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Showing posts from September, 2013

Saved by the Whole (HVS, 5a), Rainbow Walls

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The ample white wine and champaign from last night's wedding reception wasn't helping matters...

A simple traverse from left to right along a wide ledge was baffling me. The surrounding slate walls were overhung. Foot ledges were cut at 90 degrees to the overhung walls as though the cliff was subsiding.

Crawling across the ledge did not seem the answer...

Nor did facing outwards...

Ultimately it proved easiest to simply side-step my way across whilst facing inward. But only after I had found the confidence to press my forehead against the wall to avoid barn-dooring.

I placed a cam in a shallow semi-circular bore channel. It was just about deep enough for the apexes to grip. My only other piece of gear lay before the traverse at foot level. Horizontally too far and low to prevent a ground fall. At least the immediate climbing looked easy, which led up and slightly back left.

But there was still no gear at the crux. This involved a committing mantle onto a large platform with li…

The Culm Coast

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It was after last orders by the time we arrived at the Bush Inn at Morwenstow with no place to stay. The bar had a slightly Wild West feeling about it in that we drew the attention of nearly everybody at the bar. “No nearby campsite” was the general consensus but the local farmer at the far end of the bar was quick to offer us a field almost adjacent to the pub to camp with no strings attached. We were quick to accept the offer.

Next morning there was low cloud and a light drizzle. The cliffs were supposed to be quick drying so in spite of this we headed for Vicarage Cliff, which had some low grade routes that would suit potentially poor conditions.
We missed the normal descent and instead abseiled off a wobbly stake down some loose rubble scramble terrain. Both of us dislodged some rocks along the way. Everything was slippery and soaking. The cliff across the beach was shrouded. What were we doing here?... Still, there was no better plan, other than go and have a Devonshire cream tea…

First Ascent of Conchalktivitis Slab (IV), Dover

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The chalk near the start of the slab was unexpectedly hard. I swung my axe repeatedly trying to chip reliable holds. Sometimes I would fail and would need to switch location. It had been a fine summer but was the chalk maybe too dry as a consequence? Usually the chalk at Dover is easier to climb low down where it is more saturated and therefore softer. What beckoned higher up? The top looked a long way off. My forearms worked overtime from the multiple axe swings. I paused to shake out my calves. My busy summer on rock provided little in the way of conditioning for this form of climbing. At least the first couple of warthog placements were adequate.

(About 7/10 I reckoned)


I veered right to avoid a mild steepening at the left edge of the slab at third height. The chalk quickly became softer and easier to climb but proportionally more crumbly, which triggered a steady flow of debris to tumble South. The surface chalk repeated cracked and peeled with little encouragement but behind this …

The Devil's Chimney, Lundy

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So after accidentally climbing Needle Rock instead of the Devil's Chimney it was only right that we should double our efforts to climb the Devil's Chimney. Particularly since we were now confident about its location through a process of elimination. Bad weather looked possible tomorrow so we needed to get on with it.

Anna set off down the 70m ab rope. It looked to be a full length to the bottom of the cliff from where a short hop across bounders would land us beneath our sea stack.

But something was wrong... She was taking for ages to unweight the rope. Anna was out of sight and all I could hear were the waves brushing the shore. I started to worry about the length of the abseil. The summit of the Devil's Chimney was a long way below. Did she have enough rope? I prusik'ed down the steep grassy slope to where the cliff dropped away more rapidly. Anna was a distant figure hanging on the end of the rope far below. 'Lower the nuts' she shouted up. We had made a sch…

Incognito (VS, 5a): An Accidental First Ascent and a Harrowing Escape

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1) FUN
The CC description for the classic route on Lundy's largest sea stack, the Devil's Chimney, was baffling. Nothing completely matched up but after spending 30 minutes examining all aspects of the stack we convinced ourselves that the line climbed a faint crack near the right-hand side of the West wall.

The initial wall was damp from sea spray and covered in small barnacles that cracked and fractured with pressure. But the handholds were positive albeit small, and footholds substantial enough to perch and fiddle with gear. Then an unnerving balancy move off a steep sloping barnacle-covered foot hold, which proved to be the crux of the route. A shallow ledge presented on the right-hand side. Not the "large platform" described in the CC guide but surely the belay.
Anna continued up easier cracks to a large platform on the left. Again not the "boulder-strewn platform" described by the cc guide but a substantial platform nonetheless. I led through a bulgin…