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Go with Noakes

I, in my capacity as a witty and humorous Northerner, have been asked to create what I suppose could only be called a sermon and inflict it upon you world weary, toiling student types and then compare it to your Marxist ways and convert you back to the true path, the way to the present and that dreamy land of Utopia (which incidentally means no-place).

I am often asked what is the best route I've ever done. Actually it's not that often , its just that I can't think of anything else to write. To answer this question I'm going to list my top 10 or so. They are across a variety of grades throughout the country on a variety of media. However, here are some routes that should be on anyone's hit list. Grit classics like Tody's Wall , Teck Crack and Valkyrie (Froggatt), all HVS, all well protected and all superb. Harder routes like Safety Net, Three Pebble Slab (both E1) and Elegy (E2) are also brilliant but slightly more pant filling. Limestone does have some top routes like Sarcophagus at Chudleigh, Sin and Aurora (VS) at Stoney and the harder ones are probably good if you like that sort of thing. The Lakes has brilliant long routes like Kipling Groove at Gimmer, The Fang Direct at Gouther Crag (HVS) and Bracket and Slab at Gimmer, a fantastic VD. However they are just not good enough.

10- Central Gully, Great End II/III This isn't a rock climb, it's an ice route. The crag is a massive north facing affair at the bottom of Borrowdale. You park the car and cannot see the crag , but after an hour and a half struggle the face appears with the snow filled line of Central Gully cutting diagonally across it. The route itself is about 300m long and comes out on top of the mountain . Whilst there are never any real difficulties, there are two short ice pitches that the novice would enjoy, and a fall would result in a 200m slide down the snow chute to a painful demise. The last 80m are up a delightful snow slope that brings you out onto the pink summit, the sun setting over the massive of Scafell. Top tip- Bring a deadman.

9- Central Groove, The Dewerstone, HS This is the massive open corner that is found on the left hand side of Raven Rock. The granite is superb with brilliant friction even when the route is doing an impression of a waterfall. A scrabbling start leads to the foot of the groove. If you wish, gear could be placed every 2 feet but running it out just increases the pleasure. Perfect jams are on offer if you wish but rugosities can be used if you're a southern jessie. The belay is situated out on the arete, 30m or so above the floor and it feels more exposed than it really is. It is gained by leaving the safety of the crack and delicately moving up and rightwards across the wall. With a choice of second pitches, both inferior to the first, but pleasurable in their own right, the route is a classic of the grade. Top tip- Bring an umbrella.

8- Midnight Cowboy, Baggy Point, HVS 4c,5b,4c A great route on the only REAL rock North Devon has to offer. The great slab is criss-crossed with routes most of which start from the beach, except when the tide's in. The route itself should start up the middle of the slab to a belay roughly in the middle. However, a more adventurous variation involves stepping across the zawn above a surging, noisy sea and then battling through the overlaps and traversing, via a dodgy peg to the belay. The second pitch is superb, the second requiring similar skills to the leader. It involves few handholds, fewer footholds, stepping through an overlap and traversing 35 feet from your gear. The sandstone smears well but takes some getting used to. On a hot summer's day this is one of the most beautiful places in the world and the routes aren't bad either. Top tip- Bring your Oakleys.

7- North West Arete, Gimmer Crag, VS 4c This route thrives on the sheer exposure. The start is at the base of Gimmer Crack and traverses rightwards across a steep wall. A small roof is then overcome and the massive arete is reached. Glancing around the corner reveals a massive steep slab that seems to go all the way down to the Old Dungeon Ghyll. The route continues up the arete with some nice moves and whilst never difficult they cause you to think because the gear is spaced and not very reassuring and there's the massive drop below. The belay is 40m or so up and only then do you realise that the glorious final layback you've just done is up a loose flake. Top tip- Bring blinkers.

6- Golden Yardstick, Widcat Crags, VS 5a Wildcat is the smaller, easier version of High Tor and is made up of a nicely cracked smooth limestone. Golden Yardstick starts below a tree and has an easy first pitch that leads to a small cave that provides shelter on a hot day. The second pitch starts up a corner. The crux is leaving the safety of the corner and effectively stepping out onto the top of the cave. It is well protected, but if hot the rock feels like a wet bar of soap and has seen numerous HVS leaders retreating. The wall above has loads of small protection and it's needed because the holds are worryingly unpositive . Easy ground is reached and a belay straddling the arete with the long corner of Manx Groove (HS) to the right. A route for the aspiring HVS leader because it'll teach you the birds and the bees or something. Top tip- Do it on a cool day.

