Tubing at Dover

Plans for Scotland this weekend were binned again due to the high winds forecast. I made a day trip with Murilo to Dover instead. We parked the car at St Margaret's Bay at 8am shortly after sunrise and one hour after low tide. Clear skies greeted us. A welcome break from the sometimes unrelenting rains of late. After examining a number of unclimbed lines we eventually opted for The Tube. I climbed this fifteenth months ago - largely in the dark, due to a slightly bonkers 8pm start, and with no head torch. I was happy to climb it again in order to appreciate the daylight experience.

St Margaret's Bay at Dawn  (Dry Ice, III pictured left)

Murilo beneath the Tube

The start of the first pitch was harder than recollection. The short-lived overhung wall was well hooked but my fluency was compromised by a number of the pockets being worn down to a bed of flint rendering them unreliable. The going was soft today and I could sometimes feel movement in my foot placements. My forearms were feeling the effects of me gripping the axes tighter than normal as a result.

Steep start to the first pitch
(Photo by Murilo Lessa)

The climbing in the runnel was much easier than the first pitch - particularly given the added benefit of daylight this time. Much of the gully was dominated by vegetation that offered a range of stability. My conclusion after a number of Dover climbs is to aim for the long thin grassy stuff as the roots seem to be denser. I ran out the first 25m without concern before an in situ stake presented, which I promptly clipped. More in situ protection followed in the form of drive-in ice screws, all of which I had obliviously bypassed in the dark last visit. Theses were interspersed by McDonald's cups and Stella bottles before I reached the metal sheeting that had caught me off-guard last year. Some entertaining bridging around the sheeting with axes alternately hooked in adjacent walls offered some light fun. I promptly ran out of rope at the same location as last year and so adopted another reconstructed belay consisting of recycled warthog holes.

Starting the second pitch up the runnel
(Photo by Murilo Lessa)

Murilo dropped his lump hammer a short way into his second pitch... a nasty surprise for any seagulls below. Fortunately I had only needed to place one warthog on the pitch, which Murilo managed to remove with just his axes.

Technical gardening on pitch 2

Second belay and close to the top

We were now only a short distance from the top via easy ground so I was happy to lend Murilo my hammer to disassemble the belay. I solo'ed to the top with the rope trailing behind. A staircase of placements led to the turfy barrier beneath the top, which I easily straddled. I set up my belay off the Coastal Path stone marker, which felt secure enough. A group of friendly, inquisitive walkers stopped to chat, which made a change from the company of coastguards, policemen, etc. We had both reached the top of the route by 1pm - 9.5 hours sooner than my previous ascent of the Tube and 10.5 hours sooner than my last Dover route Dover Soul. Only my second daylight finish at Dover in six attempts. I'll be aiming for a third next time...

Close to the top
(Photo by Murilo Lessa)

Murilo near the top


Technical top-out


...Within hours of arriving back from Dover I started to develop rumbling stomach aches. I was immediately suspicious of my appendix. Six months ago I had attended a walk-in centre with mild pain in the appendix region but the Doctor was unsure of the cause and advised me not to be concerned unless the pain worsened. If this happened I should go to A&E. The pains had soon resided however.

...Six months later I was now experiencing marked pains in the same location and even my untrained girlfriend could feel swelling on my right side. Living only a short distance from the nearest A&E I could afford to wait a few hours to see if the pain increased  I waited until 11pm by which time the pains had worsened and it was time to be driven to St Georges Hospital A&E. I packed my toothbrush with the expectation of being admitted...

A&E Doctors promptly came to the conclusion that it was my appendix. By 3am I had been admitted to a ward with the view to removing my appendix the morning. By 9am I had already been individually examined by a further three doctors and was being wheeled into theatre...

...I regained consciousness in the recovery room by around 11.30am and was soon back on the ward. In typical Harrison fashion I managed to eat all my lunch soon after noon despite protests from my stomach. I spent the remainder of the day connected to an IV drip with nurses regularly taking by blood pressure and temperature. I drifted in and out of sleep until 4pm when my girlfriend visited. In the evening a registrar briefly popped up to say the surgery had been straight-forward and that I could likely go home tomorrow. It was New Year's Eve but I was asleep by about 10pm...

New Year's Day: I was discharged at about 4pm with a bag of drugs. No work for a week or two. No climbing for longer!

The patient on New Year's Day


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. "Do you subscribe to any other websites about this? I'm struggling to find other reputable sources like yourself"

      Thanks, sorry just just removed your comments by accident! Ian Parnell has written some good stuff on his blog. Not much else out there unfortunately. I wrote this last month if any help:



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