Central Rib Route I is a superb multi pitch route in the South Bay of Wintour’s Leap. It is a 63 meter, 4-pitch, 3-star, Severe 4a.
The route is accessed from the Lancaut Walk. To get onto the Lancaut Walk you can either park by the Rising Sun Pub in Woodcroft and walk-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.
Alternatively, park near Ban-y-gor nature reserve and follow signs for the Lancaut Walk. This takes you past the 11th Century ruined church and as you descend you get to see the full glory of Wintour’s Leap rising to 100 meters above.
Once on the Lancaut Walk, follow it until you reach the large cubic boulder (it will be on the left or right depending which way you are coming from). Follow the path from the boulder until you reach the base of the wall but to note, this is not the start of the route. A small scramble leads up leads to a terrace which is the start of the route.
There are 3 Central Rib Routes. The first is this 3-star S 4a, the second is a 1-star VS 4c and the third is a meandering VD which avoids all the best parts of the other 2 routes. The current guide for the area is the Climbers’ Club Guides to the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Volume 1 – Lower Wye Valley.
I climbed this route on a fresh morning in February, in a nutshell, it was cold! I was climbing with my friend Rich who had not been out trad climbing for a while so when we arrived at the bottom of the route, it was decided that I take the first pitch so he can walm into it. Between us we had a set of nuts, 1 – 3 Friends, a couple Hexes, multiple draws & slings, and a 40-meter single rope. The rope was adequate, but a pair of twins would have been much better especially for the final pitch which meanders quite a lot.
Pitch 1 – 24m 4a. From the terrace, I climbed a corner towards a ledge. It was a cold morning, so I was feeling stiff and the rubber in my shoes did not feel like it was gripping well. There are a pair of ledges which involve an awkward sequence of mantles. The rock is generally very good and there is plenty of options for gear placements, so the harder moves are very well protected. After the ledges I headed towards a large tree which is the belay for stance at the top of pitch 1.
The pitch feels scrambly rather than climbing as it felt like I was overcoming a series of blocks. It is suffering from polish in places, which can make some of the moves feel a bit trickier than they would otherwise. After arriving at the belay, I made myself safe and put on my coat, so I did not cool off, before belaying Rich up.
Pitch 2 – 12m 4a. This is the crux pitch of the route and it involves climbing a superb corner. It is very well protected but feels tough for the grade. When I arrived at the top of the first pitch, I laughed to myself. Rich had not wanted to lead the first pitch as he was feeling rusty, but looking at the second, I knew he would not be feeling overly thrilled to take the lead on the second.
As he arrived at the belay stance, and was made safe, I asked “you leading this?” He looked up and quickly said “no mate, can you?”
I had seen this one coming and was more than happy to lead. The climbing looked great and I was far more comfortable on the hot end of the rope as I had not had any time off. I stepped up to the corner crack with the full rack jingling on my harness. There is a sequence of powerful laybacks up the crack, the protection was going in quickly and was bomber. This was a blessing as it is strenuous holding onto a layback crack. After a few more moves I was at the Sycamore tree which has grown out of the wall.
This tree has done exceptionally well to survive the abuse it has taken from all the passing climbers and I was no different. I chucked a sling around it as protection and using the crack, pulled past it. At this point there is a good stance (using the tree) for a rest. After a quick rest, I blasted up the final moves and out of the crack to a ledge at the top with a nut and peg belay.
Pitch 3 – 12m. Once Rich had reached the belay after comfortably seconding the difficult crack, he took over the lead. From the ledge he climbed comfortably through an awkward gap to the left of an overhang towards trees above for the belay. He climbed it so quickly I hardly had time to relax before I was scurrying up after him.
Pitch 4 – 15m 4a. As I had led the first 2 pitches, Rich had opted to lead the last 2. Happily, I handed over the gear I had recovered on the last pitch and he got ready to lead again. As there are 3 Central Rib Routes, it is important on the last pitch to avoid going direct. This is the final pitch for Central Rib II, and it is suffering badly from overuse. There is only a limited amount of time before it succumbs to irreversible damage. If you are climbing Central Rib I, scramble from the belay passed trees to a ledge. From here, move to the left and climb up the final wall, avoiding the polished VS 4c crack. If it looks harder than you expected, you are not on the S 4a final pitch.
Rich made quick work up to the ledge and then, realising that the hard looking line in front of him must have been the wrong finish, headed left looking for the correct route. At this point, it would have been good to have twin ropes as we manage to put a lot of drag into the system protecting the ledge traverse. It was avoidable but as Rich climbed, he placed gear before realising we were slightly off route. From the ledge, Rich made a few good moves to overcome the final difficult and then built an anchor utilising the trees at the top of the route.
I quickly seconded up to the ledge and then to the base of the final wall. I found the final moves to be quite precarious and awkward. I had expected them to be easier, but it was a testing finish that I was glad not to have led.
From the top of the route, carefully pass over a fence and onto the Offa-Dykes path which will lead back to where we parked the car. Alternatively, you can descend back down to the Lancaut Walk by heading back through Woodcroft Quarry or descending the “Easy Way Down”.
Central Rib I was great fun. It had a wide variety of climbing through the pitches which made it diverse and exciting. The protection is very good, and there is no need to run out any of the moves making the route feel very safe. Although it is suffering from polish in places, it does not detract from how good the climbing is, but I can imagine it could feel greasy when it is damp. The corner crack in the second pitch is fantastic. It looks impressive and the climbing is great. Central Rib Route I is a wonderful climb which I thorough recommend.