For the first time in a few years SCC headed to the iconic South coast of Pembroke rather than the slabby Northern area. This was met with enthusiasm by all as the Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend was celebrated in climbing style with over 20 members of varying experience making the most of the weather and exquisite rock.
Blue skies and sun saw a range of grades being climbed. Some members still managed to find idyllic slabs with others heading to more serious venues such as Stennis Head and Saddle Head with ascents of various E grades being made.
Blue skies and sun saw a range of grades being climbed.
As with other recent meets various training was on offer and some stoic sport climbers even made their first trad leads. Intimidating classics, such as the 30m sea level travers of Riders on the Storm were tackled by multiple teams. When the sun became too much, well deserved ice cream and socialising at the campsite made a great end to a day.
Although the weather did not remain compliant for the whole trip, this was resolved by visiting as many of the local cafes as possible to sample the various wares which was a welcome change from the heat. A trip to the local pub in the evening was a pleasant ending to a fun filled meet.
Over thirty SCC members made the journey west for our annual Cornwall meet. Yet again we were rewarded with week-long sunshine, turquoise seas, golden granite, and ninja seagulls - we really do have the best luck!
One of the great things about climbing in Cornwall (apart from the cream teas) is the sheer variety on offer. Whilst the amazingly grippy granite is the predominant rock type, there is plenty of niche geology for those seeking a more crimpy experience - killas slate, amphibiolite, and greenstone are all superb. It’s possible to spend the entire day climbing one route, whether that’s enjoying the multi-pitch experiences of Commando Ridge and Lands End Long Climb, or headpointing E-grade testpieces. It’s all there, and more besides - and SCC like to make the most of it!
Over the course of the week we had everything from first trad leads; instructor-led training in multi-pitching and pushing the grade; E3 headpoints (and even an E4 onsight); sunset ascents of Commando Ridge; dawn raids for the cooler conditions; sweaty afternoon epics on Bosigran; big waves at Sennen; little waves at Lands End; and all around us friends and sunshine and seaside.
The water was definitely a welcome refreshment. Teams of swimmers headed out most days - exploring the secluded tidal rock-pools, doing laps at the beach, and jumping around in the surf. When the waves got going, the surfers were out doing their thing; and when the swell subsided an intrepid team of coasteerers journeyed around the cliffs and inlets - including surprising visitors when popping up near the beautiful Minack Theatre.
Of course, no holiday is complete without a good feast too! Cream teas featured high on the agenda, with the amazing Rosemergy’s tea rooms near Bosigran always a popular post-climb refreshment stop. Fish and chips on the beach became fish baps and onion rings after the Sennen chippy inexplicably developed a shortage, but nevertheless good times were had playing games and enjoying the spectacular sunset.
As became our tradition last year (even outside of Cornwall), our morning ‘pasty meet’ was a regular fixture - for some an excuse to actually eat pasties for breakfast! But more generally we've found it a good chance for everyone to share their plans for the day, team up for lift sharing to the crag and buddy up for climbing. (n.b. although a remarkable number of pasties were consumed by SCC, a few lucky seagulls gave us a run for our money too - capitalising on open rucksacks and inattentive eaters... lessons were learned)
All in all, it was another fantastic week! With the hopeful return of the La Frowda festival in 2023 we will definitely be continuing our annual Cornwall pilgrimage.
“I’m off for a climbing holiday on Lundy”, I would say.
“Where’s that?”, would invariably be the answer.
Until recently, I thought Lundy was either somewhere near the Channel Islands or maybe in the vicinity of the Isle of Man. I also didn’t know that Lundy is one of the greatest climbing locations in the UK.
But I do now!
It's a little windswept island, just 3 miles long, sitting in the Bristol Channel between north Devon and Pembrokeshire. It has 1 pub, 1 shop, hundreds of shipwrecks, 3 lighthouses (see previous point!), a few holiday cottages, a camping field, some curious seals... and some truly world class granite sea cliffs.
