Saturday, 22 September 2012

Whilst in Cornwall... would have been rude not to do some climbing. Downright disgraceful in fact, given the exciting array of both adventurous and refined sea-cliff climbing that lies along the invariably scenic and geologically tortured North Devon and Cornwall coastline. Personally I tend to eschew the honeypots of West Penwith, simply because I have less inspiration for the granite, and prefer the austere pleasures of culm sandstone and the intrigue of pillow lava and the Atlantic coast. Thankfully I met up with local veteran Mark Kemball who was up for exploring "wherever", so I could sample a variety of coastal and inland crags. It went thusly:

Diamond Wall, Lizard:
(deep water solo)
Still terrifying, although a choppy swirling sea didn't help: Highly syked plans to do some F6bs here to warm up for F6cs at Nare Head were as rapidly abandoned as my attempt on a F6a to start was rapidly abandoned into a F4+ escape. I felt at least as scared above the sea as I would above the land, and especially wary of the rock, line, grades, and errr everything. I still want to get to grips with DWS but it certainly didn't happen this trip!

Carn Brea:
Good lines, decent rock, nice situation and great landings made this a suitable evening quick hit before getting my rave on. The conditions although cool-ISH were pretty mediocre for frictional granite, but I managed a few good easier problems including Classic Arete (below) and a nice "V3" crack that was more like "VS".

Kilmar Tor:
(recceing, soloing, walking, bouldering)
After bouncing away until 4am this was really just to meet up with Mark and hang out with his bunch of merry men. The walk-in was knackering, the wind ferocious, and the rock rather coarse and gravelly. I just pottered.

Kellan Head:
The first proper day out, after only bouncing until 2am ;). I'd been to Kellan ages ago and done a couple of routes, and got some inspiration for some standard but attractive pitches on the Waterslide Wall. The pillow lava was nice, the warm-up route was well worth it's appealing line, and the harder Rock-a-by Baby had a wild and exciting crux (once we'd worked out the photo in the book was unspeakably bad beta!!). A very chilled out evening at the campsite followed.

The Cheesewring:
(sport, trad)
Coastal options were limited the next day as a very brisk nor'wester precluded the more interesting North-facing crags, so the variety and general shelter of the Cheesewring was proposed. This was a mixed day - falling off the first move of Warrior through sheer carelessness was shockingly bad, somehow smearing and pressing up the desperate crux of Trouble With Lichen was shocking I managed it at all, the hardest corner climbing I've done. A few easier leads and seconds surrounded this, and confirmed that I'm not a huge fan of quarried granite per se. Like inland limestone and central highlands schist, it has some great climbs but they have to be specifically chosen, unlike gritstone or gneiss which are intrinsically good.

Cow And Calf:
Back on the sheer and stylish sedimentary sandstone of the Culm Coast, where every crag has some interest and every good climb has it's fair share of wee crimps and RP protection seams. C&C is steeper and more dramatic than some crags, and a recce 5 years ago had inspired me for the two brilliant climbs I managed: Dark Side Of The Moon was a great big swaggering pitch with a proper technical crux and a good fly on the wall feel, while Elisa Johanna was the most intense lead I've done this year - exciting and bold climbing with spaced protection, that took almost all the committment I had. Very satisfying. On the way back out we walked out past the Elisa Johanna itself....820 tonnes of metal torn into pieces by 30 years of the sea's relentless ravaging....pretty wild...

...200m later...

So overall a great wee trip, and I got very inspired to get back down there. I love the feel of the coast....everything feels like a hidden gem :). While I was down there my elbow felt mostly fine and didn't really need tape, my shoulder felt completely healed....but I tweaked my back putting my tent back in the car, and got a minor bout of man-flu to slow me down this weekend. Both easing off now will see what more I can get done in Scotland before autumn closes in too far...  

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