Category Archives: Climbing

Elemental

14th December 2018

Cornish weather guarantees that your never guaranteed you’ll get to climb. Despite no real prediction of rain, the dark grey clouds and strong wind felt a real portend of  nastier things to come. Days like this tend to drive people for the cover of their warm homes and it would be easy to right it off and bail.

The other side of the squeeze

But then we would have missed out on a fun days scrambling around Pordenack. Just enough difficulty to add a bit of spice, but not terrifyingly exposed. We’d initially traversed onto the Green Face ledge (a nice little pulse raiser as its all a bit off kilter), but the cold, drizzle and wind meant ‘Mexican Pete’ was not going to be on. So we dropped into the Hidden Amphitheatre which proved equally as moist.

The scramble out

For those who havnt experienced the ‘squeeze’ its well worth it. A cleft through the rocks with jammed boulders, which empties into a hidden area and is the usual descent point for Pordenack. So to leave we exited vertically straight up the spires and landward face. You get an amazing view back across the point and all the thundering drama of Lands End comes into view. On this day, the 10’+ swell just made it spectacular.

Tom, hiding behind me.

Highlight of the day- eating lunch while watching a couple of seals bobbing out in the sea. In the end, a good way to spend a crap day.

The Seal Sanctuary

4th December 2018

Sennen

Protein – VS 5a – Lead

Now Dave has defined the ‘Seal’ move. When approaching an overhanging ledge deploy the ‘Seal’ mantelshelf technique… This involves working your way into an impossible situation where your feet cut loose and the only escape is to Seal flop around until you can get a knee (or any other part of your body) into a position where you can crawl exhausted onto the ledge. This should be done in the least graceful way you can and accompanied with shouts of “For F#*ks sake!” or “I CANT MOVE!!!” Finish it off with a ‘whoop’ as an expression of how relieved you are that you didn’t fall off and die.

Good steep climbing on Protein – Sennen

So with varying degrees of skill we (Tom, Dave and I) all practised this hard to perfect move on Protein, a stiff VS at Sennen. It didn’t help that it was the coldest day of the year so far, but to be honest this should have been in our range whatever the conditions. Protein starts with moves up into a V Groove where you transition right onto the ‘arete’ of sorts. Nice moves which then lead you to a second transition which goes left. Leaving the small ledge for the Chicken Head is the crux. Small crimps and pinches on what is an overhanging wall require some commitment and (as we all did) the move left helps you get height to make the hold. Might be one to do when my grip has improved, but the move left is no pushover so is in keeping with the VS grade.

Approaching the Seal Sanctuary on Protein

Then two more overhanging walls, the lower of which is really tricky. Hence the deployment of Dave’s patented moves which proved useful if inelegant. The top moves are fairly exposed and the holds though big, don’t feel as positive as they might. So all in all a great climb that gives you a bit of a test. I really liked it, even if it is a little contrived. More importantly it was great to be back at Sennen. We only got the one climb in because the rain was pushing in, but the Cornish coast delivered its usual drama with massive waves thundering into the Hayloft area.

A burly finish to Protein

To be able to just grab a mornings climbing in such an awesome location defines why living in Cornwall is the best. The weather may be varied, but you can keep your wall to wall sunshine… give me the North Coast in December any time.

What do you mean he’s not damaged!!?

2nd November 2018

Luckey Tor

Eagles Nest – Severe 4a – Lead
Original Route – Severe 4a -Lead

Sat on the ledge at the top of Eagles Nest, Pete and I reflected on what it means to be able to enjoy the opportunity for a bit of solitude and time away from the usual influences of everyday life. I know that there are people who go to extremes to capture moments like this, but here in our own backyard is a little bit of paradise.

What light!

It’s not good to gloat, but sometimes it’s so nice to realise that you’ve captured a moment in time which only you (and a few close mates) are privy to. Staring out across the canopy of trees towards the dart Pete and I, for a while, were the only people enjoying one of the most beautiful views in Devon (Dave and Tom were battling up an adjacent climb). It was also nice to be able to completely relax. Another thing our culture ensures is in in short supply.

Life Affirming

Enough of the eulogising. The walk in and out of Luckey Tor is nothing short of breathtaking. Moss covered boulders; twisted tree trunks and roots; a rock strewn river and an umbrella of trees accompanies you to a hidden gem of a crag. Tom and I had been here a few times before, but it was Dave and Petes first time. The video clip says it all!

The four of us concentrated on two severe’s for the day, but both were tough for the grade and also very good for the grade. Eagles Nest is all about the final ‘out there’ move through the V cleft, whereas Original Route has a gnarly traverse (poorly protected on the lead). They made for some real entertainment on this day.

