Predannack Head The Beginners Area Sexygenarians – V Diff – Lead Moonlight – VS 4c – Lead Zig Zag _Mod – Alt Lead
Weeks of rain and shit weather led to this. A fleeting chance to get out for a climb in a weather window predicted by BBC weather. My poll on Facebook suggested Porthguarnon which was t’the peoples’ choice. But what do they know! I over-ruled them as any good dictator would and so we headed for the Lizard, the one area predicted to be dry.
And yes it was. The doom and gloom ‘its too cold to be outside’ mob off the telly f@#ked up good and proper. We had sunshine almost all day and a totally chilled session in an area only 10 mins from the car. Bliss.
The Beginners Area is easy to find as long as you pick up your bearings on The Diamond Wall. Also it helps to know that North (as per the guidebook) is down the coast to the right facing out to sea. Very disorientating when its not strictly ‘North’.
I paired up with Pete (his first climb of the year! no less). So we started on a nice crack climb, Sexygenarians which is straight forward but nice climbing. Its amazing when you haven’t been on the rock for a while how alien everything seems until you get back into your rhythm. By time we moved onto Moonlight, a technical VS I still wasnt quite on it, hence the mad attack of disco leg which Pete could even feel through the ropes. Anyway, it went well after a nervy start. And it made me feel better getting a more difficult route under my belt.
Our final routre was Zig Zag, as sets thundered into the cove below. Very atmospheric and warranting a quick belay station about 5 metres up to avoid Pete getting swept away by a rogue set. Its basically a easy ramp, but with great exposure and even a waterfall at the end. What more could you want.
Days like this are precious. Sun, great mates and great climbing. Take your packed lineups and stuff them up your arse. We had this to ourselves. Viva the outdoors and viva Cornish Rock!
Not content with nicking my gear, Dave has moved on to more blatant thievery. Cant really miss a rope can you! I might let him off due to fact I hadnt even noticed it was missing until the following day. Also lost my guidebook. I wonder if he’s got that too! Old age eh…
BREAKING NEWS! Turns out Sam is the thief, not Dave. The above is pure slander and I retract everything I’ve said. But still not deleting it!!
Sam, a good friend of Bart, came along with us today for her first experience of Carn Gowla and Gowla turned it on with a beautiful evening. We dropped down onto Indian Buttress for a crack at TTE mainly because the tides and swell were a bit against us and also because its a bit more amenable for a quick foray . Its always a pleasure to go to ‘Scary Gowla’. I get that privileged feeling whenever I wonder across the colourful upper cliffs and as you drop down, Gowla does its thing; part intimidation, mostly excitement.
TTE is typically Gowla, unreliable holds, iffy gear, shear and with a drop into the sea. Standard stuff really but at least its escapable and not too terrifying for a first venture for Sam. But it does deliver on the fun side and what a way to finish the day off.
It was also a nice way to think about Bart. In happier times, when we would scare the pants of each other with adventures into the then unknown. Back when we were climbing, every outing was a potential for disaster, mainly because neither of us knew what to expect at many of the venue’s. Good times, if a bit harrowing at times. I like to think I’ve continued the tradition of turning most days out into epics. Just ask Dave 🙂
Not I might add the actor, but the famous explorer Richard Francis Burton, purported to be one of the first Europeans to cross Africa from West to East. I read a story about how they had to cut their way through miles of jungle; so Tregiffian’s not Africa but today’s outing felt like it for a while.
It was a pretty harsh introduction for Sophie as a new member of the group. Shame I forgot to mention that we would be hacking our way through 100 metres of dense thorn, stingers and brambles. Still, I managed to forget my trousers as well, so shorts it was and the tingling sensation is still there in my legs 6 hours after leaving. I suppose its a right of passage though. Here’s Rule 4…. live with it!
However despite the pain it was an amazing day. Sunshine, perfect rock and great climbs. And finally a plunge in the freezing briny. Tregiffian is a truly magical place. Remote; a hard slog to get to and requiring commitment to jungle bash your way in, but the climbing is very fine.
Sophie and I started on Thea, a nice Severe with a tricky leftwards move at half height. Th rocks not perfect on this route, but the final slab makes it worthwhile. And then on to Acid Test, one of my favourite VS’s. Joe explained that I was doing it all wrong because I just step into the crack and try to walk up it. Precarious, but fun, but there’s nothing for your hands so its a bit of a trust things using the crack to cam your body on.
Our final swim capped off a great day. Still a bit cold, but actually not too bad once you’ve been in for a few minutes. Not a bad turn out for this one. 6 of us with Dave, Piers, Chris, Joe (back from his adventures in Norway), Me and Sophie.
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.
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!
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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???
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.
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.