Monday, 18 April 2016

Land's End Jolly

I wake up in the car to the sound of rain hammering down on the roof. Wind howls across the coastline. I'm absolutely shagged after the long drive up last night. Whisky. Where's the bloody whisky? All I want to do is go back to sleep again, but high tide is right in the middle of the day, and I guess we should at least try and climb something. Cam and I struggle out of our sleeping bags, grab our stuff and stagger off towards Bosigran Cliff. It's cold in the wind but at least the sun is trying to come out. We decide to warm up by soloing Bosi ridge. The tide is already racing in, and we only just manage to squeeze around the tip of the ridge as the waves crash higher and higher against the rock.

Heading towards the steep crack of pitch one

Really don't want to fall off right now

It feels committing leaving the starting ledges and climbing up towards the steep crack above, the sea crashing at my heels, but the holds are massive and we soon gain the crest of the ridge. Easy but exposed pinnacles lead us back to land. The whole thing takes about 15 minutes. Good start to the trip.

Traversing higher up, the Main Cliff behind 

We amble round to the Main Cliff and climb the mega classic Doorpost. I've done it before, so I lead the shit wet pitch at the start so Cam can have the glory jug hauling to the top. He races up the golden wall, past parallel cracks, black stained holds that seem designed to be climbed on. After that we solo Alison Rib and call it good for Bosi.

Following Cam up Doorpost

We head up the coast towards Gurnards Head and have a quick pint in the pub before hiking towards the crag. It's non tidal as long as the seas aren't too rough. Our planned route is called Right Angle, which takes this insane line into a mega intimidating zawn of black, wave battered vertical walls. It starts off easy enough with a mellow traverse to a big ledge, but you can see what you're getting into looming just ahead. The second pitch is ridiculous - you keep traversing until against all instinct you have to start climbing down, closer and closer towards the sea, all the way to a small ledge just above the high water line. Cam leads. I pay out rope and watch him disappear into the zawn.

The end of pitch one, before it all kicks off

Some rusty bit of shite from years ago (and a piece of climbing gear)

As Cam teeters across the crux to the belay ledge I feel a change in the weather. The sky darkens, the wind rises. Spots of rain. Oh fucking fuck please don't rain now. I think I've made a terrible mistake. Maybe I can just quietly untie the ropes and solo back across the first pitch, quickly, before it gets too wet. Cam can wait for a passing fisherman to notice him hanging there on the wall and rescue him, while I get pissed in the pub. Or he can just drown. Whatever. But before I can begin this dastardly betrayal the rain fizzles out and the ropes come tight and now it's my turn.

Yeah this looks ok, don't know what all the moaning was about...


Nah piece of piss really

The down climb is really fun and easy until it isn't. Suddenly all the useful holds and foot ledges disappear, replaced by a slippery crack and chuff all else. My feet skid on nothing. There's nothing protecting me between here and the ledge, so if I bollocks it up I'm in the drink. I tell Cam I can't do it. This is fucking stupid, who does this out of their own free will? Awkward, off balance moves, fumbling at shite holds, my hysterical sobbing echoing around the ominous zawn. Finally a better foot ledge at the base of the crack, thank fucking god, I'm lurching across to the waiting belay. Breathe in, breathe out. Alright then, what next? Fortunately the last pitch is utterly spectacular, a 40m bridging corner that's just brilliant 3D climbing all the way. I top out into blazing sunshine once again. A perfect mini adventure. Now let's get back to the pub, there's beer to drink.

The fantastic final pitch up the big corner

Looking back into the zawn from the top

Now the temptation is to settle down for the evening and get drunk, but the weather is so good we can't resist another climb. Off to Land's End to solo the good old Long Climb. I remember this being really hard a couple years ago but we shoot up in about ten minutes flat. Finally we head towards Porthwgarra, arse end of nowhere, and pass out knackered.

Chair Ladder looms above in the early morning

Big day. Chair Ladder. Ever since doing South Face Direct in 2014 I've wanted to come back. Massive towers and buttresses of golden granite, 70m high, awkward tides and access, loads of psychotic nesting seagulls. A perfect adventure crag for shit trad climbers. We get up early to catch low tide. After gearing up we scramble down a series of boulders, jumping over chasms, heading for the western buttress. Our target is a classic HS called Pegasus. Cam starts up pitch one. It follows a wide corner crack, still wet from the receding tide. He wants to get stood up on a good hold before placing gear but his feet skid off the slimy wall, and the silly twat falls off, plummeting back down to the deck, bouncing off a ledge to land hilariously, with a massive splash, in a deep rock pool at the base of the route...

He goes in all the way to the tits! I'm absolutely pissing myself.

Me leading pitch one after Cam's little plunge

He's completely soaked and a bit bashed up, so I lead instead, and find the pitch nails. I forgot just how shit I am on Cornish granite. A bastard hard move halfway up almost shuts me down entirely, I do some desperate grovel up finger pockets while my feet flail hopelessly in the air, shrieking "THIS ISN'T HS IT'S FUCKING E3" again and again. It eases off a bit above the crack, before I reach a final roof, which thank fuck has massive holds, and then the belay. Cam seconds up, a shivering mess, and I lead off up an easier corner system, following a cool line across a curving slab. The last pitch is fairly toss, just a way to the top really, then we're both lying shell shocked on the grass and wondering if we should just go home instead.

Pitch 2 up the slanting corner system

Victorious on top

Cam changes clothes and warms up a bit, and we reckon there's just enough time to sneak in for another one before the tide gets too high. So back in we go, down climbing an awkward gully, only to find the tide is already cutting off the base of the cliff. We manage to get onto a massive boulder, from which an all or nothing leap gains a wave-washed ledge. We time our jump between waves, scrabbling up to safe ground below our chosen route - Pendulum Chimney. The sea cuts off retreat. No way out but up now.

Starting pitch two of Pendulum Chimney

Brilliant climbing further up the crack

Cam leads up a wide crack, way too wide for any gear, then splits off left up a bold face, finally managing to place a runner before heaving onto the belay ledge. More awesome pitches up cracks and corners, past the crux chimney which is bloody hard work for me (although harder for Cam to second with a rucksack), brings us to an amazing belay on a natural throne in the rock, just below the top of the cliff. I gaze out across a flawless blue sky, the ocean rippling far below me. We sit here for a while before a final pitch leads us to an exposed pinnacle summit.

Seconding Cam up pitch three

The crux chimney

Looking out from the top

We've just got time for a quick solo up the top half of Terriers Tooth, a steep fang of rock that stands proud and isolated from the main cliff, before we have to start the long drive home. The evening is warm and calm, the sun shining as we leave. It feels wrong to go, we should be drinking ale in a beer garden and planning tomorrow's adventure. Fuck work. We'll be back.