Losing Mementom

14th May 2021
Black Carn South

Memento/London Bridge Combo – VS 4c – Lead Onsight
Chico – HS 4b – Second
Zeppo – VS 4c – Lead

Last time at CBS Chris and I got terribly lost. I knew from the guide book that there were plenty of mid grade routes, but we didnt seem to find them. So we returned intending to get our bearings and get on a few of them.

The ab in

Well, getting our bearings using the guide book descriptions wasnt easy. For some mad reason the guide just ignores the blatently obvious features of the crag and does the usual ‘ to the left of the rounded arete’ or ‘just right of the obvious crack’. Well what about the fucking obvious massive chimney, or the huge jammed boulder or even better the startling diagonal quartz vein that slices through the top of the buttress.

Christ they make it hard. Even when we did find the routes, the descriptions still didnt tally properly. At least not in a clear way. So I’ve added some topos here which might help us if we go again in the future.

Topo as far as we could make out???

The described line for Memento looks highly unlikely at VS and I didnt go near it. 6 metres of unprotected tricky climbing doesnt seem in keeping with the grade. Two alternatives look better. Continue up a further two metres and go left at a horizontal break which may provide pro or go up the left hand side of the chimnet (again looks quite tough) but there are places for nuts/small cams. Then go right at the large ledge below the trapped boulders.

Chris on the top section of Memento

My combo was entertaining and the top part is nice climbing. The bottom is gritty and fragile but this is in keeping with many of the routes.

Chico and Zeppo were similar in difficulties. Harder at the starts and then pleasant climbing. But both are short and divided by a large ledge. Be aware that Zeppo now has a nice hold at the top thanks to the original rock fracturing and a large rock detaching. Fortunately not with me hanging on 🙂

Will return to do the harder routes once my fitness is fully back. But a nice venue to spend a day.


Nothing Leffe’d in the tank

Haytor
7th May 2021

Zig Zag – V Diff – Second
Aramis – VS 4c – Lead (Dogd)
Bridal Piton Slab – Diff – Second

The climb to Haytor

Haytor always brings its fair share of strain and adrenaline. There’s something about the place that catches me out every time I go. Slopers, rounded horizontal pancakes, deep jams and sometimes tenuous gear makes for an exciting day out. It is ssooo different from West Penwith and maybe thats why we always think the grades are hard. Mind you people say that about West Penwith as well, so maybe its a South West thing.

Chris on Zig Zag

Parking in the lower car park (cos its free) Haytor stands proud and certainly gets your calves and heart warmed up in the approach. It was meant to be calm and sunny conditions, but what we got was blustery and cold with the sun in and out all day. It didnt deter us though so Chris, Tom and I warmed up on Zig Zag.

Heading for the crux on Aramis

There you go, that was straight forward. A bit of effort on the overlap but otherwise alright. Whats all this nonsense about hard grades. So I picked out my usual V Diff to start on as well. Except of course my recent shenanigans with interpreting the guide book kicked in and I plopped myself on a VS mistakenly.

Aramis

I even knew it would be hard. Both Tom and Chris kept saying it didnt look VD Diff. On my third attempt to get through the crux I was kind of agreeing with them. What a beast Aramis is for someone who cant climb chimneys and who’s shit at cracks (even with my new Ocun crack gloves). Perversely I really enjoyed it. Shoulders pumped to buggery and energy levels drained I finally made the crux, a sort of contorted reverse hand layback move… my own invention methinks. And then carried on through to the end. One sit in the harness on my main attempt so not clean by any means, but fun.

Tom on Bridal Piton Slab

The whole climb is a combination of hand jams, arm bars and smearing with your feet. One I’ll try again on my next visit. Low Man proved too cold in the end so we abandoned this as an idea and settled for an easy Diff on the north face. Now I remember leading this back in the day with Bart and Tony H. Why they put me on this one I don’t know because its fucking scary. As Chris found out as he led it in Approach shoes. Good effort as far as I’m concerned. Slippy, with only side pulls and dodgy gear its a Diff to remember. We all broke right at about the mid point. Finishing direct pushes this route into silly territory. I did notice that a chicked head which I distinctly remember from my first ascent was no longer there which could account for why if feels so bold near the top now.

Three dudes on a ledge

That aside, the descent is just as harrowing. A mossy gully of certain death. Thank you to whoever left the tat to ab off. You are a saviour.

Toms surprise at the end of a great day was a bottle of Leffe each, so that we could mull over the ridiculousness of the grades and how much fun we had despite this. Even the Dartmoor Ranger and his guardians couldn’t alter this as they quized us on whether we were going to camp overnight. Good on them for keeping an eye on the moor.

