Wed 23rd Jul, 2014


“Runcorn, everybody loves Runcorn,
It’s where your chemicals come from,
And everybody loves chemicals...” - The PJ Party

Members: Dan O’Brien, Mark Ashley, Koy Oi Ding, Stuart Hurworth, Gareth Williams, Simon Robertshaw

Guests: Bron Edwards, Mirella de Jonge, Beth Thomas, Matt Harrigan, Ben Slater, Ivan Cabrera, Doug Arnold

What could be better than a glorious sunset over the Mersey estuary, blemished only slightly by the chemical plan and oil refinery, to round off the hottest day of the year?

Helsby crag is an obvious landmark for climbers heading to North Wales on the M56 however few tend to stop, probably because from the motorway, the place looks grim, dark and infinitely less inviting than ploughing on to the warm safety of the hut... The reality though is a clean, compact sandstone crag with some fantastic routes that is, in my opinion wrongly, often overlooked.

Doug and Ivan had an interesting introduction to the vagaries of sandstone by climbing Grooved Slab (VS 4a) a route with literally no gear in its XXm length – no mean feat in 29C heat. Stuart and Beth both led the classic of the crag – Flake Crack, a soaring corner that gets HVS in the new guide. Stuart and I also climbed Wood’s Climb (HVS). There were a number of ascents of Twin Caves Crack (HS) and Dinnerplate Crack (VS) – both with steep starts and sharp holds. Mirella led Greenteeth Crack (HS), a full-body-pump of a chimney that mauled the knees and elbows of everyone else, in fine determined style. Bron and Simon climbed End Crack (S) as did Mark and Ding after stopping on the walk in for a swim in the hilltop pool. In the fading light, Gareth head-pointed Cinemascope (E4) in fine style and even managed to haul my sorry ass through the crux.

As we packed up and headed for the pub, Beth decided that she was coming back this weekend for a crack at Eliminate 1 – the classic E1 of the crag. Immediately planning to return after a first visit? There is no higher recommendation than that for an otherwise much maligned venue.

There was some attrition on the journey from crag to pub. Nominations for next week were Witches Quarry, Hen Cloud, Wharncliffe and Ravenstones. Despite my best efforts to extol the virtues of Wharncliffe and Mark’s almost poetic description of the belay stakes, parking and pubs for Witches it was Ravenstones that won through (though I think Stuart will be referring the vote to international monitors amid allegations of vote rigging...) Sandals required for the novel approach next week – else you can just yomp up the hill...


PS – The PJ Party, excellent local band formed from members of the erstwhile Thingy-ma-Bob and the Thingy-ma-Jigs. Look them up...

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