It’s an adventurous place to climb, even getting there on the MS Oldenburg feels like a mini-expedition. All six of us (me, Paul, Tom, Matt, Simon, and Mark) managed to pass the ‘Find-the-Quay’ Test in Ilfracombe in the torrential rain, and not miss the departure. Although apparently it was a bit tighter than I realised (SOS coffee and muffins were totally required).
We had a huge pile of luggage, the total amount of which bore little relation to the alleged weight limit per person. Tents, camping and cooking gear, racks, ropes - the pile got larger and larger, but all was aboard and we set sail in high spirits. The sun was shining somewhere, but not on us that was for sure and we all got a bit wind-blown and rain-washed during the crossing (which takes just under 2 hours). Our first glimpse of Lundy was of the eastern side, shrouded in low-lying fog. Sea cliffs and pinnacles of rock appeared out of the gloom, giving tantalising hints of the epics awaiting us on the wilder west side of the island.
Our first day disappeared in fog and mist, so with little prospect of dry rock we went for a long amble around the island to get our bearings. Navigating around Lundy should be easy - there are only two main paths heading up/down the island, one on the east and one on the west. And as you walk you cross several drystone walls, conveniently named Quarter Wall, Halfway, and Three-quarter Wall. Should be simple right? Somehow it's surprisingly hard to remember how many you've actually crossed though, so there was plenty of debate as to where we were when all we had as ‘landmarks’ were horses, goats, and highland cattle. Pub dinner and an early night in a slightly soggy tent finished off our first day, but we were full of enthusiasm as a decent forecast promised plenty of dry granite to come.
Over the next few days we got to grips with the Lundy crag approaches - ‘descend the grassy gully’ often turned out to be guidebook code for ‘go up and down a few times and peer over lots of dodgy cliff edges and realise you’ve got totally the wrong place’. Our first taste of Lundy granite was at the aptly-named, super-classic Flying Buttress - a huge obelisk leaning drunkenly against the main cliff, forming a natural sea arch through which inquisitive seals were swimming. We had a great time ticking off some of the classics of the crag. Strong lines and gear-friendly cracks made it a fun first day, working up the grades to finish with Double Diamond - a Hard Rock tick and no pushover at HVS 5b. I got a bit stressed out on some overhanging slimy rock close to the shore-line, whilst Simon got a bit anxious eyeing up the incoming tide. All was well in the end! And the crag has some excellent ‘natural features’ for anchors at the top - great big cannons, used to signal danger when the lighthouse was ironically hidden in fog. Bomber!
We climbed all over the west side of the island, mostly managing to dodge the short, sharp showers that swept in across the Bristol Channel. The forecasts turned out to be mostly unhelpful - I definitely got sunburnt on days when apparently it was meant to be black clouds and heavy rain all day. With the weather being on the unpredictable side, we chose the best-looking day for a visit to the iconic Devil’s Slide. This is one of the showpieces of Lundy - an immaculate sweep of granite slab, rising straight out of the sea for 100 metres before steepening up like the crest of a huge wave. It is surprisingly lacking in major cracklines - on one side, the slab meets a side wall and creates the satisfying lay-back VS, Albion. On the other side, intersecting cracks form the super-classic HS, Devil’s Slide, which culminates in a run-out exercise in ‘smear-trusting’ on the final traverse under the crest of the granite wave
In the middle of the slab, scanty thin cracks provide the ‘gear’ for the thought-provoking E1, Satan’s Slip. The guidebook describes the second pitch of this route as ‘a lonely lead’. It certainly wasn’t well-endowed with protection, and I muttered to myself “Just keep climbing” as I moved two, then four, then six-plus metres above my last dodgy placement. Fortunately granite is super-grippy - bizarrely, I felt more intimidated when I finally reached the safety of the Albion lay-back corner, mainly because I think I’d forgotten how to actually climb with holds and gear after 30 metres of smearing!
