Butt Cracks and Ball Sacks

16th Sepotember 2016

Pednvounder Beach/Logan Rock

Reach – E2 5c – TR
Charlie’s Chank Seaward Arete – 6a- Lead(Eventually)
Blondie Jams with Sepultura – HVA 5a – Second (Dgd)

As well as being one of the most beautiful beaches in Cornwall on its day, Pednvounder is also well known as a nudist spot. On this day we shared the beach with a number of naturists, but to be honest after the initial ‘oh my god, why are you letting me see that!’ you dont even notice as the climbing is absorbing and great fun. I sometimes wish I had the bottle to get in tune with nature, but I cant see that ever happening. I leave that to Tom :-).

Pednvounder Beach
Pednvounder Beach

It really is a stunning location and with the formation of a lagoon, which cut the beach in half, it had the look and feeling of being abroad. The climbing is disjointed though. The cliff here does not really run to full height with its routes. Most are on the lower, more reliable rock that comes straight off the beach. Reach is to be found in a narrow zawn a few metres after you arrive on the beach. It is easily identified as it is a seriously overhanging piece of rock.

Looks hard and is hard
Looks hard and is hard

Joe advised me that the routes here are sometimes done as highball bouldering problems. That would be a serious fall if you blew it at the top. And given the really pumpy nature of the routes that is a definite possibility. I knew the E2 would be hard, so I ‘warmed up’ on the short overhanging crack at the start of Shady Wall. Of course this was much harder than I anticipated, so I proceeded to dog it for the first few attempts. Eventually after I had enough gear in I cleaned it, but not what I would call a clean ascent! Dave however made it on his first go, just to make me feel entirely inadequate. Git…

Dave giving it the soulful walk  .. "I want to be at one with nature!!!"
Dave giving it the soulful walk .. “I want to be at one with nature!!!”

Meanwhile Joe and Tom were giving it some on an impossibly hard route to the right of Reach. I think the start ended up having the beating of them but no wonder, with small holds and a major overhanging route. Reach has a hard start, but eases as you get higher. But only by degrees. It is all overhanging so even those ‘good holds’ soon feel inadequate. Having made the hard start I just kept going, thinking that I wouldnt be able to get going again so best make the best of this attempt, which eventually turned out OK, although I ached for a while just after.

Joe gets jammin
Joe gets jammin

Joe was determined to get over to Logan Rock for a jamming fest on Blondie jams with Sepultura. He got his wish, as we all gave up some skin for the cause. This was despite being taped up for the job (which is like a wax job when you take it off). The climb is tough, with problematic foot jams and a crack that doesnt quite fit your hands.

Tom gives it a go
Tom gives it a go

Joe made his way up on the lead and the three of us followed with varying degrees of success. What I would say is that it is thoroughly enjoyable, despite the pain. I’d like to try it again now, having tried once. Make a better ‘fist’ of it next time.

Mashed...
Mashed…

So, what a great day out. Fabulous views, great climbing and good friends. What more can you ask for?

Should have gone to Specsavers

2nd and 3rd September 2016

Swanage

Boulder Ruckle

Finale Groove – HVS 5a – Lead
Lightning Wall – HVS 5a – Second
Tatra – E1 5b – Alt Lead (Just)

Swanage, one of the sunniest locations in the UK. Or is it? Well the weather forecast seemed to suggest it would be, but the weather gods had other ideas in mind. So despite finding a sheltered spot in a great campsite  (Acton Field) at Langton Matravers,  we were doomed to have a pretty wet time of it.

Happy Campers
Happy Campers

Our first foray was to Guillemot Ledge, a short walk from the campsite down lanes to the cliff. My first view of the coastline here revealed how shear and intimidating the area is. There are no escape routes as such, unless you climb out as the cliff wall is fairly unbroken. This means everything is reached by abseil.

Guillemot Ledge before the rain
Guillemot Ledge before the rain

So down we went and an hour later we were prussicing out after the unexpected rain came in. This lasted for the rest of the day, necessitating a trip to the local pub for a pasty and a beer.

