10 Stunning Elite Sports Routes in the UK
Stolen – 8b – Steall Hut Crag, Glen Nevis
Just brilliant, always dry and probably the best 8b in Scotland. Start left of Trick of the Tail climbing up the overhangs and bulges. Hard climbing leads left to a no hands rest at a big tooth hold. Have a good shakeout then tackle the hard undercut grooves above to another rest and then another hard section. After this you reach the easier headwall and finish above your head. Such a cool route offering constant hard climbing without any extreme sections. Unusual in Scottish sport routes in that it is fairly long!
Hubble – 9a – Raven Tor (Miller’s Dale)
Ben Moon had a replica of Hubble built in the now famous Sheffield Cellar. Resplendent in his famous dreadlocks, Moon sent Hubble back in 1990. Some feat for the time and with only 2 further repeated in the next 10 years. A historical landmark route as it was the World’s first 9a, and to this day is rarely repeated! The route is short but extremely hard from the start where you climb straight up over the bulges on some minuscule and painful undercuts, then move slightly left above to finish. One of todays top climbers, Alex Megos repeated the route and said to UKC afterwards “Hubble isn’t just a route, Hubble is the myth”.
Cider Soak – 8a – Ansteys Cove, Devon
Put up in 1988 by Nick White it has remained a very impressive sport route ever since. Only 14m in height it packs in loads of great and energetic climbing. With some big dynamic moves always on good holds. Move up onto the sloping shelf that cuts in from the right and then move to a thin break. Some great moves now lead into and out off a finger crack. Then some sloping holds to a good finger pocket. One last move reaches jug and a shake out before tottering up the final fingery upper wall.
Infinite Gravity – 8a+ – Blackers Hole, Swanage, Dorset
Just along from the town of Swanage in Dorset is the impressive Blackers Hole Sea Cave which hides the superb route, Infinite Gravity. Hides would be correct as getting to the start of the route in the cave is an epic adventure in itself. First you scramble down easily onto a sea ledge from here dropping down again. Then wave swept ledges lead along to a tyrollean traverse above the sea into the cave.
The massive ship’s prow arete of Infinite Gravity now towers above you at a near continuous 45° angle. The route has three hard sections, a groove, a crack through huge roofs, a less steep crack through bands of rock and a final sting in the tail to make the lower off. With around 22 bolts along it’s 40m plus length and rests available it is a beast where only those with trained endurance will be successful. An inspiring super pitch of a route put up by the southern legend that is Pete Oxley in 1992!
Little Plum – 8a – Stony Middleton, Derbyshire
Another significant route from in part, Jerry Moffatt, during the early 80s. Originally two pitches it is now usually climbed as one pitch as at 8a. The original first pitch section is a fingery and bouldery climb. Whereas the upper section is powerful and sustained in a great position where you can stick a heel hook in at the roof and go for it! The middle section is easy climbing and now with an extra bolt the loose bits are not so worrying. It is noted as on the easy side of the 8a grade, but it’s all subjective as usual, so give it a go and see what you think!
Helvetia 8b+ – Rhossili Bay, Swansea
Put up fairly recently by Bristol climber Ben West, Helvetia is named after the shipwreck on the main beach at Rhossili Bay. Is not of the typical British hard route style being more in of a European flavour but it soon gained a great reputation. It’s slightly overhanging all the way and at 25m it keeps coming at you. The first section is on jugs to a good rest then the hard climbing starts at a hard crux which bars access to the upper wall. This wall is full on difficulty right up to just below the lower off. A great route with all sorts of climbing styles and hold types to keep you interested.
Statement of Youth – 8a – Lower Pen Trwyn, Conwy
One of two routes in this list from the same crag, Lower Pen Trwyn, they are both that good! Statement of Youth is one of the best hard sports routes in the UK put up in the 80s by Ben Moon. The route goes up the right-hand side of the steep left hand section of the cliff with no particular crux section but very sustained at the grade. The climbing is continuously sustained, subtle but never desperate. Climbing an overhanging wall with heel hooks on both feet, tiny finger-pockets, dynoing and continual effort. Statement of Youth has become kind of a right of passage for those breaking into the 8th grade of sports climbing.
Liquid Amber – 8c+ – Lower Pen Trwyn, Conwy
The second of the Lower Pen Trwyn routes is another Jerry Moffatt spectacular. The ultimate power endurance test piece that is Liquid Amber is move after move of full on climbing all the way to the top, but especially in the middle section. Pete Robbins bagged the 4th repeat of the route and although he quickly sorted the individual moves it took him 20 days of work to finally send the route. Liquid Amber does suffer from tidal conditions and can be slick, but is still a much sought after tick.
Raindogs – 8a – Malham Cove, North Yorkshire
Maybe because there are no big spans or reaches, just constant hard pulling with no rests anywhere that this is one of the most popular 8a routes in the UK. However, the sustained climbing ends with a hard move to the belay. Apparently you only get the full tick if you make the belay without a quickdraw already in place! Toby Roberts ticked Raindogs at 10 years 7 months of age. He said, “It was very sustained with no rests anywhere and as I climbed up, the holds felt worse as I was getting more pumped”!
Once you have conquered Raindogs you can then push on through to the continuation routes of, Rainshadow 9a, then Rainman 9b.
The Quarryman – E8 7a – Twll Mawr, Gwynedd
The Iconic bolted super technical 4-pitch testpiece slate climb put up by the fabulous Mr Johnny Dawes. The long vertical groove of the third pitch has sent many a top climber home with nothing to show for their effort!
The first pitch at 7c+ is technical and easy to drop followed by a second pitch traverse at 7b. Pitch three, the groove is the main event. Graded at 8a (maybe) it was done foot and backing in some style by Johnny. The fourth pitch is a 7c+ slab of crimpy dead points while footing on smears and has been dropped by many a climber. Many now just abseil in to attempt the groove pitch on its own. If you want to have a look how it was done by Johnny Dawes have a look at the Stone Monkey Video.