Sunday, 28 August 2011

Kjerag & Pembroke Antics

As a freelancer, by far the best way to ensure an influx of work is to book a trip away. Last July, true to form I had a spate of busy calls from productions all over the country wanting to book me up, but alas I had to turn them all down as I had 10 days in Norway locked down in the diary.
The plan for the trip was to go to Kjerag and do it in a long day. The team was Steve McClure, Neil Mawson, Liam Halsey and yours truly. The double whammy after turning down all the  work was that after the 1st 2 day of sunshine the forecast was utter pish for 9 consecutive days. As such the journey over was pretty rushed and we had a bit of a scramble getting ourselves sorted in order to get on the wall straight away. No chilling out and getting used to the style of climbing it was a bit of a kick bollock. Got the boat over that 1st evening and bivvied at the base of the vast crag. None of us had ever climbed anything this big in a day before and we were all excited and apprehensive at the same time. After a 4.30am start Liam and I set off up ‘North West Passage’. A gentle introduction to big wall climbing. 800m, 23 pitches up to about E3 and much of it wet. I was surprised at how knackered I was when we topped out at 7.00pm. Apart from us there were no climbers there at all. The place is firm favourite for BASE jumpers and as we were climbing they kept wizzing past our heads as they tested Newtons gravitational laws to the max.
After topping out, Liam and I had assumed that it was an hour and a half walk back to the road where we could hitch back to the campsite. However as we were marching back we went straight into the decending mist and then spent some time trying to find the right way back. 4 hours later we were at the road, tired and hungry. Thankfully we got a lift down the last 8km of road back to the car. Steve and Neil however, topped out 3 ½ hours after us in the dark and got totally lost in the fog. Thankfully Steve had his mobile phone with him and we managed to direct them via text and then went to pick them up in the car. The full team was back in the campsite by 2am, totally knackered!

Team Wad, and errr me..L-R Liam Halsey, Me, Steve McClure, Neil Mawson

The Bivvy spot below Kjerag

Half way up Kjerag

The Famous boulder choke on the mist on the decent

Sadly the rest of the trip was spent sport climbing in steep caves away from the rain, with me trying and failing to keep up with team 8c. The steepness was actually exactly what I needed to be doing for fitness after my long injury, but it wasn’t really what we had all come to experience in Norway.

So sadly the weather was a big dissapoinment but it was great to go climbing with some new characters in a new country, and we all spotted a truck load of new routes to go back for. Happy days.

On my return to the UK it was straight back to work in Black Island Studios shooting a Blackberry commercial. This was just what I needed, as it would keep me away from the crags for a couple of weeks and meant I could get stuck into some indoor training for a bit and get some much needed fitness. Now that my shoulder was totally better, I wanted to try a hard route less slabby than the trad stuff I’d been concentrating on earlier this year. I’d had a look at James Pearson’s recent addition to Huntsmans Leap in Pembroke when Neil Mawson did the second ascent back in May, and thought it was brilliant. Great climbing, not too bold and not totally desperate, but still pretty hard – it was the perfect route to get on next. Now I’m not exactly sure what this route is called. It seems as though James has changed its name, chamged it back again, put it to the vote and eventually got bored and shuffled off back to Austria. I think it was something like ‘Do You Know Where Your Children Are?’, or ‘Drop Your Kids Off At The Pool’ perhaps? The next weekend I headed over to Pembroke with Neil Mawson. I gave it a quick work on a top rope again and rechecked the gear. The route starts up an established E6/7 called Black Lagoon before breaking left and climbing the beautiful pink wall to join Dusk Till Dawn.
Bizarrely the boldest part of the route is in this bottom section of Black Lagoon, which I had flippantly assumed would be pretty easy….wrong! Its quite hard and has lost a peg and a thread making it bolder.
In the back of my mind I thought I might not yet be fit enough to do this route but as its not very bold it seemed like a good idea to just get on it and see……and I fell off. Off the 2nd crux and on to the peg. No sweat, another week of indoor pulling in London and I’d be back next weekend.

The next day Neil and I had had enough of head pointing and went to find some adventure in the form of the 2nd ascent of Crispin Waddy’s superb Free Masonry, on the outside of the Cauldron. This route has been unrepeated since 1997. It took Crispin 2 years, 2 climbing partners and 2 abseil retreats into the sea to do the 1st ascent. Any route with a reputation like that has got to get the pulse racing and so off we went to get stuck in. Its 4 pitches long, E6 6b, 6a, 6b, 6b and winds its way along the lip of the huge through cave left of Flimston Ridge. After a quick warm up doing 'Friend Of The Devil' E4 6a and an exciting and eccentric approach traversing and crawling through narrow caves we emerged at the base of the route. Neil took the 1st lead and battled hard in the steep grooves, going slightly the wrong way at one stage and getting savagely pumped. Pitch 2 was a bizarre down climb to a hanging stance right on the lip of the cave with the bubbling sea frothing below. Pitch 3 again proved slightly difficult to navigate and by the time Neil had arrived in the cave at the end of the pitch he was totally exhausted. I then had the simple job of following him, but then it was my turn…. Unsure about exactly how pitch 4 emerges from the big roof at its start I decided to head left (lookin in) and spotted an anchient stuck wire. Thinking this must be the way since the route was unrepeated I pushed on into horrendous choss and damp softness. It seemed way too close to the main fragile groove  of the buttress and not the way the new topo indicated, but we had been told to take the topo line with a pinch of salt. Eventually after pulling off various blocks and not being happy with my gear I retreated back to the cave. I then tried another line straight out but didn’t want to commit to going the wrong way and end up lowering into the sea. We decided to retreat as it was getting late and it was now pouring with rain. Leaving a couple of bits of gear we aid reversed the way we had come and avoided the infamous swim out. I’ve now spoken to Crispin about which way it goes and the answer is straight out away from the choss and through some serious pumpy steepness…..a rematch beckons!

Warming up onsighting Friend Of The Devil E4 6a
Photo: Tim Skinner

Neil on 1st pitch of Free Masonry E6 6b, 6a, 6b, 6b

Hanging Belay on Free Masonry E6 6b, 6a, 6b, 6b

After another week of work,  I went back the following weekend to finish off the job on ‘Drop Your Kids Off’/’Do You Know Where’ blah blah…In my view it weighs in at about E8 6c or runout 7c+ in new money. Its an excellent bit of climbing. I cant believe, as a relative local, I missed that one as a new route, and good effort to James for grabbing the 1st ascent on his 1st visit to Pembroke. I need to get my eyes tested!

1st go on 'Do You Know Where Your Children Are?' E8 6c
Photo: Emma Alsford

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