Rock Climbing in Cornwall - with Kernow Klimber Tel: 07841 746334
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Trials and Tribulations
Two days of Fun
Changes at Chair Ladder
Long Time, No Hear
It never rains, it pours


BMC Info
Injury Update
Rock Climbing
Scottish Winter
Seasons Greetings
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Rock Climbing

Two days of Fun

I'm currently beavering away to try and update the Kernow Klimber website, as the current one seems a bit dated.  As I am trying to do this myself, its taking a bit of time and lots of frustration!  I have the added pressure of disappearing to the Brecon Beacons for the next fortnight and will only have limited wifi connectivity...aaarrggghhhh! How did we cope before the internet?  I'm sure our lives were simpler.
Last week James from Holland joined me for a couple of days of vertical pleasures.  Our first day at Bosigran was a bit damp in the morning, but turned out nice in the afternoon.  The climbing at Bosigran is just brilliant, it's no wonder this is the place where everyone flocks to on their first climbing trip to Cornwall.  Solid, rough granite, great situations, no tidal considerations and covered in classic routes from Difficult through to E7, one could argue that there is no better place to climb in the UK.
Rock climbing at Bosigran, Cornwall. Alison's Rib
James hadn't climbed for several years, we took things easy and climbed Alison's Rib (Diff), Black Slab (Diff), Andrew (HVDiff) and finished with a combination of Little Brown Jug pitch one and the top pitches of  Doorpost. Alison's Rib is a delightful little route.  Most people avoid the top pitch, but this provides some good, old fashioned jug pulling up steep ground and should not be missed.  Black Slab is one of the handful of climbs pioneered by perhaps the greatest climber this country has ever produced, Colin Kirkus. Colin was a master on the rock and was the climber's climber, studying pictures of cliffs while at work to sort out possible new routes and then cycle from Liverpool to Snowdonia and back for the weekend just to climb his new lines.  You can read more about Colin in Steve Dean's book, Hands of a Climber, a great read and insight to the man.
Rock climbing at Bosigran, Cornwall. Little Brown Jug pitch 1The first pitch of Doorpost can seep after prolonged wet weather, so the first pitch of Little Brown Jug is a good alternative.  The hardest moves are at the very start, but a little confidence will pay dividends.  The stance is a semi-hanging one on small wires from a good ledge and at this point, James admitted he wasn't that good with heights!  Moving quickly up the top pitches, he was glad to be back in the land of the horizontal!
Being a little uncomfortable in an unusual situation is normal as this is part of our self-defense mechanism - the Fight or Flight syndrome. The best way to overcome things like this is controlled exposure to those situations, or in other words, a little at a time.  I have been climbing for over 25 years now so standing on the edges of big drops, or hanging from exposed belays is second nature.  James used to be a pro-cyclist and road race in europe.  He said being in the 'peloton', close to the back of another cyclist who is travelling close to 90 kpm, can be a little un-nerving.  Un-nevring?? Bloody terrifying in my books.  I'm a 'Driving Miss Daisy white knuckle' rider on the most simplest of mountain bike trails, but then again, I hardly ever do it...i'm too busy enjoying myself climbing!
James on the hanging stance while rock climbing at Bosigran, Cornwall
We took things a bit easier on our second day and headed to Trewavas, the once secret crag on the south coast.  Again, no tidal worries and all single pitch routes.  Here one can chase the sun, or escape all but southerly winds....the perfect winter venue!  I provided ropes from above so that James could climb until his heart's content (or his arms gave up).  We were blessed with sunny skies and calm winds all day.  Apparently it was stormy and snowing up country!
At the end of a sunny days rock climbing at Trewavas, Cornwall

Changes at Chair Ladder

To help those who are looking to climb at Chair Ladder, I thought it would be a good thing to post my amended scripts and topos for both Terrier's Tooth and Mermaid's/Dexter.  I would be interested in any feedback from anyone using these descriptions as these go towards the forth coming Climbers Club guide to West Cornwall. Happy Climbing!
TT new lines.pdf (PDF — 838 KB)
Mermaids Dexter topo.pdf (PDF — 872 KB)
Proposed Terrier.doc (DOC — 22 KB)

