It was the best of days… it was the worst of climbs


22nd February 2019

Sloe Steel – VS 5a – Lead (Dgd)
Margin – E1 5c – T/R (dnf)

Continuing in the spirit of failure which has dogged my recent outings, I had a typical day of jittery nerves and low confidence. This has been a theme in my recovery from my shoulder injury. It probably stems from not having the confidence to put power through my right arm or maintain my grip in my right hand. This puts all the stress on my left and as I’m out of condition it undermines my belief.

However I look at it, my climbing is pants at the moment so I’m hoping the trip to Leonidio may kick start my season off. I have loads on my tick list for this year and last October I was on siting E1’s for fun.

Margin was an interesting climb. Very furry and at first glance looks easier than it is. The initial crack isnt too bad, but the transition into the rightward trending crack is tough and a bit tenuous. I have to say I wouldnt want to lead this as its low on gear and high on the possibility of failure. But as a top roping climb it was fun.

St Loy always makes you feel good, even if you’re off form. It helped that Tom showed us a new way into the climb which doesnt involve the long descent and climb through Boskenna. Although a perverse part of me enjoys that route, because I’m sure it pisses off the locals with all their ‘Get Orf My Land’ signs.

Heads Up!

Rosebud in June – HVS 5a – T/R

Blind Fury – E2 5b – T/R

So maybe it wasnt shorts weather after all. I did my best, but that darned SWerly put an edge on the whole day. The forecast as usual was partially correct. Yes it was sunny, but it was also windy, de rigueur for Zennor.

The wind made climbing pretty uncomfortable, removing any finess to moves and turning them into more of a death grip. Of course this explains my fall- from which Tom was lucky not to get flattened. Great catch by him though, especially as I dropped another few feet further than expected when my top runner ripped and almost landed on his head. Still, four feet is four feet off the floor which counts as a save.

The crux

It was at this point that I realised my self imposed 2 months of rest to bring my shoulder back from injury, was having an effect on my fitness. Time to back off and just put in the mileage, which is what Dave and I did. But who can complain when the climb is RIJ, an all time classic.

Into the upper crack

Which is a lot more than can be said for Blind Fury.

Dave approaching the crux and the powerful moves through the overhang

No gear, tenuous and strenuous moves does not make me want to lead this climb. My lack of power showed through here. I made the crux holds, but couldnt pull through. So time to get some exercising going. Especially with Greece just a month away.

Mileage!

Penberth
25th January 2019


They do at that age – E1 5b – T/R (pretend HVS)
Thirty Something – E1 5b – T/R
WKD! – E3 5b – T/R (More like E2 at most)
Head Rush – E1 5a – T/R


Toblerone – Diff – Solo
Iron Filings – V Diff – Solo
Rubble Trouble -Severe – Solo
Duck Soup – V Diff – Solo
Horse Feathers – Dif – Solo
D Tain – Diff – Solo
D Tour – V Diff – Solo

Time to test the dodgy shoulder I thought on Thursday, so a trip to a well know and familiar hunting ground was in order. I love Penberth. Not because its the mecca of Cornish climbing because it certainly isnt. But because its easy to access, beautiful and has a good vibe about it.

Tom on the bold arete of Head-Rush

Add to this that it brings back great memories of climbing with Bart (RIP) and it was a good choice for a day when I wanted to climb as much as possible. Also it has a plethora of potential solo’s to keep you occupied between routes. We Top Rope mostly, but the quality of climb meant that it was just a joy to be on the rock. We did most of the E1’s twice so by the end of the day I was confident my shoulder was back in shape.

Dave on TDATA

Its hard to find a bad climb at Penberth. The soloing is straight forward and fun and the harder routes are just quality providing a bit of everything. ‘They do At That Age’ is the show stopper, a 3 star route if I’ve ever seen one. Delicate traverse leads to a crack which requires thought to exit which in turn leads to a hairy, gritty chimney. What more could you ask for.

Me on Thirty Something (where it starts to get interesting)

Tom, Dave and I had a full on day and I think that every so often this is the way to do a day. Get on a top rope and get some mileage in. Great for the confidence.

Must eat more carrots!

