Tag Archives: 6a

The Nearly man

7th July 2017

Kellan Head

Zugzwang – E2 5a,5b – Alt Lead

Rock-a-bye-baby – E3 6a – TR (DNF)

So after a bit of a lay-off since Mallorca Joe, Dave and I returned to the Cornish Coast for a day out at Kellan Head. The news about Bart was made all the more poignant as we walked into one of the most beautiful locations for climbing in Cornwall. How many wonderful days have we had in the past with Bart at similar places; and these memories make the circumstances of his death even more tragic. Rest in peace buddy… no one can take away the good times.

The Waterslide

Every time we go to Kellan Head the waterslide ramp is wet, but the recent dry spell has worked wonders and the start for both the HVS and Zugzwang was almost clear of damp patches. This opening sequence has always been a bit traumatic for me. There is really no protection to speak of, so I made the decision that I’d just go and clear the fractured stuff and gain the first ledge. Probably about 15ft of climbing with no pro! Surprisingly everything held together and the moves went well, so I arrived at the first ledge and placed a couple of crappy pieces of gear, before traversing left to the main ledge.

Chilled Dave

But this is just the opening 5a pitch. Entertaining, but the real action starts from here as you move up to the strange angular protrusions. While Dave was napping on the belay ledge Joe set off up some of the grippiest rock around. Gear is OK and the moves are great. The bridging traverse move is tricky, but can probably be done a number of ways. For me it was full extension and udging as high as I could get before transitioning. There is loose stuff at the top but a pre placed belay using outcrops higher up means you can set a safe belay.

Sorting a belay

Dave ‘nearly’ made it, failing on the bridge having almost done all the hard work. But it was very ‘near’. 🙂

Rock-a-bye-Baby is much harder though. There are two cruxes. The first overhanging section and the move onto the main face and then the second overhang, with a viciously powerful move to get established on the upper slab. Joe persevered and got it in the end. For me, I managed the bottom moves eventually (two very reachy rockover type moves. But had no chance on the upper one. Need to get into Arnie mode.


Dave ‘nearly’ made the bottom crux. Nearly….

As is often the case we saw dolphins about. The disconcerting aspect of this was watching a rib chase them around the bay. Surely this cannot be right? There must be some law against harassing them.

Oddly we bumped into another climber ‘Danny’. This must be the first time this has happened in this area. Really just co-incidence but who’d have thought this was a venue we’d met someone at.

So a really good day back on the rock. Going to come back for the hidden amphitheatre.

Grease is the word

21st April 2017

Lands End

The Cormorants Bill – HVS/E1 5b – Second
Longships Wall – E3 6a – Second (Dogged, but only just 🙂 )

I had anticipated an inch deep pile of shite around most of Lands End. Its often been the way when I’ve come here in the past and with the start of nesting season I realised a few routes would be off limits and many covered in guano.

But I was pleasantly surprised to find it wasnt so bad, especially on Cormorant Promontory. There were shags nesting on the lateral walls, but the bill was clear (probably just too steep) and the top points wernt covered in poo. Bonus.

On the Bill

The ab in was as atmospheric as it was last time when I was here with Pete doing Cormorant Face and so Joe and I found ourselves on the base ledge in the sunshine on probably the best day of the year so far.


Cormorants Bill has three crux’s in my opinion. The opening few metres are desperate. Joe jammed, I back and fronted. Then its getting established in the crack (no easy feat) with jams and bridging. And finally its getting through the overhang. Joe finger locked and pulled. I pansey’d around for a long time until I realised I was facing the wrong way (thanks for the tight rope here Joe 🙂 ).

Feeling good post crack

Once facing the correct way it was OK with high feet to get established and then a bit of a rock over. Once I’d worked it out it didnt seem too bad. I think I need to come back and lead this one, but I’ll make sure I’m on form.

Longships Wall

I’d planned on scouting a couple of routes on the World’s End face, but the ledges were actually completely white. It would not have been pleasant. So while Dave and Tom were off on Lands End Long Climb, we went to Longships Wall so Joe could have a go at an E3 no less. What an amazing climb it is. Longships Wall has it all. A very difficult start, tough crux and sustained but immaculate climbing through out.

