Attendance: Daniel Arrowsmith, Tom Atkin-Willoughby, Jess Bailey, Michelle Harrison, Curtis Harrison, Alistair Harrison, Mia Barlow, Lilly Hughes, Stuart Hurworth, Jared Kitchen, Dylan Smith, Gareth Williams, Lucie Williams, Henry (the dog)
Lucie, Henry and myself headed down a couple of days before the meet and had an enjoyable time exploring the Bosherston Lilly Ponds and coastal walks, Henry loving swimming in the sea. On Thursday 24th, Jess arrived in her van – the handbrake had failed the previous day, so she parked up with chocks against the wheels and didn’t move her van again until the end of the meet! Henry was besotted and adopted Jess as a new member of his pack. Later that evening, Dan and Tom arrived.
Friday 25th – Tom had to do a day’s work, using the wifi from various cafes in Pembroke. Lucie took Henry for another coastal walk whilst Dan, Jess and Gareth headed to Stennis Head. Riders on the Storm is a classic HVS with a pretty intense scramble to approach it. Dan slithered down to the starting ledge, but Jess and myself opted for a quick abseil. The route is a single pitch right-to-left traverse a little way above the sea, before firing up vertically to the top of the cliff. Dan made short work of leading the route. The first move is probably the hardest on the route, and is certainly pretty intimidating. Jess had a good go but decided not to commit, thanks to the prospect of a nasty fall if she did come off. Instead she reversed the scramble, leaving me to follow Dan’s ropes. We re-grouped on top of the cliff and were shortly joined by Tom – had he really done a full day’s work?!? Dan and Tom climbed Hercules HVS 5a and Manzoku E1 5b, whilst Jess and myself tackled Limbo VS 4c. At various points through the evening the remaining meet attendees arrived.
Saturday 26th – more coastal walking and swimming for Lucie and Henry. A few showers here and there but not enough to dampen spirits. A team of four headed to Mowing Word, where Dylan and Jared climbed Snozwanger E1 5b, New Moon E1 5b and Seal Hunt E1 5b; Jess and myself climbed Diedre Sud HS before deciding to move on to St Govern’s Head to catch up with Tom and Dan. They had been bagging classics all day, Army Dreamers HVS 5a, The Arrow E1 5b, The Butcher E3 5c and Tactician HVS 5a. Jess put in an excellent lead on Lemming Way (Severe) not even noticing when the rain started! Over at Flimston/Bow Slabs, Michelle and Stuart had climbed Flimston Crack (VDiff), Bow Shaped Slab and Bow Shaped Corner, both at HS. The climbing was made all the better by the spectacle of seeing seal pups. Finally over at New Haven Beach, Curtis, Ali, Mia and Lilly had been making use of Stuart’s inflatable canoe. Careful note was made of the availability of this fine watercraft for later in the week.
Sunday 27th - Dan and Tom ticked off yet more classics and St Govern’s Head – The Kraken E1 5b, First Blood E2 5c, Space Cadet E3 5c. Dylan and Jess were also working their way through some of the classics – The Arrow E1 5b, Io HS, Ganymede HS, First Blood E2 5c. Lucie and Henry had set off for another coastal walk but somehow found themselves walking 16km, a bit more than they had anticipated at the start of the day! Mia, Alli, Lilly and Curtis spent the day go-karting and looking around the wildlife park whist Michelle and Stuart climbed at Stennis Head, completing Mylon HS and Stennis Chimney HS – the latter being described as “a mountaineering adventure”, several bits of gear were abandoned in the retreat from the E6 variant that Michelle thought “looked about HS” but decided better when she realised she didn’t have any chalk left, “otherwise it would have gone”.
Jared and myself climbed Preposterous Tales E2 5b, 5a, 5a, which I had attempted on my previous visit to Pembrokeshire only to be baffled by the Rockfax route description. Now armed with both the Rockfax and CC route descriptions, I figured we had a much better chance. The route begins with a traverse a little above the sea level with a burly move into the mouth of a cave and a good belay on a boulder choke. The route description now reads “bridge up into the darkness”. Upwards, the passage is indeed dark, but only leads to a dead end in the roof of the cave. Instead, it was necessary to move down, towards the light of the blowhole in the back of the cave. Routefinding wasn’t easy. Imagine you’re walking along a narrow passageway. Now imagine it has no floor and the sea is 15 metres below – but it’s not a straight drop down, there’s lots of twisting bulges in the sides of the passage that you’d hit if you did fall and swing. Abruptly the passage stops, opening out into a cavernous chamber. All of the walls seem to have become overhanging, it’s soaking wet, and there’s no gear to protect you if you did try to swing out onto those walls. You can’t see far into the chamber due to the geometry and there’s no sign at all of the promised blowhole exit. The thing you’re most aware of in that chamber is the boiling, booming sea down below. It might be calm outside but as the waves are funnelled into the cave their amplitudes are exaggerated. It’s so noisy that communication is impossible. A fall would mean a long swing, and certainly involve bouncing off the cave walls with very limited options for rescue. Better not to think about it. Jared was leading and found a small ramp with a corner-crack right on the edge of the void. In the sunshine with dry rock the next 8 feet of climbing would be easy, but dry rock is considered cheating down here. It was dark and the holds were wet and greasy. And there was no way of knowing what came after that 8 feet. More blank, overhanging, wet walls? A dead end? The one thing in its favour was good cams in the corner-crack, so Jared fired up the wet ramp onto a tiny ledge. A quick pirouette and suddenly a line of holds appear on one of those overhanging walls, unseen and out of reach from below, but now they were the only way forwards. They were wet and greasy, but big enough that this didn’t matter, and they led over towards easier-angle rock. 20 feet of extremely exposed traversing followed and Jared was on a belay ledge – not that I knew anything about it, still being well out of sight. Eventually the ropes came tight so I followed on. All the gear had fallen out of the 20 foot traverse, but I could see Jared smiling on the belay ledge, a few moves later and I joined him there. All that remained was the 20m exit up the blowhole. The rock was still wet, but it was vertical rather than traversing, and it was well protected. We both knew from the belay that the difficulties were behind us. We finally emerged into the daylight to find we’d taken around 4 hours and there wasn’t enough time for another route before tea, which was a whole-meet affair at the St Govern’s Head Inn.
Monday 28th – Most people headed home today. Two teams got going early enough for climbing at Mother Carey’s before travelling home – Jess and Dylan climbed Threadneedle Street (HS) and Tom and Dan climbed Straight Gate E1 and Brazen Buttress E2. Having previously noted Stuart’s inflatable canoe, I suggested a voyage to Church Rock off New Haven Beach. The most challenging aspect of the expedition was transfer from boat to rock keeping the inflatable hull away from the incredibly sharp rock. Once on solid land the South Ridge (Severe) was over all too quickly but the position made for a great fun day out. By evening everyone except Lucie, Henry and myself had departed. We three enjoyed a couple more days before heading home ourselves.