Watch your warm up!

31st July 2018

Predannack Head

Kangaroo Crack – E1 5b – Lead
Kurangh – E1 5a – Lead
Aoetearoa – HS 4b – Second

So Dave and I have been getting out a fare bit recently. Back on the climbing big time, so we were due a bit of an epic day. And by that I don’t mean our usual “epics!” , rather a day of pushing ourselves and climbing hard. See here for a short vid

Tasmania Block

So this was it. An eye on Kangaroo Crack sent us straight to Tasmania Block in Downunder Zawn (too many ozzie references for me), This is a block of rock cleaved away from the main cliff with a channel in between. On the main face are a series of good routes including ‘Down Under, Up Top’ but on the block itself is a striking right to left crack running the full height of the block. It looks sooo inviting. Getting down is through the usual grassy bank and boulder scramble (for those trying to find the zawn it is beyond the pinnacles as you walk towards Mullion direction. Go past the Pinnacles and then look down to the left. There is a point which is off the main path. The descent is to the right of this point facing out to sea.

Dave on Kangaroo Crack

However, the spirit of enthusiasm pushed me into a rash decision which was to start on the steep crack before warming up. So it just spat me off in disgust with pumped arms and torn hands. That’ll teach me.

Dave finishing off Kurangh

So on to Kurangh, an entirely different proposition. On the main face this time taking a line up over the bulge onto the blankish face. I knew it would be quite bold as it was E1 5a, but actually this climb suited me to the core. Small wires and a few dodgy small cams protect it, but the climbing is totally engaging, with small crimps, odd facing holds and the need for extreme delicacy as the you never knew what would remain and what would come of under your feet or in your hands. There is a crux move with two poor wires to protect it, but you know, I didnt find it half a scary as the HS I did at Butter Hole. I thought it was an excellent route.

Kangaroo Crack belay

So back to Kangaroo Crack with confidence fully restored. I breezed the opening section this time (now thats why you need to warm up) and found the whole route thoroughly enjoyable. It does not go the way you think its going to. Anyone who’s done Acid Test at Tregiffian will know exactly what I’m talking about. You need to be ‘thoughtful’ as the guide says. The crux is near the top in fact, not the opening section as I had thought. That does take commitment, but the gear makes the route very safe.

Having completed Kangaroo Crack

So onto Dave’s search for his first proper lead in a while. The fact he made both the E1′ look so easy was full indication he was ready to go. Dodgy hands working fine in my opinion. And Aoetearoa was a classic to do. Just a shame the flake wasn’t 20m longer. It is the epitome of flake climbing. Positive, good pro and amazing moves. We also had an angry tide chasing us so it was my turn to get a bit of a soaking. Fortunately Dave brought me up out of the dank dark and getting wetter by the second, gulley. Dave breezed it as I knew he would and so ended our first mega day of the year.

Dave on Aoetearoa

We now need a few more. Mind you I have a list of E1’s at Predannack I want to do.

True Grit?

26th July 2018

Bashers Harbour

Cave Buttress – HS 4b/HVS 5a – Lead
Mince Pie Problem – V Diff – Second

Obviously the lack of traffic on this crag plays a part. In the Cave Buttress area the rock is actually quite sound (in contrast to the piles of rubble lying in the sea elsewhere), but it has a grittiness to it probably derived from too few climbers.

Cave Buttress is given HS 4b on UKC but in the guidebook it gets HVS 5a. The guidebook is the more realistic grade. The crux is a powerful move from an undercling with a long reach. Although the gear is OK you leave it below as you make the moves so a fall is going to result in a bit of a whipper. It is definitely easier for the taller.

The VS Dave had been looking at (Cave Groove Direct) has suffered from a rockfall in its lower section. Its probably still do-able but the fresh rock looks a bit brittle and I cant say it looks attractive. The Severe next to it which Dave top-ropped does look good if a bit bold. It seems unlikely at the grade but dave found it OK if a little gritty.