Motley Crew

Joe worked it a bit on a shunt and then had a go in less than ideal conditions. The sun was beating down, and the rock had started to feel greasey. That said Joe made a valiant attempt, only failing on the crux because he got out of sequence on the moves. This will be one to return to. On my part, I struggled with the start (three tries before I got through) and then couldnt do the crux. I did eventually find a much easier alternative by using holds wide left and laying offthem. And then it just continues, and continues and continues. Great move after great move. What a climb. Maybe the hardest and best I’ve done, but so satisfying. I’m coming back to do this many more times, on a top rope of course unless I become super confident and fit in the near future.

I video’d a lot of the day and it has come out well. This will be the start of my year long video diary and will hopefully capture the essence of what it’s like to climb and be a climber in Cornwall. And old one anyway.

The perfect day for shorts

7th April 2017

Boscawen Point

Looking Glass War – E1 5b – Second
Luke Lively – VS 5a – Lead
Lord Lucan – E2 6a – Second

Of course when ever you approach a crag that is recognised for its sharp thorny things, razor wire grass and nettles you should ensure you don’t cover your legs. In this way you get the maximum amount of pain for your money!

Amazing flower display

In actual fact the walk in to Boscawen is lovely, although coming back out again after a days climbing can feel beyond the cause. Unfortunately it is still just a bit cold for a swim so I had to content myself with three excellent climbs. Not a bad trade.

Upper reaches of Looking Glass war

In keeping with my route back to climbing form, these all gave me a challenge. Joe’s initial E1 was excellent, with a couple of tough moves. Joe is leading very well at the moment and despite some initial anxiety, he cruised through in the end. I wont say I cruised, but I felt OK throughout which was re-assuring.

Stunning Granite

My lead on the day was the fantastic ‘Luke Lively’. A VS which from the ground doesn’t look too bad, but involves some committing crack climbing and lay-backing. Well protected though. Its getting established in the upper crack that is the tough move and of course the undignified exit on slopers and grass.

Stylin on Lord Lukan

Sometimes when you repeat a climb your mind plays games, as does your memory. Joes final lead was a climb he thought he knew the moves on. My own experience has taught me that this is often distorted and sometimes you are better off just putting your pre conceived ideas aside and just reading what you see. In the end Joe managed the very technical and balanced moves, but maybe there’s a lesson learned in thinking you can just repeat everything stored in your memory. Mine particularly isn’t that reliable :-).

Butt Cracks and Ball Sacks

16th Sepotember 2016

Pednvounder Beach/Logan Rock

Reach – E2 5c – TR
Charlie’s Chank Seaward Arete – 6a- Lead(Eventually)
Blondie Jams with Sepultura – HVA 5a – Second (Dgd)

As well as being one of the most beautiful beaches in Cornwall on its day, Pednvounder is also well known as a nudist spot. On this day we shared the beach with a number of naturists, but to be honest after the initial ‘oh my god, why are you letting me see that!’ you dont even notice as the climbing is absorbing and great fun. I sometimes wish I had the bottle to get in tune with nature, but I cant see that ever happening. I leave that to Tom :-).

Pednvounder Beach

Pednvounder Beach

It really is a stunning location and with the formation of a lagoon, which cut the beach in half, it had the look and feeling of being abroad. The climbing is disjointed though. The cliff here does not really run to full height with its routes. Most are on the lower, more reliable rock that comes straight off the beach. Reach is to be found in a narrow zawn a few metres after you arrive on the beach. It is easily identified as it is a seriously overhanging piece of rock.

Looks hard and is hard

Looks hard and is hard

Joe advised me that the routes here are sometimes done as highball bouldering problems. That would be a serious fall if you blew it at the top. And given the really pumpy nature of the routes that is a definite possibility. I knew the E2 would be hard, so I ‘warmed up’ on the short overhanging crack at the start of Shady Wall. Of course this was much harder than I anticipated, so I proceeded to dog it for the first few attempts. Eventually after I had enough gear in I cleaned it, but not what I would call a clean ascent! Dave however made it on his first go, just to make me feel entirely inadequate. Git…

Dave giving it the soulful walk  .. "I want to be at one with nature!!!"

Dave giving it the soulful walk .. “I want to be at one with nature!!!”

Meanwhile Joe and Tom were giving it some on an impossibly hard route to the right of Reach. I think the start ended up having the beating of them but no wonder, with small holds and a major overhanging route. Reach has a hard start, but eases as you get higher. But only by degrees. It is all overhanging so even those ‘good holds’ soon feel inadequate. Having made the hard start I just kept going, thinking that I wouldnt be able to get going again so best make the best of this attempt, which eventually turned out OK, although I ached for a while just after.