Pete jammed in approaching the crux on Eagles Nest

Most importantly was the return of Pete, following his retirement. Great to have him along for the day. A real return to a fun day out. Dave and Tom seemed to have things wired as well, with two good leads. Got to love these Dartmoor sandbags 🙂

Sky another day

10th October 2018

Predannack Head

Skyfall – E1 5b – Lead
The World is not enough – E1 5b – Lead

I think this will be our last visit to Predannack Head for a while. We had a couple of climbs still on the tick list and while we didn’t quite do them fully we got close enough. The biggest problem on this day was the swell. Big tides helped as it dropped but soon pushed massive sets in when it started to fill.

Typically stunning Cornish Coastline

The small, low down belay ledges meant it was always going to be a challenge. We had this problem the week before when there were three of us. Two made it easier and quicker but the low ledges were washed. Eventually we opted to set up a belay on a block further landward from the usual start. Dave and I have got to improve on our ropework though as we set up the belay with me on the wrong side, forcing me to take a direct line up the face.

Me on the belay ledge

Its interesting how these situations develop. Sometimes the gear placement forces you into positions you wouldn’t normally consider. In this case I didn’t think far enough ahead. As it turned out luck was on our side, because the route we were forced into involved some nice face climbing to meet the traverse of TWINE. Then an airy traverse to pick the line of Skyfall up.

The tricky 5b moves

At this point its mute about whether I took the correct line or not. Having made the overhang on the right hand side I tried tackling by going left. This involves a rock over onto a small sloping foot placement and although gear and a finger jam are good, everything is in the wrong place making it a really hard move. I did try it again on a top rope and even then it proved tough. The eventual line I took was as the guide book describes it, moving right to meet the line of SPECTRE. I don’t think this is as good, but is more in keeping with 5b and E1. I think I’m going to go back and try the direct line at some point maybe next year.

Descent Route

Still, overall it was a great connection of pitches. Lots of variety in a truly splendid setting with giant surf smashing in below and roaring away the whole time we were on there. Every so often a particularly big set would smash in and the sound would distract you whether you liked it or not. For Dave it must have been even more exhilarating.

What a wonderful place Predannack is. Dave has been feeling a bit low with a bad back recently. A day here is as good a cure as you can get. Yes you ache later, but was it worth it? Fuck yeh!

 

My name is Riddell…… Jimmy Riddell

5th October 2018

Predannack Head

S.P.E.C.T.R.E. – eE1 – 5b Lead
Little Nellie – Severe – 4b Second
Astral Blue – Moderate – Solo

Quite a strange day really. This was a crag Dave and I had been meaning to explore for a while. Tom accompanied us on this trip making for a nice relaxed day at the crag.

Relocating

Little Nellie proved to be a tense start in a way, because the belay ledge (just enough for two as Tom stayed higher in the dry) was in imminent danger of being swamped by the tide. Dave kindly got a shifty on and saved me from a drenching, but only just.

I HOPE NO BIG WAVES COME???

To rewind a bit, the approach to LN is via an abseil off the top of the Octopussy Zawn left hand wall. Climb down to some perched boulders through an airy scramble and rig a belay on a slab resting against a big boulder. The its off into the unknown. Fortunately for us the swell was small because in anything but small conditions this climb would be impossible.

Its really about a series of strenuous opening moves and then its over. A bit lame really but the position of the climb makes it an adventure. Somewhat like S.P.E.C.T.R.E. This involves abseiling down to a sentry box and then climbing back up a crack line. It has its moments, with a few 5 b moves but in general I found it well protected and amenable. The top is strange in that the topo line would send you up the face making it bold. I could see a path through but the holds looked dodgy and unreliable. I ended up finishing up the crack as per the guidebook description, a more natural finish.

Tom, topsout on S.P.E.C.T.R.E

Now Astral Blue is just a jolly with a few spicy moves if done solo. The main event is the transition from the lower quartz crack to the upper groove. We took a highline, discovered by Tom and the more natural route, but exposed you to a pretty horrific fall if you blew it. There’s a delicate traverse across the v groove where the rock is a bit questionable and you need to have your wits about you.

Tom watching Dave on Astral Blue

As usual the team made for an amazing day in amongst the beautiful cornish coastline. It is amazing that we get to live in this fantastic county. How lucky are we! Again….

Keeping up Empire

31st August 2018

Predannack Head – Pedn Clifton South

Colonial Cruise – HS 4b – Lead
Pomme Bastards – VS 4c – Second
Irish Gold – HVS 5a – Lead

For whatever reason, Predannack Head seems to be intertwined with the antipodes. Lots of references to Australia and the colonies. Pedn Clifton South continues this trend and we managed to bag a number of routes on this wall including Dave’s much sought after ‘Pomme Bastards’

Warming up on Colonial Cruise was a bit of a jaunt. This is a straight forward HS with little difficulties and mainly crumbly rock adding to the drama. The belay point in the small col feels decidedly precarious and I’m pretty sure I didn’t want to test my anchors to harshly. But it was enough to get Dave ready for Pomme Bastards.

