Tag Archives: Pen Olver

Slaying old memories

Pen Olver

Bilsons Fowl Play – V Diff – Lead

Let Her Children Play – VS 4b – Lead

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.

Initial exploration of Green Lane Cliff

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.

Looking down Bilsons Foul Play

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.

Slightly dark as we left

Its a shame we missed the porpoises that the Coastguard lady told us about. Otherwise it would have been even better šŸ™‚

Vegetables are good for you. Sometimes…

2nd May 2014

Pen Olver – The Lizeard

Lying Eyes – Severe 4a – Lead
The Womb Tomb – Severe 4a – Second
The Giant Carrot – E1 5b – Lead
Sesame Street – V Diff (Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha………!! ) – Second

Before we even got to Pen Olver I knew I would end up preoccupied with The Giant Carrot. I’d checked it out on our previous visit but didnt have the nerve to do it. This time I thought I’d better give it closer attention.

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Pen Olver was looking its best. Calm seas. light winds and a cool temperature. Typical spring day really. Chris and I paired up, with Tom, Dave and Pete in the triumvate. I suspect Pete felt that Dave and Tom might give him an easier time of it so he could rest his damaged leg. I think maybe he was wrong here as Dave set off on the brilliant but tricky ‘The Peoples Queen’. Ā Pete who has been climbing superbly recently had time to squeeze in an ascent of Lying Eyes, my first lead of the day as well. No rest for the …..

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Lying Eyes is short but OK. A good warm up route and it gets you to the top of the pinnacle which is always a treat. Looking across at Dave fighting his way up TPQ ,I think Chris and I had the easier option but Dave despatched yet another VS to add to his growing list.

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Chris then subjected himself to a bit of ‘trollism’ as he negotiated the fantastic ‘ The Womb Tomb’. Anyone who goes to Pen Olver should do this climb. It is excellent. The final exposed traverse just caps off what is a truly different experience form most climbs. And the famous cave painting is still there. Or is it a fake??

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So onto my main event. Or would it be? From below I thought I had this one sussed.But once on it, it becomes a different beast. Not sure I agree that there are small wires to be had on the traverse. I placed two in what appeared to be good slots, only for one of them to shatter when Chris removed it. A crucial cam in the face settled my nerves and I was away. It was scary, but scary good. A few difficult moves later I was sucking in air on the arete and feeling decidedly sick. Way too much adrenaline. But what a buzz. I was soooo pleased to get this one, especially after making a couple of false starts.

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The adrenaline wasnt finished for the day though. Chris was scratting around for a lead wanting something around HS but not finding anything. So he settled for a really good looking line called Sesame Street. Given V Diff in the book. V Diff My Arse!! I always trot out the saying that if it looks hard from the ground, it is hard.

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Chris found this out, battling up the route and getting a real shock at its difficulty. Looks like he got his VS, because I rekon this was the more appropriate grade. It made for a fitting end to what was a great day out. Ā Tom spent a lot of the afternoon racking up leadsĀ on the Main Face with Pete. Looks like Pete might get his 60 after all.



18th May 2013

Pen Olver – (The Lizard)

Songs from a Gentle Man – VS 4c – LeadĀ 
The Peoples Queen – VS 4c – Lead
Dolphin Surprise – HS 4b – Lead
Songs from a Broken Heart – VS 4c – Lead
The Womb Tomb – Severe – Second

Despite our round about route to The Lizard via St Erth (caused by our usual indecision) Ā this turned out to be a good choice. 2013 is going to be the year of the never ending winter. Lots of sun on this day, but accompanied by a cold North Westerly which we were fortunate to be sheltered from.

Gearing up.

Gearing up.

We managed quite a few climbs on this day. With all the routes being single pitch and access very easy we were up and down all day. Dave and I kicked off on a cracker called Songs from a Gentle Man, a route which follows an exposed arete. It looks bold at first but there’s gear where you need it. The rock is fragile in places, but you dont need to haul on it. Use your feet well and it feels secure. I thought it was great, one of the best at this venue.

The arete of Songs from a Gentle Man

The arete of Songs from a Gentle Man

Meanwhile Tom was leading the tricky Vumba, which has some good moves in its final section. Dave set off on Peoples Queen, which is hard VS. The difficulties are short lived, but the main groove pushes you out and if you get your shape wrong its tough.

Pete exiting the difficult groove of Peoples Queen.

Pete exiting the difficult groove of Peoples Queen.

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My attempt on Dolphin Surprise was delayed whilst I tried to work out the opening moves. Considering this was graded HS 4b it was the hardest move I did all day. It’s a real pumpy pull up to the first ledge using a less than perfect hold. Once past this the rest of the climb is straight forward, but its a shock to the system.

The view from the start of Womb Tomb. Tom about to head off.

The view from the start of Womb Tomb. Tom about to head off.

The four of us left the best till last. The Womb Tomb is brilliant. You get to the start through a narrow gash in the rock which brings you into a dark almost enclosed chimney which widens as it rises. Climb this on surprisingly grippy rock until you break out into the sunrise with a wide bridging move.

