Tag Archives: Carn Gowla

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.

 

 

Bunny Power

8th June 2016

Carn Gowla

Silver Dollar – HVS 5a – Alt Lead

Well there’s a few lessons to be learned from this climb. When guidebooks refer to Carn Gowla, they are basically using a different form of climbing dictionary..

‘Generally good rock’ = ‘Some holds may remain attached to the cliff”

‘Reliable protection’ = ‘Placements will only explode after you load them’

‘Good holds’ = ‘They may break and you will plunge to your doom’

‘exhilarating climbing’ = ‘You’re going to die’

I base this upon the adventure Dave and I had tackling Silver Dollar and fantastic, if mentally draining climb on the Baptist Cliff. The abseil in sets the tone for the adventure. A long drop down a V groove which involves free descending for a way. Then having arrived at a ramp in an amazingly beautiful but overwhelming section of coast you traverse across to a large cave and the start of the climb.

The ab in

The ab in

From the bottom it looks intimidating.  Once on it, it becomes a mental game of you vs the unreliable rock. I had the honours for the first pitch which climbs slightly rightward, angling over the cave initially and then cutting back to finish under the silver dollar.

The view down towards Mercury

The view down towards Mercury

The climbing is great, forcing shapes and moves, but none too hard. The pro is spaced and only just adequate. Of all the pieces I placed I would probably only have really trusted 3 to definitely hold.

Pitch 1 Silver Dollar

Pitch 1 Silver Dollar

However, the cliff forces you into a level of concentration you normally dont have to create. Move delicately, test each hold and foot placement and work your way up into a magnificently exposed part of Gowla. So good and so terrifying at the same time.

1st Belay

1st Belay

Dave set off from my only just adequate belay and moved up and around the Silver Dollar. We used the Pat Littlejohn guide and I think the route diagram is wrong in this book. It stay too far right of the dollar. The climbers club book is more accurate. As a result Dave ended up on the upper reaches of Castaway, an E1 variation. This was still brilliant climbing but was definitely more 5a than 4c and more E1 than HVS for pro. Still Dave handled it well and reached the second belay, which was effectively a pile of tottering choss. It was in keeping with the final 10 metre scramble across mounds of earth, grass tussocks, loose gravel and paper thin flakes of rock.

Dave on p2 of Silver Dollar

Dave on p2 of Silver Dollar

As I crawled over the edge onto the grass above I have never been so relieved to grad a Rabbit Burrow, which was the best hold I encountered during the whole of the last pitch. Next time, we will be placing a pre placed rope for the final section. God it was awful!

Breaking onto the grass

Breaking onto the grass

The evening’s end though was not. A setting sun, warm breeze and massive amounts of contentment and self congratulations capped of another Gowla epic. Will this place ever stop scaring me?

This takes the biscuit..ist

23rd March 2016

Carn Gowla

Sluice – HVS 5a – Lead 

Well this was good for a leg workout. I decided to take the right hand buttress down from the Coastguard lookout in the mistaken belief I could get to Sluice from the ‘Crystal’ section of crag. All this got me was a long walk back out with a full pack so I could drop down the other side.

The waves always create the mood on any climbing day

The waves always create the mood on any climbing day

Then of course I lobbed my belay device into the sea (wouldnt be the same if I didnt sacrifice gear at Carn Gowla) so had to haul another one up just to ab in. Not an auspicious start. But it did get a lot better.

A slab like biscuit

A slab like biscuit

I arrived a bit late to find Joe on something rediculously hard and overhanging. Desire an E2 5c with a wicked strenuous crack. Nothing new there then! After sorting out a lack of a second rope, Dave and I finally got started on Sluice a strange but enjoyable HVS on the corner of the buttress. With a good swell running the whole area was pretty dramatic and Sluice added some spice being crumbly and unreliable on the hold front.

Dave nearing the top of the upper slab on Sluice

Dave nearing the top of the upper slab on Sluice

There is a short but slightly bold start which leads to a couple of ‘bomber??’ threads. Then you move up and over the overhang onto the upper slab. Its a great exposed move onto some thin foot flakes. Tread lightly as they dont take much to break as Dave found out. Then a final nervous sequence up the wall on good but strange and sharp holds. I didnt want to load them son spent most of my time getting my feet right. For our first evening out this was great fun and hopefully lots more Gowla adventures to come.

