Thursday, 16 July 2020

Temporary Suspension of Climbing at Eridge

As of today (16 July 2020) an important decision backed by active members of the climbing community and the BMC has been made to help with the future of access and conservation at Eridge. 

There is now a temporary suspension of all forms of climbing at Eridge.

The BMC statement is as follows.  

"Unprecedented numbers have been climbing at Eridge during the Covid-19 crisis, resulting in considerable and accelerated wear to the fragile rock on many parts of the crag. As a result, the difficult decision has been taken to temporarily restrict climbing access to the whole crag to allow time for the rock to stabilise.
We hope to be able to speed up this process with hold repair methods used on other sandstone crags, but given the rare botany and SSSI status of the site, this needs approval by the landowner, Sussex Wildlife Trust (SWT), and Natural England. Please bear with us while discussions are ongoing, and help demonstrate to SWT that climbers are responsible users by climbing elsewhere for the time being – continued future access to this crag depends on our individual actions and responsible behaviour now.
The restriction will be constantly reviewed and we hope to lift it as soon as the damaged holds can be stabilised." 

Any updates to the restriction will be posted on the BMC’s Regional Access Database and on Southern Sandstone Climbs as soon as the situation changes."

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

British Mountaineering Council

COVID-19 has taught all of us what life can be like without climbing. Imagine what it could be like if climbing was banned all the time. The BMC are there to make sure you can climb your projects and fulfil your dreams to be in the great outdoors!

The southeast of England boasts 12 unique outcrops of climbable rock of which all but two are privately owned or managed and all have varying degrees of access arrangements.

The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) help maintain access with the help of volunteers and access reps. The two major crags in the southeast are Harrison’s Rocks and Stone Farm, which are both owned by the BMC and maintained by a team of volunteers. Without the BMC, these rocks could well have become private, which would have severely restricted access to climbing in the southeast. The BMC pay for the maintenance of the rocks which includes the provision of bolts, woodland management, path maintenance, fencing, gates and a host of other things. It also funds all specialist rock repair work with the use of resin and cement work.

So when you're down at Harrison’s or Stone Farm next. Think, am I a BMC member? If not then perhaps you should be?

Membership of the BMC (British Mountaineering Council) is an essential way of helping fund the BMC with the work they do and continue access and conservation work for all crags. 

You can get involved with an area meeting like the BMC London and South East meetings or volunteer for BMC work days if you so wish to give back.The BMC also support the Sandstone Open Meetings held in the autumn months. Meetings are there to help inform climbers and help them engage in the decision making processes.  

Being a BMC member also gives you loads of discounts to a number of outdoor stores as well as some indoor climbing walls. You get access to specialist holiday insurance which will cover specifics like sport climbing, trad climbing, bouldering, deep water soloing etc. 

And remember that the BMC have always been involved with indoor climbing and also run the GB Climbing Team.




Friday, 3 July 2020

Protect Eridge

Eridge is now seeing unprecedented erosion in all areas. This is due to the high volume of climbers visiting the area and over working climbs and boulder problems. Many climbers have never been to Eridge before and do not understand the sensitive and soft nature of the rock, especially when it is wet. Now we have a situation on our hands where an unprecedented amount of the rocks outer layer from many of the climbs and problems have worn away. Toothbrushes have been found, people not wiping their feet, over working problems and pulling too hard have caused this significant damage. 

Holds at Eridge are not permitted to be repaired as they are at Harrison's and Stone Farm Rocks, and as such, the BMC volunteers are looking at ways to stop the erosion and possibly look at any repairs that can be made with the land owners consent; The Sussex Wildlife Trust. 

We are now asking all climbers not to climb on any problems or routes where broken holds are evident.

