Tag Archives: E3

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.

No longer a Bane

17th April 2017


Vespula (The Wasp) – HVS 5a – Second
Midnight Express – E1 5b – Lead
Bermuda Wall – E3 5c – Abysmal failure

Some days are seminal because they mark an occasion when you conquer a fear or overcome a reoccuring problem. Midnight Express was a benchmark climb for me. It represented a level of climbing I wanted to achieve, but one which for a number of years I came up short on.

I dont think it was because the climb was so overly difficult. In fact I’m sure I’ve led harder, but because of an early failure, it started to loom bigger in my mind than it deserved. For this reason it became a problem because I started to psych myself out of the route before I even started. Hence my grumpiness with Dave on this day and my initial overbearing desire to just give up and walk away.

Ready for Midnight Express… Bring it on!!

But i didnt and in the end it went smoothly and was well within my ability. For Dave too, this was a climb he had wanted to clean and so we both had a big grin by then end as we both sent it clean.

Dave stylin on the crux

This was of course after a warm up on the twin cracks over towards the Marconi Wall area. I’d done these before a while back (I think I called it the Scorpion because of the sting in the tail, but have since found another climb with that name at Carn Barra – so its now Vespula another name for Wasp). Joe despatched this with ease, despite it still being a tricky finish. But a good warm up never-the-less.

Dave on Vespula

St Levans was its usual magnificent self. Stunning views, gorgeous beaches and immaculate rock. Also the wild flowers this year are putting on a real display. So it was with this backdrop that Joe set about Bermuda Wall. A terrific climb. Bold to start, then a bit thuggy and then technical to finish. Everything really. And Joe did it clean which was brilliant. More than Dave or I could say. We both struggled on the opening moves. I eventually managed to get past them only to gas out on the flakes. So one to try again next time. Unfortunately it probably means Joe will have to lead it again, but hey, thats what friends are for.

Even time for a look around

Also got a bit of video this time which I’ll add shortly. Its going to be a theme this year, as I’d like to document a year in video and make a short film from it. Lets see how it goes.

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.

My (not so dead) dead chicken has better feet than you do!

19th July 2016

Pentire Point
Black Zawn

Nipped in the Buddha – VS 4c – Second
Little Black Dress – EC 5B – TR
Brother Chris – E3 5c – TR (dgd)

Dave had been wittering on about NITB for ages so it was only fair to let him have his moment (of fear). NITB is one of those VS’s that doesnt look too bad until your trying to find your equilibrium as you move up into the groove. From the ground it is quite steep. From the groove it is overhanging. Either way it’s not easy.

Joe pose....

Joe pose….

After I had dropped the ab rope into the sea we dropped down onto the ledge below NITB. For a change most of the climbs were dry. Unusually.

Before the groove NITB

Before the groove NITB

The Black Zawn never really looks inviting but the truth is that there are a large number of high quality climbs here. The harder varieties suffer from a distinct lack of gear, but the moves and holds are brilliant. Most of the E numbers are on the buttress starting right of The English Way and heading all the way around to the seaward face. A awkward traverse gets you to Merchants of Menace a very good looking E2 which I think I’ll have a go at one day.

Top Groove ofNITB

Top Groove ofNITB

Dave made NITB look relatively easy, which it isnt. A sloping slab leads to difficult moves up into the groove. Then its a case of using the angles to make it easier for an exciting finale.

Dave does E2

Dave does E2

The E2 was an excellent climb, but leading it would have been a different proposition. Very little gear, particularly protecting the crux moves which were fiddly before you arrived at the jugs.

Whooo Whoo!

Whooo Whoo!

The E3 was superb. Beyond me to clean it on this day, but what a climb. It looks so unlikely from below, but as the guidebook says, miraculous holds appear when you need them. Unfortunately for me I didnt see one of the hidden miraculous holds so had to rest about half way. But for the main part it is just excellent move after excellent move. I’d love to say I’d lead this but I’d have to have a closer look at the gear first.

Boy this lad can climb.

Boy this lad can climb.

A tired group of three discussed Joes horrendous feet before a steep walk out on a stunning evening with a huge moon rising over the fields and part noises drifting across from Polzeath. The end of a good day.

Good Moon Rising

Good Moon Rising

And as a final point. How can you not know if a chicken is dead or not. Daves hutch cooked chickens some how rose from the dead – maybe they are Frankenchickens.

Exploding Antipodian

27th May 2016

Coastguard Cliffs – The Lizard

Aboriginal Sin – E3 – Second
Casablanca – E2 – Alt Lead
Rendezous Manque – V Diff – Lead

Sometimes you have a vision of how a climb will be. I imagine myself climbing it and invent the holds, hoping they will be as good in real life. On a beautiful sunny day, Joe and I stood below Aboriginal Sin and I considered whether I was in good enough form to actually get up it.

