Joe’s Horror Show

21st October 2016

Bosigran – Great Zawn

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.

 

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Cracking Up

7th October 2016

Sennen

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.

commando-crack

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.

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Put your left foot in…left foot out ….

23rd September 2016

Haytor/Low Man

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.

haytor_sept16-2

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.

haytor_sept16-4

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.

Dave on the top moves of Levitation

Dave on the top moves of Levitation

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.

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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?

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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.

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