Category Archives: Climbing

6 go wild at Trewarvas

Well, to be honest there was no wildness at all, but it felt great to be out at last after lock-down. This was mine (and most of the rest of the group’s) first outing on the rock post COVID 19 round 1. And it felt good to be back on the rock.

Crew chilling. Is Pete going to jump.

Lock-down has been OK on the whole for me, with a massive increase in my surfing and MTB’ing activity. But there’s nothing like climbing.

First things first. Piers is now a qualified Ski Tour instructor. What a fantastic achievement. All we need now is to get away with him and get into the back country in the alps. Might have to brush up on my skiing though 🙂

Avalanche with its great top section

This was a chilled session with Tom, Dave, Chris, Piers, Pete and me. All top roping so no drama, with the exception of Pete trying his best to kill himself by falling off the top of the crag – fortunately while still attached to the top rope and with Chris using a Gri-Gri. Funny; but also not funny.

Chris and I remembered that we still have muscles although very unused ones with a voyage up both variations of Avalanche and by finishing on South Groove. Always one to make you think, grunt and swear. Most importantly we were on the magical cliffs of Cornwall. About time this was re-awakened.

Who needs to go abroad

Now to get my lead head back on and start eyeing up thiose pesky E1’s I’ve had on the list for a while. Oh and the big elephant in the room E2. Dave and I have unfinished business with that one!

Should have gone Surfin…..

24th January 2020
Aire Point
Night Flight – Severe – Second

On the odd occasion you realise you’ve picked the wrong sport. This was one of those days. We rocked up to Gwenver for a stroll to Aire Point, only to see an amazing left peeling in towards the point. Low tide with the bank almost exposed, I rekon it was about as good as it gets.

Unfortunately there wasnt a board between us and so we had to settle for a chilled day mooching around the point. It was just the wrong side of damp so many of the routes were not in condition for climbing, but our explorations identified a cluster of routes tucked away at the head of the small zawn that cuts through the seawrd face. These are going to be worth a return visit, but maybe when it is warmer and drier. Would suit a nice sunny evening.

Instead we sat around a lot (either side of Daves excellent lead on the cruxy Night Flight) and talked about how luck we were to spend relaxing days, doing very little with good mates. A little bit ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ really 🙂

In a bit of a jam!

29th November 2019

Porthguarnon Cove

Iron Bells – HS 4b – Lead (rpt)
Seik Shaker – HVS 5a – Second
The Fixit – VS 5a – Lead (dgd)

So we’re currently up to our eyes in ‘Electioneering’ as Corbyn goes head to head with Johnson. Its so depressing. If I’m honest I cant see anything good coming from this and then we’ve got the dying breathes of Brexit to deal with. God help us!

Porthguarnon Cove in all its glory

So any day climbing is a good brain cleaner. Leave all the nonsense behind and focus on important issues, such as ‘how strong am I today?’ or ‘Will the sun shine?’. And the answers were ‘reasonably’ and ‘yes’.

In fact we were all down to T Shirts by time we arrived, which made the days routes seem all the better. I was with Joe and Dave and Tom teamed up for a go at Fences, a tricky HS that I did last time out.

Dave on Fences

We kicked off with a classic, ‘Iron Bell’. Such a nice route. A bit of lay backing into the slab, some small holds and an overhang. Has it all. I like the small indents and bulges for your feet on what would otherwise be a steep slab.

Joe’s pick was Seik Shaker. An innocuous looking arete which has a real bite. Its straight forward until it comes to moving onto the upper head wall which is bounded on the right by a thick blade of rock. The crack looks fine and there seems to be foot placements but as soon as you move onto the slab it all gets a lot more difficult. I tried to Jam but I’m shit at it so I kept right and used the arete to layoff. OK on the second but it might have made placing gear more difficult on the lead.

View down to the main face

I was trying to avoid another session of going up and down but I still managed it on our final VS. As usual the jamming let me down, although once I’d worked out I could lay off the opening moves it all unlocked. Lack of confidence and fitness cost me this one, but on a more optimistic note I felt good climbing it, so it’s just going to cost me some training in the long term.

Still not sure what the best way is to get into Porthguarnon. We met a couple of other climbers who parked at the campsite which I think is a lot shorter. I think you just have to ask the owners which is fair enough. Mind you, you lose out on the stunning walk in if you do that. Wellw orth the effort 🙂

Right! This time I’m going… no this time… no now…

16th November 2019

Vicarage Cliff

Pandora – VS 4b – Second
Wellingtons Stand – VS 4b – Lead
Atom Head – E1 5c – Second

Oh how your head plays tricks with you. The ugly head of indecision rears itself and then you’re up and down trying to persuade yourself that the terrifying move you want to make is fine… it wont hurt you. Even if you fall.

