Author Archives: dillwat

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.

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

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.

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.

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’. ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

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. ย 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.