Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Sun, slabs and suspicious placements..

Workworkworkworkwork blah blah defiantly need a day off and I wish I was a dirtbag student still!

A very quiet Compass Point with a big swell running

So after a reasonably extended stint selling t-shirt and other middle class garments I finally got a day off from work.. To celebrate such a rare occasion me and Rob Steer headed in search of a quick trad fix and some sunshine on the North Cornish coast. The plan was to head for Bude, a place thought to be twinned with Barrow-In-Furness and looks like it hasn't seen a new building since the 1960s. Compass Point however lies just south of the town and is a south facing swath of carboniferous culm that juts out into the Sea.

So after a long drive from South Devon chasing a far off strip of blue sky on the horizon, we arrived at Bude with the sun being still covered by the clouds. Not to worry though, as it wasn't raining here so that's enough boxes ticked to go and at least check out the crag! As with most places on the Culm, the top is a crumbling mess of detached blocks precariously balanced on strata of soft biscuit like coal layers which you have to abseil off before you can even look at the routes, all of which adds to the excitement!

Sugar Magnolia (HVS 5a) just before committing to thin section
With numb fingers and dry(ish) rock we cracked on and did the first route of the day which was Sugar Magnolia (HVS 5a). Not overly strenuous but with an action packed and surprisingly burly crux right at the end of a traverse along a thing crack above an overhang, spicy! Worth seeking out but is one of the closest lines to the ocean so make sure you do that one first!

Rob pulling some shapes on Crimtphon (E2 5b)
So after that warm up the next route was the classic of the crag, Crimtphon (E2 5b). This route works its way up a compact slab using a few runners and 4 spaced pegs (the FA climber must have been a bit strapped for cash presumably!) past some odd in-cut dishes. If you like crimping the shit out of creaky holds and smearing like hell this is the route for you! Not bad for a slab!

Me leading the upper section of the weirdly pocked wall of Tydomin (HVS 4c)
Since the tide was coming in which was bring the 6 foot breaking waves uncomfortably close we decided to call it a day and escaped out up another equally classic line, Tydomin (HVS 4c). This starts up an oddly pocked and indented lower sections which leads to the steep upper section protected mostly by very small wires.. Yet another spicy finish!

Looking up the ridge of Compass Point, see what I mean?

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Its defiantly December..

After a warm summer they reckon its going to be quite a chilly winter. Well its certainly shaping up that way with all these storms! Desperate to tick some lines we thought, fu*k it! Lets go to Pembroke, its always sunny there! Sea cliff climbing may well be the warmest crags to be at this time of year however they tend not to be the most sheltered it would seem..

Me leading the first pitch of Diedre Sud (HS 4a)
 After a long drive and with a soon to be setting sun me and Emma Smith nipped over to Mowing Word and did the Pembroke classic, Diedre Sud (HS 4a). Since everything else around this area is HVS and up its amazing a line like this can be found in such daunting territory! After abbing down into the boiling and frothing unknown we set up a belay about 10m above the water and the sea was so rough we still go a bit wet! The route is just pure pleasure with loads of sharp holds and jamming (apart from the bird shit covered ledge where Heart of Darkness joins!). Unfortunately this is all we could do as it got dark at 4.30 and neither of us had a head torch, think I'll save that kind of epic for a warm day thanks! 

Emma just before moving round the
roof seconding the 2nd pitch of Diedre Sud.

The weather turned slightly more unsettled after a bad start after driving to St. Govans only to find the red flags up (DOH!) and not wanting to be shot by tanks we went to St. Davids. A combination of big seas and high tides meant there was not a lot we could do but we cracked on anyway. After living the choss dream on the impressive Rosary (HS 4b) near Initiation Slab we then used the last of the fading light (again!) and climbed Vegetable Rights (VS 4c, which Emma seconded in the dark!) at Porth-Clais. *It looks like all the debris that was blasted down onto Dreamboat Annie (HVS) is now clear, so if you havn't done that route, get on it! Its amazing! 
Seconding Rosary (HS 4b) just after the steep section. 

Squeezing one more in at Porth-Clais (Vegetable Rights - VS 4c).

An epic adventure. Seems its not always sunny in Pembroke! Special thanks go to the Celtic Camping for the bunk house and massive stock of wood! Cheers guys!  

