29th December 2016 Commando Ridge – V Diff – Alt Lead
Ok, so last year Dave backed Tom into a corner and he took the big soak when a wave crashed into the point off Commando Ridge. So this year we all obviously knew better. Except Chris, who decided to admire the massive set pushing into the bay right up to the point where it towered above him. Outdoor gear keeps you dry most of the time, but a six foot set tests it to the max.
So it looks like we are establishing a tradition. Who will it be next year. My moneys on Dave…
Well that provided the laughs for the start but this was such a good day out. Back to old skool get out and enjoy Cornwall. It was also Joe’s first venture on the ridge and he must have brought the weather gods as the predicted grey bleak day turned into sunshine and stunning vista’s in every direction.
Something about Commando ridge always makes me feel good. I remarked that for a novice climber the ridge is the perfect outing. But even for the experienced climber this is just such good fun.
I’ve got to know the pitches fairly well now, but I still look forward to each one. Its a grand day out and one well shared with good friends.
Too many problems to note… But some of the best- Pooh Slab – f5 – Down Tor Flat Sausage – f4 – Down Tor
Ummm… Bouldering? I’ll be honest here and say that bouldering doesnt really do it for me. I suppose its a demonstration of physical prowess, but where’s the 50ft chasm’s gawping below you; the setting off into the unknown. I think its the adventure that attracts me in trad and its missing from bouldering. Except of course the walk in and the location which in Cuckoo Rock’s case is stunning.
Set near to Burrator Reservoir, there are vista’s all around and its nice to get a walk in at the same time as climbing. You park up on the loop road and set off up the valley and rocks appear out of nowhere. There were four locations we visited. A small Tor on the way up, Whale Rock and then the two main Tor’s of Cuckoo and Down.
As is usual anything harder that f5 spanked me, but trying is fun and I almost unlocked a great traverse at Cuckoo. One to aspire to and one to get stronger for. What was really nice was being out with Tom and Joe and being in the situation where we could relax and just mooch around. A day very well spent and of course we got the weather as well… just.
Omen -E2 5b – Second Raven Wall (Optional Start) – VS 5a – Lead Zig Zag (Optional Start) – VS 4c – Lead
The title suggests this was a nightmare, but actually this was a brilliant days climbing and Joe was on top form, smashing through a difficult and bold E2. Very impressive.
I’ve not really climbed anywhere in the Great Zawn, so this was a cool introduction and in an unexpected part of the zawn. Coming in from the top level above Commando ridge you get a birds eye view of Desolation Row and hidden neatly away is a steep wall below. I think Joe had been eyeing this one for a while and could see why. A very good, steep line with just enough pro to make it OK, although the opening few moves are bold.
That said, I think the crux is actually later in the climb, just when the pro gets thin again. Of course I managed to leave a piece of pro in when I seconded, so having done the hard lower section, I had to reverse it all and start again. Second attempt was clean and I have to say one of the most enjoyable climbs I’ve done for a while.
It was also good to be back climbing with Joe. It seems ages since we have been buddying up together and it was great fun. I had intened to have a go at vatiety show but my indifferent confidence and the large volume of spray blowing over the lower ledges deterred me, so it was off to the main face.
With not too much drive to get stuck into anything too difficult we had a play on the lower routes below Raven Wall. These are a bit polished but fun. Both had their moments, but they are really just a pre-cursor to the main event which is of course the main face above.
All in all a good day out, with the Omen providing the memorable moments in the splendor of the Great Zawn.
Dolphin Cracks – HVS 5a – Lead Commando Crack – VS 5a – Second Six Blade Knife – E2 5b – TR
So my second attempt at Dolphin Cracks ended up roughly the same way as my first. In a fit of angst.
Dolphin Cracks is a committing climb and the top section, even if you sling the convenient chock stone, bodes for a rough ride if you come off. Probably not a decking, but definitely some skin loss.
I struggled on this. Not so much the opening moves where I chose to bridge and stay on the face, but the committing move to layback the top section. I did them on a second, but leading was a bit of a mind game. As it happens the top moves are really positive, so I had nothing to worry about, but its always easier in hindsight. I think the next time I go I will try again as I know I can complete the moves now so it could be a confidence booster.
Dave had an excellent lead on Commando Crack. Situated in Irish Lady Cove its nestled away off the beaten track. Half the fun here is the death defying descent through broken and loose ground, but it all adds to the adventure. But its well worth seeking out. It is not quite an off width, but forces you to climb inventively to make the crux sections. Not easy, but definitely a good if unusual VS with a nicely exposed finish.
We finished on an E2 ‘ Six Blade Knife’ by top roping it from the belay of Commando Crack. It’s a good climb. Hard in the botom half with a very reachy but great move to the large flake. This takes a bit of working out, but once sorted it goes OK. Then its traverse up the line of flakes to a not as easy as it looks finish. Very cool climb.
It was nice to be back on the rock and climbing reasonably well. Sennen always a good venue to make you feel at home.
Levitation – VS4c – Lead
Honeymoon Corner- Severe 4a – Second
I think that the routes on Haytor in general are very different to those we normally climb in Cornwall. At first its easy to jump at the fact that they are high in the grade, but maybe this is just because they are different. The holds generally are slopers, rails or flakes meaning you need to approach them differently.
I found this with the first climb. looks straight forward, but is steeper and off balance with holds not being as positive as you might have thought. But once you work the move out, it is straightforward. It’s all about getting your feet up early and then straightening out your body. A good lead by Dave who as with the rest of us got a rude awakening on this one.
Levitation gets stars and probably desrves them, although the whole climb is really all about the traverse/stepover (or undercling for Tom). The climb starts with some good moves and them heads out onto the lip of the overhang. You then have what looks like a blank wall to negotiate, but the crystals and hidden holds are there. It just feels nervy because your gear is behind and above you so you know you’ll get a swing. For the second it is just as bad. Tom went high, using the upper rail/overlap for an undercling. Dave went low and had one of those moments where you cant commit. Mind says go, body says no!
We all did it in the end and Tom and Dave joined me on my very breeezy and bloody freezing perch high on Low Man. Still the view was awesome so I can complain too much. Some people would give their back teeth for a view like that.
I think the next time we visit Haytor its going to have to be a very calm day. The wind up there is a killer.
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 :-).
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.
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…
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 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.
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.
So, what a great day out. Fabulous views, great climbing and good friends. What more can you ask for?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
I have unfinished business at Gul Rock in Walking on the Moon and a perfect left, so no doubt I’ll be back soon.
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.
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.
It has everything. And I hope Rory enjoyed himself on this one, because it is one of Cornwall’s finest outings on granite.
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.
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!”