Down by the sea

Wild sea at Carn Vellan
Wild sea at Carn Vellan

Reading Jack Geldard’s recent UKC Article on our Expedition to Peak 41 brought back a lot of memories, in particular it made me remember some of the decisions I made back in Nepal that are guiding where I am going now (and where I’ve gone since).

And where have I been?

I’ve been by the sea…

One of the conclusions I came to whilst away was not just how much I enjoyed the climbing back here in Britain, but how much I enjoyed climbing on sea cliffs. Upon my return I was regularly asked “what’s the next big trip?” and yet the only answer I could provide were a few loose plans for long weekends down in Cornwall, Devon, and Pembroke. Although a somewhat anti-climactic answer for many, I cannot express how much the simplicity of this proposition excited me – so many adventures to be had and all so close to home! Wonderful.

This feeling was brought into further focus throughout the week spent on the BMC International Meet. Held down at the Climbers Club’s Count House in Cornwall, guests come from all across the world to sample the delights of what our little island has to offer. Many of of the guests come from countries that have bigger, longer, and more impressive crags than anything we have to offer, yet there is a magic somewhere within the our sea cliffs that provided the visiting climbers with a lasting memory – what is that?! Now I’m not a good enough philosopher to suggest reasons why, neither am I a good enough writer to explain the way I feel about it (as proved by my previous post), all I know is that there’s a certain ‘je ne sais pas’ about being near the sea that leaves an impression no other climbing experience can match.

The home of many memories, Main Cliff Gogarth
The home of many memories, Main Cliff Gogarth

Without leaving things on too much of an emotional cliffhanger here’s a somewhat random round-up of some of the places, routes, and people that have left an impression on me over the past few of months:

Huntsman’s Leap

Huntsman's Leap, an outrageous crag
Huntsman’s Leap, an outrageous crag

What is it about this crag that makes it so much ‘more’ than St. Govan’s?

Having inconveniently climbed many of the classic E5’s within the Leap I have recently tried to climb some of the lesser known routes, discovering in the process some esoteric gems. Personal highlights have included ‘Moving Away from the Pulsebeat’ and ‘Monster Modello’ which both receive one star, but rank above anything that I have climbed at Govan’s by ten-fold. Fixed gear isn’t too much of an issue with these and I can highly recommend getting on either of them if you enjoyed the likes of Head Hunter, Darkness at Noon, and Witch Hunt.

One of the things that I am less keen to do is get involved with some of the more dangerous peg reliant E6s. On the one hand I would love to climb routes like Souls, Subterranean, and Little Hunt, but on the other life seems too short to risk it all for no good reason (maybe this is a knock-on effect of my experiences of Peak 41)…

The Deep Players  – Benno Wagner, Alex Luger, and Gwen Lancashire

I have been lucky to climb with some remarkable people, but recently there are three individuals who are worthy of mention to a wider audience (probably because nobodies heard of them before).

Benno Wagner - my rock climbing super hero
Benno Wagner – my rock climbing super hero

Benno Wagner is a Munich based climber that I have had the privilege of being friends with since we met at the 2011 International Meet. Considering all of the rock in his close vicinity is covered in bolts, Benno ‘gets’ British trad climbing more than most Brit’s do within their lifetime. On the recent International Meet I introduced him to the notion of hollow-stars and daggers (i.e. unrepeated and potentially dangerous routes), this was like a red rag to a bull and a potentially bad move seeing as he’s not a man to shy away from a bit of adventure. The positive and refreshing thing about Benno’s approach is that he isn’t intimidated by reputation, something that a lot of us suffer from. It’s best just to “have a look” and see how you get on – it’s only rock climbing after all. Simple.

Visiting Austrian Alex Luger and UKC Assistant Editor Duncan Campbell underneath Cripple Creek, Craig Dorys
Visiting Austrian Alex Luger and UKC Assistant Editor Duncan Campbell underneath Cripple Creek, Craig Dorys

There is a possibility that Alex Luger and Benno were separated at birth and who knows what would happen if they ever met (we’ll have to hope beer would be involved). Alex came over to the UK courtesy of DMM’s Pumpen Hausen Tour. A few years back he shot into the limelight of the climbing media when he repeated Beat Kammerlander’s E10 Prinzip Hoffnung (Principle Hope) at the age of…well…young! Since then he must have been eating spinage or something because he’s not slowed in terms of progress. Alex has impeccable style, an abundance of stamina, and a voice that is the exact replica of Arnold Schwaranegger. I watched him mop up the classic pumper ‘Dreams and Screams’ at Rhoscolyn with jaw dropping efficient – why can’t I be like that?!

Gwen opening her Huntsman's E5 account with Head Hunter
Gwen opening her Huntsman’s E5 account with Head Hunter

Finally – quiet, unassuming, and infinitely apologetic – Gwen is my rock climbing superstar. I am not sure I can say more than that because Gwen would die of embarrassment if I did, all I will say is watch this space (because Gwens probably going to climb it). And I’m not even sure she’d want me to say that…

Alien, Main Cliff Gogarth

Getting pumped on the crux section of Alien, Main Cliff Gogarth
Getting pumped on the crux section of Alien, Main Cliff Gogarth

If I had to name one route that meant more to me than the rest it would be this one. Famous (or infamous) for spitting people off it, Alien is notoriously hard to onsight. Having moved away from North Wales I realised that my approach to routes in the area would have to change, no longer could I wait for that after-work moment and climb things when I may – I would need to be strategic. So, I went with an objective. I got on it. I fell off it. Then I got up it. Content.

So what next?

I don’t mind, as long as it’s near the sea.

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