Sunday, 8 January 2012

Brighton Rock (IV), Saltdean

With my recent visits to chalk having focused on bolted routes, it was time to climb some trad chalk again. This time at Saltdean instead of Dover, as previous.

My climbing partner Laurence and me started the day with some more bolted routes whilst we waited for the tide to drop. I led Back Off Back On (C5) and The Strangeness and the Charm of the Quark (C5). I then top-roped variation of the latter, which climbs directly to the belay. The holds were tiny and the footwork delicate making for some exhilarating climbing. I surprised myself by cleaning this first time proving that the chalk training is paying off.
Tiptoe through the Tulips (IV) is the left ramp, Brighton Rock is the right ramp. Note the short wall at the top of the latter
With the tide having dropped it was time to try a trad route that I had in mind called Brighton Rock. Laurence was happy to second the route. The first 80% of the route was a pushover with steady climbing up 60 degree chalk. I set up a belay on the left beneath a steep chimney and brought Laurence up.

Laurence climbing the first pitch
The short second pitch proved far more interesting. The ramp was barred from the cliff top by a wall of steep chalk. I climbed up and right to where the wall was its shallowest. Even here it was approximately five metres high. Once perched beneath it I realised that it was actually overhanging. Delicately balanced on my mono-points I set about placing warthogs. My first placement didn't install much confidence so I placed a second, then a third. Long cracks kept forming around each warthog. I regretted my hastiness to climb to beneath the crux without placing any protection prior. If I fell I had no doubt that three warthogs were more than strong enough to hold my weight but would the chalk simply fracture away? And how much stronger was Laurence's belay if this did happen? Best think about the climbing.

I set about making initial placements for axes. Soon there was no choice other than get on with it and plant the feet higher and commit to the overhang. I moved my axes up. The top of the cliff was now in reach. I fired an axe into the grassy topside turf but there was little bite. I tried again. Slightly better but still fairly rubbish. It was as good as I would get I figured. With the chalk having abruptly ended on the top of the cliff, a garden fork might have been a better tool than my axes. I reached up and desperately grabbed the head of the axe with both hands. The axe held steady. I swung and leg over and crawled on top of the cliff in ugly fashion.

Happy to be on top
The CC guide grades this Scottish IV. I would hazard a guess that maybe the top of the route has changed since graded. The climb is easy up to the crux but then things quickly get very serious.

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