Main Wall should be the most popular venue in Avon Gorge as it contains a shed load of quality climbing at all grades as good as anything elsewhere in the UK. However due to a combination of neglect, reputation, required climbing style, current fashion, and undeserved reputation for polish these routes see only a fraction of the ascents that they rightfully deserve. This is a scandal!
For those unused to climbing here, the feeling of never quite being fully safe or in control, while simultaneously running out of gear, puff and commitment on a hot sunny south facing crag remains a common theme, irrespective of the grade that you climb at. I personally wouldn’t miss it for the world!
Don’t worry however, for those who persist great rewards await.
The climb itself is situated on the far left of Main Wall. Look for a massive Beech tree at the top of the crag. Directly below is the hanging V groove and directly below that the rising leftwards rising break above the underlying face.
The Corpse, together with its near neighbour the Lich are both brilliant and safe introductions to Main Wall climbing. They are both, unusually for Main wall, well protected with little loose rock. This allows the HVS climber to aquant himself with the “Main Wall” style of climbing. This is useful knowledge if you are making an early season ascent or just out cragging when out of sorts.
Access & Parking
The best spot to park is the Portway layby, located directly under Main Wall. Access to this climb is achieved by crossing over the mud bank and turning left in front of the old toilet block. You then proceed through the remains of the old car park until you get to the old gate in themetal railings(don’t worry this isn’t the road to Narnia!). Beyond this there is a good patch of grass with a boulder from which to get your bearings, gear up, hide your ruck sack and trainers, as well as savour the delights to come. You might also want to take some money for the ice cream van usually found at the top of the crag and a drink if the weather is hot.
Required Gear To Carry
A quick word about what lead gear to carry at this point, the glib answer is to take it all (this is trad climbing after all!) and although the climb can be done in two pitches, it is far better done in one 30m pitch.
More realistically I would take:
- Twin 60m ropes.
- Belay device with a prussic loop (for the abseil down from the top of the crag).
- Three sets of rocks size sizes 1-5.
- Two sets of Rocks sizes 6 to 10.
- One set of Friends sizes 1 -4.
- 4 slings for the pegs at the midway break and 1 sling for the tree belay at the top of the crag.
- Perhaps a backup set of micro wires.
- 13 quick draws.
- 4 or 5 screw gate crabs.
Just to re-assure the faint hearted at this point, it is possible for the diligent to place over 15+ runners on the route!
The Corpse is unusual, a fantastic face leads to a well appointed and dapper V shaped groove. It is both amply protected an reasonable for the grade. The route is complemented by a number of in situe pegs and good nut and cam placements. I personally think the lower half of the climb is more committing for the grade than the top V groove, but that might just be me!
To get to the start of the route take care in proceeding up the leftward sloping ramp lines (backwards and forwards) to where the wall steepens and the vegetation ceases at the base of the cliff at the higher of the two ledges. Congatulate yourself in arriving at the belay ledge! At this point secure the belay (good rocks sizes 6 and 7). Those unused to Avon climbing could lead trail the ropes to this point, in case a quick steadying runner is required, and then to safely bring up your second.
At this point the route can feel scary as you are starting off from halfway up Main Wall! Undisturbed by such negative thoughts, tackle the initial black streaked wall, located just left of the groove, placing mainly frequent small wires and clipping the peg as you go. The climbing here feels initially committing, but it is on good holds and soon eases with good rests gained above the initial difficulties.
From the halfway ledge, clip the old belay pegs and turn your attention to ascending the hanging V groove above, taking care with the odd rattly block situated in the back of the crack. It is possible to place good runner above head height as you go here.
Mantle up onto the ledge above the groove and ascend the wall above the V groove direct, taking care on easier ground past a couple of mediocre runners ( or ascend just to the right and double back left if feeling less confident). Belay on the massive Beech tree above.
The best strategy for descent is to abseil from the strop on the tree back down to the waiting ruck sacks (60m rope required), unless of course an ice cream awaits, followed by the walk down!
Either way return down to your ruck sacks and eye up the Lich HVS 5A as your next ascent….