Nick on Campaign. But he has a point...
Nick on Campaign. But he has a point…

Saturday started much better, although cool and very windy and we re-located to Boulder Ruckle an area with a number of outstanding climbs. I started on Finale Groove. This HVS just keeps on coming. Each time you think you are through the hardest part, another tricky move appears. It is absorbing climbing and keeps you on your toes to the end, particularly with the loose blocky finish. I dont think Nicks experience of the route was as enjoyable as mine as my belaying went south along with the good weather. So for much of the route I think Nick was on slack or very slack ropes. I need to remember to haul on them until it is clear I have taken all the slack in.

The traverse on Lightning Wall
The traverse on Lightning Wall

Our next route was Lightning Wall, where thanks to Nicks Lead we rescued another parties set of gear after they had been washed out on the previous day as well. This is quite a cruxy route, with the main difficulties in the moves onto and off the wall. But again the climbing is terrific.

Looking at our weather horizon
Looking at our weather horizon

Our final route with the weather closing in again, was an old HS now E1 called Tatra. This proved a step too far for me, although Nick made a good job of the lead on P1. This is pumpy and you need to move quickly to avoid the pump, something I failed to do rsulting in the usual wooden forearms and a couple of sits in the rope.

Unfortunately this did for me on Pitch 2 as well as the strenuous traverse proved too much for my now puny arms resulting in some not too graceful aiding through the 4b traverse pitch as my mental state unravelled along with my physical capabilities. This was just in time for the rain to arrive on the final pitch. Fortunately this remained reasonably protected for a while allowing Nick enough time to get through the bulge/overhang. A request to confirm the route in the guide was duly refused due to poor eyesight, although I could see enough of the picture to know we were on the right line.

Just before the traverse whilst I was still smiling
Just before the traverse whilst I was still smiling

A very soggy march back to the campsite  was followed by a decamp as I mentally wrote the remaining part of the weekend off as pants. Enough of the rain and so we headed home, via Bridport and an old man casualty who benefitted from the comfort of our sleping bags whilst he waited for an ambulance.

And so Swanage gave some glimpses of what it might deliver and given good weather I imagine this area would be a paradise of amazing trad limestone. As long as the sun shines…

Success seems largely a matter of hanging on when others have let go

26th August 2016

Cheesewring Quarry

Daisys Flapjack – 6a+ – Dgd (Just)
Trouble with Lichen – E3 6a – Dgd
Double Agent – 7a+ – DNF
Debutante – E3 6a – DNF
Half Route Half Boulder Problem – E3 5c – DNF

On this particular day my success rate was to be measured by the number of failures I achieved. That said, it was a really enjoyable days climbing and it made a real change to be able to unleash on a climb and not have to worry about gear or a leader fall.

I also found my level. Although I could do the moves on most of the routes, what I couldnt do was link them together in some cohesive fashion that would have enabled me to clean a whole route. But it was good to know that I could do a 6a move, even if it took me a few attempts.

Joe of course was smashing everything, but I realise that if I am to push my grade at some point this is something I’m going to have to do more of. Without actually practicing ome moves at this level I would have no idea what was in store for me.

My favourite two routes were Trouble with Lichen and Double agent. Both very technical in different ways, but both really satisfying when you had worked the moves out. TWL I managed on about my 6th attempt, but finally realised what I needed to do. DA was a case of not being strong enough. Maybe after some indoor training I’ll be able to do the upper moves, but not yet.

I think I might return to Cheeswring for a bit more ‘training’. I also fancy Warrior at some point.

Secret Spot!

23rd August 2016

Gull Rock

Solid Air – VS 4b – Lead
Shivering Timbers – VS 4b – Second

Every surfers dream is to find a secret spot. Somewhere where you get perfect waves all to yourself while others thrash around in surfer soup at the popular venues. Well we almost have found that spot. Only problem is that its so hard to get to. Probably why no one else surfs it. But in my mind it is exactly why you should make the effort to go there…

Everyone loves a waterfall
Everyone loves a waterfall

Its no easy task getting to Gull Rock. There are a few ways, all of which are strenuous. Either over the top which looks horrific or along the boulder beach which we did and which requires concentration. An hour of threading your way through what is basically an obstacle course is tiring, but definitely worth it.