Brandy Slab/Rosemergy Towers

Flash Back – Severe 4a – Second
Monkey Puzzle – VS 5a – Lead
Monkey’s Lunch – Severe 4a – Lead

OK, two weeks in a row we’ve had long days. This one ending in a solo of the top part of Rosemergy Ridge in the dark in an effort to escape the claws of the viscous brambles. We had problems right at the start finding our way down to Brandy’s Slab. Probably should have read the guidebook instead of setting off on the first faint trail we found which lead in roughly the right direction.

Jelly Baby feast to start the day off

Back at the beginning of the day we had arrived at Rosemergy Towers, me with a view to having another go at Hard Times (which I fell off on the final move having gone too far left). However my still not recovered shoulder made a few protests on Flash Back (a good lead by Dave on what is an understated climb at Severe) so I gave this up as a bad idea.

Tom on the upper moves of Flash Back

And so we set our sights on Brandy’s Slab. Of course even though Tom had been there, we had no idea where to go, which resulted in an hour of bramble and Gorse bashing and a very zig zag route down. We had picked Piers up on the way and so a very scratched team arrived at the slab. I was to be honest a bit disappointed. I’d expected more, but the harder routes were just very bold and the easier routes not that inspiring. That said, I enjoyed the climbing, although I tend to agree with a comment on UKC that the detached flake of rock on Monkey Puzzle is just waiting for an opportune time to fall off. Hopefully, not with anyone climbing on it.

Lost in the Brambles

Monkey Puzzle is either a straight forward VS if you go slightly higher before moving into the narrow crack or a very bold VS if you go early. The nicer line is to follow the corner a bit further and then move across. Other wise you’re relying on friction on a very hairy and mossy face. Still it was fun despite the pain of setting up a belay with no anchor points… or at least not obvious ones.

Piers on Monkeys Lunch and having fun ๐Ÿ™‚

And so we set off heading out via Rosemergy Ridge, which soon turned into slightly more than a scramble in the dimming light. To give Piers his due, he did brilliantly considering he has only come back to climbing recently.

There were some distinctly nervy mantles and padding going on. Still we’re alive, so that counts as a grade A adventure in my books.

Slaying old memories

Pen Olver

Bilsons Fowl Play – V Diff – Lead

Let Her Children Play – VS 4b – Lead

So we welcomed a new member of the team in Piers who joined us for the first time. About time we had some new stock, as a few are getting a bit long in the tooth and broken.

I had in mind a bit of exploration on the far tip of the Lizard at Green Lane Cliff. This sits below the Coast Guard hut and seemed to have a few climbs in the V Diff to HVS range. As it turned out the area was a bit disappointing, but to be fair the weather meant it was seeping a lot and we definitely didn’t see it in its best condition. So its wait until its drier and onto Pen Olver to re-visit a few old acquaintances.

Initial exploration of Green Lane Cliff

One of the most tense parts of climbing at PO is the down climb. It all slopes away and feels a bit exposed, so for Piers it was an eye opener. But the climbing is great and the two we picked were classics. Bilsons Fowl Play is a solid V Diff into a steep corner, but LHCP is a different beast altogether. It has a number of sections; a mantleshelf into the initial crack, a very steep ( almost overhanging flake crack section. An exposed traverse and a final technical ramp. Combined it makes for an excellent route. Pro’s not bad but hard to place sometimes and the holds in general are solid and big.

Looking down Bilsons Foul Play

More importantly, Pen Olver can make a grey day like this was a fantastic outing. That and climbing with mates of course. Dave and Tom finished off their route on the main slab in the dark, so it was a walk out as night set, feeling weary but content.

Slightly dark as we left

Its a shame we missed the porpoises that the Coastguard lady told us about. Otherwise it would have been even better ๐Ÿ™‚

Elemental

14th December 2018

Cornish weather guarantees that your never guaranteed you’ll get to climb. Despite no real prediction of rain, the dark grey clouds and strong wind felt a real portend ofย  nastier things to come. Days like this tend to drive people for the cover of their warm homes and it would be easy to right it off and bail.

The other side of the squeeze

But then we would have missed out on a fun days scrambling around Pordenack. Just enough difficulty to add a bit of spice, but not terrifyingly exposed. We’d initially traversed onto the Green Face ledge (a nice little pulse raiser as its all a bit off kilter), but the cold, drizzle and wind meant ‘Mexican Pete’ was not going to be on. So we dropped into the Hidden Amphitheatre which proved equally as moist.

