Squirrel!!!!! Again….

4th August 2017

The Dewerstone

FruitFlanCase – E1 5a – Lead

God Dammit! Those bloody squirrels were at it again. I cleverly put all my food in an old harness bag and left it out of my rucksack. So Mr Squirrel decides to take the whole bag and drag it off into the trees (having already eaten my box of raisins). A kindly passer by helped out as I perched on the belay ledge of Fruitflancase. However he was a bit too nice and put it back in my rucksack. Nooooooooooo…..!!!!!!

Squirrel!!

Not again. Visions of another big hole in my rucksack and clothing started to haunt me and despite lobbing rocks of many different sizes down on him he scampered all over the bag. Fortunately he must have got bored because he wandered off. Finally I could put my attention back on Dave who was having an epic fight with the jamming cracks of the route.

Daft thing is that after I got back down there, I shared my cashew nuts with the squirrel who sat on a rock nearby eating my handouts. There will though be a day of reckoning with the critter… its him or me and I dont intend on losing again.

Relief…. What a struggle

So back to the climb, which was awesome. My first attempt led to a slow motion peel out of the crack as my not so good jamming technique was exposed to its fullest. Thought I’d done the crux but a stupid error saw me dangling. So I returned to the ground, composed myself after a bit of cheese, and set off again. This time it all went well, but its a fight. It never lets up. The first section up the ramp is fine, protection where you need it and just a bit delicate.

But once you commit to the crack via a lay back around the overhang lip its sustained. Jams to start, but you need to get your feet right as well. Then a mixture of jams, crimps and slopers gets you to the belay ledge. I nearly came off a few times, but hung in there. Really pleased to do this one. Its been on my ticklist for a while.

Dave had an epic. But not surprising as he cant feel his fingers properly. I think it was at the top end for both of us, so please we both made it.

Dave tops out up Central Groove

The top pitch has one awkward section to start and then with rain starting I chose to finish up Central Grooves top slab. As it happens I’ve already done the top crack/groove of FFC when I climbed CG before, so I know its not hard. Just very vegetated. Both 4b, but CG’s slab is a better climb.

Dave and I had been talking about how just wandering the woods is a privelege at the Dewerstone. Its such a beautiful place. Having been driven off by some heavy rain, we explored a less well known section called The Tooth Area. There could be a few routes here, but its uninspiring when compared with the main crag. We’ll see.

In the rain and dark light Dewerstone has that ancient feel to it. You could almost imagine druids walking the woods and old miners trying to eke out a living through the old quarries. Must remember to come walking here again. Tap up Viv who’s always up for a walk and swim in the river.

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If I won the lottery…..

24th July 2017

Boswednack Cliff

Rough Justice – HVS 5b – Lead

I’ve spent many days hiking in to new locations in Cornwall. You never quite know what you are going to come across. Sometimes venues exceed expectations and other times, when you think somewhere is going to be magical, it falls slightly short.

Back towards Gurnard Head

Boswednack was a complete mystery for me. I’d seen it in the distance and it just looked like another rugged headland. Up close though, it is a beautiful location, surrounded by beaches and coves and with a lovely remote feeling. Dave and I both agreed as we walked out, that its somewhere we’ll keep high on our list for a return visit.

The approach route

So the walk in starts from ‘The Gurnards Head’ pub, but breaks right down the lane instead of following the PF. Then its across to the first headland and a scramble through high ferns to find the right hand side of the headland looking out to sea. From here, descend past the old mineshaft (be careful cos its deep) and make your way down to sea level traversing left into the main section of cliff.

Tranquility

There are a lot of great looking routes, taking some wicked lines up the face. The rock is a bit unreliable in places, but on the whole this is compensated for by how positive and super sticky it is.

The top ledge on Rough Justice

Dave and I went for Rough Justice, a good line but one which is a bit ambiguous in the upper section. You can go left or right. We went right which I think is wrong, but gives you a great hand traverse across a steep wall. The whole climb is steep with good moves and I was really pleased with how I went. Only one section where the pro runs sparse took a while. Otherwise its just a joy.

Who put this pond here?

