Climbers drawn to danger by the allure of virgin rock
Sunday 17 September 1995
Rock climbing's explosion in popularity in recent years has led to an abundance of outdoor pursuit centres teaching the sport, and to many schools now offering rock climbing in preference to more traditional games. It has meant popular routes up the rock face have become overcrowded. For the dedicated climber it is harder than ever to find virgin rock in the United Kingdom.
In the past, the nature of the rock at Cilan Head discouraged climbers. Many of the unwary who tackled the cliffs found them too difficult: some have been forced to hang all night on the rock as the light faded and they were unable to reach the summit.
But the danger adds to the thrill. "This is the cutting edge of rock climbing" said Elfyn Jones, 31, who lives at Bethesda, Gwynedd. "You have to be the mountaineering equivalent of streetwise to tackle Cilan Head. One thing's for sure, there's no worry about crowds."
As a warden with the National Trust in Snowdonia he is aware of the popularity of rock climbing in the region - and the fears about erosion and the problems with land owners because of the number of people involved. Within an hour's drive of his office there are 100 outdoor pursuit centres.
"There is nothing wrong with those who want to follow the routes in the guide book or go in for indoor competition climbing. But for me, finding new rock and climbing it without any prior knowledge is rock climbing at its purest," he said.
With fellow climber Dick Griffiths, he sometimes has to swim or use a boat to get to the base of cliffs to climb. Mr Griffiths, 38, from Porthmadog, has already forged more than 20 new routes at Cilan Head.
He has had some lucky escapes. Recently he abseiled down a cliff to gauge the best route before making an attempt - something he tries to avoid because it makes the climb easier - only to dislodge tons of boulders. An overhang protected him but he was forced to lower himself into the water and swim to safety.
"That was too close for comfort, but the element of danger is always there. There is a real buzz in being the first. Hopefully, if a guide book is produced for the area my routes will be in it," he said.
Nationwide there is a small band of climbers tackling new routes - following the tradition of legends like Joe Brown and his regular climbing partner Don Whillans, who gave the sport widespread recognition in the 1950s and 1960s.
Dick Griffiths said: "In the 1960s there were huge areas of rock to go at and major routes to put down. We are not in the same league as Joe Brown. Some of those guys were years ahead of their time. But the spirit of what we are trying to do is the same. The search for unclimbed rock goes on."
Roger Payne, general secretary of the British Mountaineering Council, said once they reached a certain level of expertise, climbers will start to look for new routes.
"Most people who are climbing are following a guide book. To climbers, the sport is all about exploration and for some that means exploring unclimbed rock with a certain degree of risk or danger" he said.
"It is what climbing is about: exploration and adventure. A step into the unknown for personal satisfaction."
filmFilm producers sue Warner Bros for $75m over Hobbit films
voicesJust when you thought you could find a man, get married, and have a baby by the age of 35... it turns out you’re too late, says Grace Dent
Swedish stars ask fans for £195 pledges on crowd-funding website
musicAs Mariah Carey and Noddy Holder rake in the royalties from their classics, why there hasn't been a decent festive hit for 20 years?
theatreAuthor Daniel Rosenthal recalls the mishaps that almost brought the curtain down on the likes of John Gielgud and Diana Rigg
lifeAs the Royal Mail plans to phase out deliveries on two wheels, it's no wonder posties are in a spin
musicThe 21-year-old beat Ella Eyre and Chlöe Howl to win the honour
lifeFull of the joys and want to help your fellow man? December isn't the time to do it
Nelson Mandela memorial: ‘Bogus’ interpreter made mockery of Barack Obama’s tribute in Soweto
French café starts charging extra to rude customers
Australia: Gay marriage law reversed by high court less than a week after first weddings
Krokodil in Mexico? Teenager hospitalised after 'injecting drug into her genitals'
Australia incest case: Severely deformed children found in remote farming community after generations of inbreeding
- 1 Nelson Mandela memorial: ‘Bogus’ interpreter made mockery of Barack Obama’s tribute in Soweto
- 2 French café starts charging extra to rude customers
- 3 Australia: Gay marriage law reversed by high court less than a week after first weddings
- 4 Exeter to Edinburgh and back in a day: How one fresher's lost bet left him facing a 900-mile round trip
- 5 Australia incest case: Severely deformed children found in remote farming community after generations of inbreeding
£44999 - £60001 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: A Top Tier firm i...
£30000 - £37000 per annum: Cornwallis Elt : Support Developer - Digital, Medi...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: This global consulting firm work...
£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: English te...