Crashing waves, sea gulls, sun and solitude. Hands on lovely rough granite, interesting eroded features, good gear and abseils. Everyone has to sample the joys of Cornish climbing at least once!
The weather forecast was looking dodgy and some members pulled out, but the trip held together, thanks to Rob Munday’s optimism. On Friday we left Tunbridge Wells at a rather civilized 6am and headed west. The sky became a cloudless blue. Perhaps we would miss the rain after all? Some time after picking up Justin from Honiton, we drove into some horrendous rain and our hearts sank. Did we have 3 days of wet camping and thumb twiddling ahead of us?
We decided to pitch our tents, hoping the rock would dry in the meantime. At Chair Ladder we were pleasantly surprised. We decided to climb a classic VS: South Face Direct (4a, 4c, 4c, 4a) as a three. Euphoric with joy, we didn’t bother to analyse the guidebook and scrambled down a gully near the coastguard lookout to rig an abseil. The tide should have been out but it was a half moon so it was a weak low tide. Doh! To my irritation I had to climb back up – about 30m! It was easy climbing so I remained on the belay device and just slid my prussic up. At the top of the ab we looked at the guide book and realised that the climb was not tidal! We moved abseil point then abbed onto a high ledge for the start of the climb.
The weather was good and it was great climbing on dry, rough granite. I loved my pitch. It was a little run out which helped spice up the 4c moves. Rob topped out on a wonderfully photogenic summit. What a great start to our long weekend! It was my first time to ‘Chair’ and I was impressed.
The local pub was in staggering distance so we had a slap up dinner followed by the odd pint or two. Steve Leake eventually joined us, looking forward to the next days climbing. A great end to the day, apart from my leaky tent…
Next day the clouds were looking big and dark but we were pleasantly surprised at Bosigran. The crag was empty but the rock had almost dried out. Fantastic! While Justin and myself faffed with gear, Liam Thomas and his friend Leon efficiently got cracking with Doorway (S 4a). Leon got to the stance as it started to pour. Oh dear! Justin found a makeshift cave and while he crouched like Golem in the darkness Leon remained at the stance. When it stopped raining Rob and Steve climbed a Diff in trainers while I selected Doorpost. I had done it twice before but it is always a joy, even in the wet. It was a bit slippery for the feet on the rising traverse but the gear was good. Justin then linked pitches 2 and 3 for a lovely big lead. The weather was getting dodgy for multi-pitch climbing so we opted for Sennen, partly so Rob could bag Demo Route, a major ‘Classic Rock’ tick.
It was blowing a hooly in the car park and climbers were getting in the cars to go home, glad to get out of the rain. Not put off by such things we got going to the crag! The rock was damp and the waves were big so we opted for the abseil approach. Rob and Steve got cracking on Demo Route while I led a rather stiff VS (5a) near the ab. Rob was clearly well chuffed to bag the classic so Justin and I followed him up. I led it in one pitch as well and was really impressed. With the bad weather it felt quite gnarly but it was only Hard Severe so I could savour each move with no fear of falling off, which makes a pleasant change. At the top we watched Steve gibbering up Civvy Route. It was HS 4b so he made it a little more spicy by going wrong and ended up climbing a very steep finish! Good lead Steve.
After Demo Route it got really wet so we collected the ab and went to the pub again. Looking at the tide times we decided on a nice early start, leaving at 7.45am. I decided to show restraint in the pub but this went a bit wrong and we all ended up having a skin full in front of a real fire. Bliss!
No hangovers and blue sky – result! After faffing about we amazingly managed to meet our deadline. Justin and I had our heart on Diocese VS 5a, 5a, 4a, 4b while Rob and Steve opted for the single pitch haven of Carn Barra as it was nicely out of the wind.
After a scramble down near the coastguard lookout, we abseiled down next to Terrier’s Tooth. As planned, the sea was two hours after low tide so we would be OK as long as we didn’t take too long. The cliff here was nice and big and I took note of Bishop’s Rib, a 3 pitch E1 out of Hard Rock. Tempting, but after our wet weather Hard Severes we were poorly prepared and more than happy to leave it for another day. Rob assured us Diocese was no push over though, especially the crux second pitch, which would be my lead, Justin decided. It was HVS in Rowland Edwards book and the first pitch looked a little stiff. Well, it was as stiff as it looked and required ‘varied techniques’. It had its fair share of scary moments and was a good lead. Well done Justin! My pitch was only 10m but it had a blank and scary look to it. The upper crack was damp so I opted for the lower, thinner route. The traverse had tiny sopping wet finger holds but had just enough widely spaced toe holds to prevent free-fall. Assuming I was going to log some flight time I put loads of gear in then I went for it and really enjoyed the exposure.
Justin then announced that he had dropped his Pertex top! Luckily it landed on a distant ledge. Rather than leaving the expensive and rather useful garment behind, I decided to retrieve it. With some well placed gear we escaped from the system and then I abbed down the blank wall, retrieved it then got my lovely Petzl Tibloc out to prussick back up. It’s a good skill to practise – better to do it first in controlled conditions before you need to in a stormy epic!
Justin then linked pitches 3 and 4 together for another huge sunny pitch which he thoroughly enjoyed. After all of this we went off to Carn Barra to find the others. Rob and Steve had their own fun, climbing the wrong line and getting lost on hard territory.
Time was ticking on so we had to leave the hot, sunny weather and head home. Much thanks to Rob for a speedy and efficient job, making it back in less than 5 hours.
Get yourself to Cornwall, you will not be disappointed!