Wed 3rd Jun, 2015

Witches Quarry

Members - Dan O'Brien, Andy Stratford, Helen Boothman, Dave Wylie, Mark Ashley, Koy Oi Ding, Paul Evans.

Guests – John, Steve Hill and Freddie Waters, Joe Foster, Ellie Jones, Jacob King and James Cleves from the SUMC.


Sceptical would be a mild way to describe my feelings towards Witches quarry….  My only memories of the place were a humid, damp, midge infested rat-hole from a rainy mid-week Wednesday in 2004.  My last encounter put me off for over a decade.  Sceptical, yes, that’s the nicest way to put it.

Witches' Quarry, on the slopes of Pendle Hill, is a limestone outcrop with an improbable number of quality lines for a minor crag.  The local folklore surrounding witches and witchcraft lends itself to some of the colourfully named routes.  Even though the KMC did not have Witches’ to themselves as the sunny weather and non-existent walk-in (you park at the foot of the crag) had attracted members of Salford University, Lancashire and Clitheroe Mountaineering Clubs, you still got the sense that there was something magical about the place.

The Salford University contingent, taking full advantage of not having full-time jobs or exams, arrived early to take full advantage of the sunny settled weather.  They motored through Cracklap (Joe’s first HS), Spellbound and Brimstone (Freddie’s first HVS which he claimed felt harder than Ann at Wilton – his first E1 from the week before…)  Paul steeled himself against the patchwork technicolour of Freddie’s trousers to take some photos for the upcoming Lancashire guidebook – sunglasses advised!

Helen climbed the unfortunately named Familiar’s Fall (HVS) followed Andy.  Stevie and Helen also climbed Hell Hounds on My Tail (VS) and Tarot Wall (HVS) to comfortably secure the "Most Colourfully Named Routes” prize for the evening.

I climbed Witch Bane (HVS) ably followed by John and Andy and closely photographed by Paul.  A special mention also goes out to Dave who helpfully ensured that the correct line was followed on the fingery top section by reading from the guidebook.  Paul, it turns out, had little idea where the route he had just pointed me at actually went, what it was called, or what the grade was…  Andy led Cracklap and I climbed Peel Off (VS), both followed by an increasingly pumped John on only his second outdoor climbing trip.

Dave approached the crag riding a Llama/Alpaca over the top of Pendle Hill, upon his arrival Steve and his spare rope did Cracklap and as far as he knows the rope also did one other route without him – I smell witchcraft!  Dave, in person, seconded Stevie on Thrutch (VS), led Haloween Outing (S) with Steve and followed Steve up Serenity (S).  Mark and Ding also climbed Serenity then proceeded to “fall off every VDiff on the cliff”.  They also climbed Broomstick (VS).

As night fell, the sensible decamped to the pub though the students (mysteriously) did not make it - again, I’m calling witchcraft!

Through post climb attrition, only seven made it to the pub where Andy’s off-hand prediction of calm settled weather for next week was quickly set in stone.  As such, in true midge-avoiding style,  the nominations were Pule Hill, Helsby and The Roaches.  The Roaches fell in a first round run-off with Helsby.  The second round saw a narrow victory for Pule Hull even though Ding was told by Mark that she would now have to walk home as she turned her cloak for the Pule Hill camp.

As for me, it seems I was a little hasty in my judgement of Witches’ Quarry.  In the right conditions it is a great place to spend the evening and I will certainly be returning.  Granny Weatherwax, I doff my cap.


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Karabiner Mountaineering Club