Wednesday, 14 December 2011


It seems to be winter. I don’t know why I’m surprised as it comes around with a startling regularity but it takes some getting used to all the same. Finding somewhere to climb, and actually climbing, over the last few days has involved tea, down and an unwavering belief that there will be some dry rock somewhere.

Anstey’s Cove was Monday’s choice as it never rains at Anstey’s, true to form the rock was dry(ish) and the weather warm(ish). Having spent a couple of weeks of staring forlornly at Tuppence like an puppy denied a treat I took the decision and declared my finger well enough to get back on the route. Much pulling on, falling off and checking my finger was still attached followed.

Luckily my hand survived the experience and I was reminded of the fun in trying funky moves on pristine limestone overlooking the ocean unfortunately the route hadn’t got any easier or I any stronger and the rain was moving in...

With the forecast for the day looking bad, Alexis and I did what proper Devon climbers should do: we went to Chudleigh to boulder in the steep, wonderful and only slightly squalid Pixies’ Hole. Had we had bottles of meths instead of bouldering mats we would have looked like hobos instead we probably just looked like crazy people. Pixies’ never disappoints; with endless problems to create on slightly polished crimps, pinches and slopers it’s every climbers dream (as long as your dreams feature cold damp caves in Chudleigh... mine don’t). We bouldered until our arms were sore, our feet were frozen and darkness had returned.

20 hours later and I was back at Chudleigh staring up at the wall of Combat and Tendonitis psyched for some hard-core top-roping. The warm up consisted of Oesophagus followed by Combat, a wonderful route which I hadn’t climbed since leading it a year and a half ago; needless to say it feels like a very different proposition when top-roping. Winter tactics came into play by climbing a few routes in succession and then belaying for a few to prevent constant numb fingers. Three laps up Tendonitis later and I could definitely feel my fingers... and my pumped forearms. Next go I had a play on Obstreperous which looks like an awesome route, a pumpy start pulling up on crimps and peg scar pockets to a bit of a rest then a big move before the route merges with the top of Oesophagus; with enough gear all the way it’s one for the ever expanding list of routes to lead.

Local hero Dave Henderson at the groove of Combat.
© Chris J
Dom on Tendonitis in sunnier times.
© Chris J
Three days of dodging showers, dancing around in a down jacket and belaying with climbing shoes down my top to keep them warm. Three days of hard moves, dry limestone and increasingly tired arms... the rat is fed, it’s time for a rest day.

Saturday, 3 December 2011


My finger’s getting better but it’s still not quite right, rehab at the moment seems to consist of sessions at Anstey’s Cove where I manage to not get on Tuppence (as just about every left hand hold is a crimp) and instead I look at other, less crimpy lines on the wall.

The Lynch was Wednesday’s choice, a route that I’ve been on once before and hated it due to its painful, brutal and generally thuggy style of climbing. I felt sure this would change after getting on it again...but I still hated it, not only was it painful and thuggy but also damp; citing my injured finger, and a general hatred for the route, as excuses I backed off and ran away.

Thursday’s trip to the cove was a brief one as just about everything was wet (apart from Tuppence...grr). Instead the day was spent drinking tea and pulling on steep hard boulder problems in a garage or steep juggy routes at The Quay.

Back to the cove on Friday and, with The Lynch being wet (and horrible), the next route to try was Postman Pat; a fine route that traverses left to right with a couple of killer moves involving a pencil thin tufa before finishing up the wild top section of A Fisherman’s Tale.  It was great to get stuck in to a route even though the killer move is properly hard and I’m not sure I can reach the span on the Fisherman’s move; but these are just excuses, it’s great to be climbing again.

My recent excursions at the cove have given me feeling a zen-like understanding of the place and its routes and have led to the following diagram of Ferocity Wall in all its splendour:

Friday, 25 November 2011


The planned three weeks of rest shortened into one week after the pain in my finger disappeared and the psyche returned. However, during my week of rest, in proper injured climber style, I turned up at the local crag where my friends were climbing to heckle, belay and dead-hang off the other arm. When all your mates are climbers what else is there to do?!

With no work for a few days it was time to head down to Cornwall in The Van (yes, the capitals are required) to see how the injured finger would cope with trad. The weather forecast looked good but a big swell was predicted – surely not a problem for Cornish sea cliffs!

Tuesday – Sennen
Heading down to Cornwall at midday gave us just enough time to get a route in before sunset; we walked down to Sennen with the idea of checking out hard stuff but were put off by clouds of spray thrown up by the massive waves. After seeing a wave crash over the rocks we had just walked on we decided to run away up Monday Face. I topped out with my finger still pain free and we sorted gear as the sun set from a clear blue sky whilst the waves crashed on the rocks below – a beautiful place to be and a long way from the bustle of everyday life.

