Trad Climbing: Box Bay, Bridgend

Booked to leave Wales the next day, I still had seven lead climbs outstanding to put towards my SPA Assessment, so Box Bay was the venue for a whirlwind ticking session.

It is a nice, compact limestone sea cliff, tucked away and out of sight from the main beach. It gets a good dosing at high tide, but only for a short time, and the rock is otherwise razor sharp.

The last time I visited was in the depth of winter and I climbed my first VS (Sweet Pea Souper – a bit of a soft touch), so was keen to blast through lots of the remaining lines, and perhaps something a little harder. The conditions could not have been more different – warm, sunny and dry, so off we went and got on with it.

We climbed Cow Eyed Arete (HS, 4b), Jellyfish Tickler (HS, 4b), Bluto (S), Black Buttress (S), Prickly Bulge (S, 4b), Belayers Folly (VS, 4c) and Dead in the Water (VS, 5a). As you can tell from the route names on the crag, Box Bay has plenty of character, but all the climbs were straightforward enough.

Tops off day, and happy at the end of the haul

That is, apart from Dead in the Water, which you may have noticed is given technical grade 5a, instead of 4b or 4c, as is often the case with a Very Severe. This denotes that the climb has plenty of gear, typical of a Very Severe, so is on the whole ‘safe’.  However, the technical difficulty is notched up slightly. This was definitely noticeable, as the wall was gently overhanging, and it took several ups and downs to place gear, shake-out and think through the moves before successfully putting it all together.

Joel with our clutch of rockpool mullet!

Climbing with Joel made the whole experience more enjoyable. He gave me plenty of input for my SPA Assessment, ranging from tips on belay setups at the top, abseils and technical climbing tips. What is more, the icing on the cake was a bit of fun in a nearby rock pool once we had finished climbing. Joel noticed a group of mullet which had been trapped by the retreating tide, so with no lines, rods or lures, it was off with the t-shirts and some combined tactics to corner the fish and snaffle them. We managed to catch two with a good bit of luck and trashing around, but it was a great end to a great day!

The canny little things

I did the 3 Peaks Challenge and all I got was this lousy fish…

Over the weekend I was helping out with the guiding of a Three Peaks Challenge.

Beautiful views to Fort William from the flank of Ben Nevis in between the showers and cloud

It was my first Challