Tag Archives: Chair Ladder

Like a Bull in a Ladder Shop

9th April 2021

Overhanging Chimney – VS 4c – Alt Lead (P1)
Maureen – HS 4B – Alt Lead (P1, P3)

I suppose £5 isn’t too bad for parking at Porth Gwarra. But I am parking charge averse so it still hurts a bit. Having said that it went up to £7.50 if my mind is correct at some point so as long as they don’t blatantly profiteer I’m ok with it.

Looking across at the pinnacle of Maureen

More importantly it means less distance to walk in and on this occasion (lugging the abseil rope unnecessarily for the second time) I’m gald. Having researched the bird ban situation properly this time we headed for Bulging Wall, which inst currently barred. You go past the nesting Kittiwakes and what I am sure is a nesting Chough in Zawn Rinney, but the main area of cliff is bird free as far as I could tell.

Chris breaking through the overhang of Overhanging Chimney

The gearing up ledge on the right of the zawn is always a pleasure. Overlooking Carn Guthenbras and the seal colony it is a breath-taking view. One I never grow tired of. Its easy to take for granted the splendour of the area. On this day a couple of fishing boats cruised by with a huge flock of various seabirds in their wake. Something I’ve seen many times but which always brings a smile. Why catch your own fish when people are giving it away 🙂

So, onto the climbing. Of course Overhanging Chimney was a good choice to start on. Its overhanging so how hard could it be? Well the clue is in the name. Its fucking overhanging! But what a great find. Lots of moves to be had on this one on the lead up slab and then over the overhang, which isnt too bad if you keep moving. Not that its over then. Whats nice about this climb is that the granite is sharp and positive. No polish here. A bit of a hidden gem I think.

Zawn Rinney

Maureen is entirely different. Its still a worthwhile climb. The first pitch again is blessed with fun moves, but P2 is an enigma. I think there are multiple ways of tackling this one. Two obvious parallel crack lines go up the pinnacle. The right is harder than the left, but the left is no push over at 4b. Hairy, awkward and needing quite large gear, you need to be on your game. Chris was punished by a set of hard moves at the start of the right hand crack system so quickly moved left to a more amenable route. Again good thoughtful moves and if you can jam it makes it a lot easier.

Chris high in the left hand cracks of Maureen

A quick round of self congratulations and Chris and I were done for the day and pretty knackered. The South West continues to deliver.

Summer road fun

11th August 2016

Chair Ladder

Diocese – VS 5a – Lead

When you’re looking for an archetypal sea cliff then Chair Ladder seems to fit the bill, especially when thinking of multipitch routes. And so when Rory got hold of me to say he wanted to come down prior to the Boardmasters festival and do some sea cliff climbing…. the destination almost picked itself.

To say it was a fairly intense introduction to sea cliffs would be an understatement. I have always found Chair Ladder a bit intimidating. Possibly the ab in and the fact all the climbs literally start from sea level on a small platform. Anyway, my initial idea of starting on Flannel Avenue evaporated as it became apparent that we’d need to swim to get access to the start. So plan B was Diocese and so we went for it.

The ab in

The ab in

It is such a good climb. An opening technical bridging pitch leads to a very exposed traverse (the so called crux but probably only for the intimidation factor a I found pitch 1 harder technically) and finally a couple of pitches on exposed slabs high above the sea.

Rory on P1 Diocese

Rory on P1 Diocese

It has everything. And I hope Rory enjoyed himself on this one, because it is one of Cornwall’s finest outings on granite.

A snug little belay :-)

A snug little belay 🙂

A very relaxed Rory

A very relaxed Rory

One climb in a day may not seem a lot, but this actually took a lot out of me and by time we had been exposed to the sun and wind for 4 hrs I was prepared to call it a day.

Breaking onto the slab P3 (FA Variation)

Breaking onto the slab P3 (FA Variation)

A quick mooch over to Hella completed a really enjoyable, relaxed day with good friends. Even the 30 min hike out along the road was pleasant, before the inevitable struggle with the summer traffic. Remember “Your car is not as wide as you think it is!”

The Sea is full of diamonds

31st July 2015

Chair Ladder

Kittiwake – HVS 5a – Lead (dogged)
Excelsior – E1 5b – Alt Lead

Ok, before I get started… the most surprising part of the day was when Joe told me he had never tried Marmite! That is something I intend to resolve the next time out so be prepared for Marmite Sandwiches.