Wednesday – Bosigran
Bosi, being as far from the sea as West Cornwall crags get, seemed like the perfect place to go to escape the waves. Alexis got on Saddle Tramp, a rarely climbed route in the Raven Wall Area, which I seconded falling off only when I realised I was trying a hard move from a very similar set of hold to the ones I had injured myself on only this time with numb fingers and feet on lichen-y smears.

Following on in the spirit of climbing underrated two star lines we got on Dominator which did involve climbing up a small stream but finished in ape-like fashion swinging from massive holds on steep rock. Another day of pain free climbing and another beautiful sunset... time for another dinner and pint in the pub.

Thursday – Carn Barra
The day started by tramping over heathery moorland, looking down fenced-off mine shafts, staring in turn at massive waves and inspiring route-lines and fighting the urge to quit work, move to Cornwall and climb quality routes all day every day. 

The guided tour of Penwith complete, we ended up at Carn Barra, a sheltered choice for a windy day but a very wavey one when there’s a big swell. We abbed down to the Northern Platform and looked at a couple of damp E2s until a particularly large wave sent us scurrying up a V Diff like rats fleeing a sinking ship.

The view from the belay ledge
Not content to find somewhere sensible to climb we abbed in to Central Wall where the cliff and ledge below the belay prevented us from getting soaked... most of the time. I led first, turning occasionally to see a curtain of water at eye level and an excited-looking belayer cowering from the spray. The view from the top was awesome, massive waves crashing against the rock on all sides and in the middle of it all a seal bobbing around without a care in the world (at least I assume that was a carefree expression, I've never been very good at reading seal body language).

We abbed back in for another route, Dialectic, and I belayed on the ledge watching the waves send plumes of spray higher and higher as the tide came in, feeling glad I was still attached to the ab rope but certain that there was nowhere in the world I’d rather be. I seconded the route trying not to barn-door off, unable to feel my fingers or drag my eyes away from the sea. One final VS, Axis, to tick off and it was my lead again. Chalk by this point was only of psychological use and the gear was dripping with condensation but the granite provided enough friction and big holds to prevent any problems.

Soon we were tramping back over the heather towards the van thinking of hard routes and inspiring lines to get on next time... my name is Cherry and I’m addicted to Cornish Trad.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Bad Days

The week started well with a trip to Avon for some bold balancy climbing on Krapp's Last Tape and an ab off the nearby ‘Abseil Station’ – which definitely doesn’t merit the title ‘Station’ consisting as it does of old bolts, old rusty snap-gates and some faded tape – but it didn’t fail so I can’t complain!

Down to Anstey’s on Tuesday, the rock was nearly all dry and a cold easterly was blowing bringing with it strong waves, heaps of seaweed and cold fingers to anyone who stood still. The warm up traverse is tucked away from the wind and I did laps on it until I could feel the blood pumping around my body. Feeling suitably warmed up I got on Tuppence, limiting myself to 5 goes on the inital crux before moving on, this allowed me to try the rest of the route with some strength left and not to waste the whole day repeatedly falling off the same move with no noticeable improvement. The middle section felt good and I managed to link the hardest move through to the jug, progress! I played around on the top section trying to figure out a way to do the move before heading back to the ground for a rest.

The next go went well, I found out a way to eyeball the hold above the top crux though I couldn't seem to be able to move any limbs to hold onto it, the route felt a step closer nevertheless.

Third go of the day, just one more crack at the bottom section after this then home. I start off with 5 attempts at the bottom crux then up to the middle crux which I can’t do at this stage of the day as my left hand’s getting tired. The top section still looks like it should work; a few more tries pulling off a small left hand undercut crimp and jumping with my right and I might figure it out.

I pull on, push through my feet and reach out with my right hand when I hear a pop from my left and a line of pain shoots through my hand. For a split-second time stands still and I can see two futures stretching out ahead of me: One of my normal life, climbing every day that I can, getting on Tuppence once a week, trad epics and adventures. The other of injury, pain, weeks or months of rest, rehab, getting weak and frustrated. I slump onto the rope clutching my hand and look up, only one future remains.

The pain is in the ring finger of my overtired left hand, too many weeks of crimping and trying to get stronger have taken its toll. I belay Alexis on Fisherman’s and again on Tuppence where he kindly takes my quickdraws out for me, he doesn’t even claim them as crag swag!
Slacklining - a great rest day activity

I drive home trying to change gear with my thumb and the depression sets in. It may sound clichĂ©d but climbing is everything to me: it’s the reason why I get out of bed in the morning, the reason why I go to work, the reason why I eat breakfast when it’s far too early to eat anything that isn’t chocolate.

