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.

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