My names Carter…. Tom Carter

Predennack Head
30th April 2021

Down Under, Up Top – VS 4c – Second
Aoetearoa – HS 4b – Second
Colonial Solidarity – Severe 4a – Lead
Boomerang – HVS 5a – Lead

Three always sounds like a problematic number when your climbing and if it involves multi-pitch routes I’d agree. But we’ve been finding three a good sociable number and todays shared adventure was a pleasure from start to finish.

Looking down Down Under zawn

I,ve spent a fair few weeks exploring Preddanck Head with Dave, but this was the first for Chris and although Tom’s been there a few times this was his first outing in Down Under Zawn. And for me, I had a couple of routes in mind, both of which were new. This early in the year I never quite know where I’m at with stamina and strength, so I knew Boomerang would be a test.

April in Cornwall is a special time of the year. The Gorse is in full flower, with its Coconut and Buttery flavour, Pink Campion is all around and everything just feels fresh. New beginnings. Its inspirational, which I’m sure spurs your overall sense of wellbeing along.

Chris on Aoetearoa. On the amazing flake.

So where to begin. I knew both Aoetearoa and Down Under, Up Top would be classics for Chris and Tom and despite having climbed them a few times I never tire of the routes. Chris is on form at the moment and sailed through both. The vid below time captures DUUT and gives an idea of how good the route is.

For me, I found a little gem in Colonial Solidarity. Although Severe it packs a punch. A burly opening move leads into a crack which provides great climbing. Steep and entertaining.

Tom working his way up Colonial Solidarity

But Boomerang was my main target. I had a feeling it might be a bit beefy for me and after a tricky scramble to get to the starting block, I looked up to have my beliefs confirmed. It was going to be beefy. From below you can see the curved line but it is obviously overhanging at the top crack. Gear looked good and with Crack Gloves on, I set off.

Chris psyching up for Boomerang…… or not!

Its one of those climbs where each time you think ‘This is it, I’m off’ another hold appears. Lots of hidden juggy rails and crimps. It was a case of keep moving and hope the stamina stays there. And it did 🙂 In the end it went well. No really desperate moments, and I always felt safe. A really good tick and a climb I can thoroughly recommend.

Cosy belay of Boomerang

The way off is by means of an abb with a rope thrown around a rock bollard. You conveniently arrive back in the zawn just above DUUP. So it would have been churlish for Chris not to have led it.

Toms home made crack gloves

What I can also say is that COVID seems to have had a devastating affect on the local pub population. Looking for somewhere for a pint on the way home proved difficult with pub after pub looking derelict and shut. Lets hope some of these get back going again.

Back to familiar ground

28th April 2021
Butter Hole

Lieve Tina – V Diff – Lead

Its been a while since I was at Butter Hole. Dave and I had spent many evenings here exploring and getting to know the lie of the land. This was more of a scouting trip, but we ended up on a cracking V Diff, which as seems in keeping with climbs recently, wasn’t really a V Diff.

It comes into Little Roberts top slab from the right facing in. It doesn’t look much, but there is a mantle onto a boulder just before the slab which is quite tough and I recon probably around 4a. It all seems a bit more than V Diff, but thats in keeping with the under grading at Butter Hole.

Gaining the top slab of Little Robert

Still a beautiful place. Tom has a stake which we will bring next time so that we can get into the climbs in the hidden amphitheatre.

The book thief

23rd April 2021
Hound Tor

Prowler – HVS 5a – Lead
It goes at about VDiff – V Diff – Lead
Paddy – Moderate – Solo

Looking across at Greater Rocks

Every time I go to Hound Tor its either freezing, wet, windy or all three. So how good was it that it was sunny and dry. A cold wind but not unbearable and it was possible to bask in sunshine if you were in the lee of the rocks.

I always find Dartmoor tough for the grade. I think its because it requires a different style of climbing to that needed on Penwith Granite. Slopers and friction for your feet are the order of the day and protection always seems to be spaced, but good.

Tom and I opened up on a V Diff with an appropriate name. A series of rock pancakes with some neat little moves. It definitely introduced us to the spirit of climbing at Hound Tor.

Prowler, the stepped crack with a left jink

Climb 2 was a bit tougher. Actually HVS which surprised me. Not because it was soft at the grade, but because I got up it! Prowler has a hard start and remains fairly strenuous until you hit the first break. Then there’s a chance to recoup before blasting away again at the top crack. I was more pleased with this because it was strenuous and I found my strength and stamina equal to it.

Paddy

Tom used Paddy as a means of getting his eye in on a lead (After we retrieved my guide book from the instructor who had mistakenly picked it up), although its a nice climb in its own right. Just watch the incredibly large moving boulders found at the top. And by the way the descent isn’t a push over. This would be something to keep in mind if a novice was topping out.

We finished off with a mooch to Greater Rocks. Looks like some good routes here and a fun little ridge traverse across the two stacks. Great fun.

