Tag Archives: VS

Combined Tactics (beneath Pendeens massive hooters)

19th April 2019
Pendeen Cliffs

Second Slip – Severe 4a – Lead
Gymslip – VS 5a -Lead
Foam Follower – HVS 5a – T/R
Sea Music – V Diff – Solo

Its been a long time since Joe and I rocked up to Pendeen in the mist and first explored its slightly under-graded routes. Its a strange but slightly enchanting place with surprisingly good quality routes for a small venue.

The seaward Cliffs at Pendeen

Not one that always springs to mind, but after a quick rekki to the South coast Chris and I opted for the more sheltered North, given the Easterly winds. A good choice as it turned out. The obvious place to drop in is next to a cleft on top of the seaward buttress; which of course we did. But this leads to a freaky but fun drop inside the the huge boulder into a sort of cave. OK the first few times but as the tide pushed it made for an exciting challenge, timing when to drop so that you didnt get hit by a wave!

Chris on Second Slip at Pendeen

The two climbs I led on the seaward cliffs were both tough for the grades.With my head still not in full trad mode, I made a bit of a meal of both, but was glad that I persevered to bag both of them. For Second Slip (a repeat) its the step off the boulder which is unprotected but actually straight forward. I dont know why I was so hesitant. Gymslip is a different proposition. Another hard move to get established, but then a decided absence of gear leads to some thought provoking moves. For me I couldnt commit for a long time. Only Chris’ constant reassurance and encouragement got me through. Turns out it was all about one move with little gear. Then everything pans out.

Both routes are really enjoyable and worthwhile, with great moves and absorbing climbing. The same cant be said for either of the other two. While Sea Music was a ladder, it was a decidedly ropy ladder. No point protecting it. You were more likely to kill your belay partner with the falling choss than save yourself. Still it was fun if nervy. Foam Follower is described as ‘poorly protected’ which it isnt. I know I didnt lead it but I checked it out and there are a number of placements. However, the overall quality of the rock has to be considered as well. So maybe it is poorly protected, just in a cliff collapsing sort of way 🙂

Joe on Pork Ordinaire

The coastline here has a timeless air to it. Plenty of old mine workings around and on this day a haze which made it seem surreal. I do love Cornwall… all of it. But places like this make you feel alive when you visit.

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

It was the best of days… it was the worst of climbs


22nd February 2019

Sloe Steel – VS 5a – Lead (Dgd)
Margin – E1 5c – T/R (dnf)

Continuing in the spirit of failure which has dogged my recent outings, I had a typical day of jittery nerves and low confidence. This has been a theme in my recovery from my shoulder injury. It probably stems from not having the confidence to put power through my right arm or maintain my grip in my right hand. This puts all the stress on my left and as I’m out of condition it undermines my belief.

However I look at it, my climbing is pants at the moment so I’m hoping the trip to Leonidio may kick start my season off. I have loads on my tick list for this year and last October I was on siting E1’s for fun.

Margin was an interesting climb. Very furry and at first glance looks easier than it is. The initial crack isnt too bad, but the transition into the rightward trending crack is tough and a bit tenuous. I have to say I wouldnt want to lead this as its low on gear and high on the possibility of failure. But as a top roping climb it was fun.

St Loy always makes you feel good, even if you’re off form. It helped that Tom showed us a new way into the climb which doesnt involve the long descent and climb through Boskenna. Although a perverse part of me enjoys that route, because I’m sure it pisses off the locals with all their ‘Get Orf My Land’ signs.

Must eat more carrots!

Brandy Slab/Rosemergy Towers

Flash Back – Severe 4a – Second
Monkey Puzzle – VS 5a – Lead
Monkey’s Lunch – Severe 4a – Lead

OK, two weeks in a row we’ve had long days. This one ending in a solo of the top part of Rosemergy Ridge in the dark in an effort to escape the claws of the viscous brambles. We had problems right at the start finding our way down to Brandy’s Slab. Probably should have read the guidebook instead of setting off on the first faint trail we found which lead in roughly the right direction.

Jelly Baby feast to start the day off

Back at the beginning of the day we had arrived at Rosemergy Towers, me with a view to having another go at Hard Times (which I fell off on the final move having gone too far left). However my still not recovered shoulder made a few protests on Flash Back (a good lead by Dave on what is an understated climb at Severe) so I gave this up as a bad idea.

