BOULDERING on the unique natural sculpture of the Lancashire moors

One of the big aims we had for 2015 was to really concentrate on our climbing, last year we got out a fair bit but my MA university work and knee operation got in the way of any real progression we wanted to make. This year now the weather has become a little better (I stress little as it doesn’t feel at all like June right now!!) we have been climbing outdoors at least once a weekend and training hard indoors. With the recent acquisition of a new guide book which documents the Lancashire moors which loom over our hometown we have discovered a once unknown wealth of bouldering to explore…

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,

Most of the rock in Lancashire in Gritstone, an infamously punishing rock type full of harsh sandpaper like slopers your hands will grate off time after time until you bleed!! It’s a unique variant of sandstone only found in the North West of England…

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,

nowhere else in the world has this sort of climbing and it is quite an acquired taste! It takes quite a lot of practice to be able to pull on those seemingly impossibly round holds but when the friction is just right and your hand slaps on that sweet spot there is nothing quite like it!

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,

From pulling on pebbles to ripping your hands open on awful sloping holds, to the sharp crimps and mysteriously created pockets in these wonderful boulders carved by thousands of years of weather the climbing is varied and challenging up here.

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,
This might not look all that hard, but it’s an almost vertical slab with only pebbles and friction for holds…it’s also higher than it looks at the top! (The RB graffiti was done during the late 1800’s by local workers)
There are overhanging ledges of ripples whipped by the swirling moorland winds and tentative slabs for your to smear up using only the friction of your shoes!! From once thinking there was nothing to climb up here it has become our play ground!

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,

When we headed up here at the end of the winter we were unceremoniously shut down! We had high hopes of getting some of the 6A’s done and working our way up to 7’s by the end of the year (or before my second knee operation in late September).

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,
Pockington Lane, one of our 6B’s so far and a real hand shredder!

But instead we found ourselves floundering at the bottom of 4’s cursing the rocks and dismissing the style of climbing as not really suiting us! Which to be fair is partially true as we have done much more climbing on the sharper and more cracked quarried grit of the area which requires quite a different bag of techniques and tricks…finger jamming anyone?

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,

With our tails between our legs we headed back out to the trading scene and even had a go at some sport climbing (both use ropes, posts coming soon will further explain!!). But not to be defeated and with a defiant attitude we persisted with that pesky gritstone and began to make progress once our techniques adjusted.

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,

Over the past couple of months weather permitting and of course in between our trips to Ireland, Slovakia and Austria we have been getting out every weekend. So far we have managed a bunch of 6A and 6A pluses alongside a couple of 6B’s… our aim for the year is to get to 7A!

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,
Cuban, a tricky 6A with a reachy finish!

One of the things we love about bouldering is that it is much more relaxed than climbing long high routes where you have to fiddle around with protection and ropes.

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,

You get many more routes (called problems in bouldering) done in the same time and it’s a little more sociable as you aren’t perched high up on a cliff face with only yourself and the rock for company…your belayer a faint dot at the bottom of the crag!

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,

Now we do love “proper” climbing like that too, but it’s much more of a mental challenge too and you know, sometimes you just want to climb without that stress!

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,
A highball…Scary at the top on those round holds!

The rocks around here are pretty amazing really too, some of these shapes and features are like natures own sculpture. Carved by the elements into unbelievable swirls of rock they feel like they were meant to be climbed. For all their peculiar and beautiful contours to be explored and enjoyed.

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,

The Lancashire moors might have been taken for granted by us for the last time! We plan on making the most of these amazing boulders perched up on the famous Pennine way this year before we head out around the world! It’s certainly a great way to keep that wanderlust at bay whilst we save up!

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,

How many of you have tried climbing? Well actually we have noticed that quite a few other travellers out there have had a taste of “Rock Climbing” and of course found it hard work…

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,

But as tame as bouldering might look on the surface it’s actually far more likely to get you injured…and a lot bloody harder than many roped climbs we have done too as it is much more about pure climbing than the head game of higher stuff…although some of these felt high when you only have one mat below you!

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,
Spaghetti limbs…first 6B. This first move is awful and I left quite a bit of blood on the rock from both hands and my shin! What fun!

Another foot note…you might have even done some bouldering indoors…but it’s a lot like learning to drive. You think you can do it and quite well, but you get out into the “real world” and you have to learn all over again! Climbing grades indoors and outdoors might often use the same grading systems but the difficulty is vastly different!

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,

 

So, who is up for cutting their hands to shreds all in the name of fun!!??

 

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,

Or you know, grinding your face off sandpaper like rocks!!

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,
For a small boulder this problem “Naval Graving” was so hard to get from this position onto the top of the rock as there is nothing to pull up on!!
The views up here are quite something too…maybe where we are from isn’t so bad after all!

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,

 Bouldering, climbing, gritstone, natural gritstone, grit, adventure, Lancashire, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough, Greater Manchester, Stony edge, Higher Chelburn,

Best boulder problems so far (as of 1st Oct 2015):

Left Wall Traverse 6C – White House Quarry

Pockington Lane 6B (Sit Start) – Blackstone Edge
Spaghetti Limbs 6B (Sit Start) – Blackstone Edge
Clarion Call 6B (Sit Start) – Higher Chelburn
Strange Habits 6B – Stony Edge
Problem 9 6B – Pantymwyn

Cuban 6A+ (Sit Start) – Blackstone Edge
Ecstasy of Yearning – 6A+ – White House Quarry
Billy Ocean (Sit Start) – 6A+ – Blackstone Edge
Jiggery Slopery (Sit Start) 6A+ – Stony Edge

Recalibrate 6A – Blackstone Edge
The Easy Mantel 6A – Blackstone Edge
Delicat 6A – Stony Edge
Lovers Lip 6A – Higher Chelburn
Right Wall Traverse 6A – White House Quarry
The Horny Thief – 6A – White House Quarry
Clarion Call 6A – Higher Chelburn 
Ricki Lake 6A – Blackstone Edge
Rockflection 6A – Higher Chelburn
Tangentiles 6A – Higher Chelburn
Sandy Hobits 6A – Stony Edge
The Harder They Come 6A – Higher Chelburn
Fineline (Low Start) 6A – Brownstones
Red Edge Left Eliminate 6A – Widdop

RB 5+ – Stony Edge
Summit Fever 5+ – Stony Edge
Deep Eyes 5+ – Higher Chelburn
Obscenity 5+ – Brownstones
Intro Slab 5+ – Brownstones
Diversion on 5+ – Blackstone Edge
Left Edge 5+ – Widdop
Nosey Thing 5+ – Blackstone Edge
Backside Slab 5+ – Blackstone Edge
Rampant Immortal 5+ – White House Quarry
Naval Graving 5+ – Cow’s Mouth Quarry
First Laugh 5+ – Blackstone Edge
Born to Love 5+ – Stony Edge
Timothys Route 5+ – Craig-y-Longridge
Slug The Thug 5+ – Craig-y-Longridge

And a load more at 5 and 4!

You can see my UKC logbook here if you are into that sort of thing!

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Nicola Hilditch-Short

Nic is one half of the Roaming Renegades, a passionate traveller, climber, adventurer, photographer and artist who has a B.A in Fine Art and M.A in Design & Art Direction.