The guidebook describes a series of juggy flakes leading to ‘the fang’ that sticks up at the end of the steeply rising and overhanging crack. Easy then! Get on it and move quickly until you can get hold of the juggy fang.

Joe below Aboriginal Sin

Joe below Aboriginal Sin

After creating a bomber nest of gear Joe launched out for the fang and as I watched him fight with the crack and eventually grab the fang, I realised that this was going to be really tough. Of course it’s not over at this point and Joe had another sequence to negotiate before it was my turn.

Now in my mind the holds were going to be positive flakes and the main problem pure grunt. No, the main problem is that the jugs are actually rounded and not positive and so my first attempt ended in some air time. The second time I was lucky that Joe kept me on a tight rope as I used my last reserves to gratefully hug the fang, gasping for air and with my poor arms blown. Of course the exploding hold which literally dissolved in my hand didn’t inspire confidence and nearly shrugged me off again. Still, I got up it in the end and what a great feeling. Brilliant lead by Joe, who is going from strength to strength.

Dave on Silent Movie

Dave on Silent Movie

We joined Tom and Dave who were having there own route fest, baggy some of the class VS and HVS of the main cligg. These really are good climbs, if a bit bold at times.

Happy, Happy Joe :-)

Happy, Happy Joe 🙂

My initial suggestion of a VS traverse turned into a two pitch E2 after both me and Joe liked the look of Casablanca. I led the opening 5a pitch which was great fun. Not difficult, but nervy as the gear comes late. Joes lead of the top crack was another stirling effort. My try ended up with me jammed in the crack facing the wrong way. It was only when I extricated myself and faced the right way that the finishing moves became possible. Still a really good route and maybe I’ll try the top crack on the lead next time if I’m feeling brave.

Before the hard move

Before the hard move

Joe and I finished up a V Diff chimney (great…?) with a laughable belay on boulders that were more likely to kill you than save you. And so at the end of a hot, sunny and memorable day it was icecreams/drinks and a contented drive home.

Get a shave

Get a shave

Uhmm. Are you an ‘inny’ or an ‘outy’


2nd October 2015

Zawn Kellys
American Dream – E1 5b – Lead

Carn Les Boel 
Camelot – E3 5c – TR

Sometimes you get the bit between your teeth. This year has not been my most outstanding in climbing terms. I’ve been up and down, so why I felt the need to go for a tough E1 I dont know but I did and in hindsight I’m glad I did.

Before the Dream

Before the Dream

With the amazing spell of weather continuing, conditions were at their best. As Dave, Joe, Tom  and I walked in the Penwith coastline did its best to draw your breath away. The sea textured like marble, azure skys and a coastline set in stark relief by the low sun.

Dave making me safe :-)

Dave making me safe 🙂

I’ve never climbed Zawn Kells so it took a while to work out the ab point. This established Dave and I dropped in just as the tide cleared the boulders at the base of AD. The wave polished rocks need to be treated with care, but the view up the line of the route takes your mind off these. Its very impressive. And it looks bloody hard! And it was!

American Dream E1 5b in all its glory

American Dream E1 5b in all its glory

The opening moves give you an idea of what is coming. Balncey mantleshelf followed by some fierce steep moves up to the first ‘rest’ point. From then on its a series of high quality moves on amazing rock. Two overhangs need to be overcome (both need some thought and commitment) before you arrive at the overhanging crack. This is strenuous but technically easier than I expected, although by this point I was running out of gas so it was chuch a couple fo camms in and keep moving. And suddenly everything gets less steep and your there.

After the dream!

After the dream!

Dave made a valiant effort but too many stuck cams did for him in the end and the base of the crack shrugged him off. However he did get to climb the crack three times in order to get them out – lucky git…

I was soooo pleased to get this. On a number of occasions I got that overwhelming feeling of ‘f@~k it. Just slump in your gear and have a rest. But I found myself consolidating after each mini crisis and moving on. Just brilliant and one of the best single pitches I’ve done in Cornwall.

Pinch the crystal

Pinch the crystal

We all met up after this and despite Dave and I lingering around chatting about our adventure, we headed off for Carn Les Boels and a look at Excalibur. As it happened we left this for another day and Joe set up a top rope so that we could have a go at Camelot an E3 5c no less. It was a strange but enjoable climb. Crispy is how I’d describe some of it. A great flake move on the bulge which looked like it might disintergrate at any moment leads to some nice moves on the upper face. A fitting end to a great day.

