Sea cliff climbing

Rough with the Smooth

Continued Professional Development in Snowdonia 

As part of my work as a NICAS Moderator I was recently invited to Plas Y Brenin for a day of workshops looking at good practise and and ideas that can be filtered down to centres and people we work with. It was a busy day with 40 or so people coming from far afield to congregate at the Welsh National Outdoor Centre. I'd taken the opportunity to come up a day early to get out with Pat, a friend that lives up there for some climbing. The weather on the coast looked good and a trip to the exciting sea cliffs of the Lleyn was planned. Sadly the weather was pretty wet when we got there and plans were quickly changed for a reliable wet weather crag, steep and sheltered at the Ty'n Tywyn Quarries. These too turned out to be wet and a token effort at climbing the first pitch of a two pitch E2 named The Naturist was undertaken before it was decided to bin climbing for the day. You don't win 'em all. 

On the other hand a fun and dry time at PYB was had the following day and it was nice to catch up with various folk that I hadn't seen for a while. The day was split into four workshops with the opportunity to discuss personal experiences and draw conclusions. 

The first workshops was delivered by a Petzl sales rep and looked at the use of the Gri-Gri+ in different applications as well as problems associated with direct use of guide plates when two seconds weight the devise in different directions of pull (the second rope that is weighed won't hold!) I've added a video to show the effect below.

The second workshop was delivered by Olly Saunders and looked at loading forces on Tyrolean Traverses and various ways of rigging ground anchors. After lunch we were entertained by a chap from DMM where a good discussion on climbing kit strength was gone through and finished with an enjoyable session testing various kit to destruction - Good to further prove that climbing kit is incredibly strong given proper care and maintenance! The last workshop was delivered by Dave Rudkin and went through considerations for coaching trad lead climbing. After the traditional "tea and cake" it was on to the evening presentation by visiting German mountain guide and Edelrid gear development officer, about rope shear testing and best practise in Germany for the teaching of belaying and holding falls in different situations. Believe it or not it was a very well presented and interesting three hour talk!! 

The Top Routes in Pembroke?!

Sea Cliff Climbing at Mother Carey's Kitchen 

It’s a funny old thing choosing a “favourite route”. There are so many crags, with different character and situations. Nowadays I spend most of my time climbing by the sea in Pembrokeshire and have had time to think about what makes a route above and beyond the rest of the great climbs here. The other day I had a morning’s climbing that made my mind up. 

Mother Carey’s Kitchen is in my opinion THE best crag in Pembrokeshire. It hosts a wealth of quality routes on perfect rock through a good range of grades. The setting is exquisite and there’s almost always routes to get on even if there’s a big sea booming away at it’s base. 

A few days ago I met up with Louis (a Pembroke local) at the MCK car park for 9am - I had to be back home just after lunch. It was mid November and even though the forecast suggested it would be a max of 8 degrees, the sun was out with little wind. I suggested starting on Brazen Buttress - a classic Pat Littlejohn E2 5b that I’ve climbed many times and one of my all time favourites. The climbing is sustained but with no definite crux’s. The climbing flows beautifully, with moves that role into one another and more opportunities for protection than you could ask for. The only problem I had was that I’d started the climb with my fleece on and soon started to over heat! 

It was a different story when Louis said he wanted to climb Deep Space - another Littlejohn route given the same grade as Brazen Buttress. In contrast this route takes the outer edge of a huge dark cleft, in the shadows and cold. As Louis arrived under the roof I called up to him to make a belay as it was mid tide and the sea was coming in at a speedy rate. The rock was just about dry but cold and lay backing on jams soon chilled the hands to a point of numbness. Arriving at the hanging belay the world below you drops away in a fashion that only climbers can enjoy. Above the way is blocked by an imposing roof but thankfully the holds are as good as you could ask for. A couple of wild pulls and you’re deposited on the upper wall and straight forward climbing on wonderfully sculpted stone to a point where you’re able to bridge across the cleft in dramatic positions to the top.

If you haven’t already, go and do these routes. Of course, when you have there’s all of the other blinders to do at MCK as well!  Enjoy… 

XS Sea Cliff Choss and Attempted Murder by a Sheep

Sea Cliff Climbing in South West Wales and Mountain Cragging in Llanberis Pass. 

Last week I went with Paul Donnithorne to check out some of the esoteric sea cliffs of the Cardigan Coast. Fair to say that although there are some striking lines to go at, the shale rock has an inherently unstable nature. After a bit of abseil cleaning we walked away with two new HardVS's and a cheeky two pitch E2 I called Strong and Stable. All good fun if you like that sort of thing... 

On Tuesday and on the way up to North Wales I stopped back there to explore some other areas for future attention. On Wednesday I was out with Pat Littlejohn who was keen to check out some neglected parts of Llanberis Pass. The sun was out, warm, T.shirt weather. I climbed the first two pitches of Bable together, clipped into the belay and started taking in the ropes, what a lovely day. Out of the corner of my eye my attention was drawn to a white thing quickly role off a steep grass slope and free fall down a 30+m cliff. It was a sheep, a sheep had just fallen off the cliff! Before I could think to shout down to Pat an almighty crash of boulders and scree came up from below. "Pat!" I called down. Nothing. Fuck, that sheep has just landed on Pat Littlejohn! Luckily the ropes started to move again and eventually Pat reached the belay. Apparently he had just put his rock shoes on, stood up, moved 3m to the start of the climb just as the fully grown sheep had dive bombed into the rock that Pat had been sitting. It would have killed him if he had hung around for a further 10 seconds. Imagine the obituary... 

Great day out in the Pass though, Despite the potentially lethal clumsy sheep. It won't do that again...