Scugdale is a great little crag, or rather collection of crags, lying to the south of Swainby on the edge of the North York Moors national park. Composed of a tough orange-red sandstone they are an easier version of Slipstones. Where that crag caters very well for the climber in the 5b - 6b category, the crags in Scugdale are best in the 4b - 5c range. Yes there are routes at both venues that are good outside those ranges but generally those ranges offer the most.
My first trip here was shortly after I moved to the North York Moors on one Tuesday night with the Cleveland Mountaineering Club on their weekly meet. After being shown classic little problems such as “Pingers”, one Pete Simpkiss took me on a tour of the crag. By the time we decided to go to the pub, I had done over 60 routes!
The crags face south and lie an easy ten minutes walk from the end of the road that winds through the valley of Scugdale. They lie on private ground but access is allowed provided that you use the signed paths and do not take dogs.
This day I was with Steve, our wives were doing the coast to coast cycle route and this was their final day heading from Osmotherly to Whitby. The only time Steve had been here was on a spring day a couple of years earlier when I persuaded him and Andy to forsake Skipton and try something else. The weather was bright sunshine both at Skipton and at my house in Rosedale. It was snowing at the crag! Despite that we did a few routes that day. Today couldn't have been more different: hot, cloudless and breezy.
We began on the buttresses by the gearing up area. A few solos later and I point Steve at one of the trick climbs Bonzo (HVS 5b). This is one where there is a definite sequence to reach the letterbox slot between the breaks. Steve eventually does it with a few hints :-).
We move to the far end of the crag and begin to work our way back. The first route we try and we are nearly blown off by the gusting breeze. Better take care in our choice of routes. As we move back rightwards there is a shout, it’s Matt who has driven up from Leeds for the day to try out some new crags. Matt being a boulderer has brought his mat (no pun intended) and religiously places it under every route, whether 6a or VD.
There are a couple of problems I have never done, and today is no exception as I fail yet again on Stewker(5b), I just can’t seem to make the reach to the top break. Next door is the Prow(E1 5a) which I haven’t done before and is reckoned to drain a lot of nervous energy. It isn’t that bad, the crux is at the top with no gear but the move is OK.
Further old favourites are done again: Tippling Wall. Round to the right of Tippling Wall is The Shelf(E2 5c), I’ve never done this either but Steve has a go, comes off but decides that he can do it. With a bit of encouragement he gets stood on the shelf itself. Now comes the exit onto the sloping top of the buttress, scary, he finishes by the right-hand line.
Apart from a few problems around the gearing up area we have now just about done the crag. I offer to show them Barkers’ Crag which is really the continuation of Scot’s Crag. We head to the Snatch Arête area.
Again there is a route here that I have never been able to manage. Matt and Steve both do it but by now my fingers are so sore from yesterday on Crag Willas and today’s efforts that I am unable to hang on the holds let alone move on them. Finally we move on to the New Dimensions buttress, where we all just have a look. Then it is back to the cars, grab a drink and it’s off to The Wainstones.
We are just bouldering at this venue so kit is down to a minimum. Matt has his mat along with his boots and chalk-bag. Steve and I are definitely lightweight as our kit fits into a bum-bag each.
The breeze is more of a gale at the crag, situated as it is at a col at the head of Bilsdale. We begin to boulder though my fingers limit me to easier stuff as they are very painful now. There are one or two other parties about but mainly the only people around are walkers on the Cleveland Way.
I solo a couple of easier routes then watch Matt and Steve attempt some of the problems. Eventually they decide that they have had enough and we wander back over the path along the top of the hill to the cars. Matt is returning to Leeds, Steve and myself are heading to Whitby to welcome our wives after their little trip.