Wintour’s Leap is part of the Lancaut Nature Reserve on the River Wye. The cliffs rise steeply for up to 100 meters from close to the rivers edge. The cliffs are made of excellent limestone and it is host to a vast array of routes including one of the South West’s well-known classics, King Kong.
Wintour’s Leap is also home to a diverse range of plants and wildlife, which great care should be taken to protect. Some of the sections have restrictions due to resting birds such as Peregrine falcons. For this reason, it is very wise to visit BMC’s Regional Access Database before setting your sights on a specific route. BMC RAD is linked here.
Left Hand Route is a great introduction to the Wintour’s Leap. It is a route of good rock and enjoyable climbing up to the Great Ledge. Sadly, due to its popularity it has started to suffer from polish around the first pitch crux.
To access the route, you can either park near Ban-y-gor and walk along the Lancaut lane and into Wintour’s Leap. Alternatively, park near the Rising Sun pub and walking through Woodcroft Quarry. The quarry has a combination lock at the entrance, the code to this can be found on the BMC website. It is important not to overdo the parking near the pub as on a good day, it can be very busy, and it is frustrating for the locals.
The most up to date guide for the area is the Climbers’ Club Guides to the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Volume 1 – Lower Wye Valley.
The original route was 4 pitches. The first 2 are contain the best climbing up to the Great Ledge. In the past the next 2 were a scrambly ascent to the top of the cliff where you could walk out through a private garden. This is no longer possible as the private garden has changed ownership so topping out is now banned. As a result, the top pitch is out, and the 3rd pitch is generally missed as it is not worth while climbing above the Great Ledge.
I headed down with Larry for a quick climb after work. We decided on the Left Hand Route due to the relaxed grade and its 2-star status. Larry had just got some new climbing gear so was super keen to get on and lead first.
Pitch 1 – 24m 4b. The first moves were a straightforward climb up for 4 meters to a small ledge. There were good nut placements before moving into the polished zone under the protruding overhang, this is the crux of the route. It is well protected by a piton and nut placements to the side, but the polish and awkward handholds make the moves a bit perplexing. Larry made quick work of the crux, looking confident and clearly relishing placing his new DMM nuts, even though he boldly or forgetfully skipped the placement before the piton. I would not have been so bold.
After a strenuous pull, Larry was through the crux and powered up the easy ground to the belay consisting of a metal spike and 2 pitons. I quickly followed Larry, collecting the gear as I went. The crux move was strenuous on second, a solid lead from Larry. It feels solid for the grade, maybe a 4c not a 4b?
Pitch 2 – 27 m 4a. It was now me on the hot end of the rope and I had read that this pitch is home to a monster run out. I stepped behind the belay spike and climbed up to a piton. From here I climbed up to a sapling, where there were another 2 pitons. I clipped them both and made an awkward move onto a ledge. The following moves were simple, but I was watching nervously the rope running out from the last protection. I passed another sapling and I place a piece of marginal “slowdown” gear in a thin crack. It would not have stopped a fall, but it made me feel a bit better. After about 6 meters above the pitons there is a solid clean break which took a bomber red nut. All the reports were correct, it was a monster run out but feeling much happier, I moved quickly up the final blocky section to the Great Ledge.
After building a quick anchor, Larry quickly climbed up and joined me on the Great Ledge.
The sun was hanging low in the sky and the view from the ledge is breath taking.
After taking in the view and a feeling content after sending a thoroughly enjoyable climb we needed to get down. Twin 50-meter ropes reach the ground from the abseil rings. If you do not have 50-meter ropes, there is an intermediate abseil point about halfway down.
NOTE: I do not guarantee that the abseil rings are exactly half way down. If you need to abseil in pitches, know the length of your rope, tie of the ends and do it safely!
A long abseil later and we were back on the ground, packing our bag and walking by headtorch back to the van.
Left Hand Route is an enjoyable and relaxed climb, just try not to let the 6-meter run out rattle you.
A great way to finish the day.