Always beautiful Chair Ladder

Always beautiful Chair Ladder

Sometimes when you are out climbing you realise how blessed you are to live in Cornwall. Chair ladder could only be described as magnificent on this day and the sea rippled with millions of refracted suns making it look like it was covered with diamonds.

Eulogy to Cornwalls coast over… now to some important stuff. It’s been a while since I’ve climbed at CL and I wish it hadnt been so long. Its such a good venue. Kittiwake was one I had looked at before when on Seal Slab, but I must confess I had forgotten how steep it looked.

Joe contemplates Excelsior

Joe contemplates Excelsior

It didnt disappoint. The slab is fairly staright forward, but as soon as you hit the diagonal split it steepens and from then on until you clear the overhang it’s ‘power on’. I was doing great until I arrived at the overhang. Its a little run out, but to be fair I bottled it, and instead of pushing through ended up slumped in my gear. Disappointing to say the least, but this year has been a bit like that. I think I’ll get on it right away next time and proove to myself that I can do it. Strangely the wall below the overhang is littered with good holds, just a bit crumbly as you move through the overhang.

Sharing the climb with the gulls and diamons in the sea.

Sharing the climb with the gulls and diamons in the sea.

Joe and I have not done many climbs together recently, so it was brilliant to set ourselves up for Excelsiour. With Joe’s recent run of form in the E3 catagory, I left the two 5b pitches to him. A bit of a cop out, but I’ve been a bit up and down, so a bit of cushty seconding seemed a good idea to me.

Me moving into the corner

Me moving into the corner

True to form Joe blitzed the lower cracks, which are by far the hardest sequence of the route. OK until you have to make moves into the left hand crack and then push for the horizontal break. That’s where they become a bit desperate, but if you keep moving the good holds come.

I had the honour of the 5a corner. Great fun! A bit tricky and more than one way to go abut this pitch as Joe and I did it in very different ways. Joe also found the hidden hold deep in the crack, which I missed. Bummer as it helped to increase the pump for me.

Joe on the tricky final pitch

Joe on the tricky final pitch

The final pitch is not so much hard, but freaky. Good lower gear leads to thin moves with little or no pro until you make the upper section. Good lead by Joe as it is out there and scary. And so finished our E1 multi pitch and well worthwhile it was. 3 stars!

Dots. And yes the tops pink

Dots. And yes the tops pink

There was enough time left for us to barrack Dave and Tom on ‘Red Wall’ as we sat above Carn Guthenbras looking across to the Western Buttress. And yes, Tom also has a Pink top. Welcome to the club Tom.

All hail breaks loose!

Chair Ladder

26th April 2013

Red Wall – Severe 4b – Alt Lead
Bishops Rib – E1 5b – Alt Lead
Porthgwarra Chimney – Severe 4a – Lead

A welcome return to Chair Ladder was the order of the day. A first for Tom and Dave, and the first time for Joe and me since we tackled South Face Direct.

Of course Chair Ladder at this time of year can be problematic cos of the gulls and fulmars nesting. But as long as you pick the right routes you are OK. Which was why Joe and I went for Red Wall which turned out to be a bird toilet.

Joe using bird poo for holds! It really stinks.

Joe using bird poo for holds! It really stinks.

Good climbing is marred by a disgusting stench and holds covered in poo. Our fault really, because we knew the climbs either side were notorious for this. It would be good to come back and try it again in the Autumn maybe.

The red wall. Steep but with good holds

The red wall. Steep but with good holds

Dave and Tom meanwhile were on Terriers Tooth a must when you first go to Chair Ladder. Not the hardest climb but one which takes some thought both ascending and descending. In fact the descent can be more dramatic than the climb if you get it wrong.

Dramatic climbing on the final pitch of Terriers Tooth. Dave leading.

Dramatic climbing on the final pitch of Terriers Tooth. Dave leading.

Dave and Tom were on the top pitch when Joe and I returned so we shot off to  have a go on Bishops Rib. This had been a long time ambition for me. I never really had the confidence but on this day I was ready and set off on the delicate first pitch. Small foot placements and crimps need a steady lead. Once at the overhang there is plenty of pro and I moved as fast as I could through it. Luckily it all came together nicely and next minute I was at the belay ledge having completed one of the best pitches I’ve ever done.

