I’d only just left the village, less than two miles from home and i couldn’t help but wonder – and please excuse the language here – what the fuck am i doing?!
What was i doing? Embarking on a two-and-a-half hour drive to Lancashire to go bouldering. A 250 mile round trip. On the face of it, it was ridiculous, expensive and completely unnecessary. After all, how many outstanding crags and venues was i about to sail past before arriving at a piece of rock to clamber around on? Literally dozens. And while others have often waxed poetic about the magic of Craig y Longridge, purchased by the BMC back in 2007 after a dispute with the landowner, i personally never really saw much of an appeal for a seeping scar that i’d visited before such problems circa 2004.
The answer is that there is a huge amount of context to offer explanation to the insanity: a quick revisit after unfinished business two weeks prior; meeting a friend somewhere i knew he’d love; exorcising more demons from those formative years; and a need for new venues to hit that magic 1000 problems goal.
Another Triumphant Return
A mere two days following my New Year’s post, I had the opportunity to attack one of the goals for the season when i was asked to drop my dad off in Blackburn. Realising that Craig y Longridge was only round the corner, it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up.
And so, after a faffy start where my urgency – i had to be back for work at 5pm – was not clear, i pulled up somewhere that evoked a mix of memories and emotions. Craig y Longridge is often thought of as another of those hardcore British venues, encapsulated by this passage from Niall Grimes’ Boulder Britain:
Wars are not won or lost when one side kills all of the other. What happens is that when level of pain – casualties, moral or financial – is inflicted on one player, they capitulate. In the same way do climbers fall off at Longridge. Watch them, see their faces after they drop, a scene of horror and agony stretched across the face, the look a mixture of disappointment and phenomenal relief. Were it a war then Longridge will alwas be the one who drops the atomic bomb on your forearms.Grimes, N. (2020). Boulder Britain. Ape Index
As such, much as with other North West venues of the Bowderstone and the Shleter Stone at Trowbarrow, Longridge was somewhere where my delicate self-assessment during my undergraduate years refused to allow me to partake. I’ve talked before about exorcising the demons from my youth, both on this website and as a guest writer for Chalkbloc, and there aren’t that many left now. Longridge wasn’t in the same bracket but certainly felt like somewhere i was most definitely not good enough.
However on arrival, i couldn’t fathom out why this place had put me off so much in the past as i was immediately confronted with a series of 4s on which to begin, not to mention a long series of problems in the 5s and 6s; a fact made all the more baffling by the fact that i have actually visited before. It’s amazing how preconceptions can colour one’s view of reality.
Things have changed and more than somewhat. On that sole visit, the much-documented access problems were yet to reach fruition and the land had not yet been sold and developed. Back then, the scar faced a view across Lancashire countryside and towns in the distance. Not any more, as i arrived not to the view of fields, flora and fauna but of new build houses and a woman in her kitchen doing the washing up. Now, i feel i’m intruding into someone’s back garden (you very nearly are at Longridge, with only the briefest of fences keeping the boundary) in the oddest of settings imaginable.
Still, Longridge is not the destination of choice if you’re after a nice view and never has been. A man-made crag that has always lacked the aesthetics of countless others, you come to Longridge for the climbing; either straight ups or long traverses, whatever your poison. Not being a huge fan of sideways climbing, i was here for the former. And i managed them aplenty.
Despite the short amount of time (i’m not actually sure how long i had but it was not measured in hours) i quickly climbed a whopping 16 lines, up to 7a and had a very good stab at Grow Wings sit start 7b; which would’ve fallen had i had just a little more time. And therein we find the planted seed that drew me back so soon, despite multiple other options that would have ticked almost as many boxes.
It seems that Grimes’ description doesn’t take into account the change in style of rock climbers over the past twenty years. Where old hands like Grimes and myself are more accustomed to climbs that challenge us technically and mentally, now there exist a crop of young heavyweights skilled in what is oft called “gym climbing”. And oddly, the steep boards that have become standard fare for climbers worldwide these past few years have trained climbers exactly for venues like Longridge.
It struck me that my friend and bouldering superstar Jack Pearce would love the place. Not only that but on form, he’d mop up, more than capable of climbing all but a small handful of lines. And so i told him, touted the idea of a return and a small crew of cohorts keen to win some ‘easy’ ticks somewhere new.
Only he wasn’t around, being away in Scotland sampling the unknown joys of bouldering north of the border. I put the idea to the back of my mind, only for him to contact and suggest a meet on his drive south. Hesitant at now having to foot the fuel bill alone, i threw caution to the wind and agreed. We would meet at Longridge.
I was early but that gave me chance for another blitz of easier lines and surge towards that 1000 problem goal with another 16 climbs taking my fortnight haul to a scarely believable 32 problems and a huge step towards my goal. This time, though, was slightly more substance over simple mileage and where my first foray included 11 problems up to 5+, the increased time available meant only three of the same grade or lower this time around. What’s more, where before i made it from the left end to Grow Wings, this time i made it to the end of the crag. And there are some cracking lines there!
Sadly, both Jack and myself were nursing finger injuries, rendering our chances severly dented and blocking either of us from properly committing to the moves. What’s more, and is probably more irritating, is that despite perfect conditions in March, the crag was seeping in all the wrong places in April; again meaning many of the problems became at best significantly harder and at worst, impossible to try.
Even so, i came back having found some outstanding movement on a rock type i have not played on in many years, with circles around Big Marine, Push to Prolapse, In Excess, Fertile Delta, Delta Force, Ping and Missing Link to add to the sit start project from round one. It would appear that the more i go to Longridge, the more i find to go back for. Just a shame it’s a five hour round trip. Not that i think that will stop another return in the not too distant future.
I would be remiss not to mention the specific access conditions to climbing at Craig y Longridge. The following has been copied from the BMC Regional Access Database (RAD):
“The BMC purchased this crag in 2007 and climbers can now enjoy unhindered access. However, a code of practice has been agreed to prevent disturbance to the houses below the crag. Please respect out neighbors and follow the crag code of conduct:
- No access before 10am or after 9pm (or sunset if earlier)
- Take your litter home with you
- No vehicles on site
- No dogs
- No radios or music
- Do not use the area as a toilet
- Respect our neighbours
- No activities other than rock climbing
- Fixed equipment for the rarely climbed routes on the right side of the crag has not been placed by, and is not maintained by the BMC. Climbers should excercise their own judgement on whether fixed equipment is reliabile, as on any other crag.”
For further information, please click here