Time passes and the shock fades, I see a doctor who knows little about tendon injuries and a climbing physio friend who knows a lot more, I vow to rest properly and let it heal. I make a list of things I have been meaning to do but never get round to because I’m always climbing and a list of easy slabs to try out some one-handed trad climbing. Life goes on.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Tricky Part

In summer I find the best way to improve is to go climbing everyday that I can, get on the routes I’ve been putting off and keep on trying the ones I’m falling off. As a general rule this tends to work quite well and the best part is that it’s exactly what I want to do. However it isn’t summer now and ‘just going climbing’ is no longer the answer... it’s time for the tricky part... training. This way if the routes I want to get on ever dry out I might stand a greater chance of getting to the top.

That said for the last three days I ignored my own advice and used the dry days for bimbling on easy routes and the wet days for hanging around at wet crags feeling sorry for myself:

Cheddar Gorge
Sunday: Cheddar
Sunday was dry but colder than my fingers can cope with (this isn’t saying much as my fingers and toes tend to freeze and the merest mention of chilly weather). Of course the sensible thing to do would have been to climb on the north side of the gorge in the sunshine; instead we opted for a freezing ‘warm up’ climb and then wandered up to the start of the spectacular Space Tourist. I can’t help but enjoy multi-pitch sport climbing; it feels like a bit of guilty pleasure to climb without the usual trad-induced fear but it’s great fun nevertheless. We reached the top of Sunset Buttress as the sun set behind us and abbed back down to warm socks and a fish-and-chip-based dinner.

Monday: Daddyhole
Another dry day and I had promised to take my visiting brothers, all three of them, out climbing. I wanted to choose a crag and a route that summed up what’s so great about rock-climbing and Gates of Eden at Daddyhole seemed to tick most of the boxes:
        ·         Adventurous setting
        ·         Abseil descent
        ·         Sea cliff
        ·         Exposed location
        ·         Multi-pitch trad.

It turns out that a four person stacked abseil does work quite well and they all reached the ground laughing and not shaking too much. I showed them the route, explained how it all works (emergency exits are situated here, here and here... if someone shouts “below” don’t look up...) and set off up the first pitch. At the belay I brought two of them up together with one trailing a rope for the third brother, only the stopper 5a/b move seemed to cause any problems. Much faffing with gear, ropes and the belay followed and I set off to the top. They followed using a combination of technique, brute force and desperation borne of an innate distrust in the whole system. A good day was had by all.

Tuesday: Anstey’s
A rainy drizzly day. It had been at least 5 days since I had been to Anstey’s and the desperation to return ate away at my gut like a particularly unpleasant virus. It was also our only hope of dry rock, a hope that was cruelly dashed upon arriving. For once The Cove was almost entirely unclimbable apart from the first few bolts on Tuppence and A Fisherman’s Tale. As these are the routes Alexis and I are working we spent the afternoon, hanging around in the rain, falling off 
Time to get inspired: The Dartmoor Webcam
damp holds and eating malt loaf.

Today, Wednesay: Training
Rain, rain and more rain. Time to engage the winter training plan I think: train on wet days, climb on dry days. I hope the sun doesn’t shine too much during the next four days at work or I feel my work-life balance may undergo some irreversible restructuring! 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Rainy Season

Well the rainy season is here and finding a dry place to climb is now a major challenge; apart from the dank and dingy Pixies Hole at Chudleigh, Anstey’s cove is one of the few local crags that tend to stay dry in the rain. Unfortunately most of the routes leak like a sieve after a few days of wet weather – Tuppence being almost the only exception.

I’ve been working Tuppence for just over a month now and progress is now slow to non-existent, mainly involving me falling off in the same few places:

The bottom crux: A bit of a jump from two poor holds. I try this move approximately 20 times per session with a gain of about 5mm. In a couple of years it’ll be in the bag!

The middle crux: A move off a painfully small left-hand crimp. I’ve heard that both Adrian Baxter and Gav Symonds had to train specifically for this move ... time to get strong I think.

The top crux: A massive jump. I can’t get anywhere near the hold I’m leaping to but in my dream last night I could do it easily so I’m not too worried.
All that said, the process of working a route with such funky moves is great fun, it has become a very enjoyable feature of my climbing week. I find it useful to have one route to focus on and to train for... I can go away and hang off left hand crimps for a couple of days, take a rest and get back on Tuppence ... only to find that this time I can hold on slightly longer before falling off as usual!

Time to head back down there for another session of jumping, crimping and falling... 

