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Rock Climbing in the Isle of Man
Introduction

 

BACKGROUND

The Isle of Man is not normally associated with rock climbing, and indeed developments on the Island have consistently lagged behind those in Britain. There are several reasons for this. To some extent the poor quality of some of the rock is to blame, but the main reason is the infrequency and irregularity with which strong climbing teams have operated on the Island. These factors have led to stop start development and a bias towards traditional climbing values. Most routes have been lead on sight with no preparation, though a few have required gardening in advance. This will inevitably lead to a downgrading of routes in the future as they become cleaner and sounder with traffic.

In recent years a number of higher grade climbs have been recorded, though still nothing above E3. There is potential for higher grade climbs, invariably these will need extensive cleaning before the first ascent. In some areas there is a quantity of unsound rock. Pegs and bolts have been used infrequently but a place still exists for their use, especially the use of bolts on certain main belays. Many areas offer scope for eliminate and semi-eliminate lines between existing routes.

HISTORICAL NOTES

The author would like to acknowledge the contribution of previous guide book writers, whose notes are included.

Historical notes from the 1955 Guide, edited by J W Caine

Rock climbing for the utilitarian purpose of collecting eggs has long been known on the Isle of Man. Rock climbing as a sport may be said to date from Dr A W Kelly's ascent of the Sugarloaf, solo, in 1933. The next climbs on record came in 1949, some 16 years later, when K R R Wilson made four short climbs on Langness. These first enthusiasts seemed easily discouraged by the scarcity of climbing rock, for after their first brief explorations their interest waned.

The great wave of discovery began in early 1953 with F Sharples ascent of Cluggid Original. Later that year W J H West and J W Caine formed a climbing partnership, added the Cluggid Groove and Bulgham Slabs to their list, climbed on Creg-Ny-Iree-Laa, had a look at Greg-Ny-Greeba and paved the way for the Manx Fell and Rock Club to come into being. This club, led by W J H West, opened up the Chasms Face, making six new climbs there, including the spectacular, severe West's Route. This was the chimney and gully era of Manx climbing. In early 1954 D S Byrne led the Garden Slab at Dhoon, Greg-Ny-Greeba and Heather Crag were thoroughly explored.

The summer of that year saw the second ascent of the Sugarloaf by messrs West, Kelly and Byrne, and the addition of four climbs at the Sloc. This guide contains all the Manx climbs up to the end of 1954 and it is hoped that it will serve to show that worthwhile climbing my be had on the Island, and as an incentive to discover more routes on Manx rock.

Additional notes from the 1972 guide edited by G Gartrell

Climbing survived until 1960 when West left for North America and the Manx Fell and Rock Club went into hibernation. Climbing activity recommenced when Geof Gartrell moved to the island in 1970 and visitors began bringing climbing gear on the chance that someone knew where to climb. New routes were established at the rate of over thirty in eighteen months, mostly carrying on the tradition of short climbs, but some longer routes pointed the way to future development. G Gartrell opened up two new major areas with Maughold head and Pistol Castle.

R B Evans came over in early 1972 to sketch the crags for the guide and was impressed with the potential for VS climbing which resulted in a visit that Easter by a strong Liverpool team:-S M Thomas, W Cheverst and J Watson. Despite atrocious weather they ascended Mylrea and most of Xanadu at the Chasms, two routes destined to become classics. Shortly after Cheverst and Watson flew over for a weekend, especially to finish Xanadu, then went on to climb Doncella, the first on Spanish Head. In May Thomas returned with Evans, climbed the fine Ricochet on Pistol Castle and another good route on Spanish Head, Picador. With Geof Gartrell the attractive Twin Cletts were climbed. Geof Gartrell continued with his exploration until his return to England. This guide should point the way to future development.

Additional notes from the 1983 guide edited by Ron Yuen and Miles Peters

Following Geof's departure another short period of inactivity was broken by the arrival of Ron Yuen in 1977. Assisted by Keith Sutcliffe and Chris Bennett this trio set about developing the Islands potential. Many new crags were discovered, new lines filled in on existing crags and the number of worthwhile route multiplied tenfold. The crags at Peel, Aldrick, Blackhead, the Chasms (West) and Staiden were all discovered in the period 1977-1982.

Since the publication of the last guide book in 1984 there has been a steady increase of new routes many of which are in the HVS and E Grades. This compliments the overall increased standard of the clibmers.

GEOLOGICAL NOTES

Practically all the sea-cliff climbing is on rock of the Manx Slate series. These are not true slates, but a mixture of slate, flags and grits, with numerous quartzite veins and mineral intrusions. The original sedimentary rocks have been subjected to several periods of tectonic activity from at least three different directions, with the result that the existing rocks are very highly contorted, fractured and faulted.

TIDAL ACCESS

Although almost all the climbing in the Isle of Man is on sea-cliffs there are surprisingly few tidal access problems. Of the most important climbing areas the worst affected are Fenella Beach at Peel, Port Erin bay, and odd routes at Dhoon, Kione-Ny-Ghoggan and Maughold.Most sea level traverses are possible even at high tide provided there is no sea running. Routes affected by the tide are denoted in the guide by (T) after their name, routes marked (TL) are only possible at low tide.

ACCIDENTS AND RESCUE

There are very few climbers about and the coastal crags are relatively deserted and inaccessible. It is strongly recommended that before all outings a third party is advised of the proposed climbing area and return time. Should an accident occur it could be a long time before you are found unless someone knows that you are missing and where to start looking. When reporting an accident climbers are advised to follow the following instructions.

DIAL 999
TELL THE OPERATOR YOU WANT CLIFF RESCUE
GIVE THE TELEPHONE NUMBER SHOWN ON THE PHONE
WAIT FOR THE EMERGENCY SERVICE TO ANSWER
GIVE THE LOCATION WHERE HELP IS NEEDED

 


 

This guide may be read online, downloaded for personal use, or the URL of guide included in another electronic document. The text itself may not be published commercially (in print or electronic form), held on another Internet site, edited, or otherwise altered without the permission of the author.

Rock climbing can be a dangerous sport and this guide is not intended to take the place of climbing lessons and experience, much less common sense. If you are not experienced then go with an experienced partner. If you are experienced then do not surrender your judgment to anything contained in this guide.

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this guide, neither the authors or the Manx Fell & Rock Club can be held responsible for any errors and omissions, or any incidents, injuries or damages, etc., resulting from the use of this guide.


All text © Manx Fell & Rock Club and Mike Caine