Tuesday, 12 September 2017

UKC Logbooks Updated

The UKC Logbooks have finally seen their much needed overhaul concerning areas that are featured in the new Southern Sandstone Climbs Rockfax guidebook. The guide will also be available on the Rockfax App and will sync with your current UKC logbook entries. 

Many of the previously unnamed problems now have names, and alternatively named logbook entries have been transferred to their new homes. 

For new route submissions or additional routes or problem entries, please ensure they are entered using the correct current name or new first ascent name and are not duplicates of current entries. 

For more information about adding new routes and the links to the Sandstone UKC pages, please read our 'New Routes' page.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Pre-Order Sale Now Available - Southern Sandstone Climbs Rockfax Guidebook

The long-awaited Southern Sandstone Climbs Rockfax guidebook is now available for pre-order at a speical offer price of £24.95 (RRP £34.95). The guidebook is due to be published week commencing 11th September 2017, and pre-order copies will be sent out as soon as stock arrives.

To pre-order your copy go to the Rockfax.com website. 

About the Guidebook

Tucked away in the southeast of England within woodland and valleys, surrounded by rolling hills, and lush green countryside are the beautifully hidden crags known as ‘Southern Sandstone’. On the borders of Kent and Sussex, the sandstone outcrops are within easy reach of London and Brighton and is one of the busiest climbing destinations in the UK!

The book covers 12 different crags and includes selective routes and boulder problems, accompanied using the familiar Rockfax style of big-topos, clear descriptions and inspiring action photographs. It is the first sandstone guide to incorporate the French sport grading system, alongside the traditional UK tech grade.

Harrison’s Rocks (the largest sandstone crag in the southeast) and Stone Farm are both owned and maintained by the BMC and managed by the HRMG (Harrison’s Rocks Management Group). The other crags are owned by either local authorities, wildlife trusts or are on private land and access has been negotiated and granted with various conditions in place. The sandstone presents many unique features – strenuous honeycomb walls, crimpy technical masterpieces, tenuous stretches on rounded breaks, thuggy struggles up cracks, powerful pulls over bulging roofs and some of the most interesting off-width and chimney climbs in the country. Whatever your style, there should be something to suit here.

The sandstone is a much softer close relation to the rock found in Fontainebleau. This delicate rock brings great responsibility to climbers to ensure it is not damaged or eroded. Only top-rope and solo climbing are allowed, since any lead climbing gear would not hold and would damage the rock.

First-time visitors often struggle with the unique and delicate climbing style, and the short and intense nature of the climbs means they pack a lot in. However, once mastered, there is a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction to be achieved by pushing your grade and tackling some of those iconic testpieces!

Sandstone is basically just compressed sand with a thin weather-hardened outer layer. Once the outer layer is worn through, the sand underneath will erode rapidly if rubbed or left untreated. Holds often collapse through overuse, particularly where excessive brushing has taken place. There is, therefore, some simple and important rules to be followed known as the Southern Sandstone Code of Practice. Unlike any other climbing area in the UK, the specific requirements regarding access, gear, top-rope set-up and climbing technique on Southern Sandstone are vital in helping preserve the rock for present and future generations of climbers.

Rockfax is the first sandstone guide to incorporate the French sport grading system. Grades have always been a contentious issue on sandstone. For years, the standard method has been to give each route a single UK technical grade, which aims to give an indication of the hardest move on a route. This works to an extent, but can give a false impression of how difficult a climb actually is overall - a route with one UK6a move has the same grade as one with six UK6a moves without a rest, yet one is obviously harder than the other. Another problem is that historically the UK technical grade has become very limited at the top end with a huge variation in difficulty within some of the top UK 6a, 6b and 6c grade bands. This stands out where UK technical grade 6b spans French sport grades from 7a to 8a!

This guide has been a passionate and time-consuming project spanning the past five years. The aim has been to produce a book worthy of promoting Southern Sandstone's unique climbs and the great sandstone environment while stressing the special conservation requirements. Much work has been undertaken to help modernise and move sandstone climbing forward in a new and positive direction particularly with regard to grading and an emphasis on protecting the rock.

The general climbing culture is friendly and laid back, with many indulging in weekend picnics while top-roping and boulderring classics at the various crags. If you are looking for hard climbing, this is also the place to be, with some first ascent projects yet to be claimed!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Views Needed - Access to Isolated Buttress

The next Sandstone open meeting will be on Sunday 8th October 2017, 6pm at Bowles Rocks.

Access to the Isolated Buttress will be discussed and a decision will be made following the meeting.  The HRMG / BMC would like your views, both for and against a bridge.

