Articles - Esoterica Series: The Ring Road Circuit
Jamie Maddison - Posted on 29 Oct 2009
The Ring Road Circuit provides a secluded and somewhat edgily dark atmosphere in which to try it’s 30+ problems on a series of extensively cleaned sandstone faces. The majority of the problems are in the low-to-mid grades, with a handful of the hardest lines reaching V7 to V8. Some problems are quite high, however the landings are generally fine, with one or two hill-rolling exceptions. Couple this with a speedy walk-in and lots of tree cover to keep the problems dry in showers, and you have the recipe for a popular, well-used and much-loved bouldering venue.
A Brief History
It seems likely that the Ring Road Cave was the first area of the circuit to receive any action on it by climbers. Indeed, the majority of problems on this wall are still credited to their unknown first ascensionist. True development began in early 2008 with the discovery (and subsequent clean up) of the crag by Raphael Bath and Tom Dixon. Raphael’s initial forays put up many of the circuit’s finest problems, such as Cave Roof (V2) The Nose (V3) and the classic Knuckle Duster (standing start, V5).
The next surge in development came a few months later, from Dan Savory, who systematically began picking off the harder remaining lines. By the end of June 2008 Dan had ticked off the majority of the obvious harder problems, including the low traverse of Undercrackers (V6), the sit start to Knuckle Duster (V6/V7) and the massive, Dan’s Dyno (V8). Dan’s thorough work left very few gaps in which to find new lines. Indeed, once the incredibly hard sit-start to Paradise had fallen at a stunning grade of V8 6c, there was not much left on the boulders that hadn’t already been done.
As it stands now, there is not much room on the slopery, grit-like walls of the Ring Road Boulder for new, independent problems. This being said, there is still plenty of scope for the devising of fiendishly powerful and frustrating eliminates on the many holds that dot the walls. However, luckily there is still scope for new problems, even routes, on the overgrown neighboring buttresses that surround the crag. And it will be truly interesting to see whether further development will embrace such a mammoth cleaning challenge in the pursuit of new, untouched problems in this dark and solitary corner of suburban Bristol.
A good start to any session at the Ring Road Circuit should begin with a warm up on the large, but steep, holds of the Ring Road Cave. Starting up the excellent Cave Roof (V2), before stepping it up a gear with the more powerful Throw Up (V3). If you are feeling sufficiently warmed up, an attempt at the long and pumpy Creaky Roof Traverse is a must (V5). If that feels fine, now try the reverse, finishing up Edge Of It All (V4) for some extra pump.
Things fall apart on the Ring Road Boulder if slopers are not your style. If they are, and you’re also luckily blessed with good friction as well, the crag classic Knuckle Duster (V5) shouldn’t be too much a problem for you. If not, be prepared to spend a long time slapping for that top hold, even longer if you add the sit-start from the cave into the equation (V6/V7). For a well-deserved rest, have a play on the two arêtes, The Nose (V3) and Mini-Arête (V1).
If you want to get serious, you can either commit dynocide on the massive Dan’s Dyno (V8), the best problem on the Hidden Wall. Or else stay at the boulder and work the thin, and no-doubt frustrating, Thunder in Paradise (V8). Totally spent, you can warm down on the Hidden Wall with the amiably Left Wall, Central Wall or Pocket To Me, all at a pleasant V2. Either that, or you can go home and save your fingers and your strength for the inevitable next visit to this solitary, but addictive, little place.
Mud. It’s everywhere at this crag and if you don’t bring the necessary precautions it can make life very difficult and the problems incredibly frustrating. Ideally the best way of combating this plague of wet earth is with a tarp or similar plastic sheeting, although if you don’t mind getting it filthy, a boulder mat will suffice. If you are without both these items then your best bet is an old rag-cloth and a strong plastic bag to stand on. Just make sure you bring them home at the end of the session!
Quoted from EsotericBouldering:
There are various approaches to get to the bouldering. The one described here takes about 10 minutes. Park on Hartford drive, approached by turning right off the B4508 from Frenchay along Beckspool Road then left into Penn Drive then first left again. Alternatively exit at Junction 1 on the M32 to get to the same spot. Cross the A4174 Ring road and walk rightwards along the road until you see a footpath on the left crossing the fields. (Frome valley walkway) Cross the field down to the river following a field boundary. Cross the little bridge over a small stream and follow a path immediately rightwards over a fence and down to the main river.
Turn left on the river pathway and walk 50 metres to the Cave, which is set back about 30 metres from the main path. Turn right for the Ring Road Boulder and Hidden wall, cross the small footbridge and continue for about 75 metres. The ring road boulder (actually a small rounded buttress) is up a bank on the right, and the hidden wall is 20 metres right of the boulder at the same level.
For a full breakdown of problems at the Ring Road Circuit, visit Andy Sainsbury’s EsotericBouldering website. The original pdf topo of the crag can also be downloaded here.