Newhaven-Saltdean Double-Header

With a fresh dump of snow in the UK mountain areas followed by warmer temperatures it seemed sensible to climb chalk this weekend. Rick and I headed to Newhaven this morning. The routes at Newhaven are in the same style as Saltdean but with a smaller selection of routes.

The cliffs at Newhaven
Our planned warm-up route, called Sea Shelle on the Sea Shore (C4/5), proved to have fallen down. To its left a large detached pillar suggested further collapse was imminently. We opted for the next ‘easiest’ route called Fly Catcher, graded C6. Compared to Saltdean the placements were minimal and sometimes hard to spot. Tricky technical moves up moderately overhung chalk led to a smooth wall that was climbed to beneath a roof. Rick’s attempt to lead to route halted below the roof. I top-roped as far as Rick’s last quickdraw, however the time needed to search for hooks above the roof called for a rest. I led on above the bolt and managed to rock-over the roof to the lower-off. Both Rick's and my next attempt again needed a rest beneath the roof before I finally managed to clean the route on top-rope at third attemp. A fourth attempt would quite likely have resulted in me leading the route cleanly but, given that the main objective was to improve strength and fitness, I wasn't that bothered.

Rick leading Fly Catcher (C6), Newhaven
Rick above the roof on Fly Catcher (C6), Newhaven
Both the C7/8 routes looked to have suffered missing sections and the remaining C9/10 routes looked improbable for mere mortals. We opted to head to Saltdean for the remainder of the afternoon.

With a number of visits to Saltdean already this winter, and with full confidence back in my shoulder (previously a rotator cuff injury), I was keen to start knocking off the routes on the Six of the Best wall. I had studied a route called Get into the Groove (C6) on a number of occasions but never attempted. It was time to man-up and have a go.

With shingle at its lowest the difficulties through the overhung start were exacerbated. I reached the corner groove for which the route is named after. To its left the groove was buffered by a narrow hanging steep slab. A sequence of vertical linear axe placements up the slab with nothing right of the groove to allow bridging made footwork tricky business. My body weight inevitably shifted left of the groove as I followed the axe placements on the slab and my feet battled with the empty space beneath the slab as I struggled to mount it. The pump was building but once my feet were properly mounted it eased back. A narrow crack in the upper part of the groove allowed for some rare torquing on chalk. I gained the upper slab, which was void of hooks to the lower-off lower and so needed a couple to be added. Although not as steep as some of the C7 routes that I have done in this vicinity the sequences of moves proved more testing.

Rick made an attempt to lead but struggled with the moves at the base of the slab and needed some rests before eventually reaching the lower-off. We had both sufficiently worked the forearms though, which was the primary goal for today. Stripping the route proved strenuous given the lower-off was positioned a number of meters left of the line of the quickdraws. With the tide almost upon us the rope chose to jam with Rick still perched 4 meters above the ground. With some encouragement we freed it and visions of epic coast guard rescues subsided.

Rick leading Get into the Groove (C6), Saltdean
A quick traverse along the Six of the Best area finished us off and it was time to go home. Hopefully some better winter climbing conditions next weekend to entice me into the hills.

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