Tag Archives: HS

The secret gear licker

12th April 2019
Porthguarnon Cove

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.

Bouldering in

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.

Dave enjoying the freezing wind… if only you could see it!



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).

Me and Tom semi soloing Porcupine



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.

Dave…. On the wrong crag???



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

Keeping up Empire

31st August 2018

Predannack Head – Pedn Clifton South

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???

So… how many climbers do you know?

24th August 2018

Predannack Head – Pedn Clifton South

Bristletail Suicide – HS 4b – Second

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).

In that nasty Zawn again

Predannack Head

Slab Zawn

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.

Happy Ian

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.

Watch your warm up!

31st July 2018

Predannack Head

Kangaroo Crack – E1 5b – Lead
Kurangh – E1 5a – Lead
Aoetearoa – HS 4b – Second

So Dave and I have been getting out a fare bit recently. Back on the climbing big time, so we were due a bit of an epic day. And by that I don’t mean our usual “epics!” , rather a day of pushing ourselves and climbing hard. See here for a short vid

Tasmania Block

So this was it. An eye on Kangaroo Crack sent us straight to Tasmania Block in Downunder Zawn (too many ozzie references for me), This is a block of rock cleaved away from the main cliff with a channel in between. On the main face are a series of good routes including ‘Down Under, Up Top’ but on the block itself is a striking right to left crack running the full height of the block. It looks sooo inviting. Getting down is through the usual grassy bank and boulder scramble (for those trying to find the zawn it is beyond the pinnacles as you walk towards Mullion direction. Go past the Pinnacles and then look down to the left. There is a point which is off the main path. The descent is to the right of this point facing out to sea.

Dave on Kangaroo Crack

However, the spirit of enthusiasm pushed me into a rash decision which was to start on the steep crack before warming up. So it just spat me off in disgust with pumped arms and torn hands. That’ll teach me.

Dave finishing off Kurangh

So on to Kurangh, an entirely different proposition. On the main face this time taking a line up over the bulge onto the blankish face. I knew it would be quite bold as it was E1 5a, but actually this climb suited me to the core. Small wires and a few dodgy small cams protect it, but the climbing is totally engaging, with small crimps, odd facing holds and the need for extreme delicacy as the you never knew what would remain and what would come of under your feet or in your hands. There is a crux move with two poor wires to protect it, but you know, I didnt find it half a scary as the HS I did at Butter Hole. I thought it was an excellent route.

Kangaroo Crack belay

So back to Kangaroo Crack with confidence fully restored. I breezed the opening section this time (now thats why you need to warm up) and found the whole route thoroughly enjoyable. It does not go the way you think its going to. Anyone who’s done Acid Test at Tregiffian will know exactly what I’m talking about. You need to be ‘thoughtful’ as the guide says. The crux is near the top in fact, not the opening section as I had thought. That does take commitment, but the gear makes the route very safe.

Having completed Kangaroo Crack

So onto Dave’s search for his first proper lead in a while. The fact he made both the E1′ look so easy was full indication he was ready to go. Dodgy hands working fine in my opinion. And Aoetearoa was a classic to do. Just a shame the flake wasn’t 20m longer. It is the epitome of flake climbing. Positive, good pro and amazing moves. We also had an angry tide chasing us so it was my turn to get a bit of a soaking. Fortunately Dave brought me up out of the dank dark and getting wetter by the second, gulley. Dave breezed it as I knew he would and so ended our first mega day of the year.

Dave on Aoetearoa

We now need a few more. Mind you I have a list of E1’s at Predannack I want to do.

True Grit?

26th July 2018

Bashers Harbour

Cave Buttress – HS 4b/HVS 5a – Lead
Mince Pie Problem – V Diff – Second

Obviously the lack of traffic on this crag plays a part. In the Cave Buttress area the rock is actually quite sound (in contrast to the piles of rubble lying in the sea elsewhere), but it has a grittiness to it probably derived from too few climbers.

Cave Buttress is given HS 4b on UKC but in the guidebook it gets HVS 5a. The guidebook is the more realistic grade. The crux is a powerful move from an undercling with a long reach. Although the gear is OK you leave it below as you make the moves so a fall is going to result in a bit of a whipper. It is definitely easier for the taller.

