Thursday, 23 July 2015

A weekend on sunshine

I met this weekend with my dear old friend Fred Morgan and spent the weekend adventuring down at Chair Ladder in West Penwith - definitively one of my most favorite crags I've been to this year - sunshine, ice cream, grassy car park, free hose pipe - what more could you want!

After a leisurely start due to post birthday celebration hang-over and a bout of jet lag (as Fred is from Wales...) we headed straight for one of my major objectives for 2015 - Diocese (VS 5a). This route is possibly one of the most celebrated VS climbs in the west country and i've been told on multiple occasions is a total spanker for VS.

We decided we'd abseil down the approach to terriers tooth on its eastern side which is the next-buttress-down from where Diocese was. When we got to the tooth we found a series of ropes set up on the western side down a gully and a group of Falmouth climbers about to descend another climbers rope. As we were talking with the girls left at the top we heard a cry for help from somebody on the abseil. The rope that they were using (which wasn't theirs) had frayed on an edge and was actually worn through to the core! After some scrambling about we passed another rope (not ours..) down to him.

After this eventful start we dropped down Fred's 100m static (yes you read right 100m) and descended to the base of the cliff. Even though I thought I had tied up a reasonable amount at the top we still had enough at the bottom to have done the abseil again!

The first pitch of Diocese (VS 5a) at Chair Ladder. Copyright Kernow Coasteering website.

The climb itself is located around the corner from the abseil on Bishop's Buttress, one of the biggest granite faces in the region. It climbs a striking natural line up a widening corner to below a huge roof before traversing off left and snaking round up onto the upper head-wall in as many as 4 pitches. I knew from discussion with various people that the first pitch was going to probably be the hardest even though ironically its not the most technical as it's only 4c...

So off I went and before long was at the base of the wide overhanging corner crack, if you got some big cams or a hex you can get a good placement prior to entry which marginally comforted my harrowed disposition.

What followed next was 20 minutes of swearing, gurning and general battling up the chimney at the loss of most of the skin on my knees and elbows. When I eventually emerged I felt like I'd had a fight with Mike Tyson and lost. Sprawled on the ledge beneath the roof I brought Fred up who managed to lay-back up the whole thing! Bastard!

The next pitch was the 'crux' 5a pitch which comprises of a delicate and exposed traverse below the monster roof. The hardest moves are literally just getting established on the wall after stepping off the belay and aren't protectable unless you put a massive cam up high in the roof crack (which we didn't have) but after a few delicate and memorable moves you reach some good gear. From there on its yarding on jugs all the way to a brilliantly exposed semi-hanging stance where the route joins Flannel Avenue (HS 4b). The next two pitches up the head-wall are pleasant enough and don't have any real difficulties. Definitely the best route I've done at Chair Ladder so far!

Fred sea kayaking past Logan Head near Porthcurno

It could be 'The Med' thinks Fred! That or he's dropped his Go Pro..
The next day we took the kayaks out for a spin from Porthgwara and headed over towards Porthcurno and Logan Head. En-route saw seals, fish, an RAF bloke get dropped on a rock and we even stopped off at the nudist beach to make a cup of tea! 

With time against us we nipped back to Chair Ladder and did one of the more famous easy lines, Helluva Slab (S 4b), a brilliant route up a huge pinnacle overlooking Porthgwara and the bay beyond. Needless to say I got horrifically sun burnt and have spent as much as I did on the whole weekend away on after-sun lotion.. Ops!

Fred seconding the fantastic first pitch of Helluva Slab (HS 4b). 

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