Gul rock is reminiscent of a number of venues on the Culm. Steep climbing with thin foot placements and crimps or cracks. The gear as usual is hard to find but reliable once you’ve got it. Small nuts and the odd cam.

Tom on the shear faces at Gull Rock
Tom on the shear faces at Gull Rock

Both the VS’s Dave and I climbed were on the bold side in places, or at least they felt bold. I think in reality its because you have to work quite hard to find it. From the ground up both routes look difficult, but the culm hides its ledges and incuts deviously and once you embark things start to come together. Solid Air has a few tricky moves at mid height and Shivering Timbers saves its for late in the ascent. But both are worth 2 stars, although I wouldnt necessarily mark them down as classics, just very good climbs.

Looking up Solid Air
Looking up Solid Air

Gull Rock gets cut off after mid tide so we had to make tracks reasonably early on. When we arrived we had abseiled off the saddle around Haile Selassie. But other than climbing out and hauling our bags, the only other way out was to walk. Still with the breathtaking views on offer this was arduous.

The perfect left
The perfect left

I have unfinished business at Gul Rock in Walking on the Moon and a perfect left, so no doubt I’ll be back soon.

Summer road fun

11th August 2016

Chair Ladder

Diocese – VS 5a – Lead

When you’re looking for an archetypal sea cliff then Chair Ladder seems to fit the bill, especially when thinking of multipitch routes. And so when Rory got hold of me to say he wanted to come down prior to the Boardmasters festival and do some sea cliff climbing…. the destination almost picked itself.

To say it was a fairly intense introduction to sea cliffs would be an understatement. I have always found Chair Ladder a bit intimidating. Possibly the ab in and the fact all the climbs literally start from sea level on a small platform. Anyway, my initial idea of starting on Flannel Avenue evaporated as it became apparent that we’d need to swim to get access to the start. So plan B was Diocese and so we went for it.

The ab in
The ab in

It is such a good climb. An opening technical bridging pitch leads to a very exposed traverse (the so called crux but probably only for the intimidation factor a I found pitch 1 harder technically) and finally a couple of pitches on exposed slabs high above the sea.

Rory on P1 Diocese
Rory on P1 Diocese

It has everything. And I hope Rory enjoyed himself on this one, because it is one of Cornwall’s finest outings on granite.

A snug little belay :-)
A snug little belay 🙂
A very relaxed Rory
A very relaxed Rory

One climb in a day may not seem a lot, but this actually took a lot out of me and by time we had been exposed to the sun and wind for 4 hrs I was prepared to call it a day.

Breaking onto the slab P3 (FA Variation)
Breaking onto the slab P3 (FA Variation)

A quick mooch over to Hella completed a really enjoyable, relaxed day with good friends. Even the 30 min hike out along the road was pleasant, before the inevitable struggle with the summer traffic. Remember “Your car is not as wide as you think it is!”

Doing the Turkey (or something thereabouts)

6th August 2016

Hartland/ Blackchurch

Loose Women – E1 5b – Alt Lead (dgd)
Right of Spring – VS 4c – Lead
Notre Dame – VS 4b – Second

So here was the big day. Sacre Coeur here I come. Or maybe not… As a believer in ‘climb it when you feel it’, this proved not to be the day for pushing my grades. My general nerves seemed to tidy up a bit, thanks to some generous encouragement from Nick, but I never quite got into gear this time.

Blackchurch Main Cliff
Blackchurch Main Cliff

It didnt detract from an amazing adventure on Loose women though. What a climb. From the bottom it gives you a distinct feeling of ‘this will be quite out there!’ and it didnt fail to deliver. Nick led the bottom jamming pitch which is worth three stars in its own right. I got the harder and quite out there second pitch, but it is all there. Lots of pro, the holds you need and incredible airy climbing.