Back towards the waterfall

Alas, it’s not so simple. Having bottled Wellingtons Stand on my last outing here I had unfinished business. So finding myself trying to make the same tenuous move on two small crimps with a crap foot placement was no different. Except in the end I forced myself up by shear force of will. And lo and behold, it wasn’t that bad. Which is easy to say after you’ve done it without falling off.

Joe checks out Atom Head

So I thought that was going to be my epic for the day, but Joe had other ideas. Atom Head is one of the best climbs I’ve done recently. Tiny holds and foot placements. Run outs, padding, gorse, rusted pegs. You name it, its got it! What a fantastic lead by Joe. There is pro but you need to keep it together to place it and it must feel awfully lonely up there on the lead. What an end to the day. Abbing off as it started to darken gave a sense of having eked out every available bit of light and dryness available.

It was also really good to be out with Joe. Like old times 🙂 Except now he’s miles better than me. But thats an advantage, because he can get me on routes I would dream of leading myself. Cracking and Slabtastic!!

Beginners Luck

15th November 2019

Predannack Head

The Beginners Area
Sexygenarians – V Diff – Lead
Moonlight – VS 4c – Lead
Zig Zag _Mod – Alt Lead

Weeks of rain and shit weather led to this. A fleeting chance to get out for a climb in a weather window predicted by BBC weather. My poll on Facebook suggested Porthguarnon which was t’the peoples’ choice. But what do they know! I over-ruled them as any good dictator would and so we headed for the Lizard, the one area predicted to be dry.

Pete on Sexygenarians

And yes it was. The doom and gloom ‘its too cold to be outside’ mob off the telly f@#ked up good and proper. We had sunshine almost all day and a totally chilled session in an area only 10 mins from the car. Bliss.

The Beginners Area is easy to find as long as you pick up your bearings on The Diamond Wall. Also it helps to know that North (as per the guidebook) is down the coast to the right facing out to sea. Very disorientating when its not strictly ‘North’.

Sunshine after so many days of rain!

I paired up with Pete (his first climb of the year! no less). So we started on a nice crack climb, Sexygenarians which is straight forward but nice climbing. Its amazing when you haven’t been on the rock for a while how alien everything seems until you get back into your rhythm. By time we moved onto Moonlight, a technical VS I still wasnt quite on it, hence the mad attack of disco leg which Pete could even feel through the ropes. Anyway, it went well after a nervy start. And it made me feel better getting a more difficult route under my belt.

Zig Zag, looking harder than it is. The crashing waves made it feel epic.

Our final routre was Zig Zag, as sets thundered into the cove below. Very atmospheric and warranting a quick belay station about 5 metres up to avoid Pete getting swept away by a rogue set. Its basically a easy ramp, but with great exposure and even a waterfall at the end. What more could you want.

Days like this are precious. Sun, great mates and great climbing. Take your packed lineups and stuff them up your arse. We had this to ourselves. Viva the outdoors and viva Cornish Rock!

Are we there yet?

19th September 2019

Piz da Lech

Pete as the oldest member of the team commands the respect he is due…. But if he asks me one more time how long its going to take to get somewhere he’s going to be abandoned to the Bears.

Pete and Chris relaxed on Piz da Lech

So Piz Da Lech was the unanimous choice for the final days Via Ferrata given our somewhat misadventure on the first day. I had a few moments where my unbridled enthusiasm got the better of me (wanting to go for Giovanni Lipella a beast of a mountain near Punta Anna) and I sulked for a bit. But to be fair Piz de Lech was the right choice. A nice short walk in after a couple of chair lifts (Pete is no longer a chair lift virgin) and a steady walk off, with just a little sting in the tail.

Now its steep. The ladders on Piz da Lech

Sited above Cortina, its a brilliant route. Good steep climbing on fairly good quality rock, a little polished in places, but mostly excellent. Straight forward to climb free as well, which always adds a bit of spice. This coupled with some stunning views off the top made for the perfect end to the trip. And once again those startling blue skies which dogged us for the whole trip.

A hug for the top of Tomaselli

And now Tony and Pete can class themselves as hardened VF veterans. Two high altitude VF’s, a gorge and dealing with traffic on our first outing. This coupled with ‘the adventure’ of our first day made for a memorable trip. Chris of course took the whole trip in his stride. I can see many more outings coming up for the two of us.