Long Time, No Hear

Ok, Ok, I know it's been an awful long time since I got round to posting anything on here.  There's no excuse really, except that life does sometimes get in the way!  I am also attempting to redesign and update my website at the same time, so hopefully next time you visit, things will have moved on somewhat.
2013 proved to be very busy for me (another excuse for not updating the blog!), with lots of varied work, with lots of people from very different backgrounds - Prince's Trust, military personnel, school groups, corporate groups, young people, older people, beginners and experienced climbers.  It is said that "variety is the spice of life" and I would agree with that statement.  To be in a position where you do something different every day certainly helps with keeping a fresh attitude and to be motivated.
Beinn Liath Mhor, Scottish Highlands, Winter 2014
I did return to Scotland again this winter to prepare for my Winter Mountain Leader assessment, and i'm pleased to announce that I have been successful.  It has taken a lot of time and effort to finally get there, but it has been worth all the heartache and expense.  I am lucky enough too have some great friends in Scotland and I am truly grateful for their help and support throughout. Particular mention must go to Heavy Whalley for putting up with me in his wee house. Heavy is a living legend and has spent most of his life walking and climbing in the Scottish mountains (he has completed the Munros many times, both summer and winter) and has been involved with Mountain Rescue organisations both north and south of the border.  What he doesn't know about the Scottish Mountains isn't worth knowing!  Those of you who are lucky enough to catch him at one of his talks about his experiences will be enlightened, educated and entertained!  Heavy also runs a personal blog, which he updates nearly every day and is well worth following for all those little tips...."You can't pack experience in a rucksack."
Heavy Whalley Scottish Winter Cairngorms
Another thing Heavy has done for me is get me to take on the Fast or 5 & 2 Diet. We are both keen to get rid of excess weight that we have gained from lazy living.  After 2 months I have lost over a stone and a half and hope to be close to the weight I was back in 1998 in a month or so.  It is an easy diet to do and there seems to be a lot of medical/scientific research to support it. I feel great on it, although I'm having to buy some new clothes!
While I was away in Scotland, England, in particular the southwest, was battered by a succession of violent storms that reeked havoc across the area.  The Somerset Levels were under water and sea cliffs were under attack from huge waves.  Not long after I returned to Cornwall, rumours were circulating amongst the local climbing community that some cliffs were missing big bits. I took a couple of days out to inspect the cliffs from Vessacks on the south coast, all the way round to Land's End.  Most had escaped unscathed, with the occasional missing bit of rock, but the majestic cliffs of Chair Ladder weren't so lucky.  A huge 30 foot high block that once made up the large belay ledge of Mermaid's Route and most of the first pitch of Dexter Crack had disappeared.  I soloed up the remaining rock to check grades and descriptions.  Luckily enough, both routes are 'do-able' at roughly their original grades, although their character has changed quite a bit.
Chair Ladder, Cornwall, before winter storms of 2013/14.  A great rock climbing venue
The biggest loss, however, has been to the lower half of the classic Terrier's Tooth.  This iconic route, featured in Ken Wilson's Classic Rock and favoured by many visiting climbers has changed significantly.  Gone has the bold (VS) original start, along with the easier variation start, the first belay ledge and part of the steep crack on the second pitch  What remains is smooth and seemingly solid, but the character of the route has changed significantly and is no longer of classic status.  This will be a big blow to many who had climbed the route previous to the storms, and to those who had yet to do so.  Its also been a pain in the bum for me, as I had recently submitted my up-to-date guidebook script to The Climber's Club and will have to amend it again.  Perhaps the biggest shock for me is that cornish granite has always seemed so strong and had the ability to withstand such an onslaught, especially the rock at Chair Ladder.  Why other cliffs, with poorer quality rock and climbs, have remained unscathed is a mystery to me.  Just goes to show that things we take for granted aren't necessarily here for ever.
Terriers Tooth winter storm damage 2013/14. Chair Ladder, Cornwall. Rock Climbing