We were definitely grateful for a sunny dry day to have our slab-climbing adventures. The weather kept building during our week on Lundy, culminating in several big storms with epic winds and wild seas. The MS Oldenburg was unable to sail, leaving many refugees stuck on the island. We were unbelievably lucky because we’d booked into the luxurious barn for the second half of the week - all the campers ended up escaping to the safety of the church and sleeping on the floor for the rest of their holiday, after several tents failed to survive the conditions. The big seas were truly amazing!
We had to pick and choose our crags, and sometimes plucking up the courage to abseil in above the huge waves crashing below us wasn’t easy! But we were always rewarded with brilliant experiences. When the weather finally got too windy, we explored some of the inland crags and the eastern side of the island. These were fun, and a pleasant escape from the intimidating sea conditions, although definitely the poor cousins compared to the big west-side sea cliffs.
We joined the band of Lundy refugees when our boat back was also cancelled by the weather, and we lucked out with an extra day of climbing and another night in our cosy accommodation. The barn usually sleeps 14, so we had plenty of room for the obligatory social-distancing, and it was a really lovely place to chill out with coffee, chocolate and games.
We used our bonus day to head to the far north of the island, visiting a fun little crag with plenty of excellent technical routes. The northern tip of Lundy has yet another lighthouse, this time accessed by little bridges and steep steps weaving through the cliffs. We got a great view of the big seas, whilst being pretty sheltered in our secluded crag. The biggest bonus of the day was the lift we managed to grab with the lighthouse engineers on the way back - bumping along the track, wedged in place with our climbing bags, we had fun chats all the way back down the island. Cheers!
The captain of the MS Oldenburg gave the all-clear for the sailing the following day so it was all-aboard and farewell to Lundy. Despite climbing every day, we felt like we had barely scratched the surface - there are so many brilliant adventures still to be had.
This was to be the club’s first official foray into a bouldering meet on home soil. We’ve had a small handful of trips to Fontainbleau in the past, but I was particularly keen to show members what we have on our doorstep, especially at our local crag, Swanage.
St Aldhelm’s Head has long been an esoteric place for the Swanage climber, with it’s loose foreboding steep cliffs jutting out of the headland like the bow of a ship, full of ‘trad horror shows’ that would make the average climber shudder at the sight of it. Thankfully, with the release of Dorset Bouldering the place has become a quiet mecca for the keen boulderer. With a calm wind and some sunshine it can be a most wonderful place to spend the day, and the steep cliffs make a marvellous backdrop in the end.
The day started in the car park with a COVID-19 safety briefing. Everyone had their hand gels at the ready, and there was to be no sharing of chalk bags or eating each others' lunch!
We arrived at the crag, the sun was out, the sea was glistening and you could hear the faint sound of a cat meowing…. To our surprise Jo, Neil and Fade (aka adventure kitty) were sampling one of the ‘horror shows’ below us. It wasn’t long until they had both joined us at the top, by which time we were all spread across the crag, each solving our own little problems. We had experienced boulderers and some new, all keen to get stuck into some real rock. It wasn’t long though until we were all putting suncream on, we really had lucked out on the weather today.
There are two main areas to the bouldering at St Aldhelm’s Head. First, you have the cliff top quarry which has a wide spread of grades to suit climbers of all abilities. Then you have the beach area, which involves a scramble down a steep scree slope (be careful of people above you knocking stones down!) to find a myriad of boulders of all shapes, sizes and quality spread out over a large area. The beach can be a really tranquil place, don’t be surprised to spot deer down there when it’s quiet.
After lunch, most of us headed down to the beach to use up whatever strength we had left in our arms. A lot of our time was spent on the Notley Boulder, which has a variety of massive jugs all the way along it to make a really fun, but not too hard (f5+) traverse line. Once you’re done with that, there are varying eliminates along the boulder with dynos and tricky pinches to keep you trying hard!!
As our arms gave way, it was time to climb back up the hill and head to the Square & Compass for some refreshment and a pasty, before we made our way home.
Thank you to everyone who came and made it such a wonderful day. It was great to see some new and enthusiastic faces too, and I look forward to climbing with everyone again soon.