We need to do them ALL! Oops there goes the over excitment again 🙂

20b or not 20b? That is the question…

18th September 2019

Via Ferrata Tomaselli

So this was to be a redemption of sorts. Lets get it right this time courtesy of ‘Rockfax’. So after spending the evening studying the correct way to get on Tomaselli we manufactured a brilliant day out.

Now thats high!

Tomaselli was on a different level to the other VF’s we’d done so far. High altitude, steep with huge exposure. Yee Ha! It was great. I think for Tony and Pete this put everything in its place. From the beginning it is difficult. The walk in is on an exposed path leading up to a plateau. From here it just opens out. A short traverse leads to an airy nose and then it just heads up with Lagusoi valley opening up below. The people are tiny, as I tried to explain to a worried looking Pete. Who promptly told me to F~#k off! Nice.

The gang just before the main stuff on TOMASELLI

The steepness is maintained right to a wild airy slab at the end. Pete’s slightly unsteady hand in my video gave an indication of how much fun he was having; or not. Joking aside, these routes have an air of seriousness to them. You’re at high altitude and escape is always problematic if the weather closes in. Not that we had that problem. But that’s why they are worth doing. To complete a Tomaselli is a real feather in your cap. No pain no gain as they say.

Top of Tomaselli

So how do you find Tomaselli? Now there’s the rub! There’s two routes to the start. The first drops down the main valley to the left of the massive spine of Lagazuoi. The gulley looks impentrable, but a path angles across it and then switch backs up to the platform. Or… you can go around to the other side by bearing right at the signs in the dip and come up from there. Our way down the valley side had some quite exposed traverses with no cables, but not dangerous. Just scary.

Interestingly, Tomaselli has a downwards via ferrata to come off. I think some people used this to come up. It is probably easier, but I wouldn’t want to descend the main route and the ascent of the scree before you hit the wire to gain this section of VF would have been tortuous. One its against the traffic and two its probably not as enjoyable.

Weary after Tomaselli which stands as the main pillar behind Pete

The walk back to the gondola this time was a lot more enjoyable and we got to cap it off with a beer at the cafe by the station. Pete didn’t get his cake, but hey, we’d just done Tomaselli! What more do you want? We descended by the Lagazuoi tunnels, which were just as long as I remembered but offer a great chance to understand a bit more about why the ferratas are there. You cant help but wonder how it really was for the brave souls who saw action in these claustrophobic rat runs.

And we finished with Pizza, so not a bad day really.

I shit on your Death Gully

16th September 2019

Dolomites
Punta Sud from the wrong direction

So this should have been a exciting and dramatic start to our adventure in the Dolomites. With a full blue sky day almost guaranteed and a fantastic Via Ferrata in Tomaselli the destination what could go wrong. Or in our immortal team moto, “Whats the worst that could happen”. Well it did!

This is what happens when you combine over exuberance, with unfounded assumptions and poor decision making. Access to Tomaselli should in theory be straight forward. Get the Lagazuoi cable car and then follow the signs for the Via Ferrata on path 20b. We even had a map to complement the cicerone guide. So how did we miss the right fork and end up dropping the entire length of the valley before realising we’d gone wrong.

Then the second mistake. Instead of returning and finding the correct start I recommended coming at the ferrata from the ridge of Cima Scotoni, described as an exposed walk into the Tomaselli VF. The map showed a route in and in hindsight (always reliable 🙂 ) it probably was ok, but once again we made an assumption which was ill founded.

We set off up the very steep pass of Forcella di Lech and then branched off up towards Cima Scotoni. The track is marked by Red and White flags and is a treacherous ascent up a scree filled valley which goes on and on and on and on finally reaching a flag on a blocky outcrop. From here the flags seemed to stop suggesting the very steep gully to our right was the way. Incorrect assumption number two. Logic had it that if we cut the ridge of Cima Scotoni then we’d pick up the ridge path and be able to follow this back to Punta Sud and then Tomaselli.

But having reached the top of the very loose, fragile and snow filled gully we were presented with two teetering piles of choss on either side. I tried a sortie to get on the ridge but everything moved and given this was Pete and Tony first foray into the mountains it was no a clever idea to get us stuck on the crest of a dangerous ridge. Also I had no gear and only a 10m rope.