Ben Read (Director and Co-Founder of Volume 1 Climbing) who is a strong advocate for the protection of climbing at Eridge has recently noted his own views on the issue and makes a strong case for what is occurring now. Below are his own words and we urge all climbers to follow the advice below:

'In the last few weeks Eridge has seen a large spike in visitors
which it isn’t able to handle. Not only this, but many climbers are not being respectful, hopefully just through lack of education, which is causing irreversible damage. This has already led to more areas of the crag now being restricted and there is a genuine threat that climbing access could be compromised if things do not change immediately'. 

The main issues are: 
  • Increased traffic causing unseen levels of erosion.
  • Climbing on wet/damp rock which is damaging holds.
  • Parking issues.
  • Bad outdoor climbing etiquette (Brushing holds, over chalking, not cleaning feet). 
How can you help:
  • Reduce your impact: Cut down on the amount you are visiting Eridge, go to different venues and explore other areas and problems.
  • Do not climb on wet or damp rock: If it has rained in the last 24 - 48 hours then it is best to avoid Eridge as it is a softer rock than other crags and takes longer to dry. If a hold is damp – do not use it.
  • Avoid the weekends: The car park is full by the early hours at the weekend and this is leading to a number of issues with parking.
  • Stop sieging: It is common indoor practice to ‘siege’ a problem until you unlock the beta. Avoid this tactic by keeping attempts to a few goes where possible. Enjoy climbing other problems in different areas and spread your impact.
  • No Gardening: Eridge is a SSSI mainly due to the rare plants that are found there. Climbing has been allowed, but only if no vegetation is removed. Do not remove any plants from the rock.
  • No Brushing: The soft structure of sandstone means that normal brushing habits used in other areas and indoors cause the hard outer crust to wear away quickly leaving irreversible damage. 
  • Minimise Chalk Use: Use as little chalk as possible.
  • Clean your Feet: Ensuring you have clean feet will not only help you climb better but will also reduce foothold erosion.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Important Access Information – Bassett’s Farm Rocks

Important Access Information – Bassett’s Farm

With immediate effect, we are kindly asking all climbers to refrain from climbing at the outcrop Bassett’s Farm. 

Due to overcrowding and large numbers at the venue it has created concerns from the landowners and residents regarding parking issues and access. Climbers have been venturing away from the designated climbing crag and footpath, which is also not permitted. 

Bassett’s Farm is a much loved albeit small crag, with limited climbing and parking, and we want to avoid future access issues or loss of access. We have always been grateful to the landowners for their tolerance of the small number of visiting climbers each year.

Please do not climb at this venue until further notice to help alleviate this issue during COVID restrictions. 

Your support is greatly appreciated to help maintain access to sandstone outcrops in the south-east.

Friday, 19 June 2020

Tools - Get a Guide!

Having a guide book to a climbing area is probably the first thing you should think of when visiting a new area for the first time. Southern Sandstone has some very specific environmental and access sensitive crags of which knowledge of how to access and climb upon them is essential.

The latest guidebook to the area is the Rockfax Guide - Southern Sandstone Climbs which has been formulated to give the the latest information in an easy to read and visual way and also covers all the Code of Practice information.

Supplemental copy of the Code of Practice are free to help update other guides if you have those already. In addition the Rockfax guide focuses on the new and more suitable French grading systems, though retains the UK tech grade for comparison. 

Guides are available from all good outdoor book shops and if you're a UKC SupporterPlus member then you could get a copy for as little as £24.47 to expand on what the Rockfax App already provides.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Harrison's Rocks - Busiest Day on Record? - 14.06.2020

It was crazy town on Sunday at Harrison's Rocks and many other climbing areas across the country, but in particular Harrison's Rocks was extremely overcrowded in places. 

Social distancing was being ignored particularly at north boulder where the entire boulder was surrounded by pads and approximately 20 people gathered together. Other areas of the crag were densely populated. Although there were an enormous amount of people that day, there were only a hand-full of bad rope setup violations which was good news but over at Stone Farm there was one very dangerous setup of the swaging (the metal cable that connects the two bolts). Please do not do this or thread ropes directly through the bolts or have them running over the edge.

