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19th September 2015
Carn Barra

Super Crack – VS 4c – Alt Lead
Axis – VS 5a – Lead
Fourteen Fathoms – E2 5c – Second

I’ve been to Porthgwarra loads of times but never considered parking up nearer the junction to the l-bend. It is in fact a nicer walk in, if a little bit longer, down blackberry walled lanes and it brings you out in the Carn Les Boels area a bit further south. Ideal for Carn Barra and crags south of here.

Jamming

Jamming

I knew Nick had has eye on one of the E2’s at Carn Barra, but we started on the upper tier, on Super Crack. I remember this being really good the first time around and this time was just as much fun. Pitch 1 is a bit nervy on the top slab, but is good climbing with small holds and neat little moves. The top pitch is great, with more strenuous jamming and laybacking. A really top VS.

And so to Fourteen Fathoms. It has good climbing throughout and the bottom section (with the exception of the bold and bouldery lower face) is reasonably protected. Once onto the upper face, protection possibilities are there (the crux has some good gear) but the climbing becomes harder and the crux move is tough. It took Nick a while to figure it out (how he hangs around for so long I’ll never know) but in the end it is about strength and commitment.

Steep!! And hard....

Steep!! And hard….

On my turn I had just as many issues and probably made the move by the skin of my teeth. My arms by this time were shot so it was with relief that I moved up a bit for a rest before dropping back a few fet to get the remaining gear out. Really pleased to have done this though.

Nick on the crux of Fourteen Fathoms

Nick on the crux of Fourteen Fathoms

We finished on Axis, where Dave joined us. This was so that I could climb it throughout. My previous attemt had just been from the upper ledge. I made the lower moves, but I cant say I made a good fist of them. I grabbed the edge of the lower shelf with relief in the end. After this thought the route went easily for me, so I was pleased with this. The first time I remember it being a real struggle.

A good day at CB and nice to climb with Nick again. Must do this more often. Next ‘American Dream’ ­čÖé

 

The new improved moving belay….

6th April 2015

Carn Barra

Weasle – VS 4c – Lead
Sea Fox – HS 4b – Second
Rapido – E1 5a – TR

When you anchor yourself in at the top of a climb the most reassuring aspect is the ‘imouveable’ feeling of the rock around you. There again, you can find yourself in among a heap of large fairly unstable boulders which you can re arrange to construct a sort of bespoke belay. “I think I’ll have a rock here” and “actually that boulder might be better at this angle”.

View back across Carn Barra

View back across Carn Barra

The stack above Rapido and Sea Fox was just this kind of jumble. Safe, but slightly disconserting when a 2 ton boulder moves around a bit.

Dave on Weasle

Dave on Weasle

My list above doesnt include two very steep routes which Joe and Tom spent the day on. Mean Street a hard E4 and Sunny Corner Lane and equally hard E3. Probably too much for me and Dave, but after their recent training regime, Tom and Joe tackled them with relish.

The traverse into the Southern Area

The traverse into the Southern Area

Dave and I went exploring down the South end of Carn Barra. I’d always intended to repeat Weasle and the distant memory of exposed commiting moves past the overhung corners soon came flooding back. This really is a totally underated route. For VS it is very good value, probably being nearer 5a and def close to HVS. The excellent pro probably makes it VS but dont let this fool you. It’s still scary…

Top moves of Sea Fox

Top moves of Sea Fox

So returning to the platform we set off on a fun sea level traverse with the small waves washing around our feet. A quick chimney above a rock pool led to a hidden area and Sea Fox. This follows two steep 90 degree corners, needing a fair amount of lay backing and trusting your feet. It is a bit crunchy at the top, but otherwise is a great climb. It probably needs more traffic to tidy it up.

Rapido - Follows the right hand arete

Rapido – Follows the right hand arete

Rapido is a technical E1. Not strenous or pumpy it has a couple of balancey moves around 5a. The reason it is given E1 is because the first pro of any value is at half height and although the flake provides placements I’m not sure I’d trust them. This is why we top roped it! It is one that I know I could lead fairly easily, but its one I never will (because I dont want to die). The slightly unreliable holds adds the final dimension to a good but lethal route.

Carn Barra continues to deliver. Maybe next time I’ll get on Illustrated Man and tick that one. Who knows.

 

Crock Fest

31st October 2014
Carn Barra
Edge Street – VS 4c – Lead

This was a long awaited return for both Dave and Pete to the group, having spent the last weeks recouperating from ripped tendons/ligaments and a broken ankle respectively.