Please try and attend the meeting in person so views can be discussed fully. If you are unable to attend, please email the Harrison's Rocks Management Group Chair - sarah@nuts4climbing.com

In addition, if you see any bad practice on Isolated Buttress, please can you also report it to Sarah and provide a date and time, preferably with some photo or video evidence. Bad practice  consists of lowering off from the top, instead of walking off after completing a climb. Also bad rope set-ups and use of toothbrushes or boulder brushes. Continue to promote good practice, like always. 

Many of you will be aware of the history of the dilemma of the Isolated Buttress, but for those of you who need an update of the past three years, you can read the past news stories HERE.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Harrison's Hardest Route - Pollet Virtus

(c) Rhys Whitehouse
Rhys Whitehouse has made the first ascent of the hardest route at Harrison's Rocks. The route named 'Pollet Virtus' is located on the Isolated Buttress at Harrison's Rocks and is graded at French 8a+ / UK 7a.  This rivals other hard sandstone routes at other crags such as Chimaera and Judamondo (if climbed to the very top) which are also graded at the same grade.

The route starts up 'South West Corner' to a stance below the roof, the route then trends outwards into a vague groove. It finishes up the left side of the big roof after some strenuous long reaches, small crimps, knee wrenching moves and an awesome cut loose.

Rhys describes the route as being "a truly wicked little number in an awesome position and well worth getting on for anyone looking for a hard sandstone tick!"

It's worth noting that the first ascent was done on a shunt which is unusual for a first ascent of this nature. We look forward to all those strong climbers out there giving it a go and offering their opinions on the grade.

Monday, 3 July 2017

New Revised Sandstone Code of Practice

The BMC and HRMG have just launched a newly revised version of the Sandstone Code of Practice, it also incorporates the new Sandstone Bouldering Sense. Given the soft nature of the southern sandstone rock, rules are in place to protect it for all to enjoy.

The new Code of Practice has a modern style with photo illustrations and includes clear colour photography illustrating how to set up ropes on sandstone and the do's and don'ts of climbing practice, including the ban on boulder brushes and toothbrushes.

The PDF version can be downloaded from either the BMC website or our Code of Practice page. Most local climbing walls in the area will have them in printed booklet form also.

Feel free to hand them out or share with anyone who you think will benefit from reading it.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Southern Sandstone Climbs - Rockfax Guidebook

Over the past month Rockfax has announced in various forms the new Southern Sandstone Climbs guidebook which will cover the
popular sandstone climbing found in the southeast of England.

The more eagle eyed of you may have noticed the introduction of french grades as well as UK tech grades siting along side it. Guides are slowly leaning away from the traditional UK technical grading system in various forms, but this Rockfax guide will be the first to use the french grade in its entirety with UK technical grades siting along side to help people make the move to start working with french grades.

The French grade now help tackle the growing issue concerning  working with grades in the upper grading spectrum. This also helps climbers new to the sport and the area understand the difficulties of the routes, especially if migrating from climbing walls and help solve the age old problem of  confusing the UK tech grade with the French grade.

Bouldering has now moved to the font system which has been adopted heavily in the area and now throughout the UK.

As highlighted in the Rockfax and UKC announcements, this book will cover all the main routes and boulder problems on 12 different crags using the familiar Rockfax style of big photo-topos accompanied by clear descriptions and inspiring action photographs. It has been put together by local climber Daimon Beail who also compiles the deep water soloing section of the Mallorca Rockfax guidebook.

There are many new routes appearing here for the first time and additionally areas which are appearing in topographical form. There will be an expanded introduction to help deliver the much needed information to new and current climbers concerning best climbing practices. This has been done through photographic illustrations as well as in-depth explanations for those wanting to know more.

It is due to be published in September and things are on schedule at the moment. The book is set to be around 500 pages and will be accompanied by an app version published at the same time.

For further information see:

Rockfax and UKC

Monday, 15 May 2017

Sandstone Open Meeting - Sunday 21st May 2017

The next Sandstone Open Meeting is on Sunday 21st May, 6pm - 7pm in the bar at Bowles Rocks.

The aim is to have a short meeting to answer any questions about the local sandstone and to discuss anything you want to raise with other local climbers.

The meeting is open to anyone who would like to contribute in some way and raise questions, ideas and suggestions or to simply listen to get up-to-date on the latest news and developments.

