Us outdoor instructors tend to develop a set of venues for different activities that we become familiar with and know work. This is all well and good, but there’s always that niggling thought in the back of your head that perhaps there’s somewhere even better, or that might be better located for certain groups.
With this in mind, I met up with Chris Hughes today for a hunt for new rock climbing venues. We have tended to use similar crags in the past, but were aware that we’ve heard of other places through conversations and books that needed seeking out.
First of all, we headed out towards the Wrekin. We’d heard of a crag right by the road with a car park as well. The West Midlands Rock guidebook also suggests that it’s a good place for group climbing sessions, but neither of us had ever seen it. It was incredibly easy to find, and the crag is right at the edge of the car park – brilliant. However, other that for a few playful scrambling bits, the venue had clearly not been used for a long time and the signs seemed to suggest that this had been enforced by the council. This had probably been our most likely ‘find’ for the day, so it was with regret that we had to cross it off our list of potential rock climbing venues.
Next, we visited Ippikins Rock which is out towards Much Wenlock on Wenlock Edge. The descriptions from the guidebook took a little deciphering, but we eventually found our way to the crag. It became clear very quickly that this was quite a serious venue, with climbs appropriate for the more able. However, once we started to look around the top of the crags, there seemed to be a distinct lack of anything to use to set climbs up for groups. In reality, I’m sure that if you spent enough time there, you’d get used to it and learn your way around, but it appeared very difficult to both identify a route from the top and find appropriate anchors for it. So, although a possible venue for the right group, it would still take quite a bit of learning.
Harmer Hill was our next port of call. It didn’t take us long to find the crag(s) but it again became clear that this was a place for serious climbers. The routes were well separated, making it hard to run a group session, and the climbs themselves weren’t realistic for most mortals. Long thin cracks up near vertical rock faces, requiring some serious layback technique and strength is not the place to introduce novices to the world of rock climbing.
We had also hoped to pay a visit to Grinshill, but time was running out and the rain was starting to fall heavily, so we called it a day. This is one that I’ll need to explore another time.
Overall, it wasn’t a very successful day. With no new ‘gems’ discovered, it was a little disappointing, but at least we know we’re not missing out on something amazing.