Monday, 3 March 2014


The word scar is ugly, hard, unyielding; It conjures images of damage and pain in the mind.  There are many crags in this green and pleasant land that have the misfortune of having this word in their name.  It casts a dark shadow over them, giving the impression than calamitous events lead to their creation, as if the rock faces were ripped mercilessly from nature, resting uneasily, raw in their landscapes.  The word scar can feed into our filters, pre-load our perceptions of place and keep us away from adventures and experiences we can only judge first hand.

Halifax is home to such a scar.  It lurks amongst the trees below the Albert Promenade.  If you listen to the whispers, this scar lives up to the negative connotations that spring from its name.  Dark, dank, green, slow to dry, decorated with glass, low ball, eliminate…….. the list goes on.  You may wonder why I would ever wish to walk into Woodhouse Scar. Well I never really listen to whispers, I like to find out for myself!  Whilst often disappointed the occasional success justifies such an approach.
Woodhouse Scar sits at the eastern end of the Calder Valley in Yorkshire.  The crag's reputation for dampness originates from its geographical position.  The Calder Valley funnels and channels air from the damp west coast, eastwards and upwards, to the heart of the Pennines where it falls as precipitation of various types.  Don’t let this put you off, don’t let the green hue of the grit here turn you away.  Woodhouse has some tricks up its sleeve when it comes to Britain’s rain-blighted climate; ever dry walls that rarely feel the soft caress of rain.

 There was a fleeting weather window in a wild winter of storms.  We had a plan.  We left the wet of the west, we disregarded the advice of others and set out for Woodhouse, if it was poor there the ever dry magnesium carbonate of Rotherham beckoned; not bad for a backup plan.  We ascended the slopes of Saddleworth and approached Yorkshire.  Our decision seemed foolhardy as the windscreen wipers went about their work.  We crested the hill and made for Halifax.

The descent of the A629 took us into a twilight world outside the physical constraints of reality.  A world which was both wet and dry, light and dark.  We journeyed into a temporal space of indecision which mirrored our mood.  Our lives were held in stasis, not knowing whether we would grate our hands on grit. The future morphed and changed as moisture appeared and disappeared from the windscreen at random intervals, stuck in a world simultaneously filled and devoid of ambition, emotions in flux flipping from expectation to despair in  a fraction of a second. Suddenly the car broke through the Mist Event Horizon.  We were no longer stuck in Schrodinger’s Paradox simultaneously embarked on a successful and unsuccessful bouldering trip.  The quantum superposition of the journey collapsed around us, reality invaded the car; we would climb today……… in glorious sunshine.

 A scar is only ugly if you think it is.  We are conditioned to believe in a particular aesthetic when it comes to beauty, it is the same with climbing.  The fashion of the time leads us to see things through a particular lens; today's scruffy eliminate venues were once highly prized places where fingers would be strengthened and moves rehearsed.   Climbing walls have rid these venues of their raison-detre, changed our minds about their utility and led us to dismiss them as ugly and urban.  However Woodhouse is not particularly eliminate; proud crags, situated in a wood, look out over fells and moors.  Weatherproof problems bisect overhanging walls with no end of lines to try.  Woodhouse scar is in town - that is undeniable, there is no walk in, dog walkers will bid you a good day as you huff and puff on a project, and yet the landings are not carpeted with the expected faeces and glass.  The landscape is clean and quiet.  Woodhouse is only ugly if you believe it to be.  This is not a fashionable venue and it is all the better for it.  Woodhouse is a scar in name only; give it a chance you may find beauty in the green and the grey.

One day at Woodhouse Scar from Climbing Beta on Vimeo.

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