7 Weird And Wonderful Rock Climbs

We love a perfect splitter or a bullet-hard crimp line just as much as the next person. However, what we're always most exicted to see are the climbs that lie a little outside of the norm. The type of routes that people often decribe as 'esoteric'. In short, the weird and the wonderful of the climbing world. Here are seven of our favourites.

'Digital Warfare' (8b+/5.14a)

Unquestionably the most famous route in South Africa, and possibly the continent of Africa as a whole, is 'Digital Warfare' (8b+/5.14a). The line is one of the most striking anywhere in the world, climbing the proudest line on the breathtaking crag known as 'The Wow Prow.'  The route is ascended almost entirely on one and two finger pockets, a style of climbing common on the limestone of the German Frankenjura, but much rarer on the sandstone crags of South Africa. The route's unique style and clear aesthetics made it a target for many local activists, but it was visiting American Paige Claassen who eventually made the first ascent. In this photo, Austrian climber Kilian Fischhuber makes an ascent of the route on only his second attempt!

British climber Johnny Dawes was always well-known for being able to perform truly outlandish moves on rock and perhaps no route better demonstrates his talent for this than 'The Quarryman' in Twll Mawr, first climbed by Johnny in 1986. The route actually consists of four pitches, but it is the iconic 'groove' pitch that has made the route justifiably famous. A stemming pitch at the very limit of the possible, the climbing in this section features some of the most unique moves seen anywhere on rock. (Just to add to the difficulties, the rock in this case is slate and worryingly smooth slate at that!)

Perhaps no climb better sums up the American off-width scene than 'Squat' (5.12). Located in the granite proving ground of Vedauwoo, the route is short, wild and brutal in equal measure. Looking at it from the ground, most climbers would doubtless choose the sensible option and simply leave the route alone. However, Bob Scarpelli, who established the line in the early eighties, saw not an opportunity for suffering but for challenge and left the ground eager to do battle. Characteristically for Bob, he made short work of the route and named it in honour of the thing it most closely resembles, a pair of butt-cheeks. In this video self-proclaimed 'scrappy climber' Cedar Wright heads to Vedauwoo to test his off-width skills against this classic of the discipline.

'Ancient Art' (5.10a)

'Ancient Art' is given the grade of 5.10a, but in truth the climbing on the route's final pitch is practically ungradable. One of climbing's most iconic summits, the tip of the tower is accessed by first 'walking the plank' along the tower's top ridge, then bellyflopping onto a diving board like protrusion of rock before finally ascending the corkscrew spire to the summit. Although many climbs in this area of the Fisher Towers look and feel like they might collapse at any moment, 'Ancient Art' is more solid than most and for this reason, (as well as its incredible appearance), it is one of the most popular routes in North America.

'Natilik' (6a+)

As a trad route, 'Natilik' is already an unusual climb for the world-famous sport cliff of Céüse, but its third pitch makes it even more outlandish. The pitch starts with a section of crawling, half-on and half-off the ledge pictured here, before the traverse then continues by more conventional climbing techniques. As uncomfortable as this section may appear, it is arguably less intimidating than the final pitch that awaits you at its end; an awkward 5+ groove protcted by just two bolts!

It's been described as the best sequence on gritstone and while that's certainly up for debate, 'Art Nouveau' at Roaches Skyline is unquestionably one of the more unusual pieces of climbing to be found on England's most vaunted rock type. The rising diagonal overlap is attacked by a difficult undercutting sequence while the feet are left to smear on the blank slab below. While the route is no longer protectable, with the crucial wire placement having been lost some years ago, 'Art Nouveau' retains its E6 grade even above pads due to the precarious nature of the landing.  

From one piece of Peak District esoterica to several! Britain's most famous climbing area is home to literally thousands of routes and its closeness to urban centres such as Sheffield means that practically every piece of viable rock in the Peak has been developed. In amongst all these routes are a number of more unusual offerings and in this video, John Arran and Shane Ohly set out to climb all of them in a single day.

Think you can get weirder than our picks? Let us know your nominees for surreal, crazy or just downright absurd rock routes in the comments below!

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