Bowles Rocks or Bowles outdoor centre is located just off the Crowborough to Tunbridge Wells road. Heading north east out of Crowborough on the A26 Eridge Road turn left at the first roundabout and go down hill to a turning marked Bowles Outdoor Centre. Turn right and follow the narrow road for about 1/2 mile to the entrance of Bowles Rocks on the right. Turn into the small car park. If the entrance hut is manned it is a good idea to announce your arrival and pay for a days climbing which is very reasonably priced at about £1-50. If not just continue up the small road on foot for about 100 yds to the main climbing area. Bowles is also accessible from Eridge station, there is a reasonable service from London though on a Sunday it may be worthwhile checking time tables, A favourite of some of my fellow Londoners is to take their bike on the train which makes all the southern sandstone crags within easy reach though Bowles is only 15 minutes away on foot. Bowles Outdoor Centre as its name suggests is an outdoor activity centre catering for all sorts of groups young and old who want to climb, ski, canoe etc hence the rocks are shared with the centres guests but this is never a problem.
On Saturdays and Sundays and bank holidays a young lad usually comes around and collects the climbing fee. There is a toilette on the right at the top of the hill opposite the start of the ski lift.
The rock is Sandstone and is in very good condition with great friction on dry days but being sandstone is subject to erosion and care should be taken when climbing, please see the Sandstone Code. Being south facing Bowles rocks is usually the first to dry after rain hence attracts a lot of visitors but recently has never been totally overcrowded and I have always found a place to park. Bowles is good for bouldering, top roping and of course soloing. A crash mat is recommended and a good piece of carpet to clean your shoes is a must, long slings which take the top rope away from the rock is also an essential item to help stop erosion. There is a good selection of belay bolts at the top of each climb so there is no excuse for not setting up a good belay. The use of chalk is allowed though please use conservatively. ………… Abseiling is banned!
What is at Bowles Rocks:-
There is a good selection of grades and mixture of climbs with a grand traverse of the whole crag. There is easy gully’s for beginners, 7a bouldering to easy top rope climbs. There is enough at Bowles to hold the interest of most climbers for hours if not days……
Walk up from the car park past the wooden equipment hut on the right and the small stream on your left. Behind the hut is a few climbs which are rarely climbed. Please Click on the pictures to enlarge. below is a description of some of the most popular routes. For an easy descent from most of the climbs follow the path at the top of the climbs either east or west to a good exit via steps or climb down some of the easy routes taking care not to wear the rock down or get in the way of other climbers.
Lady in Mink 6a
The right side of the wall just to the right of Nealon’s, up the easy ledge and then finish on the overhang above via a lip on the left and a slanting finger size groove on the right, get your feet up and lock off, then slap for the top. Move left to the arête at peril unless 6b is cool. see photo right……
Up the centre of the wall to a difficult ledge and then up the easy chimney. Good hidden jugs but it is easy to get the ledge all wrong. Comes fully recommended as a good solo but unforgiving if you get it wrong. Just a foot to the left of Nealon’s is a good 5c which goes up the hardest part of the wall.
Again up the wall but further left without using the arête. Bovril 4b The arête mainly on the right side.
Across the other side of the gully which is usually used as an easy descent or a training area for beginners (there is a large metal loop held up by wires just above the exit, mind your head) is the Alka Seltzer area.
A foot or two from the right corner, go straight up the wall to the break at the break make a difficult mantelshelf move to exit.
A good start up the difficult bending slot in the middle of the wall to a difficult ledge keeping right, away from easy ground to the left. Rest before taking the vertical crack to a difficult finish.
A marvellous outing on good holds up the arête and onto a good ledge for a rest. Move right a little to face the large vertical slot a couple of feet left of the exit of seltzer. Thrutch up the slot with interest and a good exit.
The Alka Seltzer area is also good for bouldering. There are numerous routes though the start of Encore traversing left to Alka is a good 5b warm up. The gully left of Alka is called .