Joe gets jammin

Joe gets jammin

Joe was determined to get over to Logan Rock for a jamming fest on Blondie jams with Sepultura. He got his wish, as we all gave up some skin for the cause. This was despite being taped up for the job (which is like a wax job when you take it off). The climb is tough, with problematic foot jams and a crack that doesnt quite fit your hands.

Tom gives it a go

Tom gives it a go

Joe made his way up on the lead and the three of us followed with varying degrees of success. What I would say is that it is thoroughly enjoyable, despite the pain. I’d like to try it again now, having tried once. Make a better ‘fist’ of it next time.



So, what a great day out. Fabulous views, great climbing and good friends. What more can you ask for?

Success seems largely a matter of hanging on when others have let go

26th August 2016

Cheesewring Quarry

Daisys Flapjack – 6a+ – Dgd (Just)
Trouble with Lichen – E3 6a – Dgd
Double Agent – 7a+ – DNF
Debutante – E3 6a – DNF
Half Route Half Boulder Problem – E3 5c – DNF

On this particular day my success rate was to be measured by the number of failures I achieved. That said, it was a really enjoyable days climbing and it made a real change to be able to unleash on a climb and not have to worry about gear or a leader fall.

I also found my level. Although I could do the moves on most of the routes, what I couldnt do was link them together in some cohesive fashion that would have enabled me to clean a whole route. But it was good to know that I could do a 6a move, even if it took me a few attempts.

Joe of course was smashing everything, but I realise that if I am to push my grade at some point this is something I’m going to have to do more of. Without actually practicing ome moves at this level I would have no idea what was in store for me.

My favourite two routes were Trouble with Lichen and Double agent. Both very technical in different ways, but both really satisfying when you had worked the moves out. TWL I managed on about my 6th attempt, but finally realised what I needed to do. DA was a case of not being strong enough. Maybe after some indoor training I’ll be able to do the upper moves, but not yet.

I think I might return to Cheeswring for a bit more ‘training’. I also fancy Warrior at some point.

Now we’re friends

7th March 2015

Trewortha Tor

Just Good Friends – HVS 5b – Lead

I soooo wanted to lead ‘Just Good Friends’ but after a quick top rope practice and still struggling mentally to make the move onto the flake it looked no closer.

The problem for meis that its a good 12 ft up and if you blow the move its an awkward fall (onto mats admittedly) which is likely to do my knee in. There is no pro to be had at the flake, at least none you’d want to trust.

After deciding I would never lead it, much to Dave and Tom’s amusement, I realised I could with a bit of leverage off the flake get a cam into the break. That was it then. Straight onto the lead and finished on the E1 now HVS finish.

I dont undertsand this actually. The hardest move is the lower one which gets 5a and yet the top finish is HVS 5b, with a well protected and reasonable move. I think the lower move is 5b and both variations could be given HVS 5b.

We mozied over to the next buttress, but by then conditions were cold and windy and the sun was gone. Tom though managed to clean a 6a boulder problem. Very awkward and requiring lots of power and commitment. Good on him.

I think Trewortha is going to be a regular evening haunt for us during the summer. Lots more to do and loads of bouldering to fail on…

Getting in some flight time

15th June 2013

Ariege – Auzat
Secteur Principal

Tomio – 4 – Second
Roxanne – 5+ – Second
Dure Limite – 6b – Lead (dgg’d)
Chippie – 5+ – Second
Grimsel – 6a – Second
Bassine – 5+ – Lead
La Sabine – 5+ – Second

This was to be a final busy day climbing. We returned to Auzat, a favorite of ours over the trip, but this time to the main sector.

More of Roxanne

More of Roxanne

I had it in my mind that this would be the day I tried an 6b and so it turned out. After a getting warmed up on a couple of routes we ended up at the base of a fierce looking crack. With my confidence high I set about tackling the first section which went well until the traverse. This stopped me in my tracks and despite trying to force myself through it by shear will power I couldnt get it wired.

Chris rests a bit on Dure Limite

Chris rests a bit on Dure Limite

Chris stepped up and made the move that I had struggled on so badly only to come unglued at about 2/3’s height through the shear strenuousness of the route. However he got himself back on and finished the route for a great first 6b for the team.

Tom at the Crux moves of Dure Limite

Tom at the Crux moves of Dure Limite

Tom after initially struggling on the same move as I had, then proceeded to climb the route which left me in a real dilemma. I needed to lead it again… despite being a bit bollox’d. So once again I set off to tackle the crux moves, which laughed at me as I peeled off, level with the second bolt having run out of steam. The fall was exciting to say the least, with me finishing a few feet off the ground and Chris having to work hard to catch me. (Many thanks Chris).

