Thursday, 7 June 2012


In a bizarre twist of fate the extended bank holiday weekend wasn’t a complete wash-out but in an even more bizarre twist I was working for all of it. Now however I’m not working and it’s raining and windy and horrible. The last few days have been spent traipsing around wet crags watching runoff paint black lines on the orange walls of Anstey’s cove and rain turn Chudleigh into a sparkling jungle of foliage. I have also indulged in my favourite pastime of flicking through guidebooks and picking out lines to add to my ‘to climb list’ – a list that is expanding at a faster rate that the Universe shortly after the Big Bang.

In the Swanage guide there is one route that sticks out more than all the others, a route that I contemplate every time I climb at Swanage. An impressive natural line that cries out to be climbed, that offers excitement and adventure and really wild things...

As the name suggests the BRGT is a traverse of the Boulder Ruckle that follows the 2 foot deep mid-height sandy, chossy break in much the same way a lemming follows its friends to almost certain death. This is of course the break that you reach on any given Ruckle route with a mixture of irritation, despondency and fear. The sandy floor of the break offers no good handholds whilst covering your arms in a frictionless layer of muddy powder as you desperately scrabble for purchase. The back wall of the break presents precisely zero gear placements increasing your fear and the speed at which you try to scrape your way upwards to more pleasant ground. 

Whilst on most routes this section of the climb is over soon, too soon some would say, on the BRGT the experience will stay with you for days and days as you traverse the 52 pitches that comprise the route and will remain with you forever in your nightmares.

The traverse hasn’t been repeated since those brave fools Richard Crewe and Kenny Winkworth did the first ascent in 1969 and many pitches have fallen down since then. If you’re lucky more pitches may fall down while you are on the route!

Despite the fact that this climb is rarely more than 10m off the deck to get the full tick it would have to be climbed in one push without lowering to the ground which does offer a few minor problems. Ruling out the concept of being able to stomach all 3500m in a day you would need to sleep, eat, etc. on the route which means that you’ll have more stuff than you can carry. On your standard big wall this would result in a lot of hauling but on the BRGT to be able to haul anything you’d first have to kick your haul bags out of the break where they would pendulum into the rocks below to become irretrievably tangled whilst probably ripping your meagre belay out in the process. 

I have, however, come up with a solution...
The sense of urgency caused by a continually approaching train will serve to increase the climber's speed.

The train, as well as providing an invaluable way of transporting your belongings along the traverse, will also serve as a testament to the courage of the climbers who have gone before and will give something back to the climbing community in the form of 3½ km of model railway.

Equipment: The route may also provide some opportunities for alternative protection, for example: several cams the size of those miniature ponies, acrow props and those pull up bars you can put in doorframes without using screws as well as your usual rack of ice screws, bongs and deadmans/deadmen (which is the correct pluralisation?).

Training: Consider practising crawling, ignoring the smell of guano, and sleeping without rolling over or you’ll be out of the break and dangling on one dodgy ice screw before you know it.

Conditions: Don’t worry about conditions as rain, snow, bright sunshine or 40 foot waves could hardly make the traverse less pleasant.

All you need to know about the great Boulder Ruckle Girdle Traverse... who's in?!

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