As I sit in the car watching the rain lash against my windscreen in a very soggy Dartmoor (our replacement holiday after being blown away from North Wales by not one, but TWO storms last week), I am reminiscing about a contrastingly warm and somewhat midgey trip to the Roaches just a couple of weeks ago with SCC. This was our first official weekend meet following Lockdown, and we were a tiny bit apprehensive about how it would work out. Paul had the forsight to book the entire Hazelbarrow Farm campsite for the weekend, which included the use of the bunkhouse for socialising in the evening, in case of inclement weather. This lovely site is just a stone's throw from a plethora of climbing options at the Roaches, Newstones, Baldstones and at Ramshaw rocks - all within walking distance! Which is useful for an August trip with parking at a premium - apparently we weren't the only ones planning on a weekend escape to the Peak District.
Chris and I arrived at around 9pm (after the usual, mad post-work dash) only to be met by legions of midges - the downside of a lovely still and sutlry summer's evening in the Peaks! After hastily erecting the tent we took refuge in the car, beer in hand, until the midges retired for the night. Not before they had feasted merrily on my accidentally exposed lower back whilst we put up the tent - lessons were learned! After a couple of beers with the others we headed to bed for a not-so-early night ahead of a days' climbing at the Roaches.
We woke to the pleasent pitter-patter of rain against the tent - only to realise once we were fully awake that this was in fact the sound of midges trying to get in for their breakfast! But with the heat of the morning sun producing the usual boil-in-the-bag effect familiar to those who habitually sleep in too long, we had to make a dash for it. On the count of three we fled to relative safety by the camp fire that Rob had already lit to keep our unwelcome visitors at bay. At about 8am we received a text from Jo and Steve to let us know they were on their way to the crag - whilst most of us were still in our PJs! Once breakfast was out of the way and we were finally left in peace by the midges we got on with our day.
En-masse, we ambled up to the Roaches upper tier (around 20 minutes on good paths) and went our separate ways up the rock. Chris took the lead up Heather Slab, a somewhat run-out but pleasent Severe 3c whilst I selflessly continued to feed the midges at the bottom whilst belaying. However, I was rewarded with a lovely breeze that chased my tormentors away once I'd followed him up - not to mention a spectacular view from the top.
I then tottered up Maud's Garden (HVD 3c), a three-starred route I have looked at many times in the past but usually a queue of like-minded folk ahead of me has left me to find a less-popular line nearby. It was worth the wait, with a fairly bold start up the slab and a tricky chimney near the top (cue much dithering and grunting), both of which made the experience feel more severe than expected! But then, it has been a while since my last grit-stone adventure (thanks coronavirus!).
By this point George had joined us and was champing at the bit to get up something a little more challenging than I could follow him up, so I relinquished my climbing buddy and volunteered Chris for the job! I think he rather enjoyed Crenation, a bold E1 5a which both of them managed to make look much easier than it sounded. In turn, I borrowed Jon so I could tackle the very fun Fern Crack - which has a steep and juggy start with excellent gear (if you're strong enough to hold on whilst you place it - if not (like me) just keep going til you can put the weight back on your feet - you will be rewarded by a brilliant thread eventually!). This is followed by a slightly awkward rockover onto a rather green looking slab without much to cling to other than your hopes and prayers. Overall a very satisfying route that was over far too soon. Looking back I wish I'd squeezed in Black and Tans, another on my wish list that I think most of the other meet attendees managed to fit in, but it always seemed to have someone waiting for it when I looked over. So that was it for us - time to head back to the campsite for dinner. Jo and Steve's early start meant they managed at least 6 routes to our 3 that day and definitely earned their chippy tea; mine was less-well earned but just as much enjoyed.
Fortunately the wind picked up on Saturday evening and we were able to enjoy sitting outside without being eaten alive by the local wildlife. However, as the sun dipped below the horizon several of us retreated to the warmth of the bunkhouse for shelter from the increasingly chilly wind (there's no pleasing some!). A few beers were consumed and most of us headed to bed for a relatively early night in the hope of getting in a full day's climbing at Ramshaw Rocks on the Sunday.
