Valerian

1 Stars
Loose
 6a

Adjacent Routes
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The line up the buttress left of a steep grassy ramp. It has some superb flowstone on the upper wall. However, the first half of the route has a good deal of loose and dusty rock. Care required.
FA. Mick Ward 2002

USER COMMENTS

Made the mistake of trying this yesterday. This route is DANGEROUS! The first part of the route has some appalling stone, which literally crumbles away under your hands and feet. I pulled out a chunk of rock about the size of my head (pretty big). The rock does improve a lot after the bulge, but there were still some dodgy sizeable chunks about. Even more dangerous is the bulge itself. The belayer can't see the climber for quite a significant portion, and as the climb is so high, this makes communication especially difficult. My partner got to the LO point and was screaming for slack, which I was paying out by the bucket-load, but there was so much friction in the system that he simply couldn't pull it through. He ended up taking a tremendous fall head-first. Luckily I had the initiative to jump down the side of the hill (where all the green shrubbery is) and stop him from falling a further 4-5 metres. Had I not done this he probably would have hit the bulge face-first (at this height there was a lot of stretch in the rope). Take my advice and don't bother with this one, but if you must be sure to use a long sling in conjuction with your quickdraw at around the 6/7th bolt to keep things running smoothly.
bucketmaster - 27/Jun/05

I think the rock wasn't your problem; however your poor ropework was.
Ben Stokes - 27/Jun/05

I beg to differ. I've never seen such bad rock as can be found on the first half. There's litteraly inch-deep piles of dust up there, and even where the rock becomes flowstone, there's at least one DEADLY piece of rock that will happily come out. When was the last time you climbed it Ben?
bucketmaster - 27/Jun/05

Sorry, my comment was a little misleading. I agree the rock in the lower half may be considered as loose, but to blame the FA for your partners poor ropework around the bulge was a little unfair...
Ben Stokes - 27/Jun/05

Perhaps my comment too was a little misleading. I wasn't blaming the FA for my partners poor ropework as such. But I must say I've never had to use a sling on a bolt before (a long quickdraw would not be long enough). Saying that, we are relatively inexperienced sport climbers - this is something we'll certainly look out for in future. I just think the nature of the rock alone make this one not worth bothering with. Combine that with the friction and lack of visibilty as a result of the bulge and that's even more of a reason. It is most likely for these reasons that this route wasn't bolted before 2002...
bucketmaster - 27/Jun/05

"It is most likely for these reasons that this route wasn't bolted before 2002..."

Agreed!
Ben Stokes - 27/Jun/05

An awful lot of loose rock and general choss in the lower half, followed by reasonable potential for injury in the upper half due to the bulge make this a fairly atypical sport climb. I'm afraid to say I backed off it from about where the flowstone starts getting interesting.
Clinger - 11/Jul/05

Felt a tad runout to the loweroff but a route of great contrast - ignore all the crap above and go do it, some people have spent too much time indoors to know what real rock means.
Eric Meltelmi - 22/Jul/05

YUK! Wear a helmet!

I know what real rock is like - i've been trad climbing for 12 years - but i backed off this chosspile at bolt number 2. Massive dangerous loose blocks, and a centimetre (i could exaggerate but won't) of dust / powder / rubble on each ledge makes this a very grim start to a route.

It really, really needs cleaning. At present i would only do it if my 2nd came up to halfway (due to no visibility of high section from the ground) for a hanging belay. Then, the undoubtedly fine flowstone at the top could be fully enjoyed!

A shame cos i was looking forward to the flowstone higher up.
Phil Murray - 25/Jul/05

This is a fine route with the potential to be brilliant if the lower half had a major dust-off. Care should be taken as there is still some loose stuff on the lower section - belayer should wear a helmet. A long extender for the bolt just before the route kicks right onto the flowstone will help reduce drag - I didn't use one, and the drag wasn't a big problem. Though there are a couple of places where your rope could easily jam, so, again, take care. The upper flowstone section is superb.

