Out of The Sea and Into The Fire

Exploration With A Pembroke Legend

It’s been great getting back home and back onto the sea cliffs of Pembrokeshire. The weather has been sunny and fairly warm all week, making a stark contrast from the frozen mountains of Scotland. This week I’ve been leading climbing sessions for the Adventure Training Unit at Castle Martin and it’s felt good to get straight into some quality work. 

Yesterday my old mate Gavin came over for some adventures and we headed off to the Life Cave/Slab Buttress area of Lydstep, in search of some fun. I’d been interested in exploring this area for a while and from the guidebook there looked to be potential for fresh lines to get on.

When Gav arrived at our’s, I talked him through the rough plan, showing him some photos I’d taken of the crag from Disco Buttress and cross referenced these with the guide book. Looking at the guide, I pointed out some potential lines left of the established route “Bugloss”. Gav found this route name very funny and the rest of the day basically revolved around dropping the word “Bogloss” into as many sentences as possible - it’s great when you can hang out with someone that has the same type of childish sense of humour… 

We arrived at the top of the crag and bimbled around getting different views of the crag. There was certainly a lot of rock without routes on in the guide. After an abseil in we took it all in from underneath the cliff. “There’s Bogloss of lines to get on here!” was Gav’s response. Scampering around like excited children our imagination was working over time. Gav kicked off with a nice looking crack system left of Stranger in a Strange Land, which went at an enjoyable standard of HS 4b. Down the abseil again and I jumped on a lovely diagonal crack line in the wall, going at around E1 5a - This I instantly christened The Bogloss Traverse. 

Back at the bottom, we noticed a guy standing at the top of the west side of the crag. We started a dialog and it soon became clear he was a climber. He said he was going to come down and headed out of site. Moments later, we heard a large splash - had he fallen off the cliff?! Gav (who was in a position to see better than me let out an obscenity in shock. My god, he had fallen off the crag? I ran up to beside Gav, with a burst of adrenaline. “What happened?!” I asked Gav. “His Bag!” Gav replied, pointing to the sea. A large back pack was bobbing around with rock shoes, chalk balls and other bits floating about in the swell. The chap’s head reappeared over the crag top and casually said his entire rack was in the bag! “Shit! We better see if we can get it” said Gav and we ran off to separate places to see if it would float our way. We stood there uselessly, watching the bag slowly fill with water. Being March, I wasn’t going to jump in after it! The chap scrambled down to the other side of the bay and luckily the bag floated towards him just before it sank. Unbelievably, even though his bag was open, his rack was still inside and he dragged the super heavy looking water filled bag out to safety. Unfortunately, his rock shoes had failed the float test but otherwise the expensive stuff was safe - all be it, in need of a good wash and oiling… Drama over. Phew! 

Eventually, the stranger came down to join us and a relaxed looking chap that I recognised as the Pembroke legend Crispin Waddy said hello (!). Gav was geared up below a cool looking wall climb of uncertain difficulty and after a chat with Crispin, set off up, muttering things like “I’m only feeling like a 5a kid at the moment!” Getting a good amount of gear in Gav explored the ground, trying a direct line up past the hard looking section, then taking another possibility slightly right. Getting the gear in and exploration of options began to their toll on Gav’s forearms and off he popped. getting back on, he fell off another couple of times and after a good effort craved the flatness of the ground and a cup of tea. Gav handed the lead over to me and without pulling the ropes - “There’s no pride here” I remarked to Crispin, I headed up on top rope to Gav’s high point, belayed by the main man. Without wanting to demonstrate a poor performance, pushed on through and scanned for further holds and gear - none initially came into view. Down climbing to the last rest, I went up again, managing this time to sink in a small nut, then back down to the rest. Up again to past the nut and into thin moves. Pop, I was off. Spending some time processing the ground above I spotted somewhere I could fiddle a cam in. Getting back on I got into a position that the cam went in but unhelpfully this covered the good part of the hold and a tips of fingers move was performed to explore further options - they were all very thin. Bang, I was off again. After a couple more tries and fails, the batteries had died and down I came. “Do you fancy a go?” I asked Crispin. He gave a smile and replied “I’d love to!”. Pulling the ropes (like a real climber!) he set off (using my spare pair of shoes) and effortlessly levitated up the lower half. Getting a feel for the holds, he went up and looked at the beginning of the crux section. He then took a small fall - I think he only took the lob to make me and Gav feel better about ourselves! He said that he was going to take out the cam and thought he could get a little nut in up a thin crack to it’s right. This he did and climbed his way impressively to the top. When he came down he said he'd thought it was around 6a - a good lesson in onsite climbing from a total Wad! We had had a good laugh and it was cool to meet such a nice bloke. Crispin headed off - probably to wash his kit (Sorry for telling everyone Crispin - but it was pretty funny after the initial shock!). Me and Gav thought there was time for another route. 

Gav set off on a cool looking traverse, onto an arete belay, a good value HVS 5a first pitch and just to the left of the now infamous “Bugloss”. I joined him and we swapped leads. Looking at a couple of possibilities, I opted for the centre of three groves above. This gave some really good climbing and brought me to a short but pokey looking layback crack. Stuffing in some cams, I launched up this to finishing jugs. Bringing Gav up, he took over the lead, fittingly finishing up the top pitches of Bugloss. Into The Jaws Of Bogloss is a quality HVS 5a, 5a, 4a, well worth checking out and deserving of a star. 

A great day of fun and exploration with a good mate and a Pembroke legend thrown in for good measure. Awesome…