Carn Growlerrrrr

Carn Growlerrrrr

I might even go back and try Desire one day if I’m feeling particularly strong 🙂

Into the gloaming

9th July 2015

Carn Gowla – America Buttress

Deceleration Lane – VS 4c – Alt Lead

The fact that Dave and I had arranged to meet at 6 pm should have rung a few alarm bells, especially on a trip to Carn Gowla. A route we’d not done; had no idea where the ab spot was or how difficult it was. Only two entries in UKC and both of them a while back.

A rare view

A rare view

Still, it was Dave who found the ab point. Left to me we would have been into some serious E stuff and probably prussiking out. And the ab was long too! Very scary, especially when it is into the unknown and only one way out. On the descent I noticed that the route was abit run out but it looked good climbing. Mind you the white blocks at the bottom and the green shit seeping out of the rocks made the first few metres a bit unpleasant.

Dont step in the guano

Dont step in the guano

Dave conceded the lead of the first pitch to me (many thanks) and it was off on a great adventure. A disgustingly smelly corner leads to a run out slab, in turn to overhangs and finally an amazing (although very dodgy looking) flake crack to finish on. Wild positions, wild atmosphere and all the beauty of Gowla thrown in. Very magical with an amazing setting sun as the backdrop.

Dave starting the flake

Dave starting the flake

Dave was clearly enjoying himself when he arrived at the flake with that wild Gowla look in his eyes. Gowla does that to you. Its a sort of a ‘thank God, we’re still alive’ look. Mind you with the light fading fast he didnt have time to reflect.

Dave looking good on Deceleration Lane

Dave looking good on Deceleration Lane

The second pitch is a bit of a mare. It looks like you can go straight up off the slab. Uhhmm… no. Dave tried that. No gear; teetering rock and plenty of grass made him decide to traverse up right facing in. This led around a corner to an equally tricky step up. Added in was the potential for a hideous Gordian Knot in the ropes so Dave belayed and I came around to do the final bit.

Looking North

Looking North

At this point the light was gone and we were in the gloaming. Head Torches on and gear stuffed haphazardly into our bags, we mooched off, with me having an interesting conversation with Chris on the mobile. It was nearly 11pm!

This one will be seared into my brain for a while I think.

Scarred!

9th September 2014
Carn Gowla

Fine Line – V Diff – Second

The intention had been to find ‘Cave Wall Traverse’, described as isolated in the cc book. It turned out to be not just isolated but illusive as well.

Looking across at Indian Buttress - Line of Indian Country

Looking across at Indian Buttress – Line of Indian Country

Having been down to South C Walls on a previous occasion and experienced the nightmare of being caught out on an exposed , loose and very steep descent I fortunately knew about the hidden entry point to the gully. This is still a bit loose but considerably more amenable than the alternative.( Remember to head out towards the seaward face and then double back into the gully)

Nick and I stared at where the traverse should have been but it gradually became obvious that there has been a large landslip here. It’s hard to say from where we were stood, but the climbing looked considerably harder than HS (the guidebook grade). It lookslike there is a route there, but the description in the guidebook didnt match the face we were looking at. Because it was fairly late, neither of us fancied getting stuck in some hopeless position on the face and then being be-nighted.

A good line up to the shear

A good line up to the shear

The scar on the Traverse

The scar on the Traverse

So it was off around the corner to South C Walls. Its a great hidden area, with a useful platform and some good climbs. Nick chose Fine Line and it proved to be true. It looks good from below and the climbing is engaging and exposed. The rock as with the other routes here, is a bit suspect in places, but not enough to ruin a great outing.

With the good weather going on and on, you have to wonder how long we’ll get Gowla this year. At the moment its more likely to be light that stops play.

Stakes are high

31st July 2014

Carn Gowla

Supernatural – VS 4b – Second

Dave and I decided to grab a late climb at Gowla. Initially we’d thought about Silver Dollar, but with a brooding sky and the possibilty of rain we felt 2 pitches could be pushing it.