Tom and Joe did a similar HVS/E1 to the right, one which I intend to have a pop at next time. This is a great place to come for a climb, swim or a bit of fishing. I’m going to visit again very shortly, if only to look at the house I’m going to buy when I win the lottery.

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The Nearly man

7th July 2017

Kellan Head

Zugzwang – E2 5a,5b – Alt Lead

Rock-a-bye-baby – E3 6a – TR (DNF)

So after a bit of a lay-off since Mallorca Joe, Dave and I returned to the Cornish Coast for a day out at Kellan Head. The news about Bart was made all the more poignant as we walked into one of the most beautiful locations for climbing in Cornwall. How many wonderful days have we had in the past with Bart at similar places; and these memories make the circumstances of his death even more tragic. Rest in peace buddy… no one can take away the good times.

The Waterslide

Every time we go to Kellan Head the waterslide ramp is wet, but the recent dry spell has worked wonders and the start for both the HVS and Zugzwang was almost clear of damp patches. This opening sequence has always been a bit traumatic for me. There is really no protection to speak of, so I made the decision that I’d just go and clear the fractured stuff and gain the first ledge. Probably about 15ft of climbing with no pro! Surprisingly everything held together and the moves went well, so I arrived at the first ledge and placed a couple of crappy pieces of gear, before traversing left to the main ledge.

Chilled Dave

But this is just the opening 5a pitch. Entertaining, but the real action starts from here as you move up to the strange angular protrusions. While Dave was napping on the belay ledge Joe set off up some of the grippiest rock around. Gear is OK and the moves are great. The bridging traverse move is tricky, but can probably be done a number of ways. For me it was full extension and udging as high as I could get before transitioning. There is loose stuff at the top but a pre placed belay using outcrops higher up means you can set a safe belay.

Sorting a belay

Dave ‘nearly’ made it, failing on the bridge having almost done all the hard work. But it was very ‘near’. 🙂

Rock-a-bye-Baby is much harder though. There are two cruxes. The first overhanging section and the move onto the main face and then the second overhang, with a viciously powerful move to get established on the upper slab. Joe persevered and got it in the end. For me, I managed the bottom moves eventually (two very reachy rockover type moves. But had no chance on the upper one. Need to get into Arnie mode.

Lunch

Dave ‘nearly’ made the bottom crux. Nearly….

As is often the case we saw dolphins about. The disconcerting aspect of this was watching a rib chase them around the bay. Surely this cannot be right? There must be some law against harassing them.

Oddly we bumped into another climber ‘Danny’. This must be the first time this has happened in this area. Really just co-incidence but who’d have thought this was a venue we’d met someone at.

So a really good day back on the rock. Going to come back for the hidden amphitheatre.

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Ian and Toms super tangly ropes (or how not to organise your safety!)

5th May 2017

Bosigran/The Great Zawn

Simple Simon – HS 4b – Lead
Picnic – VS 5a – Lead
The Variety Show – HVS 5a – Lead

A great day at Bosigran with three climbs that all delivered on the entertainment front. For a change Tom and I got to climb together and we lucked into three top climbs at Bosi. Considering how many times I’ve been there this is somewhat baffling, but as Tom said, there is a tendency to walk past the climbs in the initial area to get to the big names. And this is probably why they are missed.

Bosi

I’d seen some climbers on Simple Simon last month, so it was an obvious choice really. A somewhat bizarre opening pitch which involves grass trekking and avoiding the shrubbery actually delivers some good moves. The rising crack is fun and thought provoking. But it is the second pitch which is atmospheric, with a final crystal filled crack which needs some working out. Tom got it first time, but I had a few attempts before unlocking the slightly perplexing moves.

 

Picnic is if anything even more unusual. The rising corner seems straight forward enough, but there is enough about it to make it worthwhile. We left the upper pitch as we were Zawn bound, but I think the harder moves are found here and the crackline looks good. Something in the back of my mind says I’ve done this many years ago with Bart, but I might be mistaken.

Bluebells!! The hidden killer!

And so to the main event. We descended down the Desolation Row path (always entertaining with the lethal bluebells which act like butter on your shoes) and abbed down after Joe and Dave had kindly set up the abb rope.