Additionally, we ask climbers to refrain from soloing as well at this time. Although Solo climbing is permitted on sandstone, the rock is very unpredictable and incidents do happen, resulting in major rescue operations and place others at risk. 

It's important to remember that you can only travel to the crags with members of your own household. You must stay 2 metres from anyone else outside your household where possible. 

WE ARE IN A PANDEMIC so please respect this, as if we experience an increase in the outbreak then we will have to close the rocks and indoor walls will remain closed for longer. 

Work together, make COVID a thing of the past and enjoy yourself in a safe way.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Facebook Live Video with Adrian Paisey

This is the Facebook live video of Adrian Paisey (BMC Access Rep and HRMG Member)  at Bulls Hollow on the 3rd June 2020. Adrian gave a fantastic in-depth presentation about climbing on Southern Sandstone as well as a question and answer session also. We recommend all climbers who plan to head out onto the sandstone, especially those who have not climbed on it before, to watch this video. Enjoy!

Southern Sandstone Top Roping - BMC Video

A new BMC Video has been released to help you learn how to protect the unique Southern Sandstone crags when you're climbing. 

The BMC state the following for the Video.

"Southern Sandstone is very soft rock. There's no lead climbing, as that would damage the rock too much. If you're top roping, you need to take special care to prevent your ropes wearing grooves in the top of the crag. 

1. When top roping, use a non-stretch belay rope and sling 
2. Make sure the karabiner hangs over the edge of the crag 
3. Make sure moving ropes do not come into contact with the rock 
4. Clean your shoes before starting each climb 
5. Walk off when you have finished a climb, do not lower off or abseil 
6. Keep chalk use to a minimum

DOWNLOAD the Code of Practice.

Evening Climbing Only - Bowles Rocks - 12.06.2020

Bowles Outdoor Centre is beginning to open its doors again with a phase return to climbing on Friday 12th June 2020.

Don’t rush out just yet as there are some important rules and information to follow, so please read.

  1. Evening Climbing only between 17.30 and 21:00. No climbing is permitted during the day in order to safeguard the day courses which Bowles runs.
  2. Admission is £5.
  3. Payment by contactless card only. NO CASH.
  4. All season ticket holder memberships will be extended by 2 months at this time.
  5. Bowles are currently not selling anymore season tickets at this time until normality returns.
  6. No climbing on or past the Chalet Slab in order to protect the resident staff. This means that there is no climbing on the Ski Slope Boulders (RF Page 68 & 69) and Chalet Slab Area (RF Page 70 & 71)
  7. All climbers must follow BMC COVID guidelines. People not doing so will be asked to leave. 
  8. Liquid chalk strongly encouraged where possible.
It must be emphasised that if social distancing and hand-washing is observed, Bowles will keep evening sessions running until such a time restrictions are able to ease further.  If not, then they will be forced to suspend climbing again until further notice.

Please help support Bowles in these COVID times. Keep your distance and Pay up. All proceedings go back into the rocks and the centre itself, who in return support thousands of children and young people from all backgrounds and walks of life with their personal developments through the power of the outdoors.  

Monday, 8 June 2020

'Alone' - Sandstone's Hardest Climb?

On the 18th May 2020, Peter Wycislik made what is perhaps the first ascent of the hardest route on sandstone. The side face of the Elephant's Head at Eridge Rocks has long been considered to have the potential for a very hard route and this climb has been tried by some of sandstone's strongest climbers, including Ben Read who has a list of hard sandstone ascents as long as his arm. Peter Wycislik is perhaps the dark horse of sandstone and has a large number of impressive sandstone ascents to his name. He had been trying this problem for a while and with the dry conditions and a prolonged period of rest during lockdown, has come out all guns blazing and finally completed the project which he as named 'Alone'.

The climb is currently described as having a bottom section which is fairly easy, with a few moves into a perfect crack which leads to a small two fingers pocket (around French 6c). From the pocket, make a desperate move to a very poor sloper and a half dynamic move to better holds thereafter. The top section is a much easier but sketchy (French 6a).