There will be no formal agenda but updates on the following items will be discussed:

  • Launch of the new Code of Practice  (BMC)
  • The new Rockfax Southern Sandstone guidebook (author present to discuss the new book)
  •  Sandstone Volunteering Group work update
  • Crag updates


Bowles Rocks 
Sandhill Lane
Eridge Green
Tunbridge Wells

(Located in the upstairs bar and buffet provided by the BMC)

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

New Routes

(C) Tom Gore
With the launch of the new routes page last month and the road map concerning reporting and submitting new routes and problems online, we have had a number of people contact us, in particular, Tom Gore, who as always is proactive and a great documenter. Not only adding all the relevant information into UKC but also recording his ascents via video and posting them to YouTube, which is very handy for everyone.

Tom and his brother Nick have been out putting up two new outstanding problems both at Bowles and Eridge Rocks and their new additions, along with others, can be seen on the New Routes Page and many others will be in the new Rockfax guide this summer.

For more information about adding new routes, please visit the New Routes page here.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Southern Sandstone Crag Update - April 2017

Happy Valley

There has been a clean up of the overgrown areas and the outcrops at Happy Valley and the leaning tree above Cheesewing Buttress  has also been cut down. Probably unknown to the Tunbridge Wells Commons Conservators, the leaning tree was used to attach the belay for top-roping, but now it's no longer there, so top ropes cannot be set up. Some of the HRMG are looking into whether   bolts can be placed in the top of the block so climbing can take place on this buttress.

Top of the Cheesewing Buttress where hopefully bolts can be placed

The Tunbridge Wells Commons Conservators Warden Update:
"The work at Happy Valley is now almost complete, just a bit of tickling round the edges still to do. I must say that the contractors have done a wonderful job and the area has been transformed. Far more of the rock outcrop has been re-exposed than I had expected and the removal of the fallen trees from the Cheesewring Rock has let much more light into the area. It obviously looks a little raw at the moment but it will soon start to soften."


Bowles Rocks

Bowles New Climbing Area
The Bowles team have been hard at work clearing away soil and excavating the area at the very far right of the crag. Routes do exist here but with the recent work, these have been enhanced. Bolts are planed to be installed and work is almost finished. Six or seven new climbs have been added by the keen Bowles team and will also be included in the new Rockfax guide coming this summer. Until work is completed, please avoid this area.

Storm Damage and Trees

The fallen tree above St.Gotthards Boulders.
Storm Doris back in February ripped up a few things and in particular the large tree at the top of  St.Gotthards Tunnel at Harrison's Rocks. Eridge has also seen trees come down above the rocks in a few places. A massive tree has fallen above Stem Son Buttress (although this may have happened prior) which really could do with being removed. In addition the Sussex Wildlife Trust has removed a large chunk of the tree that was opposite Sandstorm Buttress which is worth a look.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Harrison's Rocks - New Woodland Management Plans Unveiled

The woodland management plan for Harrison’s Rocks will continue this year and volunteers are
needed to assist with the planting of new tress to the area.

The new species to be introduced are called “Arecaceae” and are more commonly known as the palm tree. They grow exceptionally well in sandy soil which will suit the sandy outcrops of Sandstone perfectly and will also help prevent ground slippage.  Maintenance of these trees is minimal, meaning regular cutting will not be needed, saving the BMC time and money.  The planting of these trees will certainly give the area a more exotic look, but on a more serious note will help reduce Harrison’s ground erosion.

(April Fool News Item )

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Rockfax Guidebook Announcement

This year will see the publication of the long awaited Rockfax guide to route climbing and bouldering on Southern Sandstone.  

The author had the following to say about the new guidebook:

"This is a significant progression for guides in the area and one which has been a passionate and time consuming project over the past 5 years.  There are lots of things to talk about, but the key word is 'modernisation' and this is something to keep very much in mind.

Great care has been taken to produce a book worthy of southern sandstone's unique conservation requirements, climbing methods and to capture the nature of the climbs and the great sandstone environments. 

No actual publication date has been confirmed yet and if all goes well it will be some point this summer."

Today we are launching a New Routes Page. For the new guide, as much info as possible has been gathered from the now old 'new routes book' and current UKC databases, as well as from some of the more proactive climbers in the area. If you think you have something substantial that you wish to be considered for inclusion in the book, please visit the New Routes Page for further information. We will probably not be listing new routes straight away, but will do so more after the Rockfax guide publication. 

We are making a strong push towards people recording their ascents via the UKC database, which is a better way for climbers to instantly see new routes that have been done. At some point in the future the crags on UKC will have a refresh and clean up where needed.

Rockfax are also looking for talented photographers who think they have some great shots of people climbing. If you do, then do drop us an email through the Southern Sandstones Climbs Facebook Page.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Friday, 10 February 2017

Friday, 3 February 2017