It never rains, it pours

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain on the window and cars rushing down the wet road. Pity those holiday makers who are camping with young children. It seems ages since we've had wet weather in Cornwall, but it's good to see, as the ground, plants and animals need it. I spent some time down in West Penwith, the part of Cornwall that runs from Penzance/St Ives to Lands End recently. Fortunately for me, the weather remained dry throughout, although there was some coastal fog on Wednesday. The crags have been in great condition, with some climbs that are usually wet with seepage are completely dry. In fact, the guys from the Cornwall Climbing Club, who I ran some British Mountaineering Council funded training for at the weekend, commented that Carn Gowla (the big, serious and adventurous crag at St Agnes) is in the best condition its been in for nearly 10 years! (Note to self: must try and climb there again very soon).
It has been great to get back on the granite, however, as it's been a while. I recently spent 11 days working for Buckinghamshire Army Cadets at their summer camp on Salisbury Plain. There are no crags on the Plain, only a small indoor climbing wall at Tidworth Leisure Centre, but the cadets were keen and full of enthusiasm, so we did lots of work on movement skills, traversing and bouldering, before getting the ropes and harnesses out for some top-roped climbing.  I did manage to escape on a coupe of evenings to the limestone of Fairy Cave Quarry and Avon Gorge for some personal climbing with some friends who live nearby. I even managed to lead a climb graded E2, my hardest route of the year so far (it's been a long time since I was climbing at the grade on a regular basis), so I felt quite chuffed with myself.  This week I took Pete, his daughter and her friend down to Halldrine Cove for a day of climbing fun, before they headed of to the Isles of Scilly for a weeks holiday (lucky people).  The Scillys are so beautiful and are one of those places you need to visit at least once in your lifetime. There is some climbing on the islands, but it isn't that extensive. Best take your bouldering pad, as there's lots of small crags to play on.  Back on the mainland, I have been continuing my work for the new Climbers Club guidebook for the area. I have been asked to check route descriptions at Chair Ladder, a majestic seacliff, not far from Land's End, and one of Cornwall's "Big Three" climbing venues. Covered in good quality climbs, at all grades, on magnificent granite, it is a wonderful place to climb. I even saw a Basking Shark cruise by, which just added to the experience. I feel so lucky to have this place on my doorstep. Normally it would be busy with other climbers, but this year it has been very quiet and I'm not quite sure why, but I'm not complaining!
Chair Ladder sea cliff, one of Cornwall's premier climbing venues


Bosigran Main Cliff and Ridge, CornwallThere goes the summer!  After, what seems ages, the weather finally broke at the weekend and now there are localised thunderstorms and torrential rain sweeping across the county.  I would like to say that it means a reduction in pace for me, but I am still hard at it.  This week I am up on Salisbury Plain helping Bucks Army Cadet Force with climbing activities for their cadets.  That doesn't mean I haven't been working in beautiful Cornwall though.  Far from it.  I have had a string of fabulous people wanting to sample the delights of Cornish rock and they have come from as far as Germany and Scotland!  It has been so hot on occasions that the rock has almost been too hot to touch!  I have also been on seveal raiding parties into Somerset and climbed at several of the limestone quarries that are hidden away from many climbers and are only known and visited by locals.  They aren't particularly beautiful places, but have a certain amount of charm.  Fairy Cave Quarry being a case in point and is definately worth checking out, if you are in the area and enjoy climbing on slabs.
Rock climbing at Bosigran, CornwallClimbing at Hella Point, Cornwall
Rock Climbing at Bosigran, Cornwall
Rock climbing on Bosigran Ridge, Cornwall
Rock climbing at Gurnard's Head, Cornwall

