I hooked up with Dan on Wednesday (always exciting...) up near Fishguard to check out the Needle Rock area. Dan had been there before for a look around but not climbed anything at the time. It is a big cliff, made of Rhyolite, coming vertically out of the sea for 50m. There is also just off the main cliff, a 35m tall sea stack with a very pointy top and prominent channel/arch at it's base, appropriately named The Needle. The plan was to ab' in and check out if there was scope for new lines.
The abseil down this big unknown sea cliff blew the cobwebs away as I "tested the anchor" but I gratefully arrived at the bottom on small tidal ledges with a boulder hop to the sea stack. After a look around at the base we decided on a line up the west face of the stack. The route started up a steep groove, traversed left under a sloping roof and gained a second easier groove, to a belay. The second pitch was easier but on more sketchy ground. It probably goes at E1 5b, 4c but an interesting way up the stack, with a good first pitch but poor second. We abseiled off the top of the stack and had a look around the larger back wall. Dan being Dan spotted some hard looking lines. He climbed around trying to get a good view of certain sections, muttering lies about how he wasn't feeling strong at the moment. I mentally prepared for the worst. I was soon stood holding his ropes on a line that looked good but had a section at about 20m, a curved finger layaway crack, up a steep, open groove. Dan took a belay on a good sloping ledge and spike at 15m after climbing a lovely, solid steep crack of only about 4c. I followed, clipped in and sat back to look at the crux up close and it looked no easier. Dan got some high protection and reversed to the belay. He again said some lies about "how weak" he was feeling and after a short rest went back up. The move past the top gear looked hard. There was a smooth vertical wall on the left, with only very thin potential foot holds. The monster layaway began with Dan giving full commitment and effort. (Well done Dan.) After a tough crux he started to gain hight more quickly and showers of discarded loose rock and hairy lichen where chucked down to my left and into the sea. After what had felt a long time my ropes came tight and it was my time to climb. The crux was a real beast, after I thought I had cracked it, it turns into mean, out of balance jamming with little for feet. Easier but looser climbing preceded up a more useful groove with more features on the side walls. Some of these would pop off when you stood on them but it felt better to be on less strenuous ground! It was actually really good climbing and a strong line, I think with a little removal of loose rock and lichen clearing it will become a very good but hard E3 5c, on a fairly direct line up the large main face.