A justifiably popular, classic route of historical significance, probably the best limestone E1 in the country and even today a serious undertaking. A massive route, in 5 (or 6) pitches.
P1: 5.7, 40m
Climb the corner to a belay on a sloping ledge at a large thread and old pitons. Rest here, because the rock now starts to angle back into a gentle overhang. This pitch can be split into two, but there isn't really a natural place to belay so best done as one.
P2: 5.8+, 20m
Climb the crack above, past a small triangular roof pulled on the left (crux of this pitch) to belay on a small ledge on the right. There is an old piton here, and you can build a gear belay in the continuation of the crack. Take this opportunity to relax and admire the spectacular situation.
P3: 5.8, 15m "The shield pitch"
Continue up the crack (surprisingly pumpy) from the ledge, until you reach a large overhang. The only means of progress is to hand traverse leftwards, good hands but slick to non-existent feet. Approaching the end of this sideways excursion you encounter what remains of the shield. This bulge of rock used to be more of a formidable obstacle, forcing the climber to lean backwards, gripping the top as feet skated around beneath. However it has now shed much of it's bulk, and is often mounted with a thigh for a welcome, if inelegant, rest! At the end of the traverse, belays are available either on gear in the start of the corner of the next pitch, or on rusty pitons just further left. Neither option is comfortable
P4: 5.9+, 30m
The steep corner awaiting your now tired arms is the crux of the route. Technical stemming prevails in the lower section, until a swing rightwards under a roof gains the strenuous crack above, and it just keeps going. A sharp pull at the top of the crack gains jugs, a small ledge on the right and spectacular views of the gorge below. Look down and admire the exposure from possibly the finest belay in the gorge.
P5: 5.7, 20m
Instead of following the crack up and leftwards, make out right onto the finishing slabs. This pitch is welcome respite from the difficulties below, but never trivial. Traditionally the difficulties are escalated by nightfall somewhere along the way!
Takes nuts and cams all the way up, some threads, some fixed pitons, slung bushes, brambles, nettles... a bit of everything really
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