Rough Seas at Black Carn North

Rough Seas at Black Carn North

We spent a couple of hours checking out Black Carn North which shows loads of promise but was a bit exposed and damp on this day. We spotted three good routes and an E2 which looks tough but do-able.

Looking across at Carn Barra

Looking across at Carn Barra

Retreating to the upper cliffs of Carn Barra turned out to be a good call. A little less exposed and Edge Street was very worthwhile. A technical first pitch leads to a run out second. The arete is very bold if followed religously, but I veered off left to place some pro before returning for the final exposed moves.

Dave enjoying Edge Street

Dave enjoying Edge Street

Dave finished it off with a strenuous final pitch involving a a bouldery move to get established on the face. Tom and Pete meanwhile were engaged in a sort of jigsaw climb where they pieced together pitches from at least three routes into what looked like a reall good climb.

A fun and welcome return to climbing for all of us.

 

 

Seal Dogging

8th February 2013

Carn Barra (Carn Barra)

Super Crack – VS 4c – Lead
Angel City – Severe 4b – Lead

It had been a few weeks since our little band of climbers had been out on the cliffs so to say we were a bit excitable was an understatement. Choice of venue came down to getting out of the northerly wind and the midday high tide – Carn Barra fitted the bill and the Upper Tier was an area we hadnt yet explored. Turned out to be a good decision.

The Cornish Sea Cliffs are just starting to come alive with spring. Lots of new green shoots, a bye product of all this rain. Even the Seals were getting amorous in the surf below us.

The Upper Tier at Carn Barra is reminiscent of Bosi. Perched above the main area it doesnt take long before ou get a real sense of height and exposure. Its a bit gritty, probably from lack of climbers and you have to be wary of brittle holds in places, but on the whole its top stuff.

Dave sets the belay scene.

Tom and Chris were the first to do battle. Tom on the excellent Chicken Head Crack, a V Diff which travels up to the right of Great Central Chimney and Chris on Super Crack, the aptly named route to the left of GCC.

Super Crack was a real surprise. The first pitch looked a bit disjointed but turned out to be really tricky. Fingery wall climbing becomes a groove/crack which is difficult to get established in. Some testing moves here leads to a ledge below the start of the second pitch.

Pete entering the tricky groove/crack on pitch one of Super Crack

From here you get a grandstand view of the top crack which is as good as it looks. I found it tough, but with a two month layoff ┬áthis shouldnt have been unexpected. Really sustained and exposed. It’s just brilliant. Pete found it a good early season test as well, a proper bicep buster, especially negotiating the early overhang.

Tom and Dave made short work of their route, a statement of intent for the rest of the year I think with both of them leading confidently. Thats why they went looking for something a bit more challenging and ended up on Taurus the Second. Despite snapping holds and a run out at the top of the tower, they both seemed to enjoy this one. One I now have marked down for the future.

Tom at the top of Chicken Head Crack

Chris, Pete and I randomly chose Angel City, mainly cos we were a bit cold. Turned out to be the right choice. I led the first pitch in what was a reversal of SC. The first pitch would be very bold for a Severe if led as per the guide. There is a dirty crack on the left but more importantly the face is fingery and difficult. I used the corner to balance things out and it felt more reasonable.

Pitch two was the main event though. The huge Sharks Fin of rock dominates the face, but the route actually follows the crack leading right up the wall. However its hard to ignore the lump of rock when you’re on the route as its so tempting to climb. As a belayer its hard to ignore the fact you are stood underneath a mass of rock that has no right to still be attached to the cliff. It looks completely undercut and precarious. So Pete and I moved the belay around the corner like the cowards we are. At least Chris would be on top of the block if it came off.

Chris testing out the fin on Angel City

As the sun set we wandered away feeling pleased with ourselves. A good start to 2013 and the discovery of a venue we’ll be back at shortly.

On a yellow rope and a prayer

22nd August 2012

Carn Barra

Socket Wall – Severe 4b – Lead
Crack in the Sky – E1 5b – Lead
Exodus – VS 5a – Lead

Carn Barra was our second choice of venue, from the ‘cant make a decision crew’ in the van (Tom, Dave, Chris and Pete) but as it turned out it was the right one. With a quickly dropping tide and a small swell the main platform of CB was dry and we had access to some classic routes.