Mountain High

Well, that seems to be the end of the summer, even though it is still June! It has been a long run of glorious weather over most of the UK and that has lead to lots of people out climbing, particularly on the high mountain crags that are usually out of condition for most of the year. In between bouts of work up in the Lake District with the Army, I managed to sneak in a couple of days climbing in North Wales.
Glyders sunset, while climbing on CloggyI hooked up with my old climbing buddy, Norman "the Ormesman" Clacher. He is the keenest guy I know and will always jump at the chance to climb on the majestic Clogwyn D'ur Arddu. Set high on the flanks of Snowdon, Cloggy (as the crag is affectiionately known amongst it's disciples), takes a long spell of dry weather to come into condition. Since his first visit, back in 1982, Norman has walked up from Llanberis to climb nearly 100 routes on the cliff, from VDiffs to E7s. I have accompanied him on several of these pilgrimages and have close to 50 Cloggy routes myself. These trips have always been fun affairs, where Norman would happily second me on a 'classic' climb that he had done before, then I would follow him on some esoteric horrorshow that most people just ignore!
On the way to climb on Cloggy
It was a warm and muggy afternoon, and the walk up from Llanberis felt hard. Norman is over 50, but fit as a fiddle and would usually rush off up the track, but he stayed with me and we chatted about past Cloggy adventures.  There were very few parties on the cliff. In previous times, on similar afternoons, one would have to queue for a climb, but these days, with the advent of sports climbing, the majority of climbers have stayed away from this magnificent crag.  More fool them!  Our chosen route was "The Orb", a climb that doesn't see many ascents.  Situated high up on the Far East Buttress, we had to climb up the first half of Jubilee Climb to gain the starting terrace.  Jubilee Climb has become known as a good mixed winter climb, and sadly, the rock in the crux corner has become marked by the passage of many crampons and axes. There was also quite a bit of insitu gear (slings, tat, jammed nuts etc) - sign of a great epic, perhaps?  I remember soloing Jubilee Climb several years ago, and there was none of this detritus then. Such a pity.
The Ormesman on the terrace, before the attack of the midges
Below the start of The Orb, we were attacked my hoards of marauding midges!  I had never experienced anything like it in Wales.  There were clouds of them! It was just like being in the Highlands of Scotland!  These little insects can drive the unfortunate victim insane, buzzing in your ears and nose.  They bite every millimetre of exposed flesh.  We moved fast!  A steep, short pitch lead quickly to the sanctity of a higher ledge below the main pitch.  Norman struggled with the crux...a lack of large gear on our part didnt help matters.  There was a bit of loose rock too, which is quite normal for the less frequented climbs on Cloggy. I followed, glad of the rope above me.  The next pitch led up over large, loose blocks, before disappearing up a chimney, formed by a huge, detached section of the crag. I made sure I travelled carefully, making sure not to disturb any loose rock that could hit Norman.
Climbing high on The Orb, Cloggy
Once I pulled onto the top of the crag, the midges descended in their thousands...and, like cowards, we ran away!  The onslaught was incredible!  I do hope the midge doesn't find it's way to Cornwall!  We descended the Eastern Terrace to return to our rucksacks, followed by the midges.  High on part of Cloggy, known as The Pinnacle, a couple of  'hotshots' were making an on-sight attempt of "It will be alright on the night", a climb graded E7.  A fine effort, given the midge problem!  News of this, and other, onsight repeats on Cloggy this month have been posted on UKClimbing.  Click "here" for the report.
Eaten alive by the midges!
The Pinnacle, Cloggy
The next day was damp and wet.  With no stomach to climb on wet rock, we headed down to that favourite wet weather location, Tremadog.  Again, it had been ages since I had climbed on this fantastic  roadside cliff.  Here the atmosphere is more relaxed, as the rock is clean, solid (ish) and in the sun for most of the day.  We dived into the cafe that is run by Eric Jones, the quiet, unassuming welsh man, who despite being in his 70's, still rides a motorbike, goes BASEjumping and who, in his youth, made the first solo ascent of the North Face of the Eiger.  It was a slow day in the cafe and Eric, Norman and I shared stories of climbing epics and climbing legends, over a brew, before Norman and I went out to the crag to climb a couple of classics...Merlin Direct and The Plum.
Climbing on Merlin Direct, Tremadog

