Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Man + Limestone = Win (for once)

This weekend was the 3rd annual mid-late October Pembroke adventure spectacular. Just the thing to help me get over the fact that Autumn is depressing and wet and windy. I headed down on Thursday with Julie and Andy and, thanks to some excellent planning, we arrived just in time for it to get dark. Hmmm. We celebrated our skills with dinner in the St Govan's Inn, which made everything a bit more ace.

In the middle of the night DrDanDanDan arrived, so he joined in the communal psyche in the morning when everything looked grey and wet. My insistence that the crags would be dry and sunny was roundly ignored and we skulked around for ages until we ran out of skulk and had to head to the crag just to see if I was right. It turned out I was (I ALWAYS AM) so we abbed into St Govan's and wandered around looking for some inspiration. The start of The Arrow looked a bit damp, so I opted for Tactician instead, which was a good call. The crux was tricky, but I used my mad bridging skills to get a rest in the middle of it, and the remainder was great. Proper, chunky corner climbing with lots of gear (21 bits to be precise). Oddly it's given E1 in the new CC guide, which gave me a dilemma, as it was clearly only HVS. I do like E points though...

Julie on Tactician at St Govan's

Next up, determined to shun all of the good looking, clean, inspiring lines, Dan chose a filthy looking unstarred VS. It turned out to be filthy, hard and polished, but he seemed to enjoy himself all the same. I finished the day off with a brief tussle with Front Line's rather unreasonably imposing first move, which ended with some very elegant ledge-beaching antics. The brilliant exposed upper groove made it very worthwhile (and a touch harder than Tactician, but still definitely HVS).

Simon and Frank (who was a surrogate Claire for the weekend as she's busy being broken at the moment, sadface) had joined us by the time we found ourselves marching over to The Castle in the sunshine on Saturday morning. We spent a good few hours having fun on Spink wall (except for on the eponymous VS, when I unreasonably had to lay one some distance above gear, bah) before Dan stepped it up with a pleasant little HVS and I thought that maybe it was time to stop prevaricating and actually climb Lucky Strike.

Dan was incredibly psyched about the idea of abseiling into a ledge from which the easiest escape was given E2 in the CC guide, a grade neither of us had led, and which involved an awful lot of traversing. Still, to his credit he followed me down the ab rope instead of running away. To say I was a little apprehensive would be an understatement, but these routes don't climb themselves, so I took a deep breath and set off across the initial traverse. A hop, skip and a 5b move later and I had the start of the juggy flake line in my hands. It was in the bag. Except I was quite pumped and this next move didn't look very easy...

A quick word with myself and a little bit of trying rather hard and I flailed elegantly upwards at what I hoped was a good sidepull. A few more pushy feeling moves and I had a sort of rest. Phew. I celebrated by placing 4 bits of gear. Just in case. The sea did look quite unfriendly after all. Some easier moves led up past a series of incrementally better rests to an actual jam. Whoop. Not much further to the top. Up the crack, cram some gear in, sling a dubious, but obviously well furtled little spike, getting a bit pumped again now, juggy undercut, feet up, grab the top, gurn like an idiot, slap around desperately for some bigger holds, paste my feet around aimlessly, for the love of god don't fall off now, more desperate slapping, these holds feel good enough, feet up and lo, I was at the top. What a route. Another Littlejohn wunder-route. Dan managed to make it all look a bit easier on second than I'd have liked, which was a bit unreasonable. Bastard. Sadly I don't think it was really an E2's worth of effort, so I'm inclined to agree with everybody else I know who's done it, all of whom agree it's E1. Shame, I'd like an E2 tick...

I'm alive!

The evening brought a celebratory steak and a fair amount of beer back in the St Govan's. Mmm.

It rained overnight, but it was dry and sunny in the morning, so Dan and I abseiled into Trevellan to humour me and my desire to climb The Hole (how could you not?). I'd been put off the direct start by rumours in the Rockfax guide of 5c moves, so I took the pansy left-hand option (at a mere 5b). After a little bit of trying hard again and about 13 runners in 10 metres I reached the fabled hole. Like some kind of jug-infested chimney of win inside the crag, it was totally brilliant. A pretty unique route. Why can't all climbs be topologically non-trivial?

It was now definitely Dan's lead, so we moseyed across to St Govan's East and he romped up the very pleasant corner cracks of Ganymede. At this point we both fancied a go at the very aesthetic arete of Rear Wind (fnar fnar), so Dan borrowed Frank as a sacrificial belayer and I set off up the neigbouring HVS with Simon. I had failed to notice quite how steep the route was until I was half-way up it, which was exciting. Luckily there was a sit-down rest on which to compose myself, and all of the jugs in the world, so it was all ok. The top out was a bit harrowing, mind. As was constructing the belay out of small rocks, grass and optimism.

Frank looking unusually uptight on Rear Wind...

Dan soon joined me at the top of the crag and proclaimed his route to have been very good and not too hard. A very satisfactory combination. Sadly the appointed hour of our departure had arrived, so I had to confine it to my ever-growing list of Pembroke psyche. Normally I go to Pembroke with a list of routes I want to do as long as my arm, climb none of them because they're all a bit hard, and end up coming home with an even longer list. This time I actually manned up and climbed some of them, but saw at least twice as many new inspiring routes. Oh dear. I really need to learn to climb E2 properly and then come back. It all looks so ace...

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