Sat 23rd Nov, 2019

Masson Lees: Drytooling and Sport

Adam McCudden

With starred sport routes from F3 to F7b+ on a mix of dolomitic and bog-standard British limestone, Masson is a worthwhile sport climbing venue in its own right. What sets “The Crag of Dreams” apart though is it’s massive, Dry-tooling Cave.

If you’ve not heard of Dry-tooling, it started out as way of training for hard ice-climbing and mixed winter climbing when there wasn’t any Ice. It involves climbing on either artificial structures or dry-rock using ice axes and tools. Hence: Dry-tooling.  As the use of tools on Dry rock causes more damage than ‘normal’ climbing, there are quite rightly very few dry-tooling venues in the UK. Luckily one of them is only 1 ½ hours from Manchester. Better yet, thanks to the Dry-tooling Cave’s massive roof, most of the tooling routes are perma-dry.   Check out this Tooling Routes Video filmed at Masson last year. 

While the more acrobatic M8-M12 routes are used by the British Ice-Climbing Team to train on, there are routes for us mere mortals too. There are a couple of M6-M7 bolted routes, and I’m currently developing a couple of easier top-rope routes in the M3-M5 range. Anyone who can comfortably second WI4 or Scottish V/5 should be able to get up most of the easier routes.  Fully technical tools and mono-points are best, but you can still get up stuff on mountaineering axes and crampons.  

NOT AN ICE CLIMBER? Don’t worry, as well as all the sport routes to play on, I’ll have my axes with me, so you can come and have a play on some of the tooling routes and see if you like it. Although the routes aren’t suitable for beginners, as long as you can top-rope at least F6b, you should be able get up something on tools (It's hard to compare climbing and tooling grades directly, but as a VERY rough guide, M4 feels about HS or F5+ and M7 is about E2 or F6b) .

In the weeks running up to this meet, we’ll also be visiting Rope Race in Marple to practice using tools indoors in their dry-tooling dungeon: The Tool-Room.

In addition to the usual BMC participation statement, due to the loose nature of the rock in the tooling cave, helmets are obligatory at Masson, even if you’re not climbing. If you are planning on tooling, and are as clumsy as I am, a pair of safety specs / ski-goggles and some gloves are highly recommended.

For full Details of Masson Lees, check out the UKC Crag Page


Adam McCudden

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Adam McCudden
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