With the wind building in strength throughout the night, plans were swiftly revised in the morning and we set our sights on a repeat visit to the Roaches instead. It's not like we were going to run out of top quality routes after just one day! As most of us were checking out of the campsite we drove to the crag - fortunately the cafe near the bottom of the Roaches had opened up a field for parking (at just £2 a day - so it amazed me that some people (not club members I hasten to add) still insisted on parking on the sides of roads and were duly rewarded with parking fines by the end of the day!).
On the Sunday Chris and I entertained ourselves with some of the shorter routes on the lower tier - Prow Cracks being a particularly enjoyable excursion! During a brief interlude I sat watching Tom squirm and thrutch his way into the squeeze of Sifta's Quid (a hillarious cross between caving and climbing that is probably more fun for the spectators than the climber! Seeing is believing, see piccie below), and Catherine rocketing up her second ever lead like a pro (whilst making some excellent shapes, also see below). I was busy capturing these two memorable events, when someone rudely got in the way of my photo - that someone turned out to be none other than Johnny Dawes! I said hello and had a quick chat about midges (which somehow lead to me telling him that he climbs pretty well for a midget - a compliment he seemed to take as it was intended!). He then offered his services to SCC in the form of training (which Chris is in the process of organising so keep your eyes peeled for upcoming info on that) and proceeded to give Chris a bit of an ad-hoc lesson in hands-free climbing (see pic below). All in all, a pretty memorable weekend!
I'm back in the car now having had a scramble about a very damp Dewerstone with Chris, gazing longingly at the glisteningly wet rock and hoping for a dry spell before heading home - in either event, I can't help but feel lucky that climbing draws us to visit such beautiful locations and allows us to see them from the unique perspective of the climber.
This year's overseas meet saw another change of scenery as SCC headed back to Spain. Paul Johnson has provided a write-up to tell us all about it:
October saw SCC's first trip to the sun-kissed peaks of El Chorro for the beginning of the Spanish climbing season.
The Finca la Campana accommodation hosted 15 SCC climbers for the week, with some overly-competitive table football (stand out performance from Iron Man) and chaotic games of Spoons providing ample entertainment. Our hosts supplied generously-sized portions to keep the team fed throughout the week, including an impressive personalised SCC paella!
Teams braved the heat with notable visits to the Valle de Abdalajis, Escalera Arabe and Frontales crags. A great mix of slabs, faces & overhangs, cracks, flakes & jugs greeted us with an abundance of climbs just a short drive from our accommodation. A trip to Desplomilandia, one of the few shaded crags available, was cut short in dramatic circumstances as the climbers almost ended up on the wrong side of a local hunting expedition!
Occasional cloud coverage provided ideal conditions for various ascents of the epic multipitch routes El Chorro is famed for, ticking off my first +100m climb, some members scaling lines over 300m long. Other members were not even put off by dodging rockfall on the aptly named 'Lluvia del asteroids'.
The walk of the Caminito del Rey - the Kings Causeway, through the prominent gorges of El Chorro (home to many more notorious routes,as well as some badass eagles and vultures) as well as the Via Ferrata of the same name provided some much needed respite from the rigours of climbing, despite some challenging cable crossings. Similarly, a trip to the town of Ronda helped make the most of a rare spell of rain and gave us a chance to recover for the final day of climbing.
Overall a fantastic week in great conditions, hopefully a venue that the club will revisit in the coming years!
The late May bank holiday weekend brought the club to the Gower, as is traditional. The Gower has been good to us over the years, giving the opportunity to climb from the beach and to enjoy the sunshine. This year’s meet was noteworthy in that it may have been the largest SCC meet to date with almost 50 members attending!
Taking the day off on Friday, some of us arrived early enough to get some climbs in. Not wanting the day off to go to waste, this led to a trip to Boiler Slab in some light rain, ticking off some easy routes to err on the side of caution! Luckily this weather wasn’t to last, and the improved weather on Saturday allowed everyone to get out and climb in the sun (albeit with a few showers thrown in). Saturday morning was my chance to tackle Great Tor, with others taking on the challenge throughout the weekend. Other popular venues were Little Tor and Three Cliffs Bay, taking advantage of the low tide, while another group headed out for some sport climbing in the area. Saturday evening included a trip to the beach for a BBQ and bonfire for the group, as did Sunday evening.