Tom on the upper moves of Flash Back

And so we set our sights on Brandy’s Slab. Of course even though Tom had been there, we had no idea where to go, which resulted in an hour of bramble and Gorse bashing and a very zig zag route down. We had picked Piers up on the way and so a very scratched team arrived at the slab. I was to be honest a bit disappointed. I’d expected more, but the harder routes were just very bold and the easier routes not that inspiring. That said, I enjoyed the climbing, although I tend to agree with a comment on UKC that the detached flake of rock on Monkey Puzzle is just waiting for an opportune time to fall off. Hopefully, not with anyone climbing on it.

Lost in the Brambles

Monkey Puzzle is either a straight forward VS if you go slightly higher before moving into the narrow crack or a very bold VS if you go early. The nicer line is to follow the corner a bit further and then move across. Other wise you’re relying on friction on a very hairy and mossy face. Still it was fun despite the pain of setting up a belay with no anchor points… or at least not obvious ones.

Piers on Monkeys Lunch and having fun 🙂

And so we set off heading out via Rosemergy Ridge, which soon turned into slightly more than a scramble in the dimming light. To give Piers his due, he did brilliantly considering he has only come back to climbing recently.

There were some distinctly nervy mantles and padding going on. Still we’re alive, so that counts as a grade A adventure in my books.

The Seal Sanctuary

4th December 2018

Sennen

Protein – VS 5a – Lead

Now Dave has defined the ‘Seal’ move. When approaching an overhanging ledge deploy the ‘Seal’ mantelshelf technique… This involves working your way into an impossible situation where your feet cut loose and the only escape is to Seal flop around until you can get a knee (or any other part of your body) into a position where you can crawl exhausted onto the ledge. This should be done in the least graceful way you can and accompanied with shouts of “For F#*ks sake!” or “I CANT MOVE!!!” Finish it off with a ‘whoop’ as an expression of how relieved you are that you didn’t fall off and die.

Good steep climbing on Protein – Sennen

So with varying degrees of skill we (Tom, Dave and I) all practised this hard to perfect move on Protein, a stiff VS at Sennen. It didn’t help that it was the coldest day of the year so far, but to be honest this should have been in our range whatever the conditions. Protein starts with moves up into a V Groove where you transition right onto the ‘arete’ of sorts. Nice moves which then lead you to a second transition which goes left. Leaving the small ledge for the Chicken Head is the crux. Small crimps and pinches on what is an overhanging wall require some commitment and (as we all did) the move left helps you get height to make the hold. Might be one to do when my grip has improved, but the move left is no pushover so is in keeping with the VS grade.

Approaching the Seal Sanctuary on Protein

Then two more overhanging walls, the lower of which is really tricky. Hence the deployment of Dave’s patented moves which proved useful if inelegant. The top moves are fairly exposed and the holds though big, don’t feel as positive as they might. So all in all a great climb that gives you a bit of a test. I really liked it, even if it is a little contrived. More importantly it was great to be back at Sennen. We only got the one climb in because the rain was pushing in, but the Cornish coast delivered its usual drama with massive waves thundering into the Hayloft area.

A burly finish to Protein

To be able to just grab a mornings climbing in such an awesome location defines why living in Cornwall is the best. The weather may be varied, but you can keep your wall to wall sunshine… give me the North Coast in December any time.

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???

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.

You’re on the wrong side of the Zawn! Doh!

22nd June 2018

Predannack Head

Down Under, Up Top – VS -4c
Upstart Colonials – Diff – Solo
No Humans Involved – Diff – Solo
Nasty hanging Groove – E something – Fell Off

It made a difference that we weren’t wading through mud this time; in fact conditions couldnt have been better with the continuing spell of great weather.

View down the headland

Of course we still walked past our destination, but it helped getting our bearings from last time. The headland is bigger than you imagine and I think this is why its easy to gt disorientated. But we knew where we wanted to climb. It was the cool looking VS in Kangaroo Zawn that we were driven off from because of swell.

Well not today. No swell and wall to wall sunshine. Down Under, Up Top looks brilliant and had good reviews, but in the end I felt it didn’t quite meet expectations. Don’t get me wrong. Its a good climb. Moves up to and then along a curving flake overlap are excellent and there are a couple of testing moments, but I find its climbs that leave an indelible imprint that are the ones which warrant the most stars and this one didn’t make the grade. Probably the most memorable part was the slightly crumbly final wall on small crimps with poor gear which isn’t the basis for 3 stars.

Dave on the crumbly top section

Still, very good and recommended. And so on to what should have been Dave’s lead. Except we got the wrong crag!! Another of those slightly ambiguous descriptions which rely on you knowing exactly where you are in relation to the guide book description. We didn’t and ended up the the wrong side of the zawn. Still it gave rise to an hours worth of soloing on some great diffs before ‘good ol Dave’ suggested we descend steep slab and attempt a hanging groove which was clearly easy. FFS!