Happy Ian after the amazing P1 of Bishops Rib

Happy Ian after the amazing P1 of Bishops Rib

Joe got P2 which is equally as good and very steep. Tricky moves to a break at an overhang lead into a final crack which has huge holds and huge exposure in equal amounts. For both of us this was a benchmark and a great tick on what is one of Cornwalls classic E1’s. Pat on the back all round then.

The move up to the left leading crack on the brilliant P2 of Bishops Rib

The move up to the left leading crack on the brilliant P2 of Bishops Rib

With the tide pushing we moved into the more sheltered Porthgwarra home of a number of good climbs. The hail which accompanied Daves finish to Shawangunk was a highlight as he suffered plenty of banter just as he was taking on the difficult crux of the VS variation. Tom and I got on Porthgwarra Chimney which I think is a sandbag at Severe. But on UKC this doesnt seem to be reflected in the comments. Pro is sparce in the early part of the chimney but it improves although the climbing remains tricky throughout. A really good climb actually, but more towards HS 4b in my opinion.

Dave and Tom with Terriers Tooth behind them

Dave and Tom with Terriers Tooth behind them

A very tired group headed home with some memorable climbing in their wake.


The tide waits for no man

17th February 2012

Chair Ladder
South Face Direct – VS 4c – Alt Lead

Its one of the main factors to take into account with sea cliffs. The tide and swell conditions can change your arrangements in an instance, especially as many of the Cornwall crags are only properly accessable for about 3 hours either side of low tide.

Chris and I had wanted to climb Red Wall, a severe I’ve had my eye on for a while, but after abbing down Ash Can Gulley to the base of SFD it quickly became apparent that we wouldnt get around the corner: at least not without getting soaked.

Ash Can Gully ab

With the bottom pitch of SFD dripping (I know because I slimed my way back up it thanks to Chris’ belay at the start of pitch two) we decided to tackle SFD. Last time I climbed this was with Joe so we flipped the pitches around so that I would lead P2 and Chris the remainder.

I remember the second pitch being tricky and it lived up to expectations. It is great climbing though, not strenuous, but more technical than many VS’s. On reaching the bollard, I made the same mistake as we had done last time, going left and making the top out onto the ledge a lot harder than it needed to be. Also a lot more guano infested, which was stinking.

Chris contemplating the fierce pitch 3

Chris had a quick intro to the fierce pitch three overhang. Lots of holds and pro, but it still takes a lot of grunt to get up it. It’s my favorite pitch on SFD, purely because of the wildness of it. You dont normally get pitches like this on a VS.

Getting started on pitch 3 South Face Direct

Almost a rest spot on Pitch 3

After losing a number 4 wallnut on the top pitch (I dont think Chris was impressed as it was the first time we’d used it!) we set of for Treen and a deserved warm up. The belay ledges had been cold work today, mainly because of the wing. Chris and I mused over what a good start to the season we had just had….

Another stolen day

7th January 2011

Chair Ladder
Terriers Tooth- V Diff – Lead (top two pitches)

This was my first proper multi pitch climbing day with Tony and I figured Terriers Tooth would be a pretty good way to get off the mark. Given that the weather had been crap for the last few days and the forecast was equally rubbish, we picked this window as our only opportunity to get on the rock.

Terriers Tooth

I knew that the tide and swell would be against us so it was likely that we would start on pitch two, but the traverse across is not difficult, even if it is a bit airy. Terriers Tooth is an iconic climb. Its situation and isolation make it stand out as a V Diff. I’ve always thought that it is tough at the grade and the descent is worth adding a grade in its own right.

A fine view of suicide pool

Tony finishing off the top slab

The second pitch is steep but with good holds and gets you straight into the rythm of the route. It also opens up a whole world of exposure as you get higher. A precursor for the final step up above suicide pool.

Abbing off the tooth

Tony’s head for heights was fine though ( honed from years of playing around in tall trees) so this wasnt an issue. In fact he loved every minute and for a first multi pitch we made good work of it.

