Day Trip to Portland – Paul Highams

John Mitchener and I decided that we should make the most of the mild November, so on Sunday 6th we set off for a day trip to Portland. We met at Bessells Green at 7am and by 9:40 were sitting in a cafe on Weymouth seafront, having a full english breakfast as the Sun glinted across the bay. Things were looking good.

Once we’d demolished breakfast, we set off to the Crag, we decided to go to Battleship Edge which neither had been to before. It is on the West side of the Island just down from Blacknor. The approach is easy and there is more room at the bottom of the crag to spread out. There is a wide range of routes to keep people of all abilities happy for the day.

The sun hadn’t come round onto the face yet and it was a bit chilly in the shade. John set off up a F5+ to get our eye in for day, I stood at the bottom shivering. John seemed to be taking his time and faffing a bit! After a few meters he was complaining he couldn’t feel his fingers due to the cold, and I wasn’t showing much sympathy. John made it to the top clean and then it was my turn. How hard can a 5+ be? Actually very hard, the start was tricky with small crimps and delicate footwork, I had lost the feeling in my fingers after the first half a dozen moves.  Suddenly I started to empathise with John, as I faffed about a lot, the route did get a bit easier and eventually I reached the top. I then had the fiddly bit of tying off and rethreading the belay to lower off, which was challenging with numb fingers. Back on the ground we sat down for a small snack and 5 minutes later the Sun popped its head round the corner of the crag and the world changed. Warmth flooded in, our spirits rose and we set off on our next challenge “Never drive a car when you’re dead – F6a”. This turned out to be much nicer, smiles were back on faces and the layers of clothing were starting to be shed.

We followed this up with a couple of F6a+, “Evening Falls” and “Lazy days and summer haze”, both great climbs and higly recommended. Things were feeling good and I was now down to just a T-shirt, I fancied something a bit harder and I spotted something I fancied nearby, “Inch Perfect – F6b”. I led this clean, there was a really blank section in the middle, but when I got there, hidden away were a number of small ledges for the fingers and with some trust in friction for the feet, better holds came to hand, the rest of climb was simpler and it was a romp to the belay. John decided to top-rope this and got very close on his first go, second go he cracked it. We later found out that the route was given F6b+ in the rockfax guide which was nice. All climbers know that whenever there is a discrepancy in grade you take the higher one, and the moves were a bit thin! We did another F6a+ “Margaret on the Guillotine” and then we thought for our last route of the day we would go further along the cliff to see what the routes were like there.

We fancied doing the route “A dream of white porsches F5” because we liked the name, but when we got there, someone was on it so we looked around for something else. It was at this point that I fell in love or was it lust. You know sometimes you just see a line up a cliff and you just want to climb it, you don’t know what its called or what grade it is, but it looks great and doable. We looked up the route and its called “No Man’s an Island – F6c”, its got three stars and thats what I’ll be doing next time I go there. But that was too hard to finish the day on, and the light was fading. So we picked “Pride of Silence – F6a”, it looked hard but I set off with hope and some more layers on and again everytime you needed a good hold there was one, you just couldn’t see any of them from the ground. John followed as the sun went down and the temperature plummeted. By the time we walked out I had all my layers back on!

The journey home was uneventful and we were very chuffed with a great days climbing, 7 routes and the discovery of a great new crag to go to in Portland. Now how long will I have to wait to get my hands on my new love!

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