Renison Gully 3a
Up the easy large crack and out right to a very good ledge. There is a belay bolt where the crack ends.
Finale 5c – 6a
Start up the right hand side of the gully to a roof above left.
Escalator 5a and Elevator 5a.
In the gully on the left is a couple of climbs up the wall on small holds and finish on the ledge via a mantleshelf.
Fragile Wall 3c+
This takes the blunt arete. There are several starts to this climb. Go up direct or come in from the left or right , slightly easier from the right though the direct start makes this climb more worthwhile. Move up the obvious crack moving left to the large ledge or go straight up the arête for a 5a finish .
Just 2 ft left of Fragile Wall. Go straight up and finish almost on Fragile Wall.
Hennessy Heights 5b
Go up the wall by a large vertical slot in the bottom of the wall. Go straight up using the strenuous ribs to easier horizontal slots.
An easier climb than Hennessy though not without some interest especially now the stal has broken off. Start about 4 ft left of Hennessy and make for the vertical smooth slot. Please take care with positioning slings so as not to wear away the shelf. There is some good bolts above but require long slings. The blocks above Hennessy can also be climbed.
There is some good bouldering under Hennessy Heights with a good low level traverse going at about 6a and a higher traverse at about 5a/b, both these traverses can be linked with the traverse below Alka. Needless to say there is a traverse of the whole crag which goes at 5c but of less interest to the boulder.
Just to the right of funnel is a difficult balancy wall which leads to the crux finish up to the right onto a slight overhanging block.
The funnel 4a takes the central vertical smooth wide scoop seen in the centre of the photo left. Start beneath this slot or scoop either direct or slightly left which makes the start a little easier, Make for the scoop for a difficult but interesting finish.
A couple of meters right of funnel is a good wall and Nelsons Column 5a Take the large crack or slightly right of this and go straight up to a good mantle on the second break.
Below the whole length of Funnel is a good low level traverse of about 5b, ideal as a good warm up or a longer start to Nelsons Column.
Almost opposite the swimming pool is a large arête, this is Pigs Nose one of the most famous climbs at Bowles and attracts a lot of attention at peak times.
To the right of the large obvious arête (Pigs Nose) is a good wall, start about 1 metre from the arête and go straight up via small holds, finish up the block with difficulty.
Pigs Nose 5a
Climb the arête on massive holds to Pigs Nose SS(c)2006a ledge. Move left on the ledge and look for good holds to a difficult mantle.
Just a couple of feet or so left of Pig’s Nose. Keep a vertical line to keep on route. Finish either up pigs nose or out left.
Pig’s Ear 5C
Again just a foot or so left of T.T. step up to a crack (fist jam) which finishes with small holds to an overhang taken on it’s right side to a hidden ledge. Finish out left.
This route is approx 9ft to the left of Pigs Nose. A difficult start onto a small ledge. From the ledge go up the wall on small holds (Go A Wet Devaluation 5b SS(c)2006quickly) to the start of the overhang. Grovel over the overhang to a vertical crack. Take the crack to finish. A good route to pose in front of the crowds.
The blunt arête at the start of the next block is Sandman, long reach or slap to a ledge.
Directly in front of the swimming pool entrance is a wall. Devaluation starts in the middle of this wall. Go up from a strange start to cut holds one of which is wearing fast. A great climb to solo.
Looking left from Target on the left wall of the cave SS(c)2006
A stiff little number which starts on the left side of the cave, Devaluation SS(c)2006swing out left to a good ironstone hold and a rest. Finish up the main wall left of the cave and a difficult finish up a devilish crack. A direct start has also been done up the blunt arête.
Lee Enfield 4b
One of several climbs that start on the cairn.
Up the obvious overhanging wide crack several metres left of the cairn. Fight the crack to easier ground above
Same start as Abracadabra except move left 10ft when out of the crack. Climb the wall left of the blunt arete to a mantle finish.
