Tag Archives: HVS

Keeping up Empire

31st August 2018

Predannack Head – Pedn Clifton South

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

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

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

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

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

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

True Grit?

26th July 2018

Bashers Harbour

Cave Buttress – HS 4b/HVS 5a – Lead
Mince Pie Problem – V Diff – Second

Obviously the lack of traffic on this crag plays a part. In the Cave Buttress area the rock is actually quite sound (in contrast to the piles of rubble lying in the sea elsewhere), but it has a grittiness to it probably derived from too few climbers.

Cave Buttress is given HS 4b on UKC but in the guidebook it gets HVS 5a. The guidebook is the more realistic grade. The crux is a powerful move from an undercling with a long reach. Although the gear is OK you leave it below as you make the moves so a fall is going to result in a bit of a whipper. It is definitely easier for the taller.

The VS Dave had been looking at (Cave Groove Direct) has suffered from a rockfall in its lower section. Its probably still do-able but the fresh rock looks a bit brittle and I cant say it looks attractive. The Severe next to it which Dave top-ropped does look good if a bit bold. It seems unlikely at the grade but dave found it OK if a little gritty.

Mince Pie Problem, which I’d already done was just as good the second time around. Its not easy, with a few tricky moves in the lower section, but in all its good climbing working your way up a corner and using all faces.

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.

We’re going to a Bear Hug

29th April 2017

Pendower Coves

Pendower Grooves – VS 4c – Lead
The Cut – Severe 4a – Second
Pendower Direct – HVS 5a – Lead (dnf)
Time Tavern – VS 4c – Alt Lead

What an amazing location! And a top find on a day when nesting birds killed our initial objective of Excalibur at Carn Les Boel.

I think the reason I picked out Pendower was because there was very little info on it. Seldom (if ever) climbed I wondered weather it would be worth seeking out.

Pendower Buttress

The guidebooks hammer the point about environmental conservation and protecting the cliff edges so Dave and I made sure we avoided the plant life and did litle to disturb the wildlife. The Choughs were nesting in the square cut cave about 300 metres further West, but nothing appeared to be nesting in this area, although there were signs a Peregrine had been operating in the area with a number of feather piles and carcasses. But no nesting Peregrines in our area that we could see.

Belay on Pendower Grooves

We abbed into an amazing location. A boulder beach, quiet, relote and just stunning. The crag itself is excellent. The rock is crunchy in places, but this is more than made up for by the positive nature. No polish here. Just sharp edges, solid foot placements and holds which are easy to hold (once the loose crystals have fallen off 🙂 ).

Pendower Grooves is a class VS. We did it in one pitch. The bottom groove felt hardest to me, possibly because of the wave wash, but maybe because the first ascensionist was good at grooves. Who knows. Anyway, from then on it was just a joy to climb. Great moves, outrageous exposure and a bit of everything- feet free, traverses, laybacks and jams.

Being chased by the tide

Dave did a variation of this which tackled it straight up from the beach. This way you get to chomney and bridge as well. Who could complain. A quick lunch and we were back down racing the tide to get on the HVS Pendower Direct.

Joe and Tom silouetted

Now in my opinion this seemed a bit of a sandbag, but to be fair the situation we found ourselves in could have been part of the issue. The tide chased us up onto the face so Dave ended up below me when I was making a tough move. Had I fallen it would have been bad for both of us. This coupled with the fact the move was hard and bold, the pro suspect and the remainder of the face looked nails we bailed after I had fallen off a couple of times.

Stunningly beautiful

Instead I went up Time Tavern (we didnt know this at the time), with Dave finishing off in an overhanging flake/groove which was very crunchy and friable. A very good lead for this top section imo. And so ended a great adventure and a minor epic. Its what climbing days are made of and why we do it I think.

What is for certain is that I will be back to do a few more of these class routes.

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.

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.

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?

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…

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?

To HVS or not to HVS

24th May 2016

Kellan Head (Upper Buttress)

Un-Named – HVS 5a – Lead
Mach 3 – HVS 5a – Lead
Ink and Ointment – E1 – Second

The upper buttress is a brilliant evening location. Fairly easy to walk into, non tidal and relatively close to Newquay (relatively…).

The rock though is not the best and the climbs are fairly short. That said, this particular venture was perfect and we successfully got three good climbs in.

What I would say is that the climbs as a whole are over-graded. Take one technical grade off for a more realistic indication. The severity part is probably not too far off on Un-Named because of the poor rock quality, but again for the other two, they are well protected so maybe one grade lower here too.

That said, they are still worthwhile climbs. Un-Named heads up the crack and face of the main slab and although not hard, is insecure and requires care. Both the others are one move wonders, but they are good moves that require a bit of thought. Tom’s E1 was tricky to start and probably the most technical of the three, but again, once through the hard part it finished quickly. Mach 3 actually looks harder than it is. Get your body shape right and its a breeze…

I’ve nearly climbed this venue out in two visits. There are still three more routes to grab, so no doubt this will be another visit when the tides are all wrong.