Back towards the parking

So the drive in had been down narrow lanes coming in from the A30 north of Oakhampton. So we tried the Widecombe way. Guess what? Still narrow lanes. I think any cross Dartmoor route is likely to end up down little lanes so the A38 Newton Abbot journey is the fastest and least tortuous of all of them.

Black Slab Revisited

Bosigran Main Face
16th April 2021

Andrew – V Diff, Severe, VS3c+ (take your pick) – Alt Lead
Black Slab – Diff – Solo

There are days in climbing where you just don’t want any pressures. Where the ultimate enjoyment is going to be moving on the rock, effortlessly, with no pressure to put yourself out of your comfort zone. Chris and I decided this was going to be one of those days, although Andrew does provide a few surprises even at V Diff/Severe.

Pitch 1 Andrew

Some of the old V Diffs just don’t feel like V Diffs. Andrew is definitely one of those. Hovering around the Severe to V Diff grade in the guides, it has a couple of pitches which are guaranteed to give new V Diff leaders a run for their money.

Pitches 2 and 4 provide dilemma’s for the novice leader in different ways. And even for Chris, who would cruise V Diffs all day, the moves are perplexing. Pitch two start off a broad ledge with a step up onto a face. Looks easy 🙂 but its off balance and your feet never feel comfortable. Hands are not right either. I dont know how many times I started off when I first led it, and Chris found it exactly the same. Definitely a trust move.

Pitch 4 Andrew

And of course the final pitch. As out there as V Diff/Severe’s can be. Top of Bosi with an overhanging V groove/chimney. Everything’s there, but its intimidating and atmospheric. What a pitch to finish on.

The lower slabs and seaward area

And that was it for the lead and roped climbing. We dropped down to the seaward face to check out Geronimo which provided endless fun. Its not an easy climb down and we seemed to find a different way out up some sloping ledges. It seemed the only fitting way to end things was a solo of Black Slab. And how good is that. Big holds, big foot placements and a birds eye view across Bosi.

Black Slab

Two very satisfied climbers stopped for a quick Guiness at the Gurnards Head. My first post COVID bear out and sat in the sun in the garden there it was our own little bit of paradice as we congratulated each other in our smugness.

Like a Bull in a Ladder Shop

9th April 2021

Overhanging Chimney – VS 4c – Alt Lead (P1)
Maureen – HS 4B – Alt Lead (P1, P3)

I suppose £5 isn’t too bad for parking at Porth Gwarra. But I am parking charge averse so it still hurts a bit. Having said that it went up to £7.50 if my mind is correct at some point so as long as they don’t blatantly profiteer I’m ok with it.

Looking across at the pinnacle of Maureen

More importantly it means less distance to walk in and on this occasion (lugging the abseil rope unnecessarily for the second time) I’m gald. Having researched the bird ban situation properly this time we headed for Bulging Wall, which inst currently barred. You go past the nesting Kittiwakes and what I am sure is a nesting Chough in Zawn Rinney, but the main area of cliff is bird free as far as I could tell.

Chris breaking through the overhang of Overhanging Chimney

The gearing up ledge on the right of the zawn is always a pleasure. Overlooking Carn Guthenbras and the seal colony it is a breath-taking view. One I never grow tired of. Its easy to take for granted the splendour of the area. On this day a couple of fishing boats cruised by with a huge flock of various seabirds in their wake. Something I’ve seen many times but which always brings a smile. Why catch your own fish when people are giving it away 🙂

So, onto the climbing. Of course Overhanging Chimney was a good choice to start on. Its overhanging so how hard could it be? Well the clue is in the name. Its fucking overhanging! But what a great find. Lots of moves to be had on this one on the lead up slab and then over the overhang, which isnt too bad if you keep moving. Not that its over then. Whats nice about this climb is that the granite is sharp and positive. No polish here. A bit of a hidden gem I think.

Zawn Rinney

Maureen is entirely different. Its still a worthwhile climb. The first pitch again is blessed with fun moves, but P2 is an enigma. I think there are multiple ways of tackling this one. Two obvious parallel crack lines go up the pinnacle. The right is harder than the left, but the left is no push over at 4b. Hairy, awkward and needing quite large gear, you need to be on your game. Chris was punished by a set of hard moves at the start of the right hand crack system so quickly moved left to a more amenable route. Again good thoughtful moves and if you can jam it makes it a lot easier.

Chris high in the left hand cracks of Maureen

A quick round of self congratulations and Chris and I were done for the day and pretty knackered. The South West continues to deliver.


Any port in a storm

Black Carn North and South

2nd April 2021

Gelert – HS 4b – Second
Pudsey – VS 4c – Lead
Doc – HVS 5b – Lead

So after Lockdown number 2, Chris and I finally got out for a days climbing. This last batch of lockdown has seemed increasingly drawn out. Coronavirus continues to dog the world, tearing up the norm and replacing it with some form of twisted altered life… similar to before but not quite the same.