End of a stolen day

The final step up onto the tooth proved memorable as the wind had picked up and standing tall you felt very vulnerable. Still we both did it and finally abseiled off the pinnacle feeling very smug with ourselves. Given the cold conditions we decided to call it a day and turned our attention to our next outing…… probably commando ridge.

Stupid Shoes!

15th May 2010 Chair Ladder

South Face Direct – VS4c – Alt Lead

After the indifferent weather of the last few weeks, we final got our sunny warm day. What better place than Chair Ladder at low tide and another opportunity to have a go at SFD. This was the one we missed out on last time, much to Joe’s frustration, so after  an abortive attempt to descend the South end we set up to ab into the gulley beneath SFD. The ledges were full of nesting guls, but the route seemed to be clear of them as far as we could tell. Or was that just wishful thinking.


SFD is everything you would want in a VS, with a mixture of technical climbing, grunt and exposure. Joe was keen to tackle the 2nd pitch so I led off on the first. A good warm up pitch which indicates what is to come. The 2nd pitch though is much tougher. A difficult shallow groove to start which forces you upwards in the search for good holds and then a niche with a difficult exit. There was a hidden hold here which makes it much easier,but you have to find it….unfortunately Joe didnt so he had to do it the hard way.


When you pass the famous saddle horn you should bear right, but with a seagul nesting at the top of the V crack Joe went left leading to an akward top out onto the ledge. Probably slightly harder than the original variation, but fun.


The third pitch was mine. After negotiating the nesting gul, who didnt mind us that much uttering a few sqwarks, you move up to a slightly overhanging crack. Strenuous but with good holds and really fine climbing. I had not expected this so the suprise was brilliant. At this point Joe decided to chuck his shoe at a seagul on the ledge below his belay (not a good idea when you’re 100ft up) and had to downclimb to get it. The bird was not pleased and put up a stiff resistance to Joe’s efforts to regain his shoe. Talk about luck… 1ft further and Joe would have had to swim to retrieve his shoe.


The final pitch is 4a and again good climbing, finishing through another niche. Having despatched this we negotiated our way off the pillar (more difficult if you are shorter) and settlled down for lunch, completely dehydrated and knackered. Dehydration makes you clumsy I discovered on the decent to pick up the ab rope, tacking a flyer when I caught my shoe on one of the boulders. Somehow I landed on the only patch of grass around. I couldnt have planned it better, but it was a wake up call to take care.


Exhausted, we retreated back to the car at the end of a beautiful and amazing days climbing. The cliffs are alive at the moment with all their splendor on show. Role on next weekend and our camping trip.

An iconic day

17th April 2010
Chair Ladder

Diocese – VS 5a – Alt Lead
Terriers Tooth – HS 4b – Second

After the last couple of outings, where failure was becoming a little too familiar, I needed a good clean climb to lift morale. Chair Ladder delivered.


Although a little windy, the face was protected and warm ( a change from last week) and I have had my eye on Diocese for some time. I knew it was the iconic climb of Chair Ladder and had a reputation for being exposed and fairly hard for VS.


As it happened, it was just brilliant. I led the first pitch which is tricky up to the overhanging crack. From here you make a fairly bold move up, bridging from the crack onto the face. It took me a while to get my nerve up, but once committed the everything went smoothly. A truly memorable pitch which laid all of the recent disappointments to rest..


Joe and Chris duly followed raving about how good it was and then Chris was off on the famous traverse with Joe and I watching keenly from the cave. It is exposed, with small foot placements and a balancy final move. But it is a great pitch.


Then it was Joe’s turn up the exposed main face (near flannel avenue) . The climbing is not hard, but the exposure is amazing and it lets you just concentrate on climbing, not fighting to place gear. The last pitch was mine again, again exposed with holds pointing the wrong way to make it comfortable. But a worthy finish to one of the best VS’s in Cornwall.


Of course climbing in three’s chews up time, so our next climb, South Face Direct had to be left for another time much to Joe’s disgust (he has his eye on the second pitch). Still Terriers Tooth is a worthy replacement which Joe and Chris dispatched. Joe led the bold direct start which always adds an edge and the final pitch with the pull onto the slab.


As usual the down climb created a good level of fear. My comment of ‘I hope a hold doesnt snap’ seemed to go down well as we free climbed down off the needle above pinnacle gulley. Oops.

Rest of the photos here