Hard Very Severe

Let’s get this forum started with what climbing is all about - doing great routes then arguing endlessly about their grade. Where better to start than HVS, a grade which can get you into properly outrageous terrain. So:

  1. What’s the best HVS you have ever done, ideally one most people won’t have climbed?
  2. What’s the biggest HVS sandbag you’ve done (or attempted)?

I’ll get the ball rolling with Bludger’s Revelation, a five pitch classic that weaves its way up one of Scotland’s best buttresses (also my first, back in 2006). Secondly Masochism, because it’s 30 degree overhanging grit fist jamming crack that ends in a slightly less overhanging off-width. I haven’t yet managed to climb it free.

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I have very limited experience at the grade, but these are my picks.

Best: American Beauty, Lundy

Just a lovely long, straightforward but enjoyable route.

Runner up: Lunakhod. 40m pitch, waves crashing below with a roof to finish.

Sandbag: Biven’s Crack, Gardoms Edge

Pumpfest horrorshow. The guidebook says to storm it on solid jams, but I think that’s a reference to marmalade or something because there aren’t any decent hand jams. I slid off the last hold.

I haven’t done many but they’ve mostly been excellent (at least in retrospect).

Best - I would have said either Riders on the Storm or Heart of Darkness (both Pembroke) but everyone’s done those. So let’s say Vlad the Impaler on Stac Pollaidh. Lovely weird sandstone cracks and offwidths.

Biggest sandbag - so far, I have avoided HVS sandbags because I choose routes which are actually HS but hugely overgraded. I’ve done lots of things that said VDiff but were actually HVS though!

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American Beauty on Lundy is an excellent shout @stephen, although if you thought it was straightforward then you should probably lead more E1s! I remember dancing between tiny edges on the long crux pitch. The top pitch also looks like a vertical lawn but all the holds are lichen free and the climbing is actually really good.

Biven’s crack is going on the list.

@hkirk777 have you done Dream of White Horses yet?

I started listing all the brilliant routes at HVS in my logbook, but had to stop myself: one great route, one sandbag. Limiting us to one great route just isn’t fair so I hope others mention some of my other favourites. So I’m recording my standout experience on was Diagonal, Dinas Mot, which came early on in my HVS career.

I led the first and third pitches. First pitch went well, climbing wise that is, but I’d never built a hanging belay. So much gear, some if it equalised, some of it a bit loose. Lets say that it was’t 5 minutes to set it up. Dan did the second pitch competently after a false start leftwards. A somewhat easier belay. The third pitch up the thin slab crack line was, memorable. I probably climbed it 10 times given that I’d try a few moves, reverse them to safety, try again, and so on. I think it actually took 2 hours total! 4th pitch Dan made it look pretty arduous, which I was confident I could avoid. Let’s just say that I’m glad there were no photos.

As for sandbags, I don’t think I’ve been recommended a truly awful route yet but The Hyll Drem Girdle ranks highest in the type 2 fun category. We had had a great half day on Tremadog with Carreg Hyll Drem as our backup for when the rain came. It works because the whole crag is overhanging with extreme lines in abundance in the upwards direction and the girdle traverse lying in their shelter. I’m not sure that this route gets done on dry days, there just wouldn’t be a reason. Not quite a sandbag, the climbing isn’t hard but I was so rainy, cold and wet. Most of the placements were in shattered rock. The belay after the 2nd pitch was a cluster of rust. Nothing felt secure. To cap it all, the guidebook said people escape before the last pitch because the it’s not sheltered by the crag overhang and hence wet on a rainy day. All we found was a turf ledge with no tat and no obvious solid place to fix an escape anchor. I had to lead the last pitch in the wet and was not happy about it. I can thoroughly recommend The Hyll Drem Girdle!

Diagonal sounds like a sandbag and a half! Looking at UKC, a lot of leaders were pretty freaked out by the experience.

One for the wishlist.

Chequers Crack is a good test for HVS leaders (and E plus ones…).

I remember Khalid returning to the cottage after his day out on Diagonal, looking both somewhat shaken and very proud!
@Tom_L, no, I haven’t done DOWH yet. Naomi and I had a pact we would only climb it together - but unfortunately have barely climbed together since!

Dream of White Horses is very much on my list!!

@dizz_lizzie, surely you have one or two experiences to share with us :wink:

I’d like to break into HVS next year. What would be your recommended first HVS?

Chequers crack … :slight_smile: ha ha (evil laughter) enjoy!!! ;-p
Dowh - just go do it :slight_smile:
American beauty … abbed in twice … brilliant climbing the first time, 100m prussic this year - tim clunan can describe :slight_smile:
Plus cordon bleu … it’s all about the garden :slight_smile: probably still my favourite hvs … done it 3 times and it only got dark on one of those … :slight_smile:

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For HVS I won’t offer sandbag route, but an entire grade. Grit HVS 5b, preferably with a Brown-Whillans FA team, which sits outside the grading continuum in its own, one dimensional scale. Such classic routes as the Mincer, Matinee (perhaps the only HVS I’ve been unable to finish), Bachelor’s left hand and Delstree.

For best route. See above. I can think of may rock types with as many classic HVS routes as grit.

Is there a particular rock type you favour @Manchi?

Routes like Knight’s Move at Burbage North are often touted as good first HVSs because they are probably VS. In preference I’d suggest choosing something that’s safe, classic and low in the grade but still definitely HVS. It will feel like you’ve earned it that way.

Examples are Saxon at Carn Kenidjack (Cornwall), Merlin Direct at Tremadog (Wales) or Lakeland Cragsman on Sergeant Crag Slabs (Lakes).

As Max says, avoid any Peak HVS 5bs until you are solid at E1.

I’d vote for Merlin Direct too. Pure quality.

Thanks for the recommendations, Tom & Khalid :slight_smile:

I do have a preference for Pembrokeshire rock. Any recommendations for that area?

Pembroke tends to get a lot steeper as the grade increases. The holds get bigger to compensate but you need to be able to hang on.

The obvious one is Army Dreamers at St. Govan’s - quite a few people’s first HVS and safe as houses. There are probably less steep contenders but I can’t think of any off the top of my head. @dabarlow?

I would steer clear of Yellow Brick Road featuring yours truly on the November 2015 NLMC calendar. What isn’t mentioned is that I fell off a minute after that photo was taken.

Army Dreamers has jugs all the way and is outstanding. I imagine it would benefit from doing 4x4s on 5+/6a at the climbing wall to train for it.

Thanks for the recommendations :smile: