1st June 2014

The Well Rounded VS Leader

Prompted by a thread on UKC I decided to put a list of routes together that represented a selection of various styles of climbing, a list that if you ticked your way through, you’d be happy in the knowledge you can look at any VS in a guide book and know you could confidently climb it.

My knowledge of North of the border climbing isn’t great, so rather than blag it I thought I’d stick to routes and areas I know fairly well. I’ve climbed all  of them, some several times, but as time passes my memory does become a little hazy so some of the descriptions may not be quite as accurate as guidebook entries…

These are all, in my opinion, great routes, not necessarily the best in each area and some areas are missing altogether, but for the purposes of this list I think they’re all worthy of their place.


Little Brown Jug, Bosigran

Undeniably one of the best cliffs in the UK. It has fantastic feeling granite, bright blue seas and being in Cornwall a good chance of sunny skies, it’s just a beautiful place to climb. Little Brown Jug has three pitches to enjoy – 4b to start (or a nice HVS variation), then a 4a pitch then THE pitch which goes at 5a. The final pitch steepens up and then you pull through an overlap, place some gear and then launch up the magnificent layback flakes, these final moves are simply awesome.


Kinkyboots, Baggy Point

This route is famous for it’s “Falling over the zawn” start! If, like me, you’re tall it is less of a fall and more of a reach, place a bit of gear then step across. My girlfriend assures me it’s pretty intimidating if you are more vertically challenged!
The rock here is so nice, a hard sandstone, slabby crag, it feels like you’re climbing on sandpaper. The first pitch, after the step, is a traverse to the right in fantastic surroundings, especially on a sunny day with calm seas. The second pitch isn’t quite so great, you reverse the first pitch to the peg and then pick the cleanest line to the top.


Gronk, Avon Gorge

People will tell you Avon Gorge is a noisy crag with mega polished limestone to climb on and to be honest they’re not wrong. I love it though! For me I soon forget about the road noise and although the rock is pretty polished it doesn’t really detract, there’s always just enough protection to be found including a few dodgy looking pegs. But the walk in is measured in seconds not minutes…

The first time I tried to do Gronk, we didn’t even start. We arrived at about 1100 and another pair had beaten us to it, we left the crag at about 1600 and they were still only halfway up – we got plenty of other stuff done instead.

It’s five pitches are really varied, there’s strenuous bits, delicate bits and traversy bits and although the only 4c bit is straight forward, finding gear throughout the route requires more thought.


Wye Valley

Nibelheim, Wintours Leap

A four pitch route on a big crag (over 300 routes) where it takes a while to get your bearings because the starts of the routes are hidden from photos in the trees. The surroundings here are really pleasant with nice views over the river Wye and it’s nice and peaceful unless there’s a horse racing meet on when you can here the commentary drifting over the country side.

The start takes in some small overhangs with some rather polished footholds before finding a tree belay. An easier second pitch leads to the crux pitch with feels pretty bold for the grade but there’s at least one peg in addition to natural gear, keep a steady head and you’ll be cruising. It’s quite common to abseil from here, 50m doubles just reach the floor.


Amorican, Craig Caerfai

OK, OK, this isn’t VS, but if you want to be cruising VS, you need to through in the odd HVS and this is an absolute cracker. 40 metres of some of the best slab climbing there is, all on lovely hard sandstone in Pembrokeshire, one of the most scenic places in the world.
Romp up the initial crack, placing plenty of gear as you go, before things get a little thinner. Then there’s a small overlap to negotiate before the climbing eases off, but keep your concentration because the gear to the top is pretty minimal.




The Heidelberg Creature, Boulder Ruckle

So you’ve mastered slabs and technical climbing but haven’t done much steep stuff? Swanage is the place to come and test you’re nerve and muscle power! The Ruckle has a reputation for steep climbing on slightly dubious rock with even more dubious top outs and as with most reputations it is well founded. Committing, tough and adventurous.

This route is a super steep corner (bridging is your friend on the Ruckle), but on big holds and with as much gear as you have the energy to place. The steep corner leads to an overhang and more steep corner climbing leads to a belay on the halfway ledge.
The technically easier second pitch climbs through another overhang before a crack and corner to the top. This pitch, like a lot of Swanage needs care with the rock.



Hargreaves Original, Stanage

Do you trust your feet smearing on slopey but grippy holds? Can you cope without positive handholds? Climbing on Gritstone will answer this question!

My advice for this route is to take some cams to protect it, but as you’re climbing it thinking “thank God for cams”, remember this was first climbed in 1928…
The start, pulling on to the slab is probably the hardest move, but staying calm as you teeter up the sloping breaks will test your nerve.
Best enjoyed mid week when Stanage isn’t quite so busy.


N Wales

Kirkus’s Route, Cwm Silyn

This was the hardest route to pick, N Wales has so much variety that I didn’t know what to go for. A climbing in the Pass, Tremadog, Slate, Ogwen, Gogarth etc? I decided on a remote mountain route in the end and anything by the pioneer Colin Kirkus is worthy of a place on any list.
This route has four 4c pitches and a 4b, a bit of a walk in and requires some thought with regard to route finding. It feels like a route I shouldn’t write too much about so as not to spoil the adventure, suffice to say it’s an exceptionally fine outing on great rock.



Eliminate A, Dow Crag

Possibly the finest multi pitch VS in the Lakes? It’s about an hour to walk into the crag, but you are rewarded by stunning mountain surroundings and fabulous climbing.
Six pitches and fairly easy for the grade but the climbing is just absorbing. The first pitch doesn’t have stacks of gear, but the other pitches all have plenty, the climbing then gets a bit steeper for the second pitch. Then you’ve got a delicate traverse on P3, an easier but nicely exposed traverse on P4, P5 traverses back the other way before on some sloping holds before taking on a steeper groove on really positive holds. An easier final pitch leads to the top and self congratulation of completing a mega VS mountain route.


If any of this has inspired you to learn the skills necessary to tackle these routes or you’d like to be guided up one of them, have a look at my Rock Climbing Course page and get in touch.


  1. Leave a Reply

    Ian Welsh
    4th December 2016

    I have done most of these routes and wonder whether it would be worth adding one or two targets for the confident VS leader?

    Overhanging Bastion on Castle Crag , Lakes is a definite push on the VS grade. Anothet obvious Lakes choice would be. The Crack on Gimmer Crag. I soloed this after leading Kipling Groove (HVS, 5a). If you cruise a The Crack then do the Groove.

    Some Yorkshire Limestone additions would test Southern ‘jessies’ Venus and Olympus (Yorks Limestone Guide) both initially went up as VS routes. Both make Kirkuses Route appear small beer.

    At Wintours Leap Fly Wall would have been an obvious choice to me. If you cruise that then do the Direct version next.

    Perhaps the acid test would be to add a VS Or two from Gogarth, where the atmospherics of having to climb out add a certain edge. Pel on Southstack is a datum point. Cruise that then do Blanco (HVS) but do NOT assume that you can transfer this to other clasdic Gogarth HVS routes easily.

  2. Leave a Reply

    Jez Brown
    20th December 2016

    That could be the next blog Ian!

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