Monday, 24 October 2011

Brizzle Trad

The last three days contained of all the necessary components for a good climbing trip:
Ahimsa on Acid Rock, Cheddar Gorge
           ·         Three star routes at awe-inspiring crags
           ·         Dry weather
           ·         Good friends
           ·         Real ale

Day 1: Avon Gorge
I rolled out of my van feeling bored and lethargic after the tedium of the M5 but it just took a few metres of typical Avon weirdness on Yellow Edge to restore my spirits. It was one of those days when you really feel that you can climb, you feel fit and strong, your head’s in the right place and the gear goes in first time. At the belay I brought up John and Justin and we sat on the ledge and faffed with ropes and gear until one of us thought we had better continue and set off up the next pitch.

I haven’t climbed multi-pitch routes in a group of three for a while and it was a nice change to sit on the belay and talk nonsense instead of just sitting on the belay, thinking nonsense. We covered the topics of religion, literature and whether a fight to the death on the belay ledge would be a good idea. More climbing, faffing and chatting followed and we finished up the final wild pitch of Captain Swing.

Back in the van and on to the campsite in Tintern where we convinced John that pitching a tent is more fun in the dark and after a couple of pints. He took our sage advice and we wandered down the road to the pub for food, ale and the making of ill-advised plans for the next two days.

Day 2: Wintour’s Leap
After a hearty fried breakfast (the diet of athletes!) and the arrival of a fourth climber to the group we set of to Wintour’s for adventures on GO Wall. Hyena Cage was the route I had decided to do in the pub the night before and all plans made in pubs should be followed through to their logical conclusions (in this case fear and exhaustion). Alexis lead up the start and I followed trying to psyche myself up for the 50m second pitch. It started well with balancy moves up the headwall leading to the start of the roofs then a steep few moves on good holds to a rest on Kangaroo Wall. I managed to resist the temptation to carry on up Kangaroo Wall and set off again traversing right over awesome exposure to a technical groove that took all of my willpower and the last of my quick-draws – the trouble was I still had 20m of the pitch left. After a brief foray to see if the last section was an easy romp to the top (it wasn’t), I scuttled off and belayed in Kangaroo Wall.

The sight of the Wye meandering through the Wye Valley from halfway up GO Wall is one of my favourite views in the world (possibly because I only see it after fighting my way up the crag and when normally when I’m attached to the safety of a belay). With the commentary from the horse racing at Chepstow for company I sat and belayed and watched the sun creep round towards me. Alexis arrived and we sorted the gear, he set off up the second half of the pitch and I stretched my toes out into the sunlight like a basking lizard.
The call to climb came and I started up the pitch immediately glad I hadn’t been foolish enough to continue on lead. The rock was not above suspicion and swallowed most of a full rack of gear in the fear that you and/or the holds could fall off at any time. The final pitch above the terrace proved too much of a challenge and I escaped, via some rosebushes to the top. A few hours later and we were all back in the pub for more food, ale and recounting of epic tales.

Day 3: Cheddar Gorge
You know those days when you really feel that you can climb... this wasn’t one of those. Justin and I set out for Ahimsa on Acid Rock, the walk-in proved problematic, the climbing more so. I seconded the first pitch feeling weak and uncoordinated and started leading the second feeling much the same. Halfway up I ran out of psyche and decided to run away... at the only speed you can on a crag where you wouldn’t trust the fixed gear to hang your coat on... very slowly.

It was great to spend three full days attempting awesome routes at three very different crags, each has its own character amd all of them have an abundance of quality routes in wild and exposed locations. But now the rain has set in and I need a rest day...

Sunday, 16 October 2011


This week’s trip to Swanage was my 4th trip in as many weeks and I now know the A35 like the back of my hand, though thankfully the back of my hand has fewer roundabouts. Alexis and I headed down, as we had for the last couple of times, with the aim of getting on Polaris at Blacker’s Hole.

Our first attempt at the route had ended with a quick abseil down and a long prussic back up after finding a metre or two of water on the ledge at the base of the climb. The next time we didn’t even get that far thanks to a cunning plan of checking the state of the ledge before starting the ab. Much consulting of incredibly complicated tide tables followed and we reached the conclusion that the combination of a proper low tide and enough hours of daylight to climb the route wouldn’t happen until:
 a.)    April when, conveniently, the bird ban kicks in.
       b.)    Someone moves the Isle of Wight.

This left us with a few options including:
         ·         Bivvying on the route
         ·         Swimming up the first few metres
         ·         Highly trained dolphins
Or more sensibly
         ·         A hanging belay a few metres above the sea

Polaris Area of Blacker's Hole, Swanage
Pitch 1: lead
A pleasant traverse along a sandy break with some comedy gear involving a knotted piece of rope wedged in a crack which could have been there since the first ascent in 1978.

Pitch 2: second
This is where the fun began, I swung around the arĂȘte glad of the rope above me and not having to hang around and place any gear. A steep few moves up a crack led to a “wild hand traverse” (the guidebook’s words) across a steep wall with very little for your feet. The traverse ended in a graceful step, or in my case a desperate thrutch, onto a hanging slab and a wonderfully exposed belay above the sea.