Mince Pie Problem, which I’d already done was just as good the second time around. Its not easy, with a few tricky moves in the lower section, but in all its good climbing working your way up a corner and using all faces.

A return to the halcion days

20th July 2018
Carn Gowla – Indian Buttress

Alex of Gowla – E1 5b – Lead

OK, so I’ll admit that its been a while since I’ve led E1 and I was decidedly mentally rusty. Its a benchmark grade for an average climber and marks a transition between Hard but safe, to hard but maybe not so safe (excluding horror killer HS’s from hell).

Looking across at C Buttress

So for Dave and me to decide to head for scary Gowla and get straight onto an E1 was a big deal. In this case it wasn’t just the climbing. The logistics of setting up on Alex of Gowla were complex, as was the rope management and setting up belays. No wonder it took a while to get going. Even then, Dave couldn’t avoid a bit of a shower as the dropping tide suddenly created some turbulence. Still, its all part of the adventure…

Dave descends

The route itself is solid climbing. Not too hard, but committing and with an atmospheric crux. The bottom section is protected with small wires and some smallish CAM’s come in useful higher up. Definitely worth the effort and one of the more solid (as in less crumbly) routes at Gowla.

After the traverse under the overhang

Dave was chuffed because the route help to give him a benchmark on where his improving finger strength has got to. By the way he was climbing, he has no problems so its a VS at Predannack for him!

Now I’ve got a taste for it again I’m going to hit a few more of the E’s I have on my list.

 

 

Back to reality

9th July 2018

Butter Hole (Suntrap Slab)

Sally – Hard Severe – 4b Lead

Eminems lyrics spring to mind when describing this evening.

“He’s chokin’, how, everybody’s jokin’ now
The clocks run out, times up, over, blaow!
Snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity ”

The usual Brexit discussion fueled by the governments overwhelming incompetence consumed our drive out, meaning Dave and I were ready to blow away a few cobwebs when we arrived out at Stepper Head. Fortunately the balance was that the views and atmosphere soon pushed all thoughts of Brexit to where they belong (the deep dark recesses of our minds).

We abbed in down the usual gully into Suntrap Slab (using our almost cable like ab rope… this needs replacing fast. It’s like abbing on a crusty loaf) and mooched around a bit checking out Cove Buttress. The Weaver looks awesome. Really exposed, hard climbing in a dramatic situation. It ticks all my boxes!

The line of Sally. The arete behind Dave.

But ultimately we needed a route and as the tide and the fact we abbed into the wrong place, meant the Hidden Amphitheatre was out, I decided (stupidly as it turned out) to give Sally ‘a go’. Never has a decision been taken so lightly that results in such an epic. From below all looked good. Me and Dave even sussed some possible gear placements. ‘What ‘s the worst that could happen!’ I think we soon found out.

Abbing

Thin delicate moves lead to the top of a rounded arete where you are faced with a swing onto the right side to be made on rounded crimps and trust in the friction of your shoes. Everything points the wrong way and I felt as if I could barn door at any moment. Of course there was no gear here. This leads to a sloping ledge of sorts (phew) but once again a tenuous cam placement is all that you have which is 4 ft below you when you make the next crux move. This all added up to a very nervy climb with the feeling that a fall of any kind would only end in disaster. I’ve done E2’s that inspire a lot more confidence.

Of course once complete I had that slightly euphoric feeling of escaping a nasty situation. Unfortunately Dave wasn’t to get off so lightly being shrugged off at the first crux on the barn door move. I think both of us left the crag with a certain amount of humility. It’s easy sometimes to forget that you really can end up in some dangerous situations (particularly when the guide book screws you over). However much you plan, sometimes events take control, like today.

But maybe that why I climb ๐Ÿ™‚ Remember…… RULE 4

You’re on the wrong side of the Zawn! Doh!

