Shorn Cliff: are squirrels nibbling the belays?

Posted by Rob Dyer on 09/05/2019
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We've received reports of what appears to be rodent damage to rope slings which form part of the belay and abseil anchors for several routes at Shorn Cliff in the Wye Valley, Gloucestershire.

Shorn Cliff is a popular natural limestone venue, set in the woods overlooking Tintern, with a great selection of classic mid-grade single pitch trad routes, often on quality pocketed limestone. The routes top out onto densely-vegetated slopes, which means the default descent is to abseil from trees at the top of the crag. Over the years, these have become well established, with climbers adding fixed rope slings and abseil rings to prevent damage to the trees and allow ropes to pull more easily.  

Now damage has been reported to rope and cordsat two belay/abseil stations in the Great Central Cave area on 8 May, with what seems to be chew marks from rodents (perhaps squirrels) on the rope slings. The climber who made the report replaced the rope at the top of State of Independence, but an additional station above All For One / Bitter Battle Tears was in a similar state and wasn't replaced.

It is entirely possible that further fixed anchors have also been affected, so climbers are urged to be especially cautious before committing to using any fixed belay/abseil stations at this crag:

  • As for any fixed gear on any crag, check it and use your best judgement to decide if it’s reliable before using it.
  • In particular check the full length of any rope, cord or webbing for damage.
  • Carry a spare length of cord/rope and a knife to remove and replace any fixed gear which looks questionable. Remember to re-thread any maillons / metal rings onto the new rope to prevent friction damage when pulling ropes (assuming they are still in good condition). 
  • Report any further damage found to so we can monitor the situation.

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Anonymous User
In Canada it's common for fixed lower-off slings to be chewed by animals for the salt which has soaked into the webbing from sweaty climbers' fingers. That's probably what's happening here. Maybe we should replace vulnerable slings with chain (taking care to leave a lot of room for the tree to expand as it grows)?
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