Before we realised the ab rope was broken!!!!!

The Variety Show looks intimidating from the bottom and it delivers on intimidation when y0u’re on it as well. Basically a curving crack with a wicked sting in the tail. You have to be on your wits the whole way. But its soooooooo good.  I think this may be some of the most absorbing climbing I’ve ever done. Once at the top of P1 you’re faced with a complex series of moves to get established in the final crack. I ended up bridging after climbing myself into a weird position. It was the only way I could straighten out, but it worked well in the end. Tom had similar dificulties and ended up in the same area, but somehow extricated himself in a different way.

Anyway, both up safely we then managed to make the biggest pigs ear of our rope work. I dropped it down the cliff, then Tom tangled it on the belay. It was at this point we decided the only way to straighten them out was to keep climbing so we did P2. How much fun can you have on overhangs and grass!

Seat with a view

Eventually we bushwacked our way back to the ab rope to find that Joe and Dave were having a mare on Zarathrustra with stuck cams and upside down falls. Joe eventually sorted it by abbing off again to get his gear. Is there no end to his energy? And so we got back to the car as it got dark after a very full but enjoyable day.

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We’re going to a Bear Hug

29th April 2017

Pendower Coves

Pendower Grooves – VS 4c – Lead
The Cut – Severe 4a – Second
Pendower Direct – HVS 5a – Lead (dnf)
Time Tavern – VS 4c – Alt Lead

What an amazing location! And a top find on a day when nesting birds killed our initial objective of Excalibur at Carn Les Boel.

I think the reason I picked out Pendower was because there was very little info on it. Seldom (if ever) climbed I wondered weather it would be worth seeking out.

Pendower Buttress

The guidebooks hammer the point about environmental conservation and protecting the cliff edges so Dave and I made sure we avoided the plant life and did litle to disturb the wildlife. The Choughs were nesting in the square cut cave about 300 metres further West, but nothing appeared to be nesting in this area, although there were signs a Peregrine had been operating in the area with a number of feather piles and carcasses. But no nesting Peregrines in our area that we could see.

Belay on Pendower Grooves

We abbed into an amazing location. A boulder beach, quiet, relote and just stunning. The crag itself is excellent. The rock is crunchy in places, but this is more than made up for by the positive nature. No polish here. Just sharp edges, solid foot placements and holds which are easy to hold (once the loose crystals have fallen off 🙂 ).

Pendower Grooves is a class VS. We did it in one pitch. The bottom groove felt hardest to me, possibly because of the wave wash, but maybe because the first ascensionist was good at grooves. Who knows. Anyway, from then on it was just a joy to climb. Great moves, outrageous exposure and a bit of everything- feet free, traverses, laybacks and jams.

Being chased by the tide

Dave did a variation of this which tackled it straight up from the beach. This way you get to chomney and bridge as well. Who could complain. A quick lunch and we were back down racing the tide to get on the HVS Pendower Direct.

Joe and Tom silouetted

Now in my opinion this seemed a bit of a sandbag, but to be fair the situation we found ourselves in could have been part of the issue. The tide chased us up onto the face so Dave ended up below me when I was making a tough move. Had I fallen it would have been bad for both of us. This coupled with the fact the move was hard and bold, the pro suspect and the remainder of the face looked nails we bailed after I had fallen off a couple of times.

Stunningly beautiful

Instead I went up Time Tavern (we didnt know this at the time), with Dave finishing off in an overhanging flake/groove which was very crunchy and friable. A very good lead for this top section imo. And so ended a great adventure and a minor epic. Its what climbing days are made of and why we do it I think.

What is for certain is that I will be back to do a few more of these class routes.

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Grease is the word

21st April 2017

Lands End

The Cormorants Bill – HVS/E1 5b – Second
Longships Wall – E3 6a – Second (Dogged, but only just 🙂 )

I had anticipated an inch deep pile of shite around most of Lands End. Its often been the way when I’ve come here in the past and with the start of nesting season I realised a few routes would be off limits and many covered in guano.

But I was pleasantly surprised to find it wasnt so bad, especially on Cormorant Promontory. There were shags nesting on the lateral walls, but the bill was clear (probably just too steep) and the top points wernt covered in poo. Bonus.

