Articles - Bouldering in Staffordshire: Ramshaw Rocks.
Lucy Creamer on the good finishing holds of Cracked Arete(V1)after the jamming section, Ramshaw
The beauty of certain Pennine Grit outcrops can be astounding. This is unquestionably true of Ramshaw Rocks, yet how can I explain the unique, almost magnetic, draw of this crag. During my occasional visits I am invariably transfixed by its statuesque profile, casting stark silhouettes against the sky: like dark ghoulish sculptures, flickering upwards, frozen in apparent motion; gothic towers of black and pink grit inspiring a sense of awe and wonder, way out of proportion to their relatively diminutive form.
Moving closer, checking out the scenes of previous struggles, the spell is sustained as micro features and inviting slopers spring into relief. These uncompromising rocks are intensely featured, with snaking crack lines, isolated flakes (often blind), rounded bosses and faint creases, interspersing blank pebble-dashed slabs and bald, sloping top-outs. Even before you set foot on a Ramshaw problem (or route), your head will be spinning with the wonderful possibilities that lie ahead, even if the initial encounters are out of step with the blander, mainstream grit experiences.
Yes, the devil is ultimately found in the detail; the rock can be sugary in places and the landings often need care, but there is no doubt that this is one hell of a crag - you could do a lot worse than fall head over heels in love with this fascinating, atmospheric bluff of Eastern Grit.
The problems tend to be of the ‘full on’,aggressive and honest variety. Slapping, smearing, and jamming: all classic grit stuff, except more so. Worry not, if you come armed with the right attitude and plenty of expendable skin, you’ll soon be racking up the numbers.
Arriving at the first area, some steady warm-ups can be seen across to the left, but the best problems lie to the right of the path. First up, the left side of the blunt nose yields easily once you’ve found the less slopey bit up on top. The right arête (Little Prow) is considerably more stubborn (V6 if you avoid the holds to the left) and perhaps it might be best to come back to this later. The Scoop (V1) is quite rude – a springy start leads quickly into a powerful mantel. Ossie’s Bulge (V3) takes the accommodating layback flake, blanking out into an unfathomable, but ultimately superb finish. A harder (V4) direct start is also possible. Further right John Welford’s masterpiece, Ramair (V8+) powers up the steep slope infested rib to a traumatic top out. With a better landing this would undoubtedly be one of the most celebrated lines in the Peak.
From here the path leads up over the back, then out to another open area where the conspicuous Magic Arête (V2) can be seen on the back side of the main edge. Just beyond, a line of upright blocks is home to the next run of problems.
Jamless (V1) emerges from the alcove – as the name suggests, most people adopt a layback style to overcome the bulge. Around the back a steep V2 follows a shallow crack feature to a slopey top out. Other tricky mantels are possible to the right if you enjoyed the finishing grind.
Epilogue (V5) and Dialogue (V9) offer variations on the theme of ‘monkey up stick’ crucifix slapping to typically bald finishes. The Pinches (V4) although easier, is still no pushover, requiring a particularly positive approach to overcome its just adequate holds that dot this stunning, disarmingly steep line.
In between the blocks, the two chimneys provide traditional entertainment at a more approachable grade. The Rammer (V1) is a particularly memorable affair; full skin cover is recommended.
The last line on this section is the delightful Cracked Arête (V1), offering another typical converging crack feature.
From here follow the path down to below the edge proper to reach a pointed outcrop: The Pinnacle. The base of this steep buttress hosts a series of excellent modern problems forming low starts to existing routes. On the left Press Direct (V4 sds V7) takes steep ground to reach the parent route (an E1). Difficulties can be further extended with a V7 sit down start. To the right, Night of Lust has a choice of starts: coming in from the left on a handrail: V7, direct from standing: V5 and finally direct from a sitting start: V6. A further V7 (Runnel Entry) is possible from the same start, heading up into the green runnel. A quick trot along the base of the crag will bring you to beneath the proud arête of California Screaming (V8). An intimidating, yet strangely alluring line – this is proper highball territory, accentuated by the sloping landing. If that is too much to deal with at this late stage in the game, then head up rightwards to behold one of the most outrageous V0+s in the whole of the Peak. Shark’s Fin powers up through this wave of gob-smacking steepness via a perfect sweeping flake – a bit thin in the middle – to the reward of a juggy top edge. Pure class. There is also an equally amazing V5 double dyno from the starting holds to the lip – as demonstrated in the opening sequence of Johnny Dawes’s film, Best Forgotten Art. Be sure to check out the sculpted frog head to your right as you press out the mantel.
The last problem in the circuit lies back near the start (from Ossie’s Bulge head down and left) at the right side of a long undercut bluff. Tierdrop (V7) climbs up and left past some ‘pinchy’ tufa features to gain a crescent shaped rail on the lip of the roof. If you make it to this point, grit your teeth and keep firing for the top. A one-time E5 6b, with sufficient pads and supportive spotters, it is now considered to be the definitive highball classic of the area.
Ramshaw lies just above the A53 Buxton – Leek road; the parking can be accessed by turning down a small road at the southern end of the crag. A lay-by is reached immediately after the first bend – park here and follow a path along the back of the edge until you reach the first problems in an open area just before the striking arête of Clippety Clop/Dangerous Crocodile Snogging.
Most climbers are obsessed with the weather, but it is the boulderer, along with the increasingly frustrated winter climber, who obsesses most about conditions. These days, the proliferation of online forecast sites feeds our ‘weather’ habit well. Check out metcheck.com for an ultra accurate weather forecast, with dynamic 3 hourly breakdowns of temperature, precipitation levels, wind speed, cloud cover for the next 2-3 day period, and broader predictions up to 14 days ahead. All we need now is for some bright spark to compute the ‘friction coefficient’ resultant from the amalgam of variables (temperature, wind speed, humidity, etc.)
For a full breakdown of the area see the wonderful BMC guide, Staffordshire Grit: The Roaches.