Sunday morning was a slower start for most, given the weather - for myself, this led to a fantastic pastry in a cafe in Mumbles followed by an obligatory trip to do some gear shopping in Swansea. Once the rain had passed, we headed out to Devil’s Truck for some short climbs in stunning weather. Other groups headed to Boiler Slab, or some of the various crags around Rhossili Bay.
Monday started with blazing sunshine, by far the hottest day of the whole weekend. Many groups took full advantage of the bank holiday by leaving cars and vans at the campsite for a stroll down to Three Cliffs Bay for one last climbing session before the journey home.
Here’s a selection of my photos from the weekend, including the BEST caterpillar that I’ve ever seen:
This year Scotland delivered snow and winter sunshine for the annual northwards migration of Southampton Climbing Club. Jen Foster has been kind enough to do a write up for us to give you some insight as to what went on on the meet, you'll find this below.
On the Monday and Tuesday the beginners amongst us tackled the winter skills course, learning winter navigation, ice arrests and how best to take your partner out on a snow slope. Probably more valuable were the varied tips, facts and knowledge that our guide Lucy passed on about staying safe and getting the best from our gear and equipment.
For us beginners, our education continued into the week. Many thanks to the experienced club members who took us out and built up our skills. I can’t imagine that I’m alone in saying I was pushed out of my comfort zone trying snow belays, my first graded winter climb and an impossibly steep descent that I’d never have done by myself. We had white-outs, stunning blue skies and snow deep enough to lose our smaller club members in. Most of all, we had an enormous amount of fun.
Yes, there were a few days when it was just too windy to get out on the ice (except for die hards Neil and Jo who persevered when everyone else had retreated to the pub) - too windy even for the skiers and snowboarders who had their day on the slopes curtailed before it had even started due to closed pistes!
Despite the wind, everything from winter grade 1s to grade 4s were attempted (and in some cases achieved). There were a few boot related injuries, a nasty incident with a bag of carrots and a fall from Tim that begged the question; if a Tim falls on an empty ice climb with no one around to see it, did it really happen? (To be fair, we can be sure it happened because the unheard of happened the following day and Tim didn’t climb at all!)
It was an excellent week and I’m sure many of us will be back next year. In the meantime I’ll leave you with this picture of some local wildlife from Marc Bunyard - can you spot the Ptarmigans?
The second weekend of December saw SCC heading to the Peak District for our annual Christmas extravaganza. Expectations were low on the climbing front, thanks to the forecast of heavy snow, but this was more than made up for by the anticipation surrounding the Christmas meal!
Those arriving Friday evening quickly set about the decorating of the main room, including suspending a Christmas tree from the beams. Chocolate coins were also hidden around the house, to be found using headtorches only!
Saturday saw people taking up a range of activities in view of the weather conditions. A small group left early to try and catch the sunrise (optimistic, hoping to see the sun in the UK in winter!), making it back in time for breakfast. The majority of people headed into Hathersage to take advantage of the fantastic gear-shopping opportunities, before going out for a walk in the afternoon. For me, a stroll up Mam Tor and then straight into a cafe for a cream tea was the order of the day - on the walk we were fortunate enough to bump into a group doing a sponsored walk while dressed as the knights of the round table (coconuts included), and we also had a go at some bivvy-bag toboganning. Some of the hardier souls amongst us actually went for a climb, with bouldering at Millstone being one of the venues.
On the Saturday night we were treated to a wonderful three course meal, followed by secret Santa, games, and drinks. Most people headed home earlier on the Sunday than usual, having seen pictures of the motorway and not wanting to be stuck up north (although there are far worse fates in life, of course).
Sadly, this was the last meet of the year - the next meet being the winter meet in February 2018.