Emily Rowntree, Expedition Coordinator at Lost Earth Adventures HQ, reflects on her experience out of the office.
In the midst of the heatwave that took Britain by storm this summer, I was offered the opportunity to get out in the field for a day (literally) and accompany one of our groups on a trip. Putting the emails on pause, I donned my walking boots and set out for a full day’s adventure; climbing and gorge walking in the eastern Yorkshire Dales.
Rolling hills and picturesque villages patchworked with dry-stone walls and an abundance of sheep are the images usually conjured up by the Yorkshire Dales. The iconic Yorkshire 3 Peaks and the Tour de Yorkshire have made this spot a mecca for hikers and cyclists alike, but the National Park’s offerings of adrenaline-inducing adventure are relatively untapped. Yorkshire’s distinct limestone formations and winding rural becks and waterfalls make this National Park a delightfully unique spot for an adventure.
The first activity of the day was a rock climbing and abseiling taster session, and what better setting for it than Brimham Rocks, a National Trust site featuring a labyrinth of dramatic, glacially-formed slabs of millstone grit. At a whopping 300 million years old, the rocks have been continually shaped by the elements into weird and wonderful shapes that, whilst naturally formed, look almost impossible. The Dancing Bear, Druid’s Writing Desk and The Sphinx are among some of the features. In light of all this, I was pretty excited to get kitted up and start scaling these natural wonders.
We met our instructor Craig in the car park, who briefed us and told us what we’d be doing for the day. A scramble to warm up, an introduction to the technicalities of bouldering and a series of varied roped climbs set the agenda for the following three hours. We headed off towards the aptly named “Car Park Boulders” for a clamber and a crawl to get the blood flowing. Craig pointed out some landmarks on the horizon and showed us some ancient fossils in the rock.
Once the juices were flowing it was time to boot up and face the crag. This meant grappling not only with the rock but also with the fact that I wasn’t quite as nimble as some of the 14-17 year olds that made up the rest of my group. The challenge was to successfully traverse a narrow horizontal ridge on Cubic Block without touching the ground, which involved jamming your toes into the tiny crevices of the rock.
After this technical task I was keen to get roped into my harness and try my hand (or rather my foot) at smearing on a slab just round the corner. Smearing is a technique that climbers use when the rock itself has enough friction that holds are not necessarily required. It involves pressing the sole of your climbing shoe to the rock and and walking up like you would stairs. We spent an hour or so practising our smearing and belaying techniques whilst taking in the stunning scenery around us.
Our final ascent took us back round to Cubic Block, where Craig set up a top rope and pointed out various routes we could take. I was surprised at just how different climbing outdoors was to climbing at an indoor wall. Natural formations require a much wider variety of technique, and which ones you decide to employ at any given time will vary depending on the type of rock, the natural features available to you and weather. Safe to say climbing outdoors is a very different ball game and one I can’t wait to explore further.
After a short, beautiful drive over to Studfold Campsite and some delicious homemade cake from their Nidderdale Way Cafe, I wriggled into a wetsuit and helmet for my next adventure of the day. Master-of-all-trades Craig led us through some fields and towards the entrance of the gorge. The sun was poking its head through the trees and the water looked wonderfully refreshing. Geared up in helmets, buoyancy aids and a thick 5mm wetsuit, there was no need to worry about getting cold, hitting rocks or going underwater for any longer than a few seconds, so all that was left to do was enjoy in Craig’s safe hands!
We scrambled, crawled, and jumped over rocks and waterfalls, pausing occasionally to slide down natural chutes and slides. The feeling of being on a completely naturally-formed outdoor waterslide was exhilarating. The adrenaline was flowing, spirits were soaring and we couldn’t get enough. “More slides!” shouted the kids in the group (and myself, of course).
We hadn’t seen it all though; Craig led us up to a plunge pool surrounded by trees where he instructed us to wait as he set up a line. We then climbed up a ladder to take on a 10ft jump off a cliff into the pool. The parents enjoyed making a splash just as much as their 11-year-olds and double go’s were had by everyone. There is something really refreshing about doing something just for fun, just for the sheer joy of it, and every member of our group came out of that pool grinning from ear to ear, buzzing from an epic, wet and wild adventure.
Limbs happily exhausted, I ended my day with a beer and a large helping of fish and chips and reflected on my day of adventure. My experience was testament to the fact that real, epic outdoor adventure can be found right on our doorstep in the UK and I can’t wait to get back out there again.