5- Little Brown Jug, Bosigran, VS 4a,4b,5a This is a great route on the seaward cliff of Bosi. The ochre coloured granite above the glistening sea gives a magical environment on a sunny day . It also gives superb reassurance to the hungover climber who wants to stick his neck out. The first pitch is delicate with little gear until a crack is gained and followed to a standing belay. The second pitch traverses in the opposite direction and the Hilton of belay ledges is built (except some bastard nicked the mini-bar). The final pitch is the longest, brilliant and doesn't ease up until you reach the top. From the belay a groove is gained and a peg is passed . Awkward moves gain the slab above (crux) and this is pleasantly followed to an overhanging layback crack. It's only 12 feet long but holds a surprise on the penultimate move that few expect and caused me to make a rapid retreat to place some gear. The question is, where is the little brown jug? Top tip- Do it without the hangover.

4- Doorpost, Bosigran, HS I don't know what the real start is like because typically I did the HVS one which starts to the right. However it must be the final pitch people do as the position is breathtaking, 100s of feet above the churning surf on the best rock anywhere. It follows a large column of almost vertical granite that has a plenum of jugs and cracks. Try not to put in too much gear because I'm sure it would detract from the pleasure of easy climbing in such an extreme place. If you're leading VD, try it, because it's an awesome route. Top tip- Give your belayer the camera.

3- Christmas Curry, Craig Bwlch y Moch , S The alternative to pushing the grade is to do this route. The first pitch is best done in boots because it's filthy and usually wet, but Moderate. The second pitch sticks it's nose out of the trees with an airy traverse, especially when wet, and leads to a big belay ledge. There are two finishes from here. The harder follows the arete to the left and is enjoyable, but I don't think has that certain thing that the true finish has. This involves stepping up a short slab to a corner. A large nut then protects a precarious move around the corner via a small pond. DO NOT look down because it's a long way. A no.2 friend is the final gear before a scoop is entered and this entertains the 25 feet or so to the top. I don't know what it is about this route, I just enjoy it every time, come rain, wind or shine. Top tip- Sod it!

2- Giant's Crawl, Dow Crag, Diff How, you are asking, can a Diff be number two? Well, I ask, how can Take That be number one? Simple, they had what the public (and young females) wanted , and I suppose that's sex appeal. In a way Giant's Crawl has exactly that. It follows a 100m slanting slab across the B buttress of Dow. The crag itself is massive with five main buttresses perched on top of a 400ft scree slope. Although north facing, in summer this can be a delightful venue with views across to Furness Fells. I digress, the route goes up the slab almost anywhere at the same grade. Gear is present if needed, but if you manage to fall off, take up caving. Belays can be made halfway up the slab, after which it begins to narrow. The gear here also becomes less frequent and the exposure increases dramatically as you get nearer to the edge. The moves are easy and as you try to absorb all the emotions of exhilarating climbing in such surroundings, it really is like kinky sex. You're brought out of your trance by your second telling you there's no rope left. Luckily the slab finishes and there is sufficient protection for the belay. The route finishes to the left and brings you out just below the top of the mountain. Beware the descent in rock boots, you'll be arse over tit!

1- Valkyrie, Roaches, VS 4b,4c It's surprising really that there is only one grit route here. However there are so many good routes (and crap ones) that one of them had to be number 1. I suppose there is a bit of bias in this somewhere and undoubtedly there are better routes out there. But few routes have such moves in such positions at this grade. Also the route has a fair degree of commitment, reversing the crux being nigh on impossible and a fall off the final moves leaving you in space. Valkyrie was my first grit VS and I shat my pants on the crux, looking down just results in a bird's eye view of the ground. The move is poorly protected and feels very insecure, the flake being a massive hold and the face having smears and a pebble to hold. As the advertisers say, Just do it! It's not hard physically but the route is a psychological war, each set of moves being a battle between your bottle and the grit's subtleties and hidden holds.

Well, the list is over and some of my emotions have escaped too. The problem is that it will change as new routes are done and replace dim and distant memories of others. However, all these have stuck in my mind , time may alter what I felt when I did them, but they are all great routes, and really it is unfair to say one is better than the others. Do them and see if I'm right. If you would like to disagree, I'll see you outside for a fist fight, later of course.

Written by John `Noakes' MacKeating


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