On the Bill

The ab in was as atmospheric as it was last time when I was here with Pete doing Cormorant Face and so Joe and I found ourselves on the base ledge in the sunshine on probably the best day of the year so far.

Racked!

Cormorants Bill has three crux’s in my opinion. The opening few metres are desperate. Joe jammed, I back and fronted. Then its getting established in the crack (no easy feat) with jams and bridging. And finally its getting through the overhang. Joe finger locked and pulled. I pansey’d around for a long time until I realised I was facing the wrong way (thanks for the tight rope here Joe 🙂 ).

Feeling good post crack

Once facing the correct way it was OK with high feet to get established and then a bit of a rock over. Once I’d worked it out it didnt seem too bad. I think I need to come back and lead this one, but I’ll make sure I’m on form.

Longships Wall

I’d planned on scouting a couple of routes on the World’s End face, but the ledges were actually completely white. It would not have been pleasant. So while Dave and Tom were off on Lands End Long Climb, we went to Longships Wall so Joe could have a go at an E3 no less. What an amazing climb it is. Longships Wall has it all. A very difficult start, tough crux and sustained but immaculate climbing through out.

Motley Crew

Joe worked it a bit on a shunt and then had a go in less than ideal conditions. The sun was beating down, and the rock had started to feel greasey. That said Joe made a valiant attempt, only failing on the crux because he got out of sequence on the moves. This will be one to return to. On my part, I struggled with the start (three tries before I got through) and then couldnt do the crux. I did eventually find a much easier alternative by using holds wide left and laying offthem. And then it just continues, and continues and continues. Great move after great move. What a climb. Maybe the hardest and best I’ve done, but so satisfying. I’m coming back to do this many more times, on a top rope of course unless I become super confident and fit in the near future.

I video’d a lot of the day and it has come out well. This will be the start of my year long video diary and will hopefully capture the essence of what it’s like to climb and be a climber in Cornwall. And old one anyway.

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No longer a Bane

17th April 2017

Pedn-Men-An-Mere

Vespula (The Wasp) – HVS 5a – Second
Midnight Express – E1 5b – Lead
Bermuda Wall – E3 5c – Abysmal failure

Some days are seminal because they mark an occasion when you conquer a fear or overcome a reoccuring problem. Midnight Express was a benchmark climb for me. It represented a level of climbing I wanted to achieve, but one which for a number of years I came up short on.

I dont think it was because the climb was so overly difficult. In fact I’m sure I’ve led harder, but because of an early failure, it started to loom bigger in my mind than it deserved. For this reason it became a problem because I started to psych myself out of the route before I even started. Hence my grumpiness with Dave on this day and my initial overbearing desire to just give up and walk away.

Ready for Midnight Express… Bring it on!!

But i didnt and in the end it went smoothly and was well within my ability. For Dave too, this was a climb he had wanted to clean and so we both had a big grin by then end as we both sent it clean.

Dave stylin on the crux

This was of course after a warm up on the twin cracks over towards the Marconi Wall area. I’d done these before a while back (I think I called it the Scorpion because of the sting in the tail, but have since found another climb with that name at Carn Barra – so its now Vespula another name for Wasp). Joe despatched this with ease, despite it still being a tricky finish. But a good warm up never-the-less.

Dave on Vespula

St Levans was its usual magnificent self. Stunning views, gorgeous beaches and immaculate rock. Also the wild flowers this year are putting on a real display. So it was with this backdrop that Joe set about Bermuda Wall. A terrific climb. Bold to start, then a bit thuggy and then technical to finish. Everything really. And Joe did it clean which was brilliant. More than Dave or I could say. We both struggled on the opening moves. I eventually managed to get past them only to gas out on the flakes. So one to try again next time. Unfortunately it probably means Joe will have to lead it again, but hey, thats what friends are for.

Even time for a look around

Also got a bit of video this time which I’ll add shortly. Its going to be a theme this year, as I’d like to document a year in video and make a short film from it. Lets see how it goes.