I knew how Dave would be feeling as we abbed in. The cliff here is intimidating and given the conditions it felt bang on for a Gowla epic. As it happened Dave thoroughly enjoyed the climbing after anervous start. The crack is way harder than 4b and its sustained in places. The whole venue pushes the route into HVS territory. A VS leader embarking on this one would have a rude awakening.

The loose top out provided the most nervous part as usual, but we couldnt help but realise we’d stolen a march on the weather to get this one in.

Interplanetary travel

13th July 2013

Carn Gowla

Mercury – E2 5b – Alt Lead

Guaranteed adventure. That’s what Gowla always promises and that’s exactly what it delivered on this day and by the bucketful.

P1000689

This had been a long sought after route for Nick, especially as he started it a few years back but had to abandon the top pitch because of the damp.  So on a glorious morning we set off to complete the mission.

Half of the difficulty in tackling Mercury is in the preparation. You need a pre placed belay rope because of the loose nature of the top out. This has to be positioned above the main slab. However you also need an ab rope which is positioned across to the right facing out. This requires an 80m odd diagonal descent to reach the starting ledge.

Preparing to Ab. Nerves jangling

Preparing to Ab. Nerves jangling

So it was some last minute skills training for me in how to pass a knot. To be fair I love all of this. It’s part of the overall event of climbing a route like Mercury. But what it does do is add to the nerves. Mercury is a serious route. Probably not the most technically difficult route, but the difficulty level is high because of all the paraphernalia that accompanies it.

Pitch 1 Mercury

Pitch 1 Mercury

The first pitch strikes up the corner crack aiming for a very convenient ledge at half height. A series of jamming and bridging moves gets you to the offwidth crack. This stopped me dead in my tracks. To be fair I initially didnt have a clue how I was going to get up it. A few nervous giggles later I launched into a series of udge’s and grunts (technical lingo) that enabled me to gain enough height to take advantage of a convenient foot placement and the placing of a ‘thank God’ cam in a small undercut. Dutch courage restored I gave it everything to pull up through to the flake making it by the skin of my teeth. How satisfying was that!

View from the crux offwidth having made it halfway. Little cam in!!

View from the crux offwidth having made it halfway. Little cam in!!

My work done I relaxed on the ledge as Nick came up choosing to completely reverse my technique facing left rather than right. It worked though and we both contemplated pitch two from the ledge.

The pre requisit pose before starting on the bold Pitch 2 of Mercury

The pre requisit pose before starting on the bold Pitch 2 of Mercury

Woo Hwoo. Pitch two is a different proposition completely. It didnt help that we’d left the guidebook behind and the line is not obvious. Nick set about making it ten times as difficult as it should be. Bloody show off! Commiting to a really thin traverse across to a dubious looking peg in the middle of the upper face I muttered encouragement. 25ft out with no gear, the peg decided to fall off as Nick clearly looked at it too harshly. Three rubbish bits of gear later Nick set off up the head wall finding little else in the way of protection and finally deciding to traverse back left a put some gear in the top of the original groove.

Nick out there.

Nick out there.

As it turned out this is where he should have started the traverse, but Nick clearly wanted to the crux moves at least three times to get full satisfaction out of the climb. It was an amazing effort in my opinion. Having made the same set of moves a bit later I know I wouldnt have been able to keep my head together.

The tricky and crumbly traverse

The tricky and crumbly traverse

In the end though it all turned out well with loads of whoops accompanying the completion of a really memorable route, probably the high point of my climbing so far in terms of an overall accomplishment and a fantastic day out at Gowla.

I’ve done Mercury for God’s sake!!!!

Indian Spring

30th April 2013

Carn Gowla
Indian Buttress

Touch the Earth – VS 4b – Lead

The first evening session of 2013 saw us explore a new buttress at Carn Gowla. Indian Buttress is the furthest south of the major Gowla venues, but offers some great climbing.

Finding your bearings is a touch difficult  though as we discovered. We abbed in down the obvious V groove in the west face but the descriptions in the guide are not easy to follow. It refers to a sea level ledge but to be fair the main ledge is well above sea level.