The guidebook also uses the words “very exposed” and “highly committing” to describe the route as escape from this point would involve:
         ·         a free-hanging abseiling into the sea followed by a long swim to safety
         ·         reversing the first two pitches and climbing an HVS or prusiking out
         ·         Aiding the final pitch
         ·         Deciding to man up and climb out.

Pitch 3: lead

Perfectly warmed up (pumped!) from the last pitch I set out up the initial steep section on reasonable gear and rusty pegs past a few hard moves to a “thank god” perch. From there the route continues up an overhanging corner that looked like it could be climbed in a relaxed and comfortable manner if you had the nerve to bridge out across the void. I didn’t and climbed instead like a small mammal trying to escape from great peril (which was basically the case here). I made it and scampered up the final slab attempting not to dislodge too much rock in the general direction of my belayer. All that remained was a fight through a small blackthorn hedge to the abseil stakes leaving my legs looking like they had endured some new beauty treatment involving enraged porcupines.

We had climbed Polaris; not only had we made it to the route but we had also made it out again. No falls, no abseiling into the sea just an awesome, adventurous route with breathtaking exposure. 

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Swanage Silliness

Sometimes I think it’s important to remember that climbing isn’t all about redpoints and hard trad onsights; yesterday was definitely a good reminder.

The cold north wind at the beginning of the week (and the incessant call of a project route) drove me and my climbing partner to Anstey’s for a couple of warm, sheltered days of steep sport, where I spent most of the time falling off the same few moves on Tuppence and wishing my left hand was better at crimping.

Suitably tired after two days of this silliness and with a full day free for climbing we headed to Swanage for some of that trad nonsense. We ended up at Fisherman’s Ledge and warmed up with a very pleasant deep water solo of Troubled Waters – the perfect kind of climb where you have no intention of falling in and none of that faffing around with ropes.

Next on the list was The Ritz – an absurdly steep route through a number of impressive and improbable looking roofs. I gallantly offered to belay and thus delayed the inevitable part of actually climbing it. After a while my turn came to second it and I swung out under some roofs and thrutched up past some others to a nice ledge where I sat for a while with my back to the rock wondering what would happen if I just stayed there. I persuaded myself to carry on and soon I was sitting dejectedly on the rope under the lip of a roof with all the exposure I could ever want below my feet. I attempted the move over the lip approximately 400 times; I tried heel-hooking, campusing, using technique, using no technique, just man-ing up, getting-the-hell-on-with-it and shutting-my-eyes-and-hoping-it-would-go-away all to no avail.

Eventually I made it to the top with the help of my trusty friends, the prusiks. The good news was I could now relax and eat my homemade chocolate fruit slice in the sun; the bad news was that I now had something else to add to my list of 'Things I Must Try To Get Better At'.

We abbed in to the next route as the tide, which had stayed in the same place for the last 4 hours, had now decided to come in quite fast (the tides do strange things around these parts, I’m told the Isle of Wight is to blame). Limited Edition was the route of choice and it was my turn to lead but due to battered arms and an all-encompassing tiredness caused by the aforementioned roof I declined the offer.

Instead I basked in the sun, watched the sea raging below my feet and paid out the rope in an encouraging sort of way. The view of the waves crashing against the rock sending clouds of spray into the air made me wish I could paint and somehow capture forever not just the power of the ocean and the millions of tiny droplets of water frozen for a millisecond in mid-air but also the feel of the sun on my face, the ache in my arms and the feeling of truly being alive and free. However as I have the artistic skills of a five year old child this was a little over-optimistic.

All in all it was a wonderful day spent achieving very little apart from reminding myself that climbing isn’t all about a ticks in a guidebook and that roofs are really hard. 

Friday, 30 September 2011

Devonshire Trad

At the beginning of the summer I created a list of local trad routes that I wanted to try. I wrote the list to encourage me to get on routes I had been putting off for a while, to eliminate my standard excuse of “I’m not mentally prepared for leading this route today” and because I quite like making lists.


Clotted Cream at Meadfoot

Telegraph Hole:


Sanctuary Wall:

Long Quarry Point:



After a summer of free-time, good(ish) weather and an abundance of climbing partners my list now looks like this:

Zuma E4 6a
Suicide Blonde E6 6b – Seconded.

Clotted cream E4 6a

Telegraph Hole:
Crinoid E1 5b/E2 5c

Lumpy Universe E2 5c/E3 5c – Trad at Anstey’s?! You have to be joking.

Sanctuary Wall:
Sacrosanct HVS 5a/E1 5a
Incubus E1 5b
Call to Arms E4 5c – Agh, scary!