Socket Wall

Socket Wall was dry and we paired up to tackle two quite tough routes, Socket Wall and Cumbelloe. Both have physical starts and although the pro is decent neither are pushovers at the grade. They turned out to be good warm up routes for what was to come.

Chris moving up Cumbeloe HS 4b

The main event for me was an attempt at Crack in the Sky. I’d been meaning to have a go at another E1 and this was a route I’d had my eye on for some time. A difficult corner leads to a ledge and then comes the strenuous stuff. At first you cant see the holds, but once you’ve committed up onto the face the holds are there.

Pete finds the wobbly chock stone

Thank god for arm bars!

When you reach the crack the jamming starts. Arm bars and fist jams help and there are some hidden edges in the crack but ultimately it is a power struggle and you need to keep going and use your feet as much as possible. I just made it with nothing left in the tank and a real sick feeling from the adrenaline rush. Amazing! One of the best climbs I’ve ever done just because of the effort it took to get to the top. Pete, after a little hesitation got stuck into CITS. The look on his face and Chris’s for that matter rivalled my own when they topped out. That top crack is great, matched equally by their smiles.

Pete fighting with the upper crack on Crack in the Sky

Meanwhile Dave and Tom were knocking off a few routes of their own. Peel Crack and Sleazy Corner to be precise. Two good V Diffs, especially Peel Crack which is atmospheric in its upper section. Both of them are growing in confidence each trip out.

Dave and Tom on Sleazy Corner a hard Difficult or V Diff in other words

 

A well earned lunch left just enough time for a quick assault on Axis and Exodus two VS’s on the higher Eastern platform. I went for Exodus which takes a line similar to Axis but branches off rightwards along a horizontal break. The traverse is great fun but there is a really tricky move up into the steep niche/crack and then another to reach the steeper ground. But its a really good climb as long as you avoid the rope drag and keep in touch with your belayer. Tom did a good job listening out for my jittery shouts, especially when my left hand cramped up due to a distinct lack of salt in my system.

Tom belaying on the Axis ledge

This whole event was capped off when Dave came up on his own because of time. Tom shimmied up Axis and Dave kept asking me to take in on blue. Typical of Sea cliffs, comms are not easy with the roar of the sea and wind. This would explain Daves suprise when I gleefully informed him that he was only on Yellow so what was the point of taking in Blue. Fortunately Dave had tied in on yellow and was past the unprotected traverse by then (all the pro was on blue). He would’nt have decked, but the swing would have been a long one!

God I love climbing.

The sound of thunder

9th March 2012

Carn Barra
Niche Wall – Hard Severe 4b – Lead

The bloody BBC weather site has been shocking recently. I dont know whats going on, but they used to be pretty accurate and now they are way off the mark. Today was meant to be bright, with light Westerly winds. Drizzly with gusty Southerly winds is what we got.

Abseil ledge above the Southern Platform

To be fair the drizzle didnt last long, but the wind direction meant another abortive attempt on Fox Promontory. Carn Barra was a lot more sheltered and Niche Wall was an obvious choice for me.

Tom negotiating the tough groove on Niche Wall

For a Hard Severe, Niche Wall is quite intimidating. I didnt help that the 8ft swell had soaked the lower section, which was not easy to protect. The guide book seemed to suggest tracking rightwards, where the holds seemed better, but they also seemed wetter.

Me on Niche Wall

I trended left and found pro tricky to place and not as re assuring as it could have been. That said, as soon as I hit the ledge the rock became drier and the whole nature of the climb changed. From here on it was great varied climbing, with a little sting in the tail if you finished more directly, which I did.

Rope Management?????

Top climb really and Pete and Tom seemed to concur, even if Pete managed to leave one of my cams in place so that I could have another go at climbing it.

Clearing the hard lower cracks on Dialectic

Pete digging into his energy reserves

We moved back to the gearing up ledge tyo the sound of thumping waves. With the tide pushing hard, only the Dialectic platform was out of range so Tom and Pete had a go at Dialectic. This had the desired effect as it raised the difficulty level substantially and introduced them to the steeper elements of Carn Barra.

Pete pushing on Dialectic

Tom on Dialectic

Both made it up, Tom cleaning it first attempt. Pete had the added thrill of exploding surf which was sending spray up to the height of his head. Considering he was over half way up the climb this was impressive!