The VS Dave had been looking at (Cave Groove Direct) has suffered from a rockfall in its lower section. Its probably still do-able but the fresh rock looks a bit brittle and I cant say it looks attractive. The Severe next to it which Dave top-ropped does look good if a bit bold. It seems unlikely at the grade but dave found it OK if a little gritty.

Mince Pie Problem, which I’d already done was just as good the second time around. Its not easy, with a few tricky moves in the lower section, but in all its good climbing working your way up a corner and using all faces.

Back to reality

9th July 2018

Butter Hole (Suntrap Slab)

Sally – Hard Severe – 4b Lead

Eminems lyrics spring to mind when describing this evening.

“He’s chokin’, how, everybody’s jokin’ now
The clocks run out, times up, over, blaow!
Snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity ”

The usual Brexit discussion fueled by the governments overwhelming incompetence consumed our drive out, meaning Dave and I were ready to blow away a few cobwebs when we arrived out at Stepper Head. Fortunately the balance was that the views and atmosphere soon pushed all thoughts of Brexit to where they belong (the deep dark recesses of our minds).

We abbed in down the usual gully into Suntrap Slab (using our almost cable like ab rope… this needs replacing fast. It’s like abbing on a crusty loaf) and mooched around a bit checking out Cove Buttress. The Weaver looks awesome. Really exposed, hard climbing in a dramatic situation. It ticks all my boxes!

The line of Sally. The arete behind Dave.

But ultimately we needed a route and as the tide and the fact we abbed into the wrong place, meant the Hidden Amphitheatre was out, I decided (stupidly as it turned out) to give Sally ‘a go’. Never has a decision been taken so lightly that results in such an epic. From below all looked good. Me and Dave even sussed some possible gear placements. ‘What ‘s the worst that could happen!’ I think we soon found out.

Abbing

Thin delicate moves lead to the top of a rounded arete where you are faced with a swing onto the right side to be made on rounded crimps and trust in the friction of your shoes. Everything points the wrong way and I felt as if I could barn door at any moment. Of course there was no gear here. This leads to a sloping ledge of sorts (phew) but once again a tenuous cam placement is all that you have which is 4 ft below you when you make the next crux move. This all added up to a very nervy climb with the feeling that a fall of any kind would only end in disaster. I’ve done E2’s that inspire a lot more confidence.

Of course once complete I had that slightly euphoric feeling of escaping a nasty situation. Unfortunately Dave wasn’t to get off so lightly being shrugged off at the first crux on the barn door move. I think both of us left the crag with a certain amount of humility. It’s easy sometimes to forget that you really can end up in some dangerous situations (particularly when the guide book screws you over). However much you plan, sometimes events take control, like today.

But maybe that why I climb 🙂 Remember…… RULE 4

I’ve gone all religous

17th Feb 2017

Vicarage Cliffs

In Memorium – HS 4a – Lead
Tombstone – S 4a – Second

After a long layoff (since October) I finally got back to some proper climbing. The recent rain meant the Culm was the obvious choice to avoid seepage, but as it turned out the day was bright, if a bit windy.

The nice solid descent

My pre Christmas jitters seemed to have settled down as well, as my excursion onto ‘In Memorium’ demonstrated. For HS this packs a bold punch. Climbing on flakes and edges which are not reliable adds some nerves to the route, but unexpectedly for HS there is little reliable gear. To the point where the run outs are actually dangerous.

Joe on belay duty

You follow the arete basically, climbing inside and outside up the line of least resistance. But other than a CAM low down there is no bomber gear until higher up. The best thing for me is that I didnt back off and I didnt have problems with my head game. Sorted…

On the main slab

Dave and I then moved across to Tombstone, a really good severe tackling the overlap on the main cliff. Well worth the effort and well protected as well.

Sunset at Vicarage

As usual Cornwall delivered the breathtaking scenery. And a buttery yellow sunset capped what was a thoroughly good return to climbing ways.

Now I need to return here and bag all the VS/HVS routes which look damn good.