The descent slab. Not THE descent slab, but the initial easy one before Dave tried to kill us.

Well I had the pleasure of Dave discovering the folly of making rash assumptions as he sketchily descended the slab which steepened and rounded towards the bottom, running out of any discernible holds. Very nervy and an excellent attempt to kill both of us. But not as nervy as committing into the hanging groove which I proceeded to fall out of a couple of times. It is possible, but I think its somewhere in the E range with limited pro, so next time we’ll abseil inspect and then give it a go. Cant find it in the guidebook, but also cant believe its not been climbed. I’ll need to do a bit more research.

 

Uninvited Guests

21st June 2018

Butter Hole

Little Robert (Variation Start) – VS – 4c Lead

Butter Hole is such a great place to climb. Especially with the great evenings we’ve been having. This session was a quick grab before the main event on Friday, but actually turned out to be a proper adventure. Dont they always!

Just glad to be here

So despite the swell being fairly small, the base of Little Robert was soaked so it was a no go with the odd set spraying it completely. Daves eye for a new line picked out an alternative start which involved coming in from a high line on the left. Having experienced Dave’s “that looks easy” philosophy I was obviously dubious, but for a change it turned out to be on.

A wild traverse, with nothing for your feet allows you to swing up onto the main slab. Committing and with average pro it is exciting, but because of the large jugs it feels OK.

The steep headwall

The rest of the climb turned out to be atmospheric and brilliant climbing with nothing too difficult. A great VS in fact with good character. Butter Hole is turning out to be a little goldmine. Easy for us to get to and with a good range of climbs. I can see this being the source of quite a few great evenings this summer.

Dave on the final moves

The whole time we were there we were tracked by a couple of Rock Pipits who clearly didnt appreciate us being around. I have a feeling there is a nest somewhere high in the gulley so we’ll need to be careful in the future. Still the company was nice 🙂

We’re going to a Bear Hug

29th April 2017

Pendower Coves

Pendower Grooves – VS 4c – Lead
The Cut – Severe 4a – Second
Pendower Direct – HVS 5a – Lead (dnf)
Time Tavern – VS 4c – Alt Lead

What an amazing location! And a top find on a day when nesting birds killed our initial objective of Excalibur at Carn Les Boel.

I think the reason I picked out Pendower was because there was very little info on it. Seldom (if ever) climbed I wondered weather it would be worth seeking out.

Pendower Buttress

The guidebooks hammer the point about environmental conservation and protecting the cliff edges so Dave and I made sure we avoided the plant life and did litle to disturb the wildlife. The Choughs were nesting in the square cut cave about 300 metres further West, but nothing appeared to be nesting in this area, although there were signs a Peregrine had been operating in the area with a number of feather piles and carcasses. But no nesting Peregrines in our area that we could see.

Belay on Pendower Grooves

We abbed into an amazing location. A boulder beach, quiet, relote and just stunning. The crag itself is excellent. The rock is crunchy in places, but this is more than made up for by the positive nature. No polish here. Just sharp edges, solid foot placements and holds which are easy to hold (once the loose crystals have fallen off 🙂 ).

Pendower Grooves is a class VS. We did it in one pitch. The bottom groove felt hardest to me, possibly because of the wave wash, but maybe because the first ascensionist was good at grooves. Who knows. Anyway, from then on it was just a joy to climb. Great moves, outrageous exposure and a bit of everything- feet free, traverses, laybacks and jams.

Being chased by the tide

Dave did a variation of this which tackled it straight up from the beach. This way you get to chomney and bridge as well. Who could complain. A quick lunch and we were back down racing the tide to get on the HVS Pendower Direct.

Joe and Tom silouetted

Now in my opinion this seemed a bit of a sandbag, but to be fair the situation we found ourselves in could have been part of the issue. The tide chased us up onto the face so Dave ended up below me when I was making a tough move. Had I fallen it would have been bad for both of us. This coupled with the fact the move was hard and bold, the pro suspect and the remainder of the face looked nails we bailed after I had fallen off a couple of times.

Stunningly beautiful

Instead I went up Time Tavern (we didnt know this at the time), with Dave finishing off in an overhanging flake/groove which was very crunchy and friable. A very good lead for this top section imo. And so ended a great adventure and a minor epic. Its what climbing days are made of and why we do it I think.

What is for certain is that I will be back to do a few more of these class routes.