Long Quarry Point:
Black Ice E3 5c – Slabs, ugh!

Tendonitis E4 6a
Black Death E4 6a
Dripdry E4 6b – Tried, failed, ran away.
Major Tom E3 6a

Aviation E1 5b  
                        Interrogation E3 6a – Shocking, it's a classic, get on it.

The last route to cross off my list was Zuma at Daddyhole, a perfect cool crag for a warm afternoon. It felt good to get stuck into the route after thinking about it for some time; there were handholds and gear and even a rusty peg for company.... then the pump kicked in. My control and poise disappeared in a desperate sprint for the rest, too pumped to place gear or even contemplate the largeish fall that would see me landing on my belayer’s head. Luckily I made it and relaxed on the ledge placing gear to my heart’s content. 

An easy bit of climbing followed, enough to tempt me to believe that it was all over and the final stretch would be a jug-pulling romp to top with more gear than I could shake a stick at. It wasn’t. I managed to get wrong handed and increasingly pumped above a move I couldn’t reverse with only the stubborn determination not to fall off now keeping me on. Somehow I made it to the top and collapsed on the grass vowing to work on my endurance so that next time I won’t have to make the choice between placing gear and holding on.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Project On!

The summer of being-a-climbing-bum has given way to the autumn of having-to-work-like-a-normal-person. I’m working at The Quay, the new climbing wall in Exeter, which means that I now spend 99% of my life surrounded by climbers. This is all well and good until I have to make conversation with non-climbers...
The Arch at The Quay
Conversation with a climber:
Climber: You been up to much recently?
Me: Yeah man! Been getting on the trad’s, cos trad’s totally where it’s at, you know? I got on this route up at Wintour’s at the weekend, mainly jug pulling with like good gear but then there’s this fierce crux. You gotta get this slopey sidepull like this and yard up to this crimp, and I was pumped out of my skull man!
Climber: Narly dude!
Me: Yeah and there’s this, like, fierce mantle at the top and your only gear’s this dodgy RP and I brought my mate up and he was all like “Send it!”...

Conversation with a non-climber:
Non-climber: You been up to much recently?
Me: Yeah I’ve been climbing a fair bit...
Non-climber: Cool, was it good?
Me: Yeah.
Non-climber: Great... (long awkward pause)

With four days off work and a poor forecast Anstey’s seemed the place to be. I thought it was about time to find a new project (in much the same way that an alcoholic thinks it’s about time for another drink) and Tuppence seemed to be the most popular suggestion.

The session went well in my opinion, I got about halfway up and there were only a couple of moves I couldn’t do. I’m going to bask in some unfounded optimism safe in the knowledge that the pessimism will kick in 3 months down the line when I still can’t do the same two moves. Project On!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Cider Soak

After approximately 25 sessions at Anstey’s Cove in the last 4 months, about 100 hours of climbing, resting or belaying, a variety of conditions from blazing sunshine to horizontal drizzle and one too many fumbled clips I redpointed Cider Soak 8a***

It’s been a regular fixture on my climbing week over the summer: turn up at Anstey’s, warm up on the traverse, put the clips in Cider Soak, work some moves, do some links or try a redpoint, fall off, eat dried apricots, try again... all in all a very enjoyable experience.

It doesn’t go down without a fight though: first redpoint attempt of the day and I clip the third clip with relative ease (the technical crux), don’t get too excited at the break (the psychological crux) and fight my way through the top sequence to the finishing jug (the physical crux). I pull up some slack to clip the final draw... and fumble the clip, my fingers start to peel off the jug and I grab the draw in desperation. Bugger. So close but yet so far.

Second go I don’t make it past the pocket, third go I smack my elbow into a bolt on the way up then fall off reaching for the break. I consider stripping the route and calling it a day... one more go.

This time I’m at the finishing jug before I know it and I clip the draw like a model climber on Gresham’s Masterclass DVDs. It’s the perfect end to a fantastic summer’s climbing in the South West with a great bunch of friends.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Sun, Sea and Swimming

Today I did what any self-respecting Devon climber should do on the first sunny day in August – I went Deep Water Soloing. I’m very much a beginner at the whole DWS thing, I’ve only been twice and haven’t even fallen off...until today. But John suggested Rainbow Bridge (one of the finest DWS traverses in the world?) and I had no excuses: the sun was out, the tide was high and the bird bans were but a distant memory.

We made the obligatory phone call to the Coastguard to say we were deep water soloing as onlookers have the tendency to phone in. I would have thought the difference between someone having fun by the sea and someone in danger are quite obvious, for example when deep water soloing I climb, fall off and swim to the next bit of rock whereas if I was in dire need of rescue I would scream, wave my arms or just look dead.  But who can tell what goes through the mind of non-climbers!

