Monday, 6 July 2015

Grumpy Guts

It was a beautiful day. The sun was pouring through a cloudless sky, its searing edge softened by a cool south westerly breeze. On days like this the cliffs of Chair Ladder really are one of the West Country's finest sea cliff granite venues.

Emma high on South Face Direct (VS 4c) with a lot of air beneath her feet!

We had abseiled down East Chimney to go and do South Face Direct (VS 4c), one of the cliffs most popular lines. I had a 60m abseil rope in place which I tied off around a large block using a stoppered bowline knot. Bomb proof. If I had a mother-in-law, I'd happily hang her off it!

As we were climbing the 2nd pitch a couple arrived at the top and started to hola down at Emma, who was belaying lower down. I assumed they were just asking if they could use our abseil rope - at that point it formed part of the belay (tied off to make it easier to pull up at the end), but Emma was just moving off anyway so wouldn't have been a problem.. 

The lady starting shouting at Emma and it sounded as if she was asking if the first pitch was clear of the sea as they were hoping to do the same route as us. Communication over the 40m between them was challenging not only because of the wind but also the deafening roar of the crashing sea below. For this very reason Emma and I had been using walkie talkies (a bit gay I know but trust me it works!). Emma struggled to interpret what she was saying over the roar and it became clear that this hugely frustrated the women who began to shout louder. This wasn't fair or justified for three reasons;

1) By coming to a tidal sea cliff venue you'd expect the party to have checked the tide times. If they had done this then they would know the tide was well on its way out. Also, we were half way up the route! Assuming they had to check the tide times they would know that since we were half way up the base was likely to be clear.

2) The guidebook (Rockfax, The CC guide and South West Climbs) clearly states that in high tide conditions the route can be easily reached at the top of the first pitch on a large, comfortable ledge adjacent to the abseil.

3) Most importantly, your safety is your responsibility. If you can't see the base of the cliff and you're not happy about climbing back up the rope if the route is inaccessible then go somewhere else

The women's attitude didn't even put a blip on the day as it was all but forgotten after Emma seconded the outstanding second 4c pitch up the steep crack which has got to be one of the best at its grade in the South West.

The crux pitch of South Face Direct (VS 4c).

My irritation lies with their grumpiness. I like climbers. We are usually a good bunch. It's a shame that some people feel the need to get so wound up and frustrated so needlessly in such an inspiring place. If you're reading this - the shop in Porthgwara does great ice cream. Perhaps have one of those before you come climbing next time!

No Stress! A climber finishing the crux pitch of Aerial (VS 4c) on a stunning day at Chair Ladder.

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