Castle Rock

August 31, 2019 | Sidney Sherborne

Castle Rock is the second southward crag to receive a guide (Malvern Hills being the first) and the first in the county of Gloucestershire. The crag is an hour and a bit drive from campus, though this is highly traffic dependent and could be much much longer during rush hours. For Leamington dwellers it is a similar drive, but is much closer than the next nearest trad crags in Leicestershire and the Peak. The crag is situated on Cleeve Hill overlooking Cheltenham and is excellent on warm summer's evening. A session at Castle Rock is perfect when you only have half a day and can't justify driving a longer distance for a short time climbing. Deema and I were initially extremely disheartened when we first approached the crag as it looked absolutely tiny and quite frankly rubbish. Luckily this was because it was partially concealed behind a slope and our disappointment quickly faded as we got closer and could see the full height of the crag and its varied features.

Castle Rock is the first limestone crag to make an appearance in our guide - the crag is un-quarried 'Cotswold stone' and features large cracks, long breaks and small pockets. Route grades start at Severe and go all the way to E5 6a. For lead climbing, the crag is most suited to those leading HVS, and those leading E2 also have plenty of good routes to go at. There are good climbs in the lower grades too making the crag a good place for mixed abilities.

The best routes of the crag are found on the taller (10 meters) section of the crag, the rock is reliable, the protection is good, though the holds are polished. The routes on the left-hand side of the crag are shorter and looser. I pulled off a head-sized rock while soloing up The Easy HS 4b, so be careful, or stick to the much more sound right-hand side. The entire top of the crag is covered with loose pebbles and stones, so be extra careful when topping out, and make sure your belayer is wearing a helmet. I'd also advise that the climber wear a helmet as people and animals walk around near the top of the crag and could conceivably kick stuff down onto your head! The lack of solid rock at the top means there are no natural gear placements for anchors; fortunately there are many belay stakes atop the crag for easy anchor building. The routes we did were all straight ups and a single rope is adequate for climbing here. Given the short nature of the routes, and the low cruxes on the E2s, you may wish to take a boulder pad with you, depending on your ethical stance.

Logistics:

  • 1 hour 10 minutes drive from campus

  • Park either in the layby here and walk up to the crag (15 minutes) or directly under the crag (others at the crag did this when we were there, though it may not be allowed)

Guidebooks:

Our Recommended Routes:

  • Right Crack S 4a

  • Middle Crack S 4a

  • The Hand Jam HS 4a

  • In Between HVS 5b

  • Dislocation HVS 5b

  • The Overhang E2 5b

  • Cave E2 5b

  • Niche E2 6a

  • The Low Traverse 6A