Same start as Abracadabra except move left when out of the crack to a good ledge then up a small groove to an easier finish.
Cardboard Box 6b
A crack in the roof left of Abracadabra to a flying dyno to a good hold on the lip of the ledge. Thrutch up to gain a stance above the roof and finish up Recurring Nightmare 6b.
Carbide Finger 6c
Find the crack in the widest part of the roof, usually there is plenty of chalk to show the way.
Walking left to where the roof disappears into a crack. A difficult overhanging crack, make for easier ground above the crack and rest before finishing either straight up or move slightly right for an easier finish.
Just right of the gully is a difficult jump start to a good hold at the start of the wall above. Climb straight up to a good ledge but then a difficult finish directly above. Dave on White Verdict 6b SS(c)2006Nero start SS(c)2006Nero SS(c)2006Climber on Sing Sing 3a SS(c)2006
The rounded arête on the left of Nero gives a difficult balancy start.
A foot or two left of Jackie and just around the corner is a crimpy wall. Start in the centre and avoiding easier holds on Jackie. Difficult finish via a pinch and slap or power move to a nicely rounded small bulge.
White Verdict 6b
Takes the direct line up the centre of the large slab. Super balance and smearing required.
A good outing starting either up the left wall of the large gully then up the wall or for a more difficult start directly under the wall and up and over the overhang. Finish out right back up the gully wall from an often damp ledge.
Great entertainment. There are several starts to this climb but the official start is as for Burlap and then traverse out left along the easy ledge to the large vertical crack leading to a large ledge and a cave entrance, finish with fun through the cave. Another excepted start is via the right hand side of the lower roof.
Take the slightly awkward overhanging crack just around the corner from sapper. Move out right to take the easy side of the arête. Rest before moving out left to take the large bulge.
Bolts or no bolts? 30ft or so left of Inspiration at the other end of the wall is Patella. An easy start using the bolt is up to you as the crux is the worn flake above.
Kemp’s Delight 4b
Up the chipped hold then out right.
Go around the corner to a large wall usually covered with chalk . If you see a large banana you have gone 15ft to far. Go to the centre of the wall and if short take a pinch grip to a horizontal break. Take a small hole with your right hand and move up left to a slanted groove. Follow the groove to the crux move, The overhang. This is best taken by moving left not right as many people do. A superb mantelshelf finish. Sustained Yeah! ( The start is getting harder due to ground erosion).
The arête on the left of the wall gives a fine line starting with a difficult thrutch up the corner to easier ground above the arête. Drosophila 5a SS(c)2006
Next to Coathanger on the left is TNT 5c, The often wet and dirty wall in the middle. In the corner is Babylon 4b again usually very greasy and not very often climbed.
6ft to the right of the Banana groove is a great climb using the cut holds provided. Start straight up then move slightly left to a ledge then out right to finish. One of the best at Bowles.
A good classic up the obvious banana scoop. Start below the banana and reach out right to a crimp. Step into the banana and step left to a ledge. Pull up into a groove and swing left below the overhang and a good mantelshelf.
The grass opposite Fandango SS(c)2006
Reclamation Slab Right 2b
A good climb up cut holds on the right of the large slab. Good for a solo or beginners.
Reclamation Slab 5c
Up the middle of the slab steering clear of any of the cut holds, very balancy and good fun
Reclamation Slab Left 3b
Up the left of the slab believe it or not.
Near the Chalet at the top of the road and behind a large bush of rhodies is a great climb well worth a star. You can either take the hard move to a small finger thumb hole out on the left just under the arete or swing out right to a large hole about the size of your hand. make for the crimps just under the overhang then straight up for the mantelshelf.
The Fandango area which is at the top of a small grassy slope is used for picnics and is a good meeting area. Around this grassy slope is a good selection of bouldering with probably the hardest problems being on Fandango Wall or around Banana.
This article originally appeared on climbinguk.co.uk.