The bold move out of the dark chimney.

The bold move out of the dark chimney.

A bold step across lets you exit onto the seaward side of the pinnacle on the right (facing landwards). A climb that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Sea Breeze

25th May 2012

Pen Olver

Blind Pew – V Diff – Second
Great Slanting – V Diff – Second
Bilsons Foul Play – V Diff – Second
Mule – HVS 5a – Lead

Probably the trickiest part of climbing at Pen Olver is finding your way there and down to the base of the crag. If you approach past the Housel Bay Hotel its not obvious where the climbing is. The best bet is to head for the end of the headland and when you are about 100yards away head down to the edge on what is a small rocky outcrop.

Pen Olver in all its glory.

This soon turns into a more substantial piece of rock and unlikely as it seems at the time if you keep heading down you eventually reach the top of a narrow and exposed descent ramp. Good luck in finding it, but ultimately it is worth it.

The weather being what it is in Cornwall decided to go from cool to baking overnight which meant we were scratching our heads thinking of a venue which wasnt going to overheat. Pen Olver matched up nicely.

Why me? I could be at home working, but no, you make me come climbing.....

Its a great venue and we spent the day on the main ledge giving access to the Pen Olver Slab and the climbs on the Western sector. With Tom and Dave eager to get some more leading in we started on Great Slanting, a tremendous climb with a really open finish. Described as steady, this is a good description requiring Dave to work hard for pro. Probably the most technical of the V Diffs we climbed this day.

Dave on the early stages of Great Slanting

Dave high on Great Slanting

Tom moved onto Blind Pew which carves a way straight up the middle of the slab. This one saves its crux for the last third with some exposed climbing on a vertical niche. The pro too gets harder to place the higher you get. Its a great line and deserves stars.

Tom moving up Blind Pew.

Tom on the crux of Blind Pew

I had been eyeing up ‘Mule’ an HVS between the two. This turned out to have a well protected, but pumpy start and a poorly protected but technical finish. A bit of everything really which made it really enjoyable. I was quite suprised at how good it was, so finished it with a big smile.

Dave on the top and poorly protected slab of Mule

Last of all was Bilsons Foul Play. As the tide had swamped the main platform, this was an obvious choice. A good climb, steep and following a distinct chimney, but probably not as good as the two main face climbs.

Dave leading Bilson's Foul Play

Still, you cant complain when you’ve had sunshine and fantastics views all day and the climbing has matched up. A brilliant day out in a beautiful part of Cornwall.



Near Misses…

Pen Olver
17th September 2009

Let Her Children Play – VS 4c – Lead
Songs From A Broken Heart – VS 4c – Second
Womb Tomb (Direct Finish) – V Diff – Lead


A forced trip to Helston meant the Lizard was the obvious choice. I’ve never climbed at Pen Olver, but the guide book indicated there was good climbing so Chris and I set off for the unknown.


Finding the descent ramp was our first issue. When you approach it, it doesnt look feasable that there is a way down, but its ther and being lazy I went for the first climb we came to. It didnt look too difficult although it was hard to tell as usual from the bottom. The first part is fine, good climbing and OK if hard to find protection. But as you go up the quality of the rock deteriorates.


At the point where you traverse around the holds start to get brittle and pro scarcer. I possibly went a little high on the traverse but it was still tricky. At the top I was faced with a short shallow chimney which I decided to go for. Half way through pulling up, the hold in my left hand snapped of, bouncing off the face and going over Chris’s head before i could get my words together to shout below. I was busy trying not to fall off and in the end gave up on the chimney and scrambled up the ramp ( which the guide book suggested anyway). On the way I dislodged a foot log boulder which fortunately landed flat and didnt roll off to collect Chris.
Nerves fried I set up the belay, (what there was of it?) and Chris came up. The top of Let Her Children Play is a minefield of loose material just waiting to fall. Not my favorite climb.


Then it was on to ‘Songs’ an altogeher different prospect. It looked good and it was good, climbing the small ‘island pinnacle’ up the main seaward crack.Ā Good climbing, brilliant pro and an amazing belay spot on the top. Shame Chris left me at the bottom facing a rising tide with a moderate swell running. My wet feet indicated how close I was to being beaten by the tide, but it was worth the wait. Thats two weeks in a row that Chris has left me at the bottom of a climb with a rising tide. I’ll have to watch this.


The final climb was Womb Tomb. A great chimney climb which we used as an escape route. ‘Songs’ finishes on the pinnacle recquiring a down climb down the landward face, which is easier than it looks. So you are back at the bottom. Womb Tomb is an obvious climb out being next door and higher above the tideline. Having climbed the chimney, I didnt fancy the traverse with its swing potential , especially after my encounter with snapping holds ( I was a tad nervy about this) so I finished on the V Diff and let Chris play on the traverse which in hindsight I probably should have done. But hindsight is a deceptive thing. I’ll leave it for the next time.

Still, another fantastic days climbing and a venue we will defintely be back to.