Tag Archives: 5b

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.

 

 

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’. 🙂

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.

No longer a Bane

17th April 2017

Pedn-Men-An-Mere

Vespula (The Wasp) – HVS 5a – Second
Midnight Express – E1 5b – Lead
Bermuda Wall – E3 5c – Abysmal failure

Some days are seminal because they mark an occasion when you conquer a fear or overcome a reoccuring problem. Midnight Express was a benchmark climb for me. It represented a level of climbing I wanted to achieve, but one which for a number of years I came up short on.

I dont think it was because the climb was so overly difficult. In fact I’m sure I’ve led harder, but because of an early failure, it started to loom bigger in my mind than it deserved. For this reason it became a problem because I started to psych myself out of the route before I even started. Hence my grumpiness with Dave on this day and my initial overbearing desire to just give up and walk away.

Ready for Midnight Express… Bring it on!!

But i didnt and in the end it went smoothly and was well within my ability. For Dave too, this was a climb he had wanted to clean and so we both had a big grin by then end as we both sent it clean.

Dave stylin on the crux

This was of course after a warm up on the twin cracks over towards the Marconi Wall area. I’d done these before a while back (I think I called it the Scorpion because of the sting in the tail, but have since found another climb with that name at Carn Barra – so its now Vespula another name for Wasp). Joe despatched this with ease, despite it still being a tricky finish. But a good warm up never-the-less.

Dave on Vespula

St Levans was its usual magnificent self. Stunning views, gorgeous beaches and immaculate rock. Also the wild flowers this year are putting on a real display. So it was with this backdrop that Joe set about Bermuda Wall. A terrific climb. Bold to start, then a bit thuggy and then technical to finish. Everything really. And Joe did it clean which was brilliant. More than Dave or I could say. We both struggled on the opening moves. I eventually managed to get past them only to gas out on the flakes. So one to try again next time. Unfortunately it probably means Joe will have to lead it again, but hey, thats what friends are for.

Even time for a look around

Also got a bit of video this time which I’ll add shortly. Its going to be a theme this year, as I’d like to document a year in video and make a short film from it. Lets see how it goes.

The perfect day for shorts

7th April 2017

Boscawen Point

Looking Glass War – E1 5b – Second
Luke Lively – VS 5a – Lead
Lord Lucan – E2 6a – Second

Of course when ever you approach a crag that is recognised for its sharp thorny things, razor wire grass and nettles you should ensure you don’t cover your legs. In this way you get the maximum amount of pain for your money!

Amazing flower display

In actual fact the walk in to Boscawen is lovely, although coming back out again after a days climbing can feel beyond the cause. Unfortunately it is still just a bit cold for a swim so I had to content myself with three excellent climbs. Not a bad trade.

Upper reaches of Looking Glass war

In keeping with my route back to climbing form, these all gave me a challenge. Joe’s initial E1 was excellent, with a couple of tough moves. Joe is leading very well at the moment and despite some initial anxiety, he cruised through in the end. I wont say I cruised, but I felt OK throughout which was re-assuring.

Stunning Granite

My lead on the day was the fantastic ‘Luke Lively’. A VS which from the ground doesn’t look too bad, but involves some committing crack climbing and lay-backing. Well protected though. Its getting established in the upper crack that is the tough move and of course the undignified exit on slopers and grass.

Stylin on Lord Lukan

Sometimes when you repeat a climb your mind plays games, as does your memory. Joes final lead was a climb he thought he knew the moves on. My own experience has taught me that this is often distorted and sometimes you are better off just putting your pre conceived ideas aside and just reading what you see. In the end Joe managed the very technical and balanced moves, but maybe there’s a lesson learned in thinking you can just repeat everything stored in your memory. Mine particularly isn’t that reliable :-).

“Lets start on something easy”

6th April 2017

Sennen

Delilah – E2  5b – TR Dgd
Africa Route – VS 5a – Lead
Terrace Cracks – HVS 5a – TR
Slanting Crack – HVS 5a – TR

Its been a while since Chris and I had a day out on the rock and given Chris’ recent absence from climbing and me being away for a couple of months, we figured we’d warm up on an E2. Of course we did! What else would we do/ Just what were we thinking!!!

Well, bizarrely it was a great idea. We both failed to climb it clean, but with waves crashing into the platform at the bottom, slightly damp holds and an exhilarating airiness to the whole affair we were buzzing by time we finished and ready for more.

A quick repeat of Africa Route reminded me of what a good climb it is. Technical start and with delicate moves through the groove. Well worth its three stars and a reminder that Sennen is littered with quality climbs that are well worth repeating.

The remainder of the day was spent messing about on a top rope on the HVS’s in the Hayloft area. Both were good fun. I probably should have led both, but to be honest sometimes you just need no frills, safe climbing where you can cut loose and make shapes. This was certaininly the case with Slanting Crack where Chris and I tried multiple variations and had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

So, what a great day! No real anxiety, lots of good climbing and possibly the only downer was that we forgot our surfboards as there was a bit of swell in the bay. 🙂

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.

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…

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.

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.