Friday, 22 November 2013

The English Riviera. Well a slightly colder version..

So over the last few weeks I have discovered Torquay as a climbing venue. If you have no idea where i'm talking about try this video, actually if you do you might enjoy it more! . To sum it up briefly its AWESOME! Turquoise oceans and crumbling limestone, what more could a North Wales loving west country climber want?! Its like climbing on the Lleyn Peninsula but there is a cafe serving cream teas at the top of the cliff instead of an angry welshman!

So the first place I tried out was Daddyhole Main cliff. 65m of soaring cracks, steep faces and hanging slabs rising straight out of the ocean. After an arduous approach consisting of steep slopes of mud and aggressive plant species topped with a boulder hop across large blocks which are surprisingly mobile we reached the base of the classic Torbay classic Gates of Eden (HVS 5a).

Gates of Eden (HVS 5a) It climbs halfway up the obvious soaring corner
then breaks left across the slab and up the corner on the left. The main corner line through the
final overhangs is Last Exit to Torquay (HVS 5b).
The route climbs up from a pinnacle followed by a short-sharp burl up through an overhang to a ledge. This pitch used to be easy until it fell down. However the rock is actually quite solid, especially for limestone! After leading the first pitch Rob then followed initially with a massive bag but quickly decided to jettison it in favour of a more lightweight attempt.. The next pitch climbs a hanging slab via the main crack and then a delicate traverse and is unbelievably only 4a (which is pretty easy if you don't know!!!!). It is however, incredibly run out with no meaningful gear after you leave the crack, however its a HVS so its not too surprising.. or if it is to you then you should probably stick to HS's in future or maybe even bouldering?

The second belay is under a small roof at the top of a groove which overhangs, great view of the beach between your legs! Bad time to drop your belay plate! After this its a wild stride round the corner and up a crumbling crack to the top. Simples! Airy, burley and crumbling.. Fantastic!

Rob Steer on the crux wall of Pinaccle Traverse Continuation (S2)
just before the splashdown!
Pat nearing the end of the Pinnacle Traverse (S1)

If you're more into slabs (hey nobodies perfect..) Torquay has that as well! There are some pretty good slab routes over in Parsons Hole. The best way to get there is from Daddyhole is via the Pinnacle Traverse and Pinnacle Traverse Continuation (which go at HVS and E1 or S1 and S2 depending on the state of the tides..). These again are fantastic and great fun, plenty of 5a and 5b moves which are (most of the time) above deepish water.

Me dancing up Midas Touch (HVS 5a) at Parsons Hole

Rob Teetering up Criniod (E2 5b)
Its a brilliant place and everywhere seems pretty quiet. If you're in the area its worth a visit! There is also some great climbing over by Berry Head near Brixham. The red walls area is a total suntrap. I managed to get burnt and we were only there a few hours! Although, thats not too surprising considering I got burnt in the rain in Snowdonia last week.

Red Walls Area at the Old Redoubt at Berry Head

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Snowdonia ML trip

Last weekend a large group of scouts descended upon the Ogwen valley in Snowdonia as somebody somewhere thinks that we have what it takes to be trusted in the mountains with the lives of unknowing innocent people... Good thing that the leaders responsible for our selection didn't know what we were up to before the course started (until now.. Oops!).

So after a late night of driving after work from Exeter a couple of us met Jed, Richard and Andy at the Scout owned Yr Hafod center in Ogwen. You could tell that there were no official leaders there and just lads due to the presence of Lucy, 23 from Cirencester (sourced from page 3) blue tacked to the wall below the clock.. Good work boys!

So the first day (after a massive gut-reshaping breakfast) me, Jed, Richard and Andy headed to the Llanberis slate quarries with the aim of taking on Snakes and Ladders (and Tunnels).. This is essentially a white-knuckle tour around/across/inside some of the biggest man made holes in North Wales using bits of old metal work like dodgy ladders and free-hanging chains, squeezing through collapsed/rotting tunnels, abseiling of rusted bolts or un-crag-swagable tat (so yea the whole thing requires a slight "ahh somebody has done it before so it won't break on me" attitude..). Probably not for the faint hearted but otherwise a total laugh! In a nut-shell it weaves a clever line through California to Australia, finishing in the Lost World and Mordor (and no we were not eating mushrooms as we went, these are genuinely the names of the various quarries!).