The crux move is reported to be around Font 7C+ and combined, the climb is rumoured to be approximately a sandstone style French 8b, but Peter has decided not to give it a grade himself until someone else can help confirm the grade.

'Please be aware that the rock is particularly soft in this area so if you do try this or any other climb in this area, to continue to ensure your karabina is over the edge, and remove any contact between the static anchor rope and the rock by use of rope protectors.'

Peter has also recently made the second ascent of Brutus - Low Start (Font 8a+) which is currently sandstone's hardest boulder problem, which was put up by Ben Read back in June of 2019.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Southern Sandstone Bouldering - BMC Video

The BMC have released a fantastic new video which was shot earlier this week.

This one focuses on bouldering on Southern Sandstone and features the talented (and very strong) Jon Partridge. The film was directed by renowned filmmaker David Petts, who recently produced, the Big Bang.

Please share this video and help others learn to respect the rock and help protect the unique Southern Sandstone crags.

How to boulder on Southern Sandstone:

1. Use bouldering pads to reduce ground erosion
2. Don't place tick marks
3. Don't remove turf or vegetation
4. No chipping!
5. Don't use a toothbrush or boulder brush
6. Clean your boots
7. Use as little chalk as possible

DOWNLOAD: the Code of Practice.

WATCH: The Sandstone skills playlist


Sunday, 31 May 2020

Harrison's Rocks - BMC Filming - 1st June 2020

Please be advised that on Monday 1st of June 2020, the BMC will be filming an educational video concerning climbing on sandstone. The BMC will require areas vacated for filming to take place and sections of the crag will be closed whilst filming is taking place. You may also be asked to vacate areas when required such as the unclimbed wall area including access to it. COVID-19 rules are  being followed when filming is taking place meaning larger than normal areas will be closed. Thank you for your understanding.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Harrison's Rocks Carpark Update - 26th May 2020

Update: As of Tuesday 26th May 2020 the carpark and toilet facilities at Harrison's Rocks will be open from 8am to 10pm. Camping is still closed

Please remember that COVID-19 social distancing is still required. Please follow the government guidelines keeping 2 metres apart from anyone outside your household. A number of climbing groups have been forsaking this rule and putting others at risk.  

Crag/Rocks - Open
Campsite - Closed
Toilet Facilities - Open (8am - 10pm)
Carpark - Open (8am - 10pm)

Friday, 22 May 2020

Bank Holiday Weekend 23rd, 24th, 25th May 2020 - COVID-19 Update

We are expecting high numbers of climbers in the area this weekend. Currently Harrison’s is one of the busiest crags in the UK right now and Eridge and Stone Farm are seeing significant numbers of climbers which is causing issues with parking as well as the ability to keep a distance from one another. These areas are designated as honey pot areas and the BMC has put out its own advice regarding visiting them. Southern Sandstone is a popular choice with climbers in the London area and the southeast, and at this time we ask for climbers to be very aware of the restrictions in place and to consider whether they should make the journey this weekend. If you do visit the area then please consider other venues as an alternatives

We are still in a COVID-19 situation and people need to protect themselves, each other and the rock by following Covid-19 rules and the Code of Practice. Leave bouldering brushes at home and follow cleaning advice.

Harrison’s Rocks
CAR PARK - The carpark closes at 8PM. There has been a number of incidents with climbers being locked in. All climbers at this time should wind-down climbing at 7PM currently and return to their cars and leave before 8PM. Do not park elsewhere such as forge farm access, as this is causing a major issue for residents. The parking times are temporary and are due to the COVID-19 situation. Please remind fellow climbers if at Harrison's. If you have any queries as a climber about the current parking situation then please contact 
Pay and display now in operation.

CAMPING - This is currently illegal in the UK due to COVID-19.

Harrison’s Rocks - Bow Window and Bow Window Flake
Birds are nesting so do not climb at this time.

Harrison’s Rocks - Isolated Buttress
We have seen large numbers of climbers lowering off and abseiling off the buttress. Inexperienced climbers should avoid this buttress if they are unable to comply with the rules. 

