12th Sept 2020
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.