Black Carn South

As Chris climbed into my car, I couldn’t help but catch myself thinking ‘is this safe? Am I doing the right thing?’. That’s what 12 months of isolation does to you. Its the new norm. Every decision has the virus at its root. But is it more dangerous than climbing? Not today it wasnt! As usual Chris and I set out for a relaxed ‘re-connection’ with climbing, but in usual fasion it turned into an epic. And why not 🙂

Being fairly rusty on all things at the crag, our first dilemma was whether Chair Ladder was bird banned. BMC RAD advised it was from Lacertian to Mitre. Where the hell is Lacertian. We didn’t find out on the day but after a bit of research we figured it must have meant Laceration. Didn’t really matter in the end, because we headed off for some Black Carn shenanigans.

Belay of Gelert HS 4b

Repeats of Gelert and Pudsey followed, rekindling the climbing vibe. Interestingly I found the scramble in and around the crag equally as enjoyable. It was just good to be hands on granite. Black Carn is a lovely secluded location. Drop down by the wall and then angle across bouldery ground for a neat little area with steep and pristine granite.

Fancy a swim?

Feeling confident, Chris and I headed over to the zawn on the South side, an area we’d not been to. Some tricky scrambling leads down to an amazing gulley with a sort of massive chock stone. This creates a pool behind but is just a lid allowing the water to flow under it. Very cool and a definite location for a swim when the sea warms a bit. As a potential practice for the Cuillin we thought that trying the ‘easy’ V Diff corner we had spotted would be perfect.

Ian Jumps!!

Doh! Not V Diff. Turns out it was Doc, an HVS 5b. In approach shoes. I did my best to look thoroughly terrified as I tried to top out way above my gear. Gone were any ethics on knees, teeth and any other part of my body that could grip the rock. A seal flop onto the top gave me enough respite to place gear and finish off with a little more elegance. Still I’d rather be lacking in style and alive. So much fun. That’s type 3 fun.

Chris Moving up Doc HVS 5b

Nursing our scars and cuts Chris and I ambled back to the car with that stupid contented grin you only get when things have pushed you beyond. Fuck COVID. I can find much more interesting ways to kill myself if I want to.

The not so mighty Warrior

27th November 2020

Cribba Head


Harder – VS 5a – TR Repeat
Bottleneck – HVS 5a – TR Repeat

Sometimes in winter you get a morning light that just brings everything to life. It enhances the natural beauty of an area and creates a sharp relief on all the elements around you.

So it was on this day. Cold, bright but unlikely to deliver anything special because it had been so damp. However if the best could be made of a day we did it. I tend to dread going to Cribba Head because I know I’ll be in for a beasting. Going to Cribba with Joe just enhances all my fears.

I’m so glad this was a top roping session though. Many months of inaction had atrophied my muscles, so even on the dependable Harder I found everything difficult. Weird how you can start up a climb you’ve done a number of times before (on the lead) and suddenly realise you’ve forgotten how to climb. I made a right fist of it, out of balance, not bridging and clinging onto the weirdest of holds. About as awkward as it could have been.

Which is why climbing Bottleneck was surprisingly less difficult. The first time led this I left skin all over the rock and got myself fully stuck in the …. well… bottleneck. This time it was still tough but I actually climbed it a bit better. Maybe next time it will go ok. But I doubt it.

Finally there was the obligatory play on Boysend Cracks. No strength at the moment but I can see how I could get this on the lead. I just need to be a bit stronger and have jamming gloves on 🙂

I feel so weeeak!!!

14th November 2020

Cribba Head

This was the cry of someone who hasnt climbed for a while and is suddenly asking muscles to do things they just cant remember. The strange thing about this day was the fact I felt like I’d forgotten everything I knew about climbing. No technique, noflexibility, no finger or arm strength, poor footwork.

The view to St Loy from Cribba Head

The list goes on. But by the end of the day it was coming back and it makes me realise how I need to be out regularly on the rock to keep that normal momentum going. I could blame lockdown and injuries, but I think my motivation has been lacking, so a session with Joe, who is climbing brilliantly was just what was needed to remind me why I love to climb.

Joe on Pass the Pigs E4 6a

Oh yeh, and boy do I ache. Thats enough whining though. The day was great fun and it was so good to be back on the rock. Thats it now. Back to it I think. Need to rack up the lieage and start looking at my tick list.

For this day top roped efforts on Harder and Bottleneck were enough for me. Struggled on T/R but led them in the past. Strange how things change.

Lunch View – typical post industrial wasteland!

And as always amazing views and atmosphere. Only to be expected in Cornwall.