Fences – HS 4b – Lead Sloe Slab – V Diff – Solo Porcupine – VS 4c – Semi Solo 🙂 The Hearse – V Diff – Second Toy Story 2 – Severe 4b – Second
Wow what a windy cold day this was! Got things slightly wrong with the weather, as the wind was whipping into the Cove like it was going through a funnel. A few more degrees to the north and we would have been ok, but it was a bit of a trial of endurance.
Coming in from the bottom of the valley is described as arduous in the guide book because it involves a boulder hop to get to the main face. But contrary to this, we all found the traverse good fun and it involved some nice climbing. For those not comfortable with scrambling about with fairly high steep drops, I would recommend the alternate abseil or walk from the ridge. But this is definitely the fun way in.
I was also surprised that the main face section was reasonably accessible even at high tide (only a small swell running). For some reason I seem to remember it being a problem on the high tide, but the landward climbs are all available almost through to ‘Iron Bell’. We (Tom, Dave and I) all had a lead. Fences is a textbook corner, as is The Hearse. Dave’s Toy Story 2 was a bit steeper but good holds all the way. All three are worth doing, with strangely Toms lead, The Hearse being the hardest to protect.
The rock here though is second to none. Unpolished, grippy and immaculate granite in a stunning location. What more could you ask for except less wind?? And as is always the case when we’re out, we turned a fairly normal (and normal is not always normal) day into one of adventure by deciding to solo out. Sounded like a good plan to start with but ended with Dave having an epic tussle with lichen and a gnarly arete and me and Tom wondering how we were going to get up a tricky VS with two cams and a nut (and I’m not referring to Tom).
The solo up Sloe Slab had been an adrenaline rush. Nothing like squeezing through a tortuous mantle shelf, after a smooth slab with no rope or gear. But Porcupine is a foot grinder. Positive flakes but its a case of jam that foot in and soak up the pain. Seeing as Dave had wandered off with all the gear and the second rope (doh!!) Tom and I jury rigged a few dubious gear placements and alt led the pitch in semi solo stylee. What a buzz. Must do this soloing malarkey more often if you get that kind of adrenaline :-). Mind you we’re no Alex Honnold, but I sort of get where he’s coming from. Free soloing focuses the mind like no other kind of climbing. Easy moves become a challenge when you are trying to influence the percentages of success in your favour. And you get real freedom.
And so ended a typically adventurous day with good mates. As we collected Dave for the walk back to the bags I couldn’t help but reflect how lucky we are. Turning a pretty shite day into a good one by seeking out a great location and having a good crack with good friends. Coming back here shortly by the way as its a top place to climb and there’s loads of routes I want to do.
Oh and did I mention that Tom licks his gear as a form of corrosion test for salt air. Well, each to their own ha ha
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.
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.
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.
Which is a lot more than can be said for Blind Fury.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!