BMC Cornish Climbing Festival 2015

Over the past few years the BMC has been supporting a number of climbing and walking festivals across the country. Driven by local enthusiasts,  the initiative follows a simple strategy:

1) Locate festival within close proximity to high quality climbing/walking area
2) Ensure BMC funds are directed towards procurement of beer, hog roast, and veggie alternative
3) Supply high quality speaker (who doesn’t mind being heckled)

The Count House, Bosigran
The Count House, Bosigran

The Cornish Climbing and Walking Festival, held last weekend, got thumbs up on all accounts: a selection of Britain’s finest sea cliffs, food by the legendary ‘Floating Millsone’, beer from the local (Skinners) brewery, and Calum Muskett – the BMC’s Ginger Ambassador…

Organised by Gareth Palmer and Iain Peters the weekend had a great local vibe. Gareth and I have got to know each other since I  was elected onto BMC National Council back in December 2014. Over the past year he has been one of the driving forces of Four Points Climbing, an active club spread across the South West. In this day and age when many climbing/mountaineering clubs are having trouble to survive, 4PC bucks the trend with an increased membership and vibrant scene. Iain I got to know during the debauch 2013 International Meet, when he sandbagged a number of hosts/guests (myself included) into the heading out in the eye of a storm suggesting that ‘the weather was improving’ – the resulting effect was an unforgettable epic for many (and led to my tent disappearing somewhere into the Atlantic). Legend has it that he even did the first ascent of the classic Hard Severe ‘Right Angle’…in 1804…or thereabouts…

Pash Peters, Head Chef of the legendary Floating Millstone
Pash Peters, Head Chef of the legendary Floating Millstone
One of these people is the 2013 British Bouldering Champion, the other did the first ascent of Deja Vu, Kafoozalem and countless other South West classics, and the other (unbeknown to him at the time) had broken his ankle...
One of these people is the 2013 British Bouldering Champion, the other did the first ascent of Deja Vu, Kafoozalem and countless other South West classics, and the other (unbeknown to him at the time) had broken his ankle…
Calum Muskett delivers a lecture so riveting that Frank Cannings (in the front row) fell asleep
Calum Muskett delivers a lecture so good that Frank Cannings (in the front row) fell asleep

I couldn’t fail to write a report about the event without mention of Frank Cannings. Years ago when I first visited the South West I remember reading through the historical section of Pat Littlejohn’s South West Climbs (no, really…) and reading about Frank’s first ascents throughout the region. What is most striking was not only the quality, but the difficulty of the lines he chose; Kafoozalem, Deja Vu, The Liberator and Interrogation (to name just a few) are still prizes today, let alone when the first ascent was done back in the 60/70’s.

On this trip Duncan and I had our sights set on a number of Frank’s routes and hearing his account of the first ascents beforehand really made a difference to the experience we had on them. Climbing Desolation Row (E2 5b) whilst being aware that on the first ascent Frank only had five runners from bottom to top (it’s a 40m route) definitely sparked a degree of admiration for his courage. I placed around 12 – many of which were cams, hence not invented for another 20 years after his ascent – and didn’t trust any of them!! However, it was Deja Vu that really stood out as it is not only hard, but exceptionally bold too. Duncan, my climbing partner, got in two micro-cams at the base of the crux then ran it out for miles, intermittently shouting ‘watch me’, then ‘really watch me’ when things got serious. When Frank did the first ascent with ‘Hot’ Henry Barber, a visiting American superstar, Henry ran that whole section out without gear, on a waist belay, wearing only a swami belt – yikes…

Michaela Tracey on the top pitch of The Dream/Liberator (E3 5c)
Michaela Tracey on the top pitch of The Dream/Liberator (E3 5c)
Cornwall at it's finest: waves crashing up against the golden rock, then back into an azure sea
Cornwall at it’s finest: waves crashing up against the golden rock, then back into an azure sea

The only negative that came out of the weekend came as something as a surprise when Duncan (for the second time that weekend) jumped the ‘crevasse’ to access the routes within Bosigran’s Great Zawn and broke his heel. At the time we weren’t aware of the damage done and basically thought he was being a bit soft. As a result, two two of us swung leads up the route (Green Cormorant Face, E2 5c) without too much further though. Upon topping out Dunc mentioned that it was pretty painful, so that would probably be his last route of the day (doubly soft). He then asked if we could bring his stuff back up, to which I though he was joking, as he was in quite a lot of pain now and didn’t want to walk unless completely necessary (triply soft). In our sympathetic state Sophie and I did another route whilst Dunc rested in the shade, upon return it transpired Dunc couldn’t actually walk so I offered to carry his bag (quadruple soft points).

I’m not sure at the exact point that the guilt kicked in, but it was probably around 10:30am the following day when I got the message “well it is broken”…

The Crevasse Jump into Bosigran's Great Zawn  Photo: Sophie Whyte
The Crevasse Jump into Bosigran’s Great Zawn
Photo: Sophie Whyte
Duncan mid-flight on the ankle breaking jump Photo: Sophie Whyte
Duncan mid-flight on the ankle breaking jump
Photo: Sophie Whyte
Sophie seconding the first pitch of Green Cormorant Face (E2 5c)
Sophie seconding the first pitch of Green Cormorant Face (E2 5c)

Thanks once-again to both Gareth and Iain for organising the Festival,  and for everyone else who came along – it was a bloody amazing weekend (apart from the bit where I was bad and didn’t sympathise with Duncan).

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Trad Climbing

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