The scramble out

For those who havnt experienced the ‘squeeze’ its well worth it. A cleft through the rocks with jammed boulders, which empties into a hidden area and is the usual descent point for Pordenack. So to leave we exited vertically straight up the spires and landward face. You get an amazing view back across the point and all the thundering drama of Lands End comes into view. On this day, the 10’+ swell just made it spectacular.

Tom, hiding behind me.

Highlight of the day- eating lunch while watching a couple of seals bobbing out in the sea. In the end, a good way to spend a crap day.

The Seal Sanctuary

4th December 2018

Sennen

Protein – VS 5a – Lead

Now Dave has defined the ‘Seal’ move. When approaching an overhanging ledge deploy the ‘Seal’ mantelshelf technique… This involves working your way into an impossible situation where your feet cut loose and the only escape is to Seal flop around until you can get a knee (or any other part of your body) into a position where you can crawl exhausted onto the ledge. This should be done in the least graceful way you can and accompanied with shouts of “For F#*ks sake!” or “I CANT MOVE!!!” Finish it off with a ‘whoop’ as an expression of how relieved you are that you didn’t fall off and die.

Good steep climbing on Protein – Sennen

So with varying degrees of skill we (Tom, Dave and I) all practised this hard to perfect move on Protein, a stiff VS at Sennen. It didn’t help that it was the coldest day of the year so far, but to be honest this should have been in our range whatever the conditions. Protein starts with moves up into a V Groove where you transition right onto the ‘arete’ of sorts. Nice moves which then lead you to a second transition which goes left. Leaving the small ledge for the Chicken Head is the crux. Small crimps and pinches on what is an overhanging wall require some commitment and (as we all did) the move left helps you get height to make the hold. Might be one to do when my grip has improved, but the move left is no pushover so is in keeping with the VS grade.

Approaching the Seal Sanctuary on Protein

Then two more overhanging walls, the lower of which is really tricky. Hence the deployment of Dave’s patented moves which proved useful if inelegant. The top moves are fairly exposed and the holds though big, don’t feel as positive as they might. So all in all a great climb that gives you a bit of a test. I really liked it, even if it is a little contrived. More importantly it was great to be back at Sennen. We only got the one climb in because the rain was pushing in, but the Cornish coast delivered its usual drama with massive waves thundering into the Hayloft area.

A burly finish to Protein

To be able to just grab a mornings climbing in such an awesome location defines why living in Cornwall is the best. The weather may be varied, but you can keep your wall to wall sunshine… give me the North Coast in December any time.

What do you mean he’s not damaged!!?

2nd November 2018

Luckey Tor

Eagles Nest – Severe 4a – Lead
Original Route – Severe 4a -Lead

Sat on the ledge at the top of Eagles Nest, Pete and I reflected on what it means to be able to enjoy the opportunity for a bit of solitude and time away from the usual influences of everyday life. I know that there are people who go to extremes to capture moments like this, but here in our own backyard is a little bit of paradise.

What light!

It’s not good to gloat, but sometimes it’s so nice to realise that you’ve captured a moment in time which only you (and a few close mates) are privy to. Staring out across the canopy of trees towards the dart Pete and I, for a while, were the only people enjoying one of the most beautiful views in Devon (Dave and Tom were battling up an adjacent climb). It was also nice to be able to completely relax. Another thing our culture ensures is in in short supply.

Life Affirming

Enough of the eulogising. The walk in and out of Luckey Tor is nothing short of breathtaking. Moss covered boulders; twisted tree trunks and roots; a rock strewn river and an umbrella of trees accompanies you to a hidden gem of a crag. Tom and I had been here a few times before, but it was Dave and Petes first time. The video clip says it all!

The four of us concentrated on two severe’s for the day, but both were tough for the grade and also very good for the grade. Eagles Nest is all about the final ‘out there’ move through the V cleft, whereas Original Route has a gnarly traverse (poorly protected on the lead). They made for some real entertainment on this day.