Only one course of action…. retreat. “Whats the worst that could happen” out the window and rightly so as this was only going to end in disaster if we continued to pursue our current course. Pete’s remark of the fact it was only 1pm was right, but its easy to forget the scale of these peaks and even if we had found the correct ridge it would have meant completing the walk into Tomaselli and descent in 6 hrs. Sounds a lot, but we’d have missed the Cable car and it would have been a staggeringly long day.

As it was it turned into a feat of endurance. What an introduction for Pete and Tony! So it was back down Death Gully (after me and Pete both marked our territory), a scree down the main path with everyone adopting interesting techniques for skiing on scree. And then the awful slog back up to the Cable Car which never got any closer. Not sure what we would have done if we missed it, but we scraped onto the last one with a huge look of relief from the crew.

So these kind of days are a testament to what adventures in the mountains are like. No pain, no gain. Despite not achieving our goal, we had an epic mountain day. Massively tiring, but we went to places we will never go to again (hopefully). Well done on Tony and Pete for persevering – not that they had much choice.

Very much in keeping with Rule 4

Bitof A Rope Thief

29th August 2019

Carn Gowla
Touch the Earth – VS 4b – Lead

Not content with nicking my gear, Dave has moved on to more blatant thievery. Cant really miss a rope can you! I might let him off due to fact I hadnt even noticed it was missing until the following day. Also lost my guidebook. I wonder if he’s got that too! Old age eh…

BREAKING NEWS! Turns out Sam is the thief, not Dave. The above is pure slander and I retract everything I’ve said. But still not deleting it!!

Sam finishing off Touch the Earth and feeling happy.

Sam, a good friend of Bart, came along with us today for her first experience of Carn Gowla and Gowla turned it on with a beautiful evening. We dropped down onto Indian Buttress for a crack at TTE mainly because the tides and swell were a bit against us and also because its a bit more amenable for a quick foray . Its always a pleasure to go to ‘Scary Gowla’. I get that privileged feeling whenever I wonder across the colourful upper cliffs and as you drop down, Gowla does its thing; part intimidation, mostly excitement.

Sam discovers that bits fall off Gowla

TTE is typically Gowla, unreliable holds, iffy gear, shear and with a drop into the sea. Standard stuff really but at least its escapable and not too terrifying for a first venture for Sam. But it does deliver on the fun side and what a way to finish the day off.

Dave full pose

It was also a nice way to think about Bart. In happier times, when we would scare the pants of each other with adventures into the then unknown. Back when we were climbing, every outing was a potential for disaster, mainly because neither of us knew what to expect at many of the venue’s. Good times, if a bit harrowing at times. I like to think I’ve continued the tradition of turning most days out into epics. Just ask Dave 🙂

Cleaning out the Gutters

26th July 2019
Snowdonia National Park

So there were some interesting statistics acquired on this walk from a combination of fitbit data and Strava. 6850ft of ascent, 28.95 miles covered, 17 hrs of walking, 6,874 calories burnt, 6 x 3000ft peaks summited, 1 x Grade 3 scramble, 1 x Grade three RRR (triple R rated) descent, 3 wrong turns, 2 packs of Uncle Bens rice eaten and 14 midge bites.

Crib Goch

Not bad for a failed attempt at the 3000’ers. However you could argue some mitigating circumstances. 35 mph winds, low cloud, rain and a propensity to chat to every stranger who came within range.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jF-g7CqTx-XeSROlI0DrA26qgNOdUCXs/view?usp=sharing

The link above gives a flavour of a great day out. To be fair it was a really tough day, with a 3.30 start to maximise the daylight time (turned out we needed it as we rolled into Gwern Gof Isaf at 10 pm!)

The killer from Nant Peris to Elidir Fawr

So we started on a very blowy Crib Goch, moved onto Garnedd Ugain in the clouds and then Snowdon itself. Then down the Llanberis Path where we dropped off (literally as we took our own route down a suicidal field and into boggy woods) to Nant Peris. Then we got a little lost, the slogged it up the diagonal path from hell to the top of Elidir Fawr. Around the horseshoe rim of the col to a slope up to Yr Garn. Down to above Devil’s Kitchen and then skid up the scree to Glyder Fawr. Rock hop to Glyder Fach and down a treacherous descent to the saddle of Tryfan. Quick scramble up the South Ridge and then the long walk out to Gwern Goff Isaf campsite.

Our alternative descent of the Snowdon spur

That equated to 17hrs of walking with only a few breaks for trail snacks and water. Not bad for a bunch of old crocks.