Still reading

Still reading

Now we’ve just got to wait for next week and the crap weather they’ve forecast.

Com’on Joe, stop arsing about!

13th March 2015


Pink Sea Slab – V Diff – Lead
Devils Meridian – E2 5c – TR Dogged
Bermuda Wall – E3 5c – TR

The view over Church Cove

The view over Church Cove

One of the things I always like to believe is that I am cautious and careful when it comes to safety when we’re climbing. On a glorious day at Pedn-Men-An-mere I seemed to have a complete aberation of common sense and forget all my own well established safety protocols.

This would account for why Joe landed on his arse when he slid of Bermuda Wall, despite being on a top rope. 8mm rope (which should have been doubled up to compensate for rope stretch; belayer sat down (not the most attentive position); rope hadnt been stretched out off the anchors, so too much slack in the system. A litany of errors.

It is good that it happened on a top rope in a way. Hopefully Joe was just shaken and not damaged. I know it has shaken me up and I need to get back to good ways. There is always a lot of trust to build with your belayer and I need to re establish that.



However, it was also a great days climbing. Joe sent Devils Meridian (I didnt get anywhere near it dogging my way up) but I will hopefully get it next time. Also we both successfully got up Bermuda Wall, via a really tough series of opening moves.



Devils Meridian has a very hard middle section where foot placement and balance (with a bit of strength) are needed. It has a bit of everything- finger jams, laybacks, pinches and jug hauling. On a lead the hard part would be getting gear in. There is lots, but you have to have a free hand….

Well that wasnt easy was it?

Well that wasnt easy was it?

Bermuda Wall is just great, but hard. Joe rekkoned 6a for the lower moves and I wouldnt argue. Tiny crimps and pinches lead to some crazy underclings. Then a massive reach and finally a tough traverse. What more could you ask for.

Exposed on the top of PSS

Exposed on the top of PSS

Pink Sea Slab is not V Diff. I repeat ‘Not V Diff’. Its a great climb with some good slab moves and a wild finish, but pro is insecure and the final haul over a bulge is more in keeping with VS. It also needs good ropework and a careful eye on some decidedly dogey rock. I’m not selling it am I? It is well worthwhile though with loads of exposure and some great positions. Just not V Diff.

View over to Pink Sea Slab. Its the black slabby areas.

View over to Pink Sea Slab. Its the black slabby areas.

The new Nikon performed well though. Lots of good photos to add to the collection. Its so cool living in Cornwall 🙂

Last of the Forties

16th September 2011


Civvy Route – HS 4b – Second

Gillian – E3 5c – Top Rope

This was to be my last climbing session in my forties, not that the thought crossed my mind at the time. Still its strange to think that another milestone has passed. Hopefully I will continue to improve as a climber. For certain in most other sports I am heading the other way so its great to have a really positive challenge.

This was Tom’s first outing with Chris and myself. After a few days at Plas he seems to have caught the bug so should be a regular participant in our adventures.

We knew the weather could be a problem and as it turned out rain stopped play in terms of leading. I’ve never liked granite in the rain. It takes on a peculiar quality. What was previously grippy and reliable suddenly becomes slimy and unpleasant to climb on. This is particularly the case when you get the black mould growing on it. This should be kept well clear of in damp conditions, which is what we did in the end.

Civvy route is one of those climbs that is always on the agenda but never actually gets dealt with. So we were straight on it as an opener and a challenging return to leading for Chris. At HS it is good value. Sometimes climbed as two pitches, we did it in one, which makes much more sense as long as your on double ropes. The first section moves up a tricky groove providing testing moves, but it is the top part which provides the surprise. Leaning out in an exposed position it definitely gets the adrenaline going. My feeling is that it gets a bit overshadowed by Demo Route but is actually a top climb.

Tom had climbed before, but this was a tough starter. Particularly the top where height and atmosphere have a telling impact. Tom loved it though and this can be chalked up as his first climb on Cornish granite.

Gillian - Sennen

Gillian - Sennen

The rain then put paid to any more leading for a while and so we decided to go play on an E3 called Gillian. In hindsight this was a bit unfair on Tom but having said that it does give an indication on how the grades vary. Gillian is a fantastic climb requiring strength, technique and if you were leading a steady head. We did it on a top rope, with bot Chris and myself getting to the hight underclings before pumping out. I made it on a further attempt having gained a bit of beta from watching Chris. I can only aspire to lead something of this difficulty but maybe one day it will be within sight.

Vertical Crack - Sennen

Vertical Crack - Sennen

Tom and Chris climbed out on Vertical Crack, another gem of Sennon and at the end of a mixed day where the weather did its best to mess everything up I reckoned we were very lucky to get such a good days climbing in.