Go and do it.
Chatsworth - 15/Aug/05

I did the route before the new guide came out and both myself and my partner thought it was a total 'bag' including the supposed superb higher flowstone. I made my views (and those of others who had done the route) known to Steve Taylor and was very suprised to find that it still had two stars in the new guide. This route is an accident waiting to happen and from bucketmaster's report it looks like it nearly did. I accept there are plenty of crap routes around (I've put up a few myself) but guides don't have to recommend them using the star system.
Brian Wilkinson - 23/Aug/05

Brian - I'm working (with Ben Stokes and Jim Kimber) on the CC guide, not the Rockfax! I'm as surprised about the 2 stars as you are.
steve taylor - 29/Aug/05

Did this as my first sport route after getting a new hip joint. Wish I'd read the database first. The 2 stars are a troll. It might become a 2 star route if the first ascentionist could be bothered to go back and give the first 50 feet a thorough cleaning. The headwall is nice. I hated the start. I felt safer soloing E1s in Pembroke the previous weekend.
john alcock at home - 04/Sep/05

I agree with most of these comments (wish I'd read them first) - this route is dangerous, and no way worth 2 stars. It's very dusty and crumbly for the lower half (especially the first two bolts), as parts came away in my hand I had to be careful to drop them over to my left, away from my belayer! There's a large dislodged block just above and to the right of the first bolt (about 50cm long) which you have to be careful not to step on.

ALSO - this route is longer than 26m. I've got a 50m rope, and reached the half way point with 2 bolts and the lower off still to go, so had to lower off before having a go at the flowstone section.
cider nut - 19/Sep/05

Wish I'd read this before suggesting trying the route. I was belaying when the leader stepped on a large block near the first bolt which came away and headed straight for me. Luckily I saw it coming and managed to leap out the way. We didn't bother with the rest of the climb after that.
Nick Eaton - 24/Oct/05

You lot are all moaning ponces - did this route today and thought it was excellent from top to bottom. In fact so good i did it twice!
The Pylon King - 10/Feb/06

Ponce? who still uses that word?
sash - 03/Mar/06

pile of choss stay clear.wear helmets anywhere near
nick w - 03/Mar/06

this route is dangerous, it is loose, it is chossy and there is the potential for injury, but bloody hell is it exciting! thought that is what climbing is supposed to be about.
Nick - 02/Apr/06

No, that's what solvent abuse is about. Climbing is different things to different people. For some, speed soloing just isn't enough (see http://www.ebaumsworld.com/videos/fastrockclimb.html - he's dead now by the way). Some prefer to stay within their comfort zone. Others like to push themselves whilst maintaining an appropriate level of safety (still an element of danger). Imagine an entire island made of superb limestone...Mr Muscle and a hanky anyone? No thanks, I'll have a go at "Go With The Flow" (http://www.rockfax.com/databases/r.php?i=3460).
bucketmaster - 10/Apr/06

Everyone who has commented on this climb has either hated it or loved it (mostly the former). I was really surprised by this route which I think should be re-named jekyl and hyde! The first part is awful, incredibly dusty and lots of loose stuff. Once you finally put this behind you though, as rock fax says, the top is fantastic. If you like pumpy flowstone you will love it. The route is very long and as bucketmaster found communication and friction is a problem due to the line. If you climb this route you need to be very careful on the first section checking all the holds before committing, you and your belayer should both wear helmets, you should take some long extenders (2 foot slings should do it ) and take a 60m rope because the route is almost 30m and also watch the flowstone spike when you get over the bulge because it is loose and the last bolt is quite a long way below.
I would recommend doing it overall, as for stars thats a tricky one, Jekyl and hyde!!
ben burfoot - 24/Jul/06

I give it a star! OK, there is loads of dust on the first half of the route, but the moves are ok. I only found one sizeable loose block, which was easily avoided. The flowstone in the upper section is great!

Admittedly, going for the lower off felt a bit run out, but I thought this was just me being a ponce (the jugs are all there). Rope drag was certainly not so bad that I couldn't clip.

Perhaps the problem is that people expect something safe and easy from a grade 5+ sport route. I mean, for instance, being out of sight of your belayer is not unusual in climbing, is it? Nor are loose holds or having to extend runners. But granted, these are not so common on sport routes, so maybe herein lies the issue. Personally, I would not describe this route as dangerous.
Bry - 24/Aug/06

You don't need chalk on this one...
James Davies - 12/Sep/06

I didn't clip the bolt on the left at the start of the flow stone and the rope drag was still bad. cliping the last 2 bolts was the hardest part of the climb. Perhaps my large diameter well used (therefore slighty hairy outer) rope didnt help but I think the barrel shaped middle of the route will always have the potential to cause drag and this needs to be noted in the route description.