This is no push over in the early stages with two crux sections on the seaward wall. The first is on small foot placements and the second is a lay back to reach the arete. I really enjoyed this part, more than the main wall which is straight forward but instills some doubt because of the fragility of some of the edges. Overall though a good climb and Dave seemed to cruise through it. Showing he is right back to form.

Contrary to the weather forecast we enjoyed wall to wall sunshine all day and not the overcast drizzly conditions predicted. It shows that sometimes you just have to take a chance. I’m glad it wasn’t wet for Irish Gold. This is very short lived, but packs some great climbing into the 10 metres steep crack climbing. I loved it, with positive holds but strenuous moves. It all comes together well, but I just wish it was another 20m longer. It reminded me a little of Red Parade in that you are always on power.

With no food or drink (we must remember to take a day pack so we dont get so dehydrated) we were forced off and with Dave feeling knackered and me feeling knackered and getting pains in my knee we left Boomerang, our next intended route, for the next visit. Will we ever get it done???

So… how many climbers do you know?

24th August 2018

Predannack Head – Pedn Clifton South

Bristletail Suicide – HS 4b – Second

The answer to that question is ‘not many’. Outside of our small circle of mates I am decidedly ‘climbing mate’s light’. My thoughts were stirred by a comment from another climber and his partner that we met (yes other people climb here too!) who reeled off a list of climbers having mistakenly been told by Tom that I was MIA qualified. I’m assuming these were all MIA’s, but I have no idea if this is the case. I suppose I was surprised at the assumption I would know who they were. Still having put them right that I am only RCI qualified they soon lost interest in me, but not before I was told that Kangaroo Crack was soft and there was no way Down Under, Up Top was VS.

To be fair this is probably true but I find I balk a little when a climb is described or referred to by its grade accuracy rather than its attributes. For example, whatever the grade, Kangaroo Crack is a great climb in a great location. I found the conversation had distinct undertones of the attitude that pervades surfing today, where bigger and gnarlier equates to better. My best sessions are actually when I’m relaxed and with my buddies. Size doesn’t matter. Still I’m probably guilty myself getting a bit ‘grade-ist’ at times. I think I just want to talk about how lucky we are to enjoy the amazing surroundings we climb in. Oh well…

The clouds of course toyed with us for the morning, with dark grey squalls dropping loads of rain either side of us until inevitably we caught one head on and the day was over. But we’d managed to traverse the boulder field (which is great fun) and get on Bristletail Suicide, a quality HS with a nice sting in the tail. Dave led, bagging some more lead time, following the groove crack with tricky but nice moves all the way. The final headwall can be done a number of different ways, but keep to the line and it proves a challenge. A good lead by Dave and good to have Tom with us again after his Scandinavian adventures.

The walk out helped me reflect on our encounter with the other climbers. I think we’re better off keeping to ourselves. We have too many ‘fruitloops’ in our team to be very sociable and tolerant (and I include myself in this).

In that nasty Zawn again

Predannack Head

Slab Zawn

Korev – VS 4c – Lead
Spirit Shadow – HS 4b – Second

Back to Predannack, although a bit weary on this particular day. still it was yet another new venue in Slab Zawn and so the scouting began. It’s not easy to see how the Zawn is laid out unless you move across to the South rib (the right rib as you face out to sea). From there you can look back in and sea the lines of Korev and Spirit Shadow, plus the others bearing up to the left on a long ramp.

Topo of Korev (Red) and Spirit Shadow (Green)

Both routes look good and despite the guidebooks suggestion to descend the rib and traverse round we abbed in. I haven’t actually tried it, but the easy traverse in looks unlikely. Maybe the conditions of a fairly sizeable swell was the biggest deterring factor. The ledge is above the high tide mark, but its daunting when you have waves thundering into the Zawn and the odd one got pretty close.

A few of the waves got a bit close

So onto Korev. A disappointment in my book, but maybe that’s because I was expecting too much following our last visit. The climbing is OK in the bottom section with some good moves, but its very bold. One crappy cam until the spike in the Niche. I never felt like I’d fall, I just didn’t expect the boldness and I think this caught me out. I would suggest that this is almost HVS 4b, a weird grade but one that fits. The top wall is pleasant enough but a bit of a jaunt really.

Top of Korev

Now this is in complete contrast to Spirit Shadow which Dave led. This is a top climb. Tricky off balance and contorted opening moves to three dimensional groove climbing and then onto a committing move across the face to the large crack. Pro’s good to this point but you have to make the traverse with gear under you. Its not hard, but it feels out there. Great climbing.

Dave on Spirit Shadow

And the piece de resistance is the top pitch, and a really airy pull around onto the arete for instant massive exposure. Gets the heart going but is amazing.

Happy Ian

On the way out we checked out Octopussy Zawn. This is going to be our next venue. I feel a bit scared but dead excited as well. Should be a day of awesome but challenging climbing.

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.