Rainbow Bridge
We set out from the Great Cave with the sun behind us, glinting off the quartz crystals in the rock. Route finding is pretty easy, keep the sea below you (this is important!) and head sideways, if you’re lucky follow the path of chalked holds. The traverse leads through some awesome terrain from wild overhanging sections on jugs to intricate technical sections on tiny crimps, we got as far as the crux before we greased off the slopers into the sea SPLASH! 

I can’t remember the last time I swam but luckily I remembered how to and crawled back onto the rock a bit further along. Well that was the easy bit over with, now we had wet shoes, dripping clothes and no chalk... onwards. It wasn’t long until I was back in the sea SPLASH!

I swam to the ledges at the end of Rainbow Bridge and tried to recover some strength, I was amazed at how tiring I found the traverse being unaccustomed to continuous climbing for over an hour (possibly the last two days of training and plugging away at Cider Soak didn’t help).

Oz Wall Traverse
We carried on with the next part, Oz Wall Traverse, before escaping up the hillside with aching arms. At the top we met a woman who had seen us climbing and was going to call the coastguard... WHY?!

Back at the bags we relaxed in the sun before John suggested Magical Mystery Tour and we were off again.

Magical Mystery Tour
This traverse heads the other way from The Great Cave and is a few grades easier but with tired and aching arms it didn’t feel it. Much wild swinging on good holds followed together with a quick swim across the Green Grotto just when I had dried out again. Towards the end of the traverse is a move that involves falling across a gap to good holds on the other side. I stood and looked at it, composed myself, looked at the gap again, took a deep breath, poised myself to fall across the gap and... bailed out in mid air SPLASH!

At the end of the traverse we scrambled up the hill to relax at the top in the sun having completed around 750m of climbing/swimming, not bad for a mornings work.

Ken Palmer on his Barrel Traverse (F7C)
© Kafoozalem (UKC)
I’ll definitely be back to complete the parts that I swam past but I think it will be a while before I consider Wizard of Oz an epic link up of all the traverses completed by Ken Palmer last summer (excellent write up of the route here).  

For now I can relax and enjoy one of the many reasons I got into climbing; the feeling of a tired body and battered arms after a good day’s climbing.

Friday, 22 July 2011

3 days, 5 crags

Life as a climbing bum is going well: long days climbing with good friends, getting heckled onto routes, falling of projects and embarking on sea cliff trad adventures.

      ·         Tuesday:

Lowman – the windiest place on the planet – a nice trip up Aviation and then run away to...

Chudleigh – An escape from the wind and drizzle and an important stop on a tour of the best crags Devon has to offer for a visiting Northerner in the group.

Jerome’s attempts to persuade me to lead Interrogation had failed, as well as Interrogation SuperDirect, Blood Lust and a number of other Lowman horrors, but I gave in when he switched tack to Black Death. Black Death may not be the most inspiring name but it's an awesome route and, upon completion, you gain free admission to the Black Death Climbing Club. What more could you ask for?!

      ·         Wednesday:

Anstey’s Cove - The drizzle (or mizzle?) was forecast for the morning, so Anstey’s seemed the obvious choice, after all it’s always dry at the cove, right? Wrong! But lessons were learnt:
        ·         Cocytus is really hard in the rain,
        ·         It’s nearly impossible to get psyched for working a project route when you’re cold and wet and the damp’s seeping through the rock,
        ·         Empire of the Sun is the perfect route for getting more and more tired – I’m told this is called ‘training’?!
        ·         Just when you’ve taken all the quickdraws out of every route the sun will come out.

An enjoyable scramble along The Long Traverse to have a look at Sanctuary Wall rounded off the day perfectly.

      ·         Thursday:

Lower Sharpnose – With the sun shining and agreeable tides Sharpnose is an awesome and inspiring place, 3 fins of rock 25 to 30m high and about 2m wide jutting out into the Atlantic. Long routes, big holds (in places), good gear (in places) and rusty pegs. We abbed in and started up The Smile; holds and gear abound but it just keeps going.

My turn to lead next and Wraith was suggested, “an excellent wall climb” not overly reliant on two fairly rusty pegs. It was excellent, the gear and good(ish) holds give you no excuse to stop and ponder and with the crux at the top it’s an all or nothing effort. I sat in the sun at the top belaying with a grin on my face, good times indeed.

Unfortunately it was 3pm I was late for an evening climbing appointment the other end of the county. I left my mates contemplating scary E5 propositions on the middle fin and jogged back to my trusty van.

