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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Its a shame we missed the porpoises that the Coastguard lady told us about. Otherwise it would have been even better 🙂
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 of 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
A chat on the belay ledge
Pete jammed in approaching the crux on Eagles Nest
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.
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!
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.
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….
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???
The answer to that question is ‘not many’. Outside of our small circle of mates I am decidedly ‘climbing mate’s light’. My thoughts were stirred by a comment from another climber and his partner that we met (yes other people climb here too!) who reeled off a list of climbers having mistakenly been told by Tom that I was MIA qualified. I’m assuming these were all MIA’s, but I have no idea if this is the case. I suppose I was surprised at the assumption I would know who they were. Still having put them right that I am only RCI qualified they soon lost interest in me, but not before I was told that Kangaroo Crack was soft and there was no way Down Under, Up Top was VS.
To be fair this is probably true but I find I balk a little when a climb is described or referred to by its grade accuracy rather than its attributes. For example, whatever the grade, Kangaroo Crack is a great climb in a great location. I found the conversation had distinct undertones of the attitude that pervades surfing today, where bigger and gnarlier equates to better. My best sessions are actually when I’m relaxed and with my buddies. Size doesn’t matter. Still I’m probably guilty myself getting a bit ‘grade-ist’ at times. I think I just want to talk about how lucky we are to enjoy the amazing surroundings we climb in. Oh well…
The clouds of course toyed with us for the morning, with dark grey squalls dropping loads of rain either side of us until inevitably we caught one head on and the day was over. But we’d managed to traverse the boulder field (which is great fun) and get on Bristletail Suicide, a quality HS with a nice sting in the tail. Dave led, bagging some more lead time, following the groove crack with tricky but nice moves all the way. The final headwall can be done a number of different ways, but keep to the line and it proves a challenge. A good lead by Dave and good to have Tom with us again after his Scandinavian adventures.
The walk out helped me reflect on our encounter with the other climbers. I think we’re better off keeping to ourselves. We have too many ‘fruitloops’ in our team to be very sociable and tolerant (and I include myself in this).
Korev – VS 4c – Lead Spirit Shadow – HS 4b – Second
Back to Predannack, although a bit weary on this particular day. still it was yet another new venue in Slab Zawn and so the scouting began. It’s not easy to see how the Zawn is laid out unless you move across to the South rib (the right rib as you face out to sea). From there you can look back in and sea the lines of Korev and Spirit Shadow, plus the others bearing up to the left on a long ramp.
Topo of Korev (Red) and Spirit Shadow (Green)
Both routes look good and despite the guidebooks suggestion to descend the rib and traverse round we abbed in. I haven’t actually tried it, but the easy traverse in looks unlikely. Maybe the conditions of a fairly sizeable swell was the biggest deterring factor. The ledge is above the high tide mark, but its daunting when you have waves thundering into the Zawn and the odd one got pretty close.
A few of the waves got a bit close
So onto Korev. A disappointment in my book, but maybe that’s because I was expecting too much following our last visit. The climbing is OK in the bottom section with some good moves, but its very bold. One crappy cam until the spike in the Niche. I never felt like I’d fall, I just didn’t expect the boldness and I think this caught me out. I would suggest that this is almost HVS 4b, a weird grade but one that fits. The top wall is pleasant enough but a bit of a jaunt really.
Top of Korev
Now this is in complete contrast to Spirit Shadow which Dave led. This is a top climb. Tricky off balance and contorted opening moves to three dimensional groove climbing and then onto a committing move across the face to the large crack. Pro’s good to this point but you have to make the traverse with gear under you. Its not hard, but it feels out there. Great climbing.
Dave on Spirit Shadow
And the piece de resistance is the top pitch, and a really airy pull around onto the arete for instant massive exposure. Gets the heart going but is amazing.
On the way out we checked out Octopussy Zawn. This is going to be our next venue. I feel a bit scared but dead excited as well. Should be a day of awesome but challenging climbing.