More Climbing Training

Rock Climbing at St Clether, CornwallIts been a busy time, here in Cornwall. I've been working with two students from EBO Training who are on their second week of climbing training in preparation for a Single Pitch Award training course.  Both had never really climbed before, but now they are happily leading climbs of Very Difficult standard.  At the end of the first week we went to the delightful crag at St Clether.  Not the most extensive piece of rock, but it suited our needs and the crag is festooned with incut holds and pockets, making for easy climbing, despite it being relatively steep.  Perhaps not worth the effort to make a special journey to visit it, if you are from out of county, but if you are down here on hoiliday, or just passing, it is worth seeking out.
Rock Climbing at St Clether, Cornwall
Abseiling into the crag at Sennen, CornwallThroughout the last couple of weeks, we visited many of the single pitch rock climbing venues in Cornwall.  Perhaps the best know is at Sennen.  Just a stones throw from Land's End and great surfing at Whitesand Bay, this crag is one of Cornwall's "Big Three" climbing venues (the other 2 being Bosigran and Chair Ladder).. Access isn't that easy and the large ledge at the bottom of the crag can be wave-washed in heavy seas, but there are plenty of climbs, at all levels to keep most people happy.  It can be busy here during the summer holidays, but we had the place to ourselves.  The Royal Marines use this crag to practise their climbing skills on occasions. Before anyone gets upset by this, it is worth remembering that it was the Marines that developed much of the early climbing here.  In fact John 'Zeke' Deacon , one of their leading climbers, still lives in the area!
My students, Rock Climbing at Sennen, Cornwall
The British Mountaineering Council think that the rock climbing in Cornwall is so good, that they are holding their International Meet down here again, during May.  I have been selected as one of the hosts, looking after 35 climbers from around there world.  I will try and post reports as the week goes on, but I can't promise much, as communication links in the West Penwith area of Cornwall aren't that great at the moment.  Information and updates of the Meet from the BMC can be found by clicking here.

Sunny Days

Just back from two days down West with my 2 novices.  We have been blessed by some fantastic weather and conditions, and this has given the guys a great opportunity towork hard at their climbing.  I am pleased to report that they are both doing really well, both are leading with increased confidence and saftey!  We've had no injuries, apart from Nick dragging his knuckles across the granite (I think his hands are soft from all the washing up he does at home).  Colin has bought some proper climbing shoes, which has given him extra confidence.  Nick has spotted this change in Colin's climbing and is now determined to get a pair for himself at the weekend.  Talking of which, it's Bank Holiday this weekend, and it looks as though the weather is going to stay fine...yippee.  Newquay is beginning to get busy already.  Fortunately I've managed to do my food shopping this evening and won't have to fight my way round the supermarket tomorrow evening.
I think we will head to the secluded crags at St Clether tomorrow, but in the meantime, here's some photos from the past couple of days....
Rock climbing at Penberth, CornwallRock Climbing at Penberth, in Cornwall
Rock climbing at Penberth, Cornwall
Rock Climbing near Sennen, Cornwall
Rock Climbing near Sennen, Cornwall

Back amongst it

Rock Climbing at Halldrine Cove, CornwallI am running a Learn to Lead course for EBO Adventure this week.  After introductions yesterday, the two clients and I went over to Roche Rock for knot tying, ropework and a spot of belay training.  Today, however, we ventured down to Halldrine Cove, in the district of West Penwith.  It is my favoured location to take the inexperienced and those who want to learn about rock climbing and the skills (ropework etc) required to remain safe.  Yet again, the guys perfomed extremely well and both of them managed to lead a climb at the end of the day.  We had the place to ourselves and didn't see anyone all the time we were there.  We all came back with red faces as the sun has been quite fierce over the past few days, but it could havealso been due to a bitingly cold north wind! Tomorrow night we are going to stay at the Penzance YHA, as this will give us two full days on the rock (the climbing venues in West Penwith are approx. an hour from Newquay).  I just hope the wind changes direction tonight, or drops in strength (or both.) over night, otherwise I will have to beak out my thermals again.

Is Summer here already?

Just a short one while I'm on my way back up to the Brecon Beacons from Cornwall. Having survived some "interesting" weather conditions in South Wales last week, it was really nice to wake up to fabulously warm sunshine in Cornwall on Saturday morning. It was warm enough to just venture out in shorts and t-shirts. The boys and I decided to spend the afternoon up on Rough Tor, just messing about. There are plenty of small rocks and tors to climb and one can make things as difficult, or as easy as you want. It's a great place to explore, with it's Bronze Age settlements, legends and views across the moor to Cornwall's natural high point, Brown Willy. 

Bouldering (rock climbing) on Bodmin Moor, CornwallAfter such a fab day in the sun, hopes that Summer might be on it's way were dashed the next morning. It rained most of the day, so we headed to The Barn climbing wall for some "plastic pulling". The youngsters enjoyed themselves, but I am looking forward to getting back on real rock as soon as possible.
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