Looking up Loose Women P1
Looking up Loose Women P1

I think I talked myself out of cleaning this pitch, but once I worked it out, it went fairly straight forwardly. Its the exposure though that gets you. High above Blackchurch rock the views are breathtaking. It seems that the whole area has a bit of a Jurassic Park feel to it, with a stunning waterfall cascading onto the beach and jagged promontories everywhere.

Part way up Loose Women P1
Part way up Loose Women P1

Nick had the pleasure of the final pitch (if you could call it that). More like climbing a compost heap. Loose rock, grass, gorse for pro and a final ledge that was more likely to fall on you and kill you than be useful as a hold. I think Nick enjoyed it in a perverse way. It was definitely better on a second where you could admire the variety of plants and the interesting rock colours as they fell into the sea :-).

We moved over to the rock island for a lunch of proper cheese sarni’s and muffins, before Nick cunningly manouvered me into climbing Right of Spring. To be honest I wanted to have a go at it, although half way up with my muscles aching and a distinct lack of big gear remaining I wasnt thinking that way. The opening moves were very interesting. A move straight off the base would have resulted in grating a few layers of skin off and seeing as you couldnt see the rock for the molluscs, I came in from the right where an easy set of moves gets you above the nasty stuff. Placing the cam into the crack was tricky as my arms were 2 inches too short until I managed to move partway around.

Far too relaxed.
Far too relaxed.

Then it was off on a bridging fest, intermittently dispersed with laybacks and a few jams. I found it strenuous, but my chimney/corner climbing is probably not what it should be. But i have to say its a good route, full of character and with some excellent moves. A bailed left on the finla moves as the rock had the beautiful yellow moss on it. Great to look at, but not so great for friction. Nick of course made it look effortless the g#t. And he couldnt help posing for a profile picture either.

Our neat little campsite
Our neat little campsite

Of course it wouldnt be a day out with Nick if we didnt race the tide for at least a while. His accelerated ascent of Notre Dame went on as the tide washed over the normal belay ledge (I had climbed up onto the ridge which was eminently sensible). Finding gear on the underside of the climb was interesting, but it was run out in places and had a distinct airy feel to it. The final crack is poor though, full of veggies and not pleasant. It is great for the exposure but not the best the area has to offer.

The day was capped off by a swim around the rock, both ways for Nick, which revitalised an aching body for fairly long uphill walk out. We didnt see the Turkey’s (I think thats what they were) on the way out. Coming in there had been a large flock of them who had mindlessly kept running away from us instead of getting off the track. I think I might return to this area for the walking. Beautiful woodland, stunning coastal views and a slightly remote feeling make this a must visit area.

Route Baggying

5th August 2016

Baggy Point

Lost Horizon – VS 5a – Lead
Doors of Perception – E1 5b – Second

So what do you do when the drive up to the Culm delivers constant rain showers right up to when you pull into the quaint village of Hartland. The answer is to look North. Or at least it was on this occasion.

My main target of the weekend was Sacre Coeur, a three star E2 on Blackchurch Rock, but in my mind it had to be perfect conditions as I didnt want to ruin the whole experience. With Baggy Point only a short drive away (or shortish if you ignore trying to get through Broughton) it seemed churlish to not give it a go and at least recce some of the many starred routes it has to offer.

View across to The Long Rock
View across to The Long Rock

Of course at this time of year Croyde is in full swing, but I think it actually adds to the whole ambience of the area giving it an uplifting vibe. Baggy Point itself is impressive. Reminds me a little of Sharpnose, at least ‘The Long Rock’ area did. Its only after you make the dodgey descent onto the fin that you realise how impressive the slab is. And also how high it is. On Lost Horizon the route seemed to go on for a long time, which of course I was glad of as it is such an amazing route.

At the base of The Long Rock
At the base of The Long Rock

Now for some reason both days on the Culm were punctuated with me getting the Heebee Jeebees. Not sure why but something played with my mind and unsettled me. That said, even nerves could not mask how good the climbing was. Lost Horizon is a crack that just keeps going. For a lot of it, it is jammable, but there are a few tricky sections. It was interesting to see the two entirely different ways Nick and I tackled the route. I searched out edges and on the face and only jammed when I had to. Nick ‘Turkeyed’ up the route using impeccable technique imported from the USA. It was something I was trying to emulate the following day and does make crack climbing easier and more graceful (even if my foot still hurts).