Pete jammed in approaching the crux on Eagles Nest

Most importantly was the return of Pete, following his retirement. Great to have him along for the day. A real return to a fun day out. Dave and Tom seemed to have things wired as well, with two good leads. Got to love these Dartmoor sandbags ๐Ÿ™‚

Sky another day

10th October 2018

Predannack Head

Skyfall – E1 5b – Lead
The World is not enough – E1 5b – Lead

I think this will be our last visit to Predannack Head for a while. We had a couple of climbs still on the tick list and while we didn’t quite do them fully we got close enough. The biggest problem on this day was the swell. Big tides helped as it dropped but soon pushed massive sets in when it started to fill.

Typically stunning Cornish Coastline

The small, low down belay ledges meant it was always going to be a challenge. We had this problem the week before when there were three of us. Two made it easier and quicker but the low ledges were washed. Eventually we opted to set up a belay on a block further landward from the usual start. Dave and I have got to improve on our ropework though as we set up the belay with me on the wrong side, forcing me to take a direct line up the face.

Me on the belay ledge

Its interesting how these situations develop. Sometimes the gear placement forces you into positions you wouldn’t normally consider. In this case I didn’t think far enough ahead. As it turned out luck was on our side, because the route we were forced into involved some nice face climbing to meet the traverse of TWINE. Then an airy traverse to pick the line of Skyfall up.

The tricky 5b moves

At this point its mute about whether I took the correct line or not. Having made the overhang on the right hand side I tried tackling by going left. This involves a rock over onto a small sloping foot placement and although gear and a finger jam are good, everything is in the wrong place making it a really hard move. I did try it again on a top rope and even then it proved tough. The eventual line I took was as the guide book describes it, moving right to meet the line of SPECTRE. I don’t think this is as good, but is more in keeping with 5b and E1. I think I’m going to go back and try the direct line at some point maybe next year.

Descent Route

Still, overall it was a great connection of pitches. Lots of variety in a truly splendid setting with giant surf smashing in below and roaring away the whole time we were on there. Every so often a particularly big set would smash in and the sound would distract you whether you liked it or not. For Dave it must have been even more exhilarating.

What a wonderful place Predannack is. Dave has been feeling a bit low with a bad back recently. A day here is as good a cure as you can get. Yes you ache later, but was it worth it? Fuck yeh!

 

My name is Riddell…… Jimmy Riddell

5th October 2018

Predannack Head

S.P.E.C.T.R.E. – eE1 – 5b Lead
Little Nellie – Severe – 4b Second
Astral Blue – Moderate – Solo

Quite a strange day really. This was a crag Dave and I had been meaning to explore for a while. Tom accompanied us on this trip making for a nice relaxed day at the crag.

Relocating

Little Nellie proved to be a tense start in a way, because the belay ledge (just enough for two as Tom stayed higher in the dry) was in imminent danger of being swamped by the tide. Dave kindly got a shifty on and saved me from a drenching, but only just.

I HOPE NO BIG WAVES COME???

To rewind a bit, the approach to LN is via an abseil off the top of the Octopussy Zawn left hand wall. Climb down to some perched boulders through an airy scramble and rig a belay on a slab resting against a big boulder. The its off into the unknown. Fortunately for us the swell was small because in anything but small conditions this climb would be impossible.

Its really about a series of strenuous opening moves and then its over. A bit lame really but the position of the climb makes it an adventure. Somewhat like S.P.E.C.T.R.E. This involves abseiling down to a sentry box and then climbing back up a crack line. It has its moments, with a few 5 b moves but in general I found it well protected and amenable. The top is strange in that the topo line would send you up the face making it bold. I could see a path through but the holds looked dodgy and unreliable. I ended up finishing up the crack as per the guidebook description, a more natural finish.

Tom, topsout on S.P.E.C.T.R.E

Now Astral Blue is just a jolly with a few spicy moves if done solo. The main event is the transition from the lower quartz crack to the upper groove. We took a highline, discovered by Tom and the more natural route, but exposed you to a pretty horrific fall if you blew it. There’s a delicate traverse across the v groove where the rock is a bit questionable and you need to have your wits about you.

Tom watching Dave on Astral Blue

As usual the team made for an amazing day in amongst the beautiful cornish coastline. It is amazing that we get to live in this fantastic county. How lucky are we! Again….