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Climbing for the Uninitiated

Valkyrie climbing routeThere has been Rock climbing on the Roaches since the turn of the 20th century. Access to the rocks was a problem for the early pioneers of the sport according to the book "Staffordshire Gritstone" by the British Mountaineering Council. Hen Cloud in particular was a problem because our friend Courtney Brocklehurst had armed gamekeepers patrolling the area! They were presumably looking after the game birds and the zoo from whence the wallabies came.

After World War 2 access became easier and a number of classic climbs were developed. Climbs or Routes are given names by the person who first makes the successful climb. There are now hundreds of named climbs on the Roaches with names like "Perverted Staircase", "Demon wall", "Snap, Crackle and Andy Popp" and "Valkyrie". Fancy a go under expert supervision? Follow the link

Each route is given a rating reflecting it's degree of difficulty, such as Moderate, Difficult, Very Severe and highest of all Extremely Severe which is open ended and sub-graded E1, E2, ---E8 etc. The Roaches has something for everybody with the routes rated from Moderate to at least E7. In fact the Roaches are so popular that you may have to queue to get on the rocks!

Rock climbing has become very technical with all sorts of artificial aids. In many areas there are pegs permanently hammered into cracks in the rock to assist the climb. On the Roaches however, in common with all natural gritstone crags, anchors etc are used only as protection and are removed by the second climber so the rock is "clean" for the next guy. This code of practice seems to be observed by almost everyone.

Rock climbing is still a dangerous sport even though ropes are used to minimise the distance fallen. Most weekends of good weather sees a visit from the Air Ambulance. The lead climber is most vulnerable as it is they who are fitting the anchors to the safety rope and can fall a significant distance before the rope is taken up by the nearest safety anchor point. Subsequent climbers are roped from the top by the lead climber whose harness is securely anchored to the rock and who then keeps the safety rope taut as the second climbs.

Local mountaineering clubs rescue teams are also called out when the fallen climber is in an unaccessible position. These teams frequently practise on the Roaches. Both the Air Ambulance and the rescue teams are supported by public donations. They are also frequently called out to walkers so please give generously when the opportunity arises.

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