Me after finally getting through the crux

Me after finally getting through the crux

By this time I was seeing red and I’d decided I was going to get this done if it was the last thing I did… which was a possibility if I kept taking falls like that. Reaching the same point as I had previously I moved a few feet higher so I could lock out on a good juggy hold and clip the second bolt to my relief. Yee haaa… at last. Mind you the effort of getting here meant I had little left for the remainder which I unashamedly dogged all the way to the top. Sometimes its the finishing that counts, not the way you do it. Elegant I was not!!!

Tom on Grimsel

Tom on Grimsel

The three remaining climbs of the day were all crackers. They are all on the same face and all given loads of stars and quite rightly. Each has its own character but all are challenging. Tom’s final lead on Sabine (probably the best of the three) was a job well done and probably his toughest lead of the trip.

Tom nearing the end of La Sabine

Tom nearing the end of La Sabine

So with everyone absolutely spent we returned to Tarascon for a final Leffe in the beer garden and a chat with two travellers heading for a party in Spain. Cool road trip.

I think we will be back to Ariege next year. There is so much climbing, and the area so beautiful it will be hard to resist. Next time it will be with Dave so that he too can experience the beer and cheese.

Crash Test Chris

14th June 2013


Le Bon Sens – 6a – Lead
Mehare – 5+ Second
Pussicat – 6a – Lead
Oriane – 6a – Second
La Vista – 5+ – Lead

You would think that this trip just consisted of getting up and climbing. On the contrary, we had a number of routines which became part of this extended climbing trip.

The Dining Room

The Dining Room

Mornings were not early. We knew they should b,e but we couldnt roust ourselves that well and so a leisurely breakfast and ubiquitous cup of coffee sorted us out for the short but beautiful drive down to Tarascon. Aston is a really sleepy village and nothing seemed worth rushing for when you’re there. A quick stop at the patisserie for Pain aux raisin’s and then off to the crag. On this day we were in for a treat.

View towards Andorra

View towards Andorra

Baychon is probably my favorite venue in Ariege. Set away from the crowds in an idil valley above a small Hamlet it has a real feeling of remoteness and solitude. Getting there isnt a problem unless you have a Chris with you. Then you have to contend with reversing out of a tiny hamlet which you should never have gone to in the first place. Chris needs to read more than one line at a time. Then the clearly marked ‘DO NOT DRIVE INTO THE HAMLET’ may have been on his mind.

Mountain Village

Mountain Village

There is though very good parking just across the road which made things easier and once again we were the only ones at the crag.

The tricky slab of Le Bon Sens

The tricky slab of Le Bon Sens

Le Bon Sens is a very cruxy 6a. The climbing is straight forward until you reach the slightly overhanging thin corner crack. You need to tackle this with conviction in order to make the jugs higher up. Once through here there is a technical corner but its all in the one move really. Pussicat was a far better 6a. Much more challenging with a very thin move onto the upper slab where friction is your friend.

Pussicat - not quite.

Pussicat – not quite.

Chris took on the devious Mehare, which has a step up that took me ages to figure out. It’s completely off balance and at no point did I feel in control. Great fun! Oriane proved to be Chris’ undoing on this day.

Chris on Oriane

Chris on Oriane

Too many long and tiring days probably contributed but Chris came off a couple of times, both at very unexpected points and probably due to a lack of concentration. I think by this time we were all feeling the heat and after one final route called La Vista, which was confusing, we made tracks back for an early supper (after our traditional Leffe at the hotel of course).

The river kept rising cos of the meltwater. Kayakers dream

The river kept rising cos of the meltwater. Kayakers dream

In the evening we set off on a walk through the woods up the valley. The river produces a wierd effect. The air surrounding it is freezing, but either side it was boiling. Just goes to show how cold the meltwater was. The woods turned out to be a great walk. By time we returned it was pitch black and very spooky.

Spooky Woods

Spooky Woods

Clearly this trail is an old shepherds trail, with now unused field systems either side. It gives an insight into times long gone in the area. All we needed was Bears and Wolves and strangely enough……………….

