Willersley - Trad Limestone at Cromford. Great for the hot weather or a summer evening's cragging. Can get midgy.

Willersley is a north facing limestone crag, not bolted. Access is a little sensitive, the religious group who own Willersley Castle and the crag do not like bad language, crapping in their woods, seeing climbers bums etc so please respect their wishes otherwise climbing could be banned from here completely.

The development of Willersley began in the 1950s and most of the classics like god, Lime Street, Boomerang, Gangue Grooves, the Cucumber climbs and Lone Tree Groove had been climbed by the start of the 70s. It is now getting a tad polished but nevertheless is a great venue for trad limestone climbing. I find that the grades are not give-aways and that sometimes protection is not so good and difficult or pumpy to place. The VSs at nearby Wildcat generally seem more amenable (compare Pupilla at the latter crag to any of the VSs at Willersley and you will see what I mean!). The finishes tend to be vegetated and some of the less popular climbs are quite loose so beware. The climbs are 20 to 40 metres in length.

Great Corner, a VS, was the first route climbed at Willersley and has a slippery start followed by a series of bulges using a wide crack to reach a picnic ledge. Most people ab off but if you feel masochistic then carry on (but take a machete for the jungle bash). Just to the right and sharing a similarly slippery start is Zombie, a classic E2 which gets somewhat taxing towards the top of the slanting crack. Ab off from the chain.

Just to the right and finishing at the same point is God, a 2 star E1 but to the right again is the 3 star Lime Street Direct, another E1 (5c, 4c). The superdirect start is tough on the old fingers but well worth it if you are climbing English 6a. The groove above the starting wall is superb but feels insecure so a good head is essential. At a lower grade, Lone Tree Groove which goes at HVS is a good proposition, the bulging crack being the crux plus Garrotter, a 2 pitch VS. The move onto the belay can feel a little awkward.

Just to the left is the traumatic Guillotine VS 4c, I think not! Another classic VS of the crag is Pothole Wall, the start is slippery and the crack is steep (am I selling it????) but the gear is good although pumpy to place. Give me the 5a pitch every time, once you have crossed the 5a crux (threads to protect) and swung airily onto the arete, follow the polish up to the left through the usual vegetation, there is some rock in there somewhere!

It is a few years since I did Gangue Grooves, and only seconded it, but I remember it having a slippery and tenuous start (so what's new?) followed by an awkward section up the first groove. Moving further right along the crag is the aptly named Boomerang (HVS), the name gives you a clue about where you end up if you drop off the traverse! The end section of the crag contains the various Cucumber routes, Cucumber Groove goes at VS with a 4b crux, the crucial holds holds all seem to slope the wrong way (to me anyway!!)


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