Pete thanks Tom for his encouragement

The rugged and intimidating atmosphere of the Cornish coast made this a memorable day and reminded me of the power of the ocean. The many faces of Cornish sea cliffs had shown us another mood. Brilliant.

 

Two of a kind

28th October 2011
Carn Barra
Weasle – VS 4c – Lead
Axis – VS 5a – Lead

A glorious Friday provided a perfect setting for a trip to Carn Barra. I thought I’d go for a couple of stiff VS’s having seen how well Tom and Dave climbed on our last outing to Pordenack Point.

The ab in

This turned out to be a good and bad decision. I wanted to lead both, but adding the extra dimension of seconding and removing gear is a lot tougher than maybe I’d factored in. Carn Barra is a stunning setting. Golden granite and solitude are typical and the quality fo climbs is second to none.

Weasle

Weasle

Weasle is a low tide, low swell climb. Rising from right to left its two main features are overhangs which have to be negotiated with exposed and slightly wild moves out onto the face. Its a brilliant strenuous route and has risen to one of my favorite. Negotiating the first overhang is a bit heart in mouth until you find the better holds – its well protected but is exposed enough to get the heart pumping.

Tom on Weasle

Dave on Weasle

The top crack is brilliant. I did the left hand variation which is a little harder but more fun and continues the line of the main crack. Because of the angle of the crack, footwork plays a big part and some of the moves can be a bit baffling. Despite a short spell of confusion on the second overhang, Tom worked it out and negotiated the top wall. For Dave, unfortunately a stuck chock (which is still there) , put paid to a clean ascent as he spent a considerable amount of time trying to get it out and in doing so blew his arms. In the end he pushed himself to finish on spent muscles and no grip. A great effort.

Axis - the bit I didnt make

Axis extends the strenuous nature of Weasle, but is steeper. The short bottom wall is difficult and not really protectable. With my knee I decided to give it a miss and solo’d up the first part of Dialectic. As it turned out I too ran out of steam on this one. The crack was a bit wet and short slip half way up cost me the onsite. It also caused me to faf around for 5 minutes trying to put in gear when the correct choice was to move on. I’m going to come back soon and complete the climb in full, bottom wall and all.

Dave on Axis

 

Ian on Axis

Both Tom and Dave clearly found this one easier than Weasle, because they both cleaned it – although I had to ab down to retrieve some left gear. Still it gave me another opportunity to climb the crack again which I did. By this time we were rapidly running out of daylight so a nice slow walk back along the stunningly beautiful and quiet coastpath capped off a great day out.

Packing up

 

Carn Barra Shadow

Going through my red phase

4th March 2011

Carn Barra

Peel Crack – V Diff – Lead
Illustrated Man – E2 5C – TR
Dialectic – E1 5B – TR

I’ve been to Carn Barra twice and both times it tipped it down with rain… so arriving with a bit of mist and low cloud was a vast improvement. The fact Chris and I had managed to drive our way out of the blazing sunshine was not worth dwelling on even though it had taken a degree of skill to find the only cloudy place in Cornwall on this day.

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The first hour was spent getting our bearings. We dropped down way too far South and had to walk back (fortunately it was low tide). Still, it gave us the oppportunity to check out classics such as Grand Plage and Crack in the Sky. The latter is a climb I would like to try. It looks like it could suite my climbing, but the proof will be in the tasting. For this day it was the take it easy approach, so we warmed up on Peel Crack.

Carn-Barra_Mar11-002-c

Described as HVD in the guide I would suggest it is about right at this grade. It is a proper crack climb and and deserves stars being exposed and highly enjoyable. It definitely put a smile on Chris and my face.

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So what next. Obviously a jump to E grade climbes but I was not confident to try them on the lead at this stage in the year. In hindsight I would probably have managed Dialectic (easy to say that in hindsight) but just focusing on climbing made the whole experience that much more relaxed. Chris made a good job of Dialectic. Impressive considering this was his first outing this year. Dialectic has a tough section just after the large ledge which takes a bit of thought and some balance to negotiate. All in all one that I will lead this year for sure and it looks well protected.

Carn-Barra_Mar11-010Carn-Barra_Mar11-Dialectic

Illustrated man was harder. I’ve not done many E2’s and this one stood out as a truly great climb though. One day I aspire to be able to lead a route like this. For now just getting upit clean was my victory. Hard work, but I think it suited me with lots of levers and rock overs.

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A great day out and the sun finally caught up with us. Oh yes…. I think I’m over red. Maybe I’ll go back to black.

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