 

Joe on an ominous Touch the Earth

Joe on an ominous Touch the Earth

Still once we did establish things the climbs proved worthwhile (at least for me as I am a Gowla apologist unlike my compadre’s). I find the climbing here enthralling. Yes the rock can be suspect (like biscuit or razorblades depending what bit your on) and the pro barely adequate at times; it’s sharp, forbidding and exposed and belays are a nightmare; most climbs involve abbing in and the sea slamming into the cliffs offers a further dimension. For me this adds up to excitement and of all the venues we climb at, Gowla is the most adventurous. Clearly my colleagues dont see it that way as the evening was punctuated with curses and threats to never return.

Plenty of holds but how solid are they?

Plenty of holds but how solid are they?

Touch the Earth is deceptive. From below it is innocuous, but once you step out onto the face it brims with exposure and the holds are positive and solid. The finale is a steep slab where pro becomes less obvious but holds get better. Not sure it is VS; the lack of pro in the upper section may be why this grade is proposed, but Joeand I agreed it is well worth the two stars it gets in the guide.

Swirling seas below Red Cloud

Swirling seas below Red Cloud

Meanwhile Chris led Red Cloud a severe following an obvious crack to the right of the decent slab. This looked ood but I was advised is very sharp. Tom managed to break a few foot placements so maybe the grade will get harder the more it is climbed. I intend to try this one the next time out.

I now have my eye on some routes on the Sewerage Wall area, but it looks like I may have to rely on Pete for company on my next visit unless I want a mutiny.

Old Guns!

29th May 2012

Carn Gowla – Triple Buttress

Rainbow Games – TR
Four for Texas – TR

I thought that with the dry conditions of recent weeks an inaugeral trip to Carn Gowla for our little group was in order. It turned out to be a good call with perfect conditions.

The perfect Evening

To keep up the momentum of recent weeks, we set up for some top roping. Time to just climb hard and enjoy it without the hard work and mental stress of leading. Mind you, Carn Gowla is intimidating in its own right and coming face to face with the overhanging Buttress C sobered everyone up quickly.

Chris tackling the tricky start on Rainbow Games

By the end of the session though everyone had got some good strenuous routes done and given the jump in grade it was a good effort. Both climbs are slightly overhanging and both have tricky starts.

Dave low down on Rainbow Games

But once going the climbing is strenuous but fun. The hardest part is setting up the belay on rock your never quite sure about.

Ian on FFT

Having climbed Rainbow Games for the second time and intend to go back shortly and lead it. It suites my style of climbing perfectly, and whilst not being an onsite it would make a great first E2 lead.

A hidden gem

5th August 2011
Carn Gowla – Coastguard Cliff 
Supernatural – VS 4b – Lead

For some strange reason the guidebook gives Supernatural 1 star…… How wrong could they be. This is a 3 star climb with bells on!

Carn Gowla is a scary place and as you drop down the grassy slope towards Coastguard Cliff and the sea, there is a feeling that you’re going to just go of the edge. Add to this the sudden holes and Joe’s pre occupation with snakes in the grass and the whole experience becomes nervy. You havnt a clue what is coming up. You start to hear things before you see them.

Supernatural

The two belay spikes mark the spot and Joe and I set to work rigging the ab rope for what is a tricky descent to a hanging belay. We decided to set up above the new ledge. The old one has broken off from what i have been told. By setting up higher you can get gear in the crack which means your not just hanging on the ab rope. It makes for some interesting rope work in a dramatic and atmospheric setting with the sea crashing just below. There was a good swell running on this day and the entire experience was one of excitment.

SupernaturalSupernatural

If you wanted an example of a perfect crack climb Supernatural would be it. Its like a lightning strike down the entire height of the cliff. Well protected, it makes you work hard from beginning to end. There are a couple of sections I would give 4c and the location and seriousness of the climb I reckon probably adds a grade to it. However its one of the best I’ve ever done. The whole package adds up to a great experience and one Joe and I found brilliant. The climbing just brings the best out of you with a combination of small edges, laybacks and jams.

Supernatural

Trying to keep the smiles off our faces we headed for the Triple Butress area for a play on the E grades their (on a top rope I might add). We had intended on Journey to Ixtlan, but this will have to wait for another day. The star of the show however was Supernatural. A hidden gem on the North Coast.

This creature did its best to steal a bit of the limelight. Some amazing colours to be found on the cliffs!

Carn Gowla