There are still some loose bands of rock at the start so a loose rock symbol is needed in rockfax or mention in the route description, the belayer needs to stand to the side of the route line ( always a good idea anyway )

Because of this the route is not really suitable for inexperienced climbers: it is not a straightforward clip-up
Michael Simpson - 06/Oct/06

Did this route for first ever Portland route as warm up... (reptile Smile wall busy)! Bit of a shock really. Very loose and dusty and I pulled off enormous piece of flowstone from top wall, nearly killed belayer! Managed not to fall off but this may make getting to 3rd bolt on the steep flowstone bit harder. Also may have destabilised rock around scar. Great care needed on this route.
Katherine Goodey - 07/Jun/07

Crapola - plenty of better routes around. Give it a miss.
stow - 22/Jul/07

Climbed this today. Last route of my trip, and id spent time at the cuttings so i fancied something higher and more exposed.

as a fairly inexperienced sports climber i chose it as an easy high route to see what i thought of it, the first bit was easy but very dusty and i snapped of 2 or 3 holds just by weighting them. past the bulge is gets nicer, but i thought it was pretty run out. got to the second to last bold and took a 5 meter fall or so and lost all confidence, so i threaded the last bolt and ran away with my tail between my legs.

i didnt think it was very nice climbing to be brutally honest, i was too scared of bolts falling out of the weak rock or throwing a rock on my belayer. i did enjoy the hight though

the bottom is very dangerous if you ask me, because if you slip before you have clipped the first bolt, you and your belayer fall down 50 meters of steep grass onto rocks in the sea, so we put a couple of nuts in at the bottom to try and avoid that.
Nadeem Al-Khafaji - 03/Jul/08

I agree...I had a go at this two days back, and the bottom of it was horrendous (again, about to lay-back on a chunk of rock and then thought to test it...it came right off). At the top flowstone, there was lots of fresh rock, presumably from holds that have come off in people's hands. I chickened out two clips from the top and lowered off it - communicating that to my belayer was NOT easy past the bulge. Brown trouser time...
Tom Moorhouse - 05/Aug/08

By the way...I may just be attempting to compensate for my shaking legs and filled pants, but the missing rock on the flowstone may have put the top section up a grade....certainly seemed quite out of sync with the non-technical (if loose) rock below. Hence the back-off...
Tom Moorhouse - 06/Aug/08

Climbed this one over the weekend beacuse of the two stars and low grade, and I think it deserves the grade: Valerian was one of the best climbing experiences I have ever had. Did not notice loose rocks or dust in the bottom half, was just nice easy climbing, entering the top half was difficult and it stayed pumpy, but well bolted so safe enough, and the runout in top was no problem becaus of jugs. The lenght and overhang make it harder than a 5+ though.
Dutchclimber - 29/Oct/08

This is a tough proposition for 5+. Bottom half of route consists of jamming and layaways on brilliant white soft rock covered in layers of powder. Top half is polished flowstone, technically much harder, with committing moves to get to the lower off. I'd say 6a no stars.
John Parker - 06/Jul/09

The concern with this route is that beginners, fresh out of the climbing wall, will see "5+" and rope up.
I've been climbing 15 years and i was also aware of the reputation of this route, but even so, I was gripped at half height after ploughing through the chalky, powdery loose ledges. I took a stance, backed up with a thread, at the end of the dusty bit (about bolt 6/7), then led the top flowstone section which looked superb and was - but it was run out, and pumpy (i rested at the last clip). We were both properly shaken up by this route. Felt like an E2, I'd give it 6a or easy 6a+ with extra fear potential (For comparison, I then strolled easily up Shit Happens with not a pause nor a worry - and that is a "6a"). Avoid if you're accident-prone. Wear a helmet!
Phil Murray - 10/Aug/09

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  • Route Grade Votings

    Total votes cast 26
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    hard 5c 0 of 0
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