Nick looking cool in his 'shirt' on Lost Horizon. I wish I'd brought mine :-(
Nick looking cool in his ‘shirt’ on Lost Horizon. I wish I’d brought mine 🙁

Nicks ‘finest hour’ was about to come around as we abbed back in again and set up for Doors of Perception. From the bottom the move up into the groove looks difficult and bold. When you actually reach it you discover that ‘Yes it is difficult and bold’. Nick unlocked it with a delicate traverse left to a crack with far better protection possibilities. A move I managed to blow resulting in some air time, before I tried again, this time making it.

But it’s not just about that move, although that is the memorable one. The climb keeps coming at you with a series of technical moves and finishing with a really fingery layback up the final ‘looser’ corner. A great climb and well led by Nick.

Top crack of Doors of Perception
Top crack of Doors of Perception

Despite our best efforts to get another route in (A potential Kinky Boots/Midnight Cowboy combo) we realised that time was not on our side and headed off for the campsite. A good call in fact as we arrived fairly late and after being unceremoniously turfed off our initial pitch, we grabbed a homemade curry and some excellent wine that Nick had brought along.

As an aside, Hartland and the campsite we were on are both really nice and I think I may well use it as a base if I come up this way again. Also good value at £7 a night.

My (not so dead) dead chicken has better feet than you do!

19th July 2016

Pentire Point
Black Zawn

Nipped in the Buddha – VS 4c – Second
Little Black Dress – EC 5B – TR
Brother Chris – E3 5c – TR (dgd)

Dave had been wittering on about NITB for ages so it was only fair to let him have his moment (of fear). NITB is one of those VS’s that doesnt look too bad until your trying to find your equilibrium as you move up into the groove. From the ground it is quite steep. From the groove it is overhanging. Either way it’s not easy.

Joe pose....
Joe pose….

After I had dropped the ab rope into the sea we dropped down onto the ledge below NITB. For a change most of the climbs were dry. Unusually.

Before the groove NITB
Before the groove NITB

The Black Zawn never really looks inviting but the truth is that there are a large number of high quality climbs here. The harder varieties suffer from a distinct lack of gear, but the moves and holds are brilliant. Most of the E numbers are on the buttress starting right of The English Way and heading all the way around to the seaward face. A awkward traverse gets you to Merchants of Menace a very good looking E2 which I think I’ll have a go at one day.

Top Groove ofNITB
Top Groove ofNITB

Dave made NITB look relatively easy, which it isnt. A sloping slab leads to difficult moves up into the groove. Then its a case of using the angles to make it easier for an exciting finale.

Dave does E2
Dave does E2

The E2 was an excellent climb, but leading it would have been a different proposition. Very little gear, particularly protecting the crux moves which were fiddly before you arrived at the jugs.

Whooo Whoo!
Whooo Whoo!

The E3 was superb. Beyond me to clean it on this day, but what a climb. It looks so unlikely from below, but as the guidebook says, miraculous holds appear when you need them. Unfortunately for me I didnt see one of the hidden miraculous holds so had to rest about half way. But for the main part it is just excellent move after excellent move. I’d love to say I’d lead this but I’d have to have a closer look at the gear first.

Boy this lad can climb.
Boy this lad can climb.

A tired group of three discussed Joes horrendous feet before a steep walk out on a stunning evening with a huge moon rising over the fields and part noises drifting across from Polzeath. The end of a good day.

Good Moon Rising
Good Moon Rising

And as a final point. How can you not know if a chicken is dead or not. Daves hutch cooked chickens some how rose from the dead – maybe they are Frankenchickens.

Feet of endurance

15th July 2016

Carn Kenidjack

Thane – E1 5b – Lead
Gneiss Gnome – HS 4b – Second
The Stormbringer – E3 5c – TR (dnf)

I love Carn Kenidjack! It’s official. Probably the crag of my best leads and always a ground breaker when it comes to grades.