 

 

Feet of endurance

15th July 2016

Carn Kenidjack

Thane – E1 5b – Lead
Gneiss Gnome – HS 4b – Second
The Stormbringer – E3 5c – TR (dnf)

I love Carn Kenidjack! It’s official. Probably the crag of my best leads and always a ground breaker when it comes to grades.

Cape Cornwall

Cape Cornwall

So Thane isnt any higher in the grade than any other E1… but sometimes it is reputation that counts and Thane, thought to be easier than Rock Dancer by many, is less attempted. Why?? Cos its f#*king scary that’s why.

Working hard in the upper groove

Working hard in the upper groove

There are two sequences on the climb, one fairly low down and then another once established in the upper groove. Both are above your gear and both are a bit iffy for your head. It makes for a really interesting battle between your head and your feet. Head says ‘Go!’, feet say ‘Nope.. I’m going to stay right here where its safe’.

Me on the upper groove

Me on the upper groove

In the end, after my usual deliberations I went for both moves and both were OK, although my advice to others would be to keep going once you commit, because there are a number of moves before you reach more gear.

So sat here in the safety of my home I can say that Thane was an incredible climb, full of character and with some great moves. At the time of climbing I might have given a different opinion, but it is a big tick for me as it has long been on my list of ‘wanna’s’

Looking up Thane

Looking up Thane

Of course it wouldnt be fair for me to hog all the epics so Dave had his own version on Gneiss Gnome, discovering that the lower slab is particularly run out for a Hard Severe. Fortunately Tom did leave something for Dave to climb after his attempt to destroy the cliff when having a go on Seiging the Castle a long lost E4 5c which tackles the crack in the face to the left. Ripping breeze blokes off the cliff is just not cricket.

Line of Gneiss Gnome

Line of Gneiss Gnome

Joe was as usual smashing his way through ridiculously difficult routes. I let him persuade me into attempting an E3 5c on the top rope. Having seem Joe on the crux, I knew it would be difficult, but my general power let me down on what was a really good route. Just need that explosive burst and I might have made it. Note to muscles ‘must get stronger’.

Joe checking out The Stormbringer

Joe checking out The Stormbringer

And so ended another epic day on the crag. I am absolutely bursting to get out again now. Thane has instilled a bit of confidence in the system. It was needed.

This plan sucks!

8th July 2016

Lands End / Dingo Area

Blue – HS 4b – Lead (just…)

The header just about summed up my feelings as I started on the opening moves of Blue for the umpteenth time (8 or 9 attempts at least). A period of inactivity, too much good food and a liberal dose of wet rock was playing devestating games with my confidence.

OK, lets try not to break anything here....

OK, lets try not to break anything here….

A actually really like Lands End. There is something special about climbing on the tip of England and as usual the views are stunning. If there is a down side it would be the varying rock quality, which can feel insecure and crumbly. This is possibly due to lack of traffic, but the integrity of the rock does change.

Heading for a little sit down

Heading for a little sit down

Joe and Nick were definitely suffering from this over on Dr Syntax’s Head, finding some nasty HVS’s to occupy themselves on. Meanwhile Dave, me and Pete were wrestling with Blue. From below it looks reasonably inoccuous. But this hides the steepness and difficulty of the opening moves. It overhangs for a start and the holds are small.

Your a Bas#*rd Riddell

Your a Bas#*rd Riddell

Gear is OK but you make the difficult moves above it until you reach the first break. With wet holds I continually found myself slipping off until after one abortive attempt where I had to lower off, I managed to climb it clean. I was so stuffed by the end though. Absolutely drained in fact.

Dave looking very calm and collected

Dave looking very calm and collected

Its a great climb in fact, but not HS and harder than 4b. VS 4c probably, because of the opening moves and the top jam. The wet didnt help, but it was still hard.

"So anyway. As I was throwing for this dyno mono........"

“So anyway. As I was throwing for this dyno mono……..”

Good on Pete for a stirling effort after a long period of semi retirement. Good to see him back on it and no mishaps on this day. Dave, who is climbing better and better made short work of it. Many thanks for the patience they both showed in waiting for me to sort my head out.

Nick on some kind of Mare at DSH

Nick on some kind of Mare at DSH

I am going to return here and repeat this one in good conditions (and the tough and bold looking VS to its side), hopefully on the same day I bag Cormorants Bill. 🙂