The way into California
Andy stretching it out in Austrailia.. No need for sun cream today!

Typically at about lunchtime it started raining. So we went to Petes Eats and all spent our remaining money on cups of tea and climbing gear from V12... Who knew the Welsh weather loved the Welsh economy so much! If you want more info on the route there is a great blog about it here -

Wet 'n' wild Wednesday. Now that's an understatement! Because of a poor forecast (heavy showers, freezing temps and 60mph winds to be specific) we initially curbed our ambition but then decided fu*k it and set out to do Overlapping ridge route high on the East Face of Tryfan. It was still raining at the base of the route, and the rock was totally gopping. Unswayed by this as the grade is only Difficult we gave it a bash. The route follows a shattered rib from the heather terrace up to a large pinnacle and finally up some weirdly contorted rock strata toward the summit. 160m in total, every single inch of it was indeed under about 3 inches of water which felt at times as if it were actual ice (and i know ice!). Climbing as two parties we made good progress but not without Rob moaning about muddy holds as they were the following pair. He should be thankful, by the time us three at the front had been over them we had warmed up the hold removed most of the water at least!
Looking down the last pitch towards the pinnacle in blustery conditions
Because we made the executive decision to climb in big boots, and the fact the rocks were more wet than a nun in a sex shop, all technical footwork went out the window and a workman-esque approach more suited to a brick layer had to be adopted. So after topping out in a minor snowstorm we decided to head down, at which point somebody turned off the sun! After scrambling maps, head torches we eventually made it back to the centre and all had a fight over who was getting the shower first. The only challenge that remained was the massive create of beer which needed defeating!
Some happy boys at the top! 

Tryfan with actual sunshine on it (yes it does happen sometimes!)
So the next few days was a mixture of micro-navigation, macro-nav and night nav as well as some rope work. A definite highlight was when Jed learned the 'don't use indirect belays if you can avoid it' lesson whereby having a rope round his waist tied to a rock, then again round his waist tied to me, which i then had to load at which point the instructor Steve, jumped on and loaded it as well which not only rearranged Jed's kidneys but also gave him a face not to dissimilar to a women in labor.. What a good sport ey! The weekend was finished with a swim in the river apparently practicing river crossings.. Funny that the instructors didn't feel the need to come into the water waist deep and have there nadgers freeze off..

The cantilever on The Glyders (how many pies was it again boys?)
All in all a great weekend! Well done boys!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Something New!

So this is my climbing/adventure/basically-avoiding-work blog space. I'll be chucking on loads of stuff from the beta of some of the climbing routes I do to how unfit I realize I am next time I go for a run with Dad!

The route follows up the center of the largest slab to the cliffs highest point

So for my first post i'm going to blog about a route I did with Rob Steer just after that massive storm we had up on The Culm coast in Cornwall.

The route (Wreckers Slab, VS 4b) is a poorly protected, loose, crumbling Cornish slab (wow i know right sounds amazing!). However it is almost one of the longest and most wild routes on the north coast and for that reason makes it seem much more appealing! A climb for the true glory hunter, or if you hate climbing around other people or on good rock..

So after walking for 40 minutes up the coast and over far to many hills the huge monolith comes into sight.  That is where the approach changes from mildly enjoyable to scrambling down a crumbling cliff and lowering yourself down rotten nylon ropes but eventually we go to the bottom. Once down you get a full feel for the angle which is quite kicked back even if it doesn't seem that way from every other vantage point (which is a relife!).

Rob Steer leading the first pitch

The first pitch (4a, 45m) crosses above an overhang on minimal gear to a  corner (looser than a scouse hooker!), up which, leads to a belay (yet more pegs).  The next pitch (4b, 35m) starts by breaching some overlaps and up onto an emaculate slab (all again with barely any meaningfull gear) to some (more) pegs. After dancing up this for a further 20m you reach a pillar belay. From here you're supposed to surmount a wobbly pillar and onto the slab (45m). However the pillar looks as if it is long overdue a tumble down the cliff so we opted for the jamming crack which leads to the grassy slabs and the top. All the pitches were long and runout, the rock had the structural rigidity of cornflakes and there were more rusted pegs than in all of Gogarth but WHAT a route!

Me moving through the overlaps

Rob seconding the last pitch