pretty fierce first couple of moves before gaining easier but bolder slabs above. Heading back down to the lower walls, Darren and Marie took on Low Man Easy Way (Diff) whilst Oli, Vic and Damien eyed up Pram Pusher’s Paradise (VS 5a) though were put off for once by the traverse, so combined its start with the V Chimney Direct (VS 5a) finish for a fun pull through a roof.
Back at the campsite the climbers and walkers reconstituted. Most cooked at the site (having spent all their money on petrol) but Vicky, Sarah and Faff went to The Fleece in Addingham for a bit of fine pub grub. Later that evening many tales were told round the campfire (and many cans/bottles drunk) until the site warden told everyone to shut the f*#! up and go to bed.
Sunday 19th June
The following day the walkers decided that, on account of the cool wind, they would keep off the moors and walk up the tree-lined river on the Dalesway from Burnsall to Grassington. Lunch was had in a sheltered spot amongst the sheep shit. It was then back across the fields to a very nice café in Hebden, but not before Sarah and Caroline had stopped a hunky young farmer on his Massey Ferguson to ask for directions. Re-fuelled the walkers descended back to the River Wahrfe and the cars.
The climbers had followed Faff’s suggestion and gone to the Cow & Calf at Ilkley, which while not as picturesque as Almscliff, is none-the-less similarly steeped in climbing history. Oli and Vic started in the quarry, tackling Josephine (HS 4b) , the crux of which was a precarious foot traverse around a bulge with little in the way of handholds, and further away from the last gear than expected for the grade. The excitement wasn’t quite over after that, with some wonderfully-exposed bridging and an upward climb to the exit with nothing but air beneath the feet. The crag is extremely popular with walkers and families and their running commentary added to the atmosphere: “What are they doing, Dad?”, “Are they going to die, Mum?!” etc.
Meanwhile over on The Cow… Damien, Darren and Marie teetered up Chiseller (S 4a) with Darren and Damien then continuing up A Climb (S 4b), a historically-important climb with more than its fair share of awkwardness, and yes, a good traverse. Oli made his way up and down The Chipped Steps (Mod) on The Calf whilst he and Vic waited for their turn to squirm, crawl and thrutch their way up A Climb. Oli was initially proud of his solo, however, seeing it repeated about 17 times by all and sundry removed a little of the glow. (My kids went up it when they were about two years old – it didn’t even reach “easy” grade back then. Ed.)
During Oli and Vic’s ascent of A Climb, they marvelled at a burial ritual bestowed on a rabbit a young walker below them had stumbled upon. It was an elaborate affair cut short only by a parent who decided after 20 minutes that enough was enough! With the walkers en-route to get Sarah back to her car share, there was time for just one more climb – Damien, Darren and Oli made their way up the pigeon poo-laden Walewska (VS 4c) because, hey, what’s one more traverse between climbing partners!
This was the first climbing experience in this part of the country for most of the group, who coined a new catchphrase for the Yorkshire Tourist Board:
“Come to Yorkshire, where everything is awkward and harder than it should be.”