Stone Farm
Parking has been an issue due to parking overload in the area particularly along Admiral’s Bridge Lane and W Hoathly Road. Please respect the limited parking at these locations and utilise the carpark at the far end of Admiral’s Bridge lane or the carpark in Legsheath Lane. If these are full also, please climb elsewhere.

Eridge Rocks
Due to the continued closure of Broadwater Nature Reserve car park. Warren Farm Lane and its parking is very restricted at the moment. Warren Farm Lane is an access road and residents some of which who are elderly need to ensure the access road is clear for emergency services and supplies, as well as for themselves. If this carpark is full, do not park elsewhere along the lane. 

Eridge Rocks - Romulus
Birds are nesting so do not climb at this time.

Bowles Rocks
Bowles Rocks continues to be closed until further notice.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Covid-19 Update - June 2020

Commencing Wednesday 13th May 2020, climbing will be permitted once again in England.

Crag suspension has been lifted in the Southern Sandstone area though Bowles Rocks remains closed until further notice.

The BMC have now published their advice here and it is vital that all climbers adhere to the recommendations given and that social distancing should still be followed.

Climbing will be permitted alone, with others in your household or from Monday 1st June with 5 other people from outside your household (6 people maximum in total) keeping two metres apart at all times. Ideally climb with members of your own household. Everyone needs to be responsible and not contribute to the spread of this virus. Do not travel in cars together if you are not from the same household. No overnight stays and day trips only.

Social distancing and hygiene

  • Stay at home if you are showing symptoms of C-19 or self-isolating.

  • Maintain social distancing of at least 2m from anyone outside of your household.

  • Be cautious of touching surfaces and shared equipment. Be committed to hand hygiene.

Climbing and hill walking

  • Scale back your ambitions: be cautious, choose objectives within your technical and physical limits to minimise the risk of accidents and injury.

  • Avoid very popular areas: seek out less frequented venues, be flexible and have backup plans to avoid overcrowding.

  • Check the BMC Regional Access Database: avoid crags with known nesting birds or access issues.

  • Where possible, stay local. Whilst this is not part of the government’s guidance, staying local will reduce the load on national parks and rural communities whilst they are sensitive to increased visitor numbers.

England – specific guidance

For climbers and hill walkers in England only, the new guidance contains two key points which will come into effect on 13 May 2020:

  • 1st June 2020 - Climbing is permitted with 5 other people from outside your household (6 people max), staying 2 metres apart.
  • May 2020 - Whilst not being explicit, it appears that all outdoor activities and sports (including all types of climbing and walking) will be permitted alone, with others in your household or with one other person at a time from outside your household keeping two meters apart at all times.

  • Travel is unrestricted, but importantly different regulations in Wales and Scotland do not allow travel across these borders. Where possible, stay local which will reduce the load on rural communities. 

As the situation develops, the BMC will adapt their guidance. At this point the key message is to be:

  • Cautious in your actions
  • Respectful of local communities
  • Extremely vigilant in avoiding transmitting the virus

The status of the BMC and privately owned crags is now as follows:

Harrison's Rocks
Crag - OPEN (from 13th May 2020)
Car park - OPEN - 8am to 10pm (Parking Pay and display or annual pass)
Toilet Facility -  Open
Camping - CLOSED (No overnight stays)

Stone Farm
Crag - OPEN (from 13th May 2020)
Parking is heavy restricted here here so please take this into consideration.

Bowles Rock
Crag - CLOSED Until further notice.

High Rocks
Crag - CLOSED Until further notice.

All other crags are open though please respect any crags who may have implamented other restrictions. 

Visits to all crags are only suitable for those able to safely make day trips. Do not rush out to the crags as we are expecting a high volume of visitors. Follow all the advice and as ever, please set up your ropes correctly and follow the code of practice to ensure the rock is not damaged. Those who do not will be asked politely to conform with the rules and regulations.