22nd June 2018

Predannack Head

Down Under, Up Top – VS -4c
Upstart Colonials – Diff – Solo
No Humans Involved – Diff – Solo
Nasty hanging Groove – E something – Fell Off

It made a difference that we weren’t wading through mud this time; in fact conditions couldnt have been better with the continuing spell of great weather.

View down the headland

Of course we still walked past our destination, but it helped getting our bearings from last time. The headland is bigger than you imagine and I think this is why its easy to gt disorientated. But we knew where we wanted to climb. It was the cool looking VS in Kangaroo Zawn that we were driven off from because of swell.

Well not today. No swell and wall to wall sunshine. Down Under, Up Top looks brilliant and had good reviews, but in the end I felt it didn’t quite meet expectations. Don’t get me wrong. Its a good climb. Moves up to and then along a curving flake overlap are excellent and there are a couple of testing moments, but I find its climbs that leave an indelible imprint that are the ones which warrant the most stars and this one didn’t make the grade. Probably the most memorable part was the slightly crumbly final wall on small crimps with poor gear which isn’t the basis for 3 stars.

Dave on the crumbly top section

Still, very good and recommended. And so on to what should have been Dave’s lead. Except we got the wrong crag!! Another of those slightly ambiguous descriptions which rely on you knowing exactly where you are in relation to the guide book description. We didn’t and ended up the the wrong side of the zawn. Still it gave rise to an hours worth of soloing on some great diffs before ‘good ol Dave’ suggested we descend steep slab and attempt a hanging groove which was clearly easy. FFS!

The descent slab. Not THE descent slab, but the initial easy one before Dave tried to kill us.

Well I had the pleasure of Dave discovering the folly of making rash assumptions as he sketchily descended the slab which steepened and rounded towards the bottom, running out of any discernible holds. Very nervy and an excellent attempt to kill both of us. But not as nervy as committing into the hanging groove which I proceeded to fall out of a couple of times. It is possible, but I think its somewhere in the E range with limited pro, so next time we’ll abseil inspect and then give it a go. Cant find it in the guidebook, but also cant believe its not been climbed. I’ll need to do a bit more research.

 

Uninvited Guests

21st June 2018

Butter Hole

Little Robert (Variation Start) – VS – 4c Lead

Butter Hole is such a great place to climb. Especially with the great evenings we’ve been having. This session was a quick grab before the main event on Friday, but actually turned out to be a proper adventure. Dont they always!

Just glad to be here

So despite the swell being fairly small, the base of Little Robert was soaked so it was a no go with the odd set spraying it completely. Daves eye for a new line picked out an alternative start which involved coming in from a high line on the left. Having experienced Dave’s “that looks easy” philosophy I was obviously dubious, but for a change it turned out to be on.

A wild traverse, with nothing for your feet allows you to swing up onto the main slab. Committing and with average pro it is exciting, but because of the large jugs it feels OK.

The steep headwall

The rest of the climb turned out to be atmospheric and brilliant climbing with nothing too difficult. A great VS in fact with good character. Butter Hole is turning out to be a little goldmine. Easy for us to get to and with a good range of climbs. I can see this being the source of quite a few great evenings this summer.

Dave on the final moves

The whole time we were there we were tracked by a couple of Rock Pipits who clearly didnt appreciate us being around. I have a feeling there is a nest somewhere high in the gulley so we’ll need to be careful in the future. Still the company was nice ๐Ÿ™‚

Where East meets West

8th May 2018

Kilmar Tor

The Eastern Turret – Moderate

On occasions you get a certain light on the moors. Especially when the sun is out and low on the horizon. Things take on a washed out golden tinge and all the contrasts start to kick in. The effect is (to use an overused expression) magical. The moor becomes enchanted and Kilmar Tor in particular starts to look like a kind of fortress, with rock battlements and boulder castellations.

Perfect Light. Pity about the wind!