Lets start as we mean to finish

6th June

Calames – Ariege

Les Instantfataux – 5+ – Lead
Blues pour un chat noir – 5+ – Lead
Les Herbes Amieres – 5+ – Second
La Nauc – 6a – Lead (dogged)

We lucked into a quiet campsite in a little village called Aston,; in fact we were the first ‘campers’ of the season which entitled us to a free night and choice of any pitch on the site. Tucked away in a narrow valley it sits next to a fast flowing (very at this time due to snow melt) river, the roar of which keeps you constant company but doesnt detract from a good nights sleep.

Noisy Neighbours

Noisy Neighbours

We woke up on our first morning raring to go, so it was into the  hired ‘Cashcow’ and off for a morning coffee in Tarascon. This leisurely approach meant we managed to arrive at the crag as the sun started beating down, a lesson quickly learned which we proceeded to ignore for most of our ventures to the crags. We were just not early risers.

Walk in to Calames

Walk in to Calames

The sunny weather by all accounts was unusual for 2013. Up to this point the weather in Ariege had been poor so it seemed a good omen. One of the most notable crags in Ariege is Calames. You can see it clearly from Tarascon and the number of different sectors makes it an obvious choice for an opening venue. Tom, Chris and I are used to some arduous walk ins. Cornwall has plenty of them, but with the heat the walk up through Bedeilhac and across the ridge felt tough.

As is often the case, finding your bearings is difficult, but we rocked up to Sector Le Papy without too many wrong turns. What I like about French Sport crags is that they write the name of the crag on the rock! How cool is that. It didnt seem to help us though as I picked out a three star 5 called Theiere de jardin and proceeded to immediately go off route and climb its neighbour Les Instantfataux which was a 5+.

Chis starts off on Les Instantfataux 5+

Chis starts off on Les Instantfataux 5+

This is something to bear in mind. The routes are tightly packed. Unlike the routes we are used to in Cornwall where an obvious line is picked (which could meander around a bit) the limestone routes sometimes just go straight up. Looking for a line is likely to take you off route on many pitches. Just follow the bolts. It makes for some different climbing as it pushes you through territory you might not naturally take on. At the same time it tends to make the climbs more difficult and sometimes a bit weird. By the time I left Ariege I was loving it, but to start with it feels a bit ‘false’.

Chris high on Les Instantfataux

Chris high on Les Instantfataux

So to the climbing. My first route, Les Instantfataux turned out to be a cracker. Both Chris and I led this one. I soon discovered that many limestone routes are about small crimpy holds and delicate footwork. I needed to trust my feet and work through some of the tricky technical sections. To be honest, on this first day I was struggling to be confident in my footwork, but this soon evapourated as I got a few routes under my belt.

Chris on the headwall of Blues pour un chat noir 5+

Chris on the headwall of Blues pour un chat noir 5+

‘Blues’ turned out to be significantly harder, making me realise that there are 5+’s and 5+’s. Similar for the most part to LI, the headwall provides some hard technical climbing. It was around this point that I started to realise that my earlier view that 5+ equated to around VS 4c back home was seriously flawed. It seems that a 5+ tends to equate to 5b back home putting it nearer E1 at times, but obviously with bolts.

Tom on the first overhang of Les Herbes Ameres 5+

Tom on the first overhang of Les Herbes Ameres 5+

This of course is where the idea of comparing grades falls down. You can only really compare the technical grade for the most part. While I climb hard on trad routes, I definitely on the whole dont climb as hard as I had to on the sports stuff. This was a refreshing change, although it took me until almost the last day to switch off my trad head (with the little voice saying “dont fall, dont fall”).

Tom on the tricky bulge of Le Nauc 6a

Tom on the tricky bulge of Le Nauc 6a

Chris made a good job of the first pitch of Les Herbes Ameres, a tough 5+, before we decided to look at a 6a called Le Nauc. This is all about one sequence through a bulgy section and my head let me down big time. Daft thing is its well protected as the bolt is in exactly the right place (unlike some routes we did later on). Still a valuable lesson learned. Go for it…

The trudge back was made sweater when we stopped off in Tarascon for a Beer at Le Hotel Confort, a residence clearly aimed at the touring biker, but which served up ice cold Leffe beer overlooking the river.

Leffe time in Tarascon

Leffe time in Tarascon. Calames is the smaller outcrop dead center of the picture.

Back at the campsite, we commandeered the barbeque hut for our private kitchen/diner, a luxury we retained for the duration of out stay in Tarascon and had our first helping of Tuna Something. A very tasty dish which hit the spot, but the recepe for which is a closely guarded secret only known to Chris.