After a hard week at work (yes Pete, I do work hard occasionally :wink:) I wasn’t looking forward to the long drive south to Pembroke. Fortunately, ‘strong Ben’ of Galloway Sea Cliffs fame had to be in Birmingham on the Monday and had secured the use of a hire car through work, allowing me to chill out for the latter half of the journey.
After little sleep (pesky students :angry: ) and an earlier than hoped for start (bloody pesky students :angry: :angry: ) we headed to Mowing Word, usually off limits due to bird bans. With a good forecast (but overcast, hence the dull photies – sorry), we were surprised to have the place to ourselves. Not a soul on Broad Haven beach and only some very dozey looking ponies for company.
The tide times weren’t particularly useful, high tide being midday, so a little care on the abseils was the order of the day. The sea was virtually flat calm though, so we would only have ourselves to blame for any dunking!
Ben had first lead, cruising Snozwanger at E1, though he claimed it felt more like VS. Not sure it was that easy, but it was a good warm-up nonetheless. He followed this with a smooth ascent of Chimes of Freedom, E2 5b, tackling the big roof left of Snozwanger. It looks unlikely, but optimism is rewarded with good holds in a great position – the sea kayakers below seemed impressed too!
Nicely warmed up, and with a good head following a few ‘interesting’ leads in the Pfalz, I felt confident enough to go straight for one the many classic E3’s Pembroke is so well known for. First off was Stand by to Boogie, which despite some spaced and rattley protection, felt like E1. All good so far, so straight back down to do Widowmaker, also E3 5c. This put up a little more of a fight, with some hard pulls over a roof, protected by a twenty year old rusty peg 😮
Feeling tired but satisfied, it was off to the pub for food and beer followed by an early night to catch up on some zzz’s. I think we’re getting old…
Sunday dawned as per Saturday, dry but with grey skies. We headed to St Govan’s East and were given a subtle reminder of why you should always check in-situ gear, no matter how solid it looks. There were two abseil stakes at the top of the cliff, protruding a few inches above the grass, appearing as solid as any other. Out of habit rather than suspicion, Ben gave them a quick kick. Having moved a little, Ben gave one of the stakes a gentle pull. It came straight out! We were both a little surprised to find how short the stake was, let alone how easily it pulled out 😯
Having backed up the remaining stake with a couple of friends, we abbed in. Ben started with the excellent First Blood, E2 5c – certainly a warm-up, with some hard but well protected moves. I followed this with Forbidden Fruits, E3 5c, an easy approach being punctuated by some exciting and committing moves across a steep wall. Calisto followed, a good E1 led by Ben.
My apologies for the lack of climbing photos by the way. Having received a bit of a talking to by Pete ( 😉 ) during the Pfalz trip for not blogging and not taking my camera out when climbing, I have justified my excuse! They’re all rubbish! The lack of light seems to have conspired against my best efforts 🙁 Sorry Pete…
With the cloudy skies, I was keen to have a go at Sunlover, E3 5c, at Trevallen. This is a classic Pembroke route and has been on my tick list for a while. It is usually baking in the sun at Pembroke, so conditions seemed ideal. Despite the route being the same grade as those I’d led previously, for some reason I knew I was in for a bit of fight before we even abbed down to it. Whether that’s the extra psychological stress of not wanting to fail on it having saved it for so long I don’t know. Standing at the bottom of it and having my first proper look at it didn’t help – it looked hard!
I hopped up to the starting break, got some gear in to make myself feel better (knowing it would be too low to be of use if I came off the crux) and looked up. The guidebook suggests that moving up to place a wire in to protect the crux is the crux. I’m not sure I agree with this, but it certainly wasn’t easy. The best I could do was an RP (very small wire), which although I thought was okay, wasn’t as good as I’d have liked. Beginning to tire, it was time to commit to the wall above and hope for the best.
Hard moves from the break led past an in-situ wire, which although I couldn’t stop to check, I clipped gratefully. I managed to back it up higher up, but again, only with something reasonable. I didn’t think I was going to come off at this stage, but it would have been interesting if I had! The angle lessened, the holds improved, and after avoiding a couple of bulges, I flopped onto the ledge just below the top.
At this point, I was rather hoping it was all over. But as is typical at Pembroke, the route keeps on giving all the way to the top. A final bulge prevented upward progress. By undercutting it and traversing rightwards, better holds appeared to offer an exit over the top. Placing some really good gear (hooray!) I set off from the ledge, feeling tired. Reaching over the righthand side of the roof to a good hold, I thought I was home, with one more move to go. Unfortunately, only a small greasy crimp and a foothold too far right made one more move seem unlikely.
I bailed. Shouting down to Ben to watch me as my arms wilted, I reversed shakily back down to the ledge. I could now stand comfortably and consider throwing the route away so close to the top, having done the hard bit down below. I knew what I had to do, but would my foot reach that hold? Only one way to find out… 🙂
P.S. Just got Ben’s photo’s through and couldn’t resist adding this one! It’s the rather unconventional approach to the Mowing Word routes, though it did get a bit easier as the tide went out…