Cape Cornwall
Cape Cornwall

So Thane isnt any higher in the grade than any other E1… but sometimes it is reputation that counts and Thane, thought to be easier than Rock Dancer by many, is less attempted. Why?? Cos its f#*king scary that’s why.

Working hard in the upper groove
Working hard in the upper groove

There are two sequences on the climb, one fairly low down and then another once established in the upper groove. Both are above your gear and both are a bit iffy for your head. It makes for a really interesting battle between your head and your feet. Head says ‘Go!’, feet say ‘Nope.. I’m going to stay right here where its safe’.

Me on the upper groove
Me on the upper groove

In the end, after my usual deliberations I went for both moves and both were OK, although my advice to others would be to keep going once you commit, because there are a number of moves before you reach more gear.

So sat here in the safety of my home I can say that Thane was an incredible climb, full of character and with some great moves. At the time of climbing I might have given a different opinion, but it is a big tick for me as it has long been on my list of ‘wanna’s’

Looking up Thane
Looking up Thane

Of course it wouldnt be fair for me to hog all the epics so Dave had his own version on Gneiss Gnome, discovering that the lower slab is particularly run out for a Hard Severe. Fortunately Tom did leave something for Dave to climb after his attempt to destroy the cliff when having a go on Seiging the Castle a long lost E4 5c which tackles the crack in the face to the left. Ripping breeze blokes off the cliff is just not cricket.

Line of Gneiss Gnome
Line of Gneiss Gnome

Joe was as usual smashing his way through ridiculously difficult routes. I let him persuade me into attempting an E3 5c on the top rope. Having seem Joe on the crux, I knew it would be difficult, but my general power let me down on what was a really good route. Just need that explosive burst and I might have made it. Note to muscles ‘must get stronger’.

Joe checking out The Stormbringer
Joe checking out The Stormbringer

And so ended another epic day on the crag. I am absolutely bursting to get out again now. Thane has instilled a bit of confidence in the system. It was needed.

This plan sucks!

8th July 2016

Lands End / Dingo Area

Blue – HS 4b – Lead (just…)

The header just about summed up my feelings as I started on the opening moves of Blue for the umpteenth time (8 or 9 attempts at least). A period of inactivity, too much good food and a liberal dose of wet rock was playing devestating games with my confidence.

OK, lets try not to break anything here....
OK, lets try not to break anything here….

A actually really like Lands End. There is something special about climbing on the tip of England and as usual the views are stunning. If there is a down side it would be the varying rock quality, which can feel insecure and crumbly. This is possibly due to lack of traffic, but the integrity of the rock does change.

Heading for a little sit down
Heading for a little sit down

Joe and Nick were definitely suffering from this over on Dr Syntax’s Head, finding some nasty HVS’s to occupy themselves on. Meanwhile Dave, me and Pete were wrestling with Blue. From below it looks reasonably inoccuous. But this hides the steepness and difficulty of the opening moves. It overhangs for a start and the holds are small.

Your a Bas#*rd Riddell
Your a Bas#*rd Riddell

Gear is OK but you make the difficult moves above it until you reach the first break. With wet holds I continually found myself slipping off until after one abortive attempt where I had to lower off, I managed to climb it clean. I was so stuffed by the end though. Absolutely drained in fact.

Dave looking very calm and collected
Dave looking very calm and collected

Its a great climb in fact, but not HS and harder than 4b. VS 4c probably, because of the opening moves and the top jam. The wet didnt help, but it was still hard.

"So anyway. As I was throwing for this dyno mono........"
“So anyway. As I was throwing for this dyno mono……..”

Good on Pete for a stirling effort after a long period of semi retirement. Good to see him back on it and no mishaps on this day. Dave, who is climbing better and better made short work of it. Many thanks for the patience they both showed in waiting for me to sort my head out.

Nick on some kind of Mare at DSH
Nick on some kind of Mare at DSH

I am going to return here and repeat this one in good conditions (and the tough and bold looking VS to its side), hopefully on the same day I bag Cormorants Bill. 🙂