Sanctuary Wall - 2 hours later back at Anstey’s Cove I met John taking an evening out from his busy schedule to contemplate Madness, a route name that tells you all you need to know! Madness is a traverse of Sanctuary Wall, a loose, intimidating and absurdly steep sea cliff. The first pitch consisted of alternately hand traversing and teetering along a sloping ledge, with the odd bit of gear or rusty peg for protection. At the hanging belay we tried to think up excuses for not doing the last two pitches, we settled for a combination of potential rain, darkness and fear and escaped up the final groove of Call of the Wild.

It was a good end to three awesome days’ climbing, sitting at the top in the evening sunlight, surrounded by gear and a palpable sense of relief, tired and hungry but truly content.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011


In the last week and a bit I have:

       ·         Bought a van
I don’t know much about vans but this one has wheels (4), goes along at a reasonable speed and plays nice music at me in the mean time.

       ·         Quit a job  
The last day was celebrated as all important times in life should be – with cake and beer.

       ·         Converted said van
As the old saying goes: “Give a man a power-tool and he’s happy for hours”. Thanks to Justin, the van now has a bed, somewhere to put stuff and locks that work!

       ·         Climbed
6 days on, feeling a bit tired now.

       ·         Planned trips
I don’t really do planning, but I have found people to travel with, places to see and routes to climb. Good times!

Friday, 24 June 2011

To Do List - Lemmings

·         Get up
A bit of a challenge, my aches and pains from a couple of days of climbing have united to create an overall sense of tiredness and a general feeling that it’s best to stay in bed today.

        ·         Eat
Ugh it’s breakfast time again, that meal comes around with a startling regularity. Maybe I should mix it up a bit, start the day with a roast dinner or a good chocolate pudding?

       ·         Buy sparkly shoes
Ha! I am a girl!

       ·         Climb
Back to Anstey’s again today, like a homing pigeon with a masochistic nature. It’s a lovely scenic crag, overhanging limestone looking over a quiet bay, with just the tweeting of the birds and the blood-curdling screams of coasteers throwing themselves into the sea (strange race the coasteer, must be related to the lemming).

Looks like the pocket on Cider Soak has dried out; good news as I can spend the day falling off a route I might be able to climb one day instead of falling off routes I have no hope of doing or falling off routes I have already done.

Climbing today is a bit of a challenge, it’s one of those days where every time you look down there’s a spare leg hanging in space doing nothing, you can put it on the rock but next time you glance down another leg is floating about. It’s an endless battle to keep the majority of limbs attached to the rock and it’s one that I inevitably lose. Despite this I manage to link a few moves and almost clip the third bolt before wimping off and going for the shiny quickdraw shaped hold. I could climb past the bolt to a good hold but I’m sure it’s easier to get stronger than to get braver.

I think I’ll leave the red-point for another day or preferably another person... Why can’t it work the same way as football? I could be an Adam Ondra supporter and every time he onsights another 8c I get to spend the afternoon in the pub celebrating my team’s success, starting fights with Sharma supporters and growing a beer belly... I think it might catch on.

Monday, 20 June 2011

To Do List - Pancakes

 ·         Plan adventures
It’s all coming together, albeit slowly. At the moment I’m trying to match up people, places and crags like a giant game of snap. But I can plan safely in the knowledge that wherever I decide to go it’ll rain.

No van as yet, but there are a few local candidates to check out during the week.

·         Pancakes
The perfect breakfast food! I’m not very good at breakfast; mornings are far too early for eating, apart from chocolate obviously. I can eat chocolate at any time of the day or night, it’s like a superpower.

The only solution to the breakfast conundrum is pancakes... or nutella... or both. Sorted!

·         Climb...
It’s not raining, I have a belayer, life is good. Anstey’s is the crag of choice today and Devonshire Cream is the route; 16m of exquisite climbing with the first bolt at 8m, just after the 6a crux. It’s considered to be bolted by a manic or genius depending on your outlook on life.

·         Warm up
A lap or two of the traverse to get the blood flowing...

·         Reacquaint myself with the moves
Forgot the clipstick but remembered the boyfriend so got the first bolt clipped. I had a feeling I was going to find the crux hard... I try it and it feels easy... I try it again thinking it will be easy... it’s hard. I strip the clips (‘effics’) and sit down for a long hard think.

My thought process goes along the lines of:
“I quite like my legs, don’t really want to break them”
“Easy solution to that, don’t fall off”
“But what happens if I freak out? Agh I’m scared!”
“Man up! Anyway you can downclimb from right before
the crux and once you’ve done the crux it’s all over”
“Umm... I still don’t want to do this but I’ve run out of arguments”
“Perfect, let’s do it!”

·         Crunch time
The tricky part is always the decision making; after that it’s just the follow-through...

It goes without a hitch, no broken legs, no emergency bails into the thorn bush, no panicking, no gibbering. And the best bit...? Knowing I never have to do it again...
...until Sole Fusion