Articles - East Pennine Grit: Bouldering at Goldsborough Carr.
Dalvinder Sodhi on the V5 traverse link into Fiddler's Arete
“…this is the best crag,I’ve never heard of before!”
Hands up if you’ve ever been to Goldsborough Carr? Anybody? Okay, so there’s one or two Darlington locals who are waving a paw in the air, along with some of you lads and lasses from the Lakes and Northumberland, but the rest of you, no, I didn’t think so.
Well let me tell you something for nothing, this is without doubt one of the most fascinating and god-damn-funky bouldering crags in the whole of this crag-rich country! I only wish I’d known this sooner.
I should have listened to Steve Dunning; he kept telling me how good it was, how I should get my arse up there ‘as soon as’, but somehow I never found the time, until that is, one day last year. Driving back down the A1 from Northumberland with Adam Wainwright and Pete Robins, I suggested that we forego the planned stop off at Almscliffe (my preferred option in threatening weather) for a quick peek at this remote Pennine grit wonder, which by now had assumed mythical proportions in my head. As we strode up from the road, buffeted by strong winds, rapidly darkening clouds suddenly swept in from the west. Heavy sheets of rain quickly drenched us, but rather than making a sprint for the sanctuary of the car, curiosity drove us on to find shelter beneath the huge roofs that undercut the main crag. Scuttling from roof to roof as the rainstorm continued to pummel our flanks; we swiftly concluded that this was a truly impressive venue, worthy of further investigation. Adam’s blurted declaration, that “…this is the best crag,I’ve never heard of before!” summarized our sense of awe and discovery. Back in the car, as my soaked clothing slowly dried out on the journey south, I pondered what I had just seen. A slide show of images rolled through my mind’s eye: radical jutting roofs, topped with beautiful sculpted features; pockets and flutes, cracks and runnels, blind flakes disappearing into blankness – all suggesting the intoxicating mix of complex movement, physical challenge and pure ‘feel’ that lies at the core of great boulder problems. I knew I would be coming back, no matter what.
The exposed position (altitude:385 metres)and sunny aspect ensures that this is a quick drying venue, which offers year round conditions,if the correct days are picked. The grit stone is mostly excellent, but some of the roof sections sport creaking flakes that require care ‘if’ they are to be used. The landings are generally good, but do try and preserve the vegetation cover by using a Bouldering pad.
Located in the no-man’s land between the popular West Yorkshire crags and the revered ‘County’ to the north, Goldsborough has never drawn the crowds. In fact, you are more likely to see a Pennine Way walker than another climber.
Whilst the initial quarried section is intriguing, the circuit is best started at the far end, after a quick trot beneath the main buttresses, which is sure to fire the imagination up for the treats that lie ahead. To the right of the largest right hand roof, easier problems will help to ease you into the day. The cracked arête of Bass Special (V0) can also be taken from a sitting start at V1. A tricky V2 at the left side of the blank wall is also worthwhile. The circuit continues onto the main roof where a range of classic problems lead you progressively through the full spectrum of difficulty: V0+to V12. Most have the choice of a traverse escape at the 4-5 metre height, or a high, but usually steady top out, depending on taste.
Beth's traverse (V8+) - one of many Ian Cummins masterpieces at the crag – breaks leftwards through the gob smacking steepness via a trail of thin crimps to a triumphant finish on the ultra classic, Jumping Jack Flash, a wild (V3 that springs up the flying edge of the front face to reach easier ground. A brutal direct start, Holeshot (V10) crosses even steeper territory on small holds. Just left, Thin Wall Special (V2/3) makes a powerful entrance into the thin vertical crack, which is lay backed to rounded holds. The front face can be breached at any given point: Confectionary Debris (V8) and The Scoop (V5/6) make difficult rock ups to poor holds, whilst Barney Boys (V2) needs to be climbed with blinkers to avoid holds on the superb Fiddler (V0+). A harder V5 none-eliminate line can be made from the right end of the shelf.
The classic Fiddler’s Arête (V1) can be extended with a killer V5 traverse from a sitting start down left. Fiddler’s Wall (V7) itself is a desperately thin line that pulls through the chest high bulge to tiny dinks; this is also possible with an equally hard layaway method.
Most impressive though is Steve Dunning’s unrepeated Second Coming (V12), a stupendous trail of directional fingertip flakes that cleaves an uncompromising line straight through the massive roof.
Just across the way a pair of undercut grooves, named Legless and The Long Reach, provide superb sport. The latter is not, as the guide suggests, “impossible for the short”, although you can give or take a grade from V6, depending on your height. This frustrating classic was first climbed by Paul Carling in the late 70s/early 80s.
Further left at the end of this roofed section a striking diagonal line points towards an eye-catching pocket at the base of the hanging arête. If you start on the blocky ledges and use everything, George’s Roof rates V6/7. A harder (i.e. (V7/8) eliminate method pulls on at the pinch and avoids the back ledges.
The left hand end of the main edge offers a delightful brace of technical puzzlers, spiced with an element of intimidation resulting from the broken ledges that linger awkwardly under the clean, quarried rock. The contrast in style to the more brutal challenges of the circuit thus far will be welcomed by those afflicted by the ‘Goldsborough power fade’. This end of the crag also captures the splendid golden light of the evening. And if it’s all too much, just lie back in the springy grass and cast your gaze towards the sunset horizon. All is good.
Who’d have thought it?
The approach path to the crag is in fact the Pennine Way, the first officially recognized long distance path in Britain.2005 is the 40th anniversary of the formal opening of this famous walk that runs 268miles from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholmin Scotland. The average time end-to-end is 16 days, and a staggering 3500 people complete this epic task every year.
The crag lies approximately 10 kilometres due west of Barnard Castle, which in turn lies due west of Darlington on the A1. If you are based in the northwest, the A66 across the Pennines provides a surprisingly quick approach route.
From Barnard Castle follow theB6277 to Cotherstone and turn left on the small road (sign posted to East Briscoe) that leads to Hury Reservoir. Follow the road on the south side of the reservoir and park sensibly where the footpath (the Penn ine Way) leads up to the crag on the left. (NGR:NY954 177)
For the full breakdown, check out: Climbing in North East England by Steve Crowe, Smartboys 2002 and climbonline.co.uk
To find out about more areas, check out our UK destinations page.