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The perfect day for shorts

7th April 2017

Boscawen Point

Looking Glass War – E1 5b – Second
Luke Lively – VS 5a – Lead
Lord Lucan – E2 6a – Second

Of course when ever you approach a crag that is recognised for its sharp thorny things, razor wire grass and nettles you should ensure you don’t cover your legs. In this way you get the maximum amount of pain for your money!

Amazing flower display

In actual fact the walk in to Boscawen is lovely, although coming back out again after a days climbing can feel beyond the cause. Unfortunately it is still just a bit cold for a swim so I had to content myself with three excellent climbs. Not a bad trade.

Upper reaches of Looking Glass war

In keeping with my route back to climbing form, these all gave me a challenge. Joe’s initial E1 was excellent, with a couple of tough moves. Joe is leading very well at the moment and despite some initial anxiety, he cruised through in the end. I wont say I cruised, but I felt OK throughout which was re-assuring.

Stunning Granite

My lead on the day was the fantastic ‘Luke Lively’. A VS which from the ground doesn’t look too bad, but involves some committing crack climbing and lay-backing. Well protected though. Its getting established in the upper crack that is the tough move and of course the undignified exit on slopers and grass.

Stylin on Lord Lukan

Sometimes when you repeat a climb your mind plays games, as does your memory. Joes final lead was a climb he thought he knew the moves on. My own experience has taught me that this is often distorted and sometimes you are better off just putting your pre conceived ideas aside and just reading what you see. In the end Joe managed the very technical and balanced moves, but maybe there’s a lesson learned in thinking you can just repeat everything stored in your memory. Mine particularly isn’t that reliable :-).

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“Lets start on something easy”

6th April 2017

Sennen

Delilah – E2  5b – TR Dgd
Africa Route – VS 5a – Lead
Terrace Cracks – HVS 5a – TR
Slanting Crack – HVS 5a – TR

Its been a while since Chris and I had a day out on the rock and given Chris’ recent absence from climbing and me being away for a couple of months, we figured we’d warm up on an E2. Of course we did! What else would we do/ Just what were we thinking!!!

Well, bizarrely it was a great idea. We both failed to climb it clean, but with waves crashing into the platform at the bottom, slightly damp holds and an exhilarating airiness to the whole affair we were buzzing by time we finished and ready for more.

A quick repeat of Africa Route reminded me of what a good climb it is. Technical start and with delicate moves through the groove. Well worth its three stars and a reminder that Sennen is littered with quality climbs that are well worth repeating.

The remainder of the day was spent messing about on a top rope on the HVS’s in the Hayloft area. Both were good fun. I probably should have led both, but to be honest sometimes you just need no frills, safe climbing where you can cut loose and make shapes. This was certaininly the case with Slanting Crack where Chris and I tried multiple variations and had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

So, what a great day! No real anxiety, lots of good climbing and possibly the only downer was that we forgot our surfboards as there was a bit of swell in the bay. 🙂

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I’ve gone all religous

17th Feb 2017

Vicarage Cliffs

In Memorium – HS 4a – Lead
Tombstone – S 4a – Second

After a long layoff (since October) I finally got back to some proper climbing. The recent rain meant the Culm was the obvious choice to avoid seepage, but as it turned out the day was bright, if a bit windy.

The nice solid descent

My pre Christmas jitters seemed to have settled down as well, as my excursion onto ‘In Memorium’ demonstrated. For HS this packs a bold punch. Climbing on flakes and edges which are not reliable adds some nerves to the route, but unexpectedly for HS there is little reliable gear. To the point where the run outs are actually dangerous.

Joe on belay duty

You follow the arete basically, climbing inside and outside up the line of least resistance. But other than a CAM low down there is no bomber gear until higher up. The best thing for me is that I didnt back off and I didnt have problems with my head game. Sorted…

On the main slab

Dave and I then moved across to Tombstone, a really good severe tackling the overlap on the main cliff. Well worth the effort and well protected as well.

Sunset at Vicarage

As usual Cornwall delivered the breathtaking scenery. And a buttery yellow sunset capped what was a thoroughly good return to climbing ways.

Now I need to return here and bag all the VS/HVS routes which look damn good.

 

 

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