Some Stanage Highballs - Part 1

Posted by Niall Grimes on 29/04/2008
Dave Parry on Microbe. Photo: John Coefield

Now that the bouldering season is over, and with the routes season coming up, it's time you remembered how to be scared agin. Here's a selection of climbs in that great grey area betwixt routes and boulder problems - all the technicality of bouldering, but with that sense of death's icy grip around your goolies to keep you interested. Check out the new Stanage guide to find where they all are.

Chip Shop Brawl, V7
One of the best bits of climbing on the edge. After an unlikely start, a very sloping hold is gained on the arête. From here, swing left and up the wall on shallow pockets, or stay above a better landing and climb direct, straddling the arête all the way. Magnificent.

Monad, V4
The quarried wall offers little friction for the feet as you struggle desperately to push out the initial, crucial rockover. Most people gain this by a lean in from the big chimney on the right. Above this, the wall feels high, but it’s much easier.

Microbe (V2) and Germ (V4)
Two real favourites these, with tall taxing moves which will feel steep and fingery. Despite a good landing, they definitely feel a bit soloey towards the top.

No More Excuses, V5
Very naughty, this one, and you won’t be wanting to fall off above the crux too often. Still, a bunch of pads and a team of people at the bottom ordering you to press on is the best way to enjoy this classic E4. Hard moves lead up to and past a very sloping hold. Above here, the Victorians would have used a hand-placed blade peg in one of the pockets, but the moves are only 5c, and you’ve just done a 6b, so there’s no way you will fall off, is there? Go on!

Headbanger, V2
A lonely setting for this magical little bookend, and a long way to drag your broken body back to the car. Again, a route that makes its way into the list because of a bouldery nature, no protection, and a short length. And you don’t get many of them to the dozen. The landing guarantees instant exposure, and you’ll need to get revved up for it.

Beaky Direct, V2
This Causeway challenge has a great, strenuous move about eight feet off the deck. It doesn’t feel too dangerous, all the same, and would be hard to fall off. If you found it OK, then Duchess and Motor Mile, the two undercut arêtes to the left, give climbing of similar difficulty and quality, although have a bit more risk thrown in.

Daydreamer routes
Allow yourself a day of mega buzzes. Get a few friends or enemies (but ones who like you) and sizzle your way along the Daydreamer slab. The warm up, Nightmare Slab, E1 5c, is pretty terrifying, more so than the E3s in many ways. From here, work your way along the slab, smearing both the rock and your underpants as you go. With pads, and good spotters, they don’t feel too bad, especially as the cruxes are low down generally. Tick Dream Boat, Daydreamer, Nightrider and Sleepwalker, all E3/E4, all V3/4, and you will be a long way to being a slab master.

Shirley’s Shining Temple, V8
One of Stanage’s medals of honour. This masterpiece from The Boss has a wicked technical start – be prepared to put some time and skin in. After that, once you get stood on the scooped slab, be prepared to fall off and do it again. Above this, arguably the route loses any sense of direction, but just keep left of the flake of Shock Horror, and you will arrive at the top feeling pretty pleased with yourself.

Shock Horror Slab, V5
Just think of Bancroft pecking his way up in obscenely short denim cut-offs and enormous EBs. This frustrating beauty becomes a bit less frustrating when you use the pocket near the arête on the right. The obvious, true line is more like hard V7. Again, a couple of heart-fluttery moves are needed before it all eases off, but it never feels too worrying.

Kitcat, V1
Again, a solo of a very short, unprotected route. With a few mats, the rumbly landing will be fine, and this will bring a smile to your face. The arête to the left, Have a Break, gives harder fun.

D.I.Y., V3
I can’t believe you’ve not done this! Thanks to bouldering mats, this classic E3 no longer feels like a solo. Touching cloth is still not out of the question all the same, as the upper scoop will feel holdless to anyone who can’t think on their feet. Sithee and Torture Garden, to the right, shouldn’t be missed.

Silk, V6
Johnny soloed this first ascent, on-sight, and with no pads. If you can lure the padded masses up from the nearby Plantation, then you can maybe enjoy this - friction climbing at the limit of everything, with only fear, and not danger. It may be worth your while getting the boulder-problem start wired, all the same, as they may not be impressed if you don’t get off the ground. From the sloping ledge, trend up and left to shit-your-pants pockets, and 5b moves to glory.

Satin, V6
The sequence of Big Ron doing this in his old black and white book made it look big and high and hard. In reality, it’s only a little of all three. It requires pressing down on thin, rounded breaks, trusting your feet, and being willing to take a plummet on to the safety of some pads. Although it’s not all that high – you would probably get away with only one mat – your knees would never forgive you if you took the fall without the pad. If you didn’t manage to fall off this, then try Adam Long’s Pressure Drop up the slab to the left.

Pullover, (V1), Wolly Pully (V3)
These two lovely HVSs make you feel like your sphincter is going to pop out of your arse and land in the Plantation. That said, they are really enjoyable, and the difficulty drops right off after the starts.

Four Star, V6
This makes a good companion to Silk. They were both short routes that were almost unjustifiable before mats, but which now give great highballs. Four Star was too good to be lost to obscurity. It’s not very high; it’s just that the landing is a coffin-sized block, so you don’t want to fall off too wildly. However, as with a lot of these problems, ultimately it’s the extra buzz that turns them from brilliant boulder problems into unforgettable experiences. Get on it, sucker.

Sky Bouldering, V6
On the ledge above Four Star. Not really that high, nor even with a bad landing. What makes this good is the real chance that you will stumble backwards and pitch off down the cliff at high speed. If you do, and you are saving Fina for the on-sight, then close your eyes.


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