My bio compass was definitely haywire on this occasion. ‘Lets go to the Eastern Turret’ I said. That’s where the climbs are. Yes they are, but we went to the Western Turret. Doh! Anyway, as it happens and again, it was too windy to climb. The routes look good, but a 40 knot wind would have made them decidedly sketchy.

Loads of potential

So it became a bit of a bouldery walkathon, with a full circuit of the Tor and a couple of hand mashing boulder problems along the way. Even easy problems seem to be able to shred you on Bodmin Moor. I think I might tape my hands next time just to make the whole experience a bit more enjoyable.

Dave in action

The dead pony was macabre. Clearly it had been there a while and devoured by the critters in the rocks, but it makes you wonder what caused its death. Big cat?? Dont forget I know where the sheeps graveyard is in the woods in this area. Strange that.

Steady on Tom!

And so Dave, Tom and I headed back to the car as dusk came on. Wouldnt want to get caught out there in the dark……

Daves new hands

30th March 2018

Predannack Head (Lizard Point)

The Dunny – Severe 4a – Second (Tom Lead)

Sometimes you just have to hope and take a chance. The weather forecast was the same as usual (since we have been trapped in this global warming moisture bubble), sun, cloud, rain…. take your pick. For once this year we lucked a clear, bright sunny day.

Beautiful Predannack

The only issue was the swell. A booming south coaster which ended up putting paid to a lot of climbing at Predannack. But more importantly we got to mooch around and get our bearings which is not easy to do here. The main problem is finding that one feature to define your location. Here its the leaning Pinnacles. Once you find these you’re OK. Somehow we walked straight past them, but to be fair they are much easier to spot from the South than from the walk in from the North.

Sun at last and the remnants of the old Coastguard hut.

We overshot massively, ending up in a complex area of zawns and bluffs. In the end we checked the guide and found that the old Coastguard hut would be a good marker. Turns out that exactly where we were. Walking back everything becomes recognisable. Strange, but that’s the way it works ๐Ÿ™‚

The Dunny

We dropped down into Downunder Zawn which has loads of routes, although on this day because of the swell we opted to stay higher up and tackle a Severe. Its disconcerting when large waves crash underneath you as in the Zawn you are stood on top of a boulder field.

 

Tom led The Dunny, a tricky severe because of the rock quality in places. You can see how the rock is really sticky and good to climb on; but this comes with some looseness and unreliable holds. I think the main climbs further down look a lot more stable. On this route, it is the upper areas which suffer worst. Most importantly though, Dave got to test his grip after his operation on his elbows. It looks like the hands came up trumps as he cleaned the route with no problems.

After this we just spent the day wandering around scouting the various areas. With this info now stored I cant wait to get back and onto some of the really top looking routes.

 

A very sociable journey

13th to 19th March 2018

Leonidio/Kyparissi

And so ends an amazing week in Greece. Leonidio is a gem of a location; probably the best overall venue that we have been to on our travels so far for rock quality and atmosphere. It is a sleepy rural town that has stumbled upon climbing as a major revenue stream. As such its geared towards climbers and very welcoming. More on the crags here.

Just walls of rock ๐Ÿ™‚

We stayed at Leonidio Apartmentsย nestled below a major area of crags and within walking distance of a number of venues. Alexandra turned out to be the perfect host, turning up with cakes and pastries on regular occasions. Her sister ran the organic bakery down the road (Vlamis Wood Bakery) with a 100 year old oven and olive and tomato pasties that were gorgeous.

Chilling on the veranda

Leonidio is a very idyllic town. Quaint and full of Greek character and charm. What I particularly liked was the laid back atmosphere. All the locals out and about, eating, drinking and socialising. You dont tend to find this so much now, particularly in tourist areas, but Leonidio retains this aspect.

Main Street

We also lucked into meeting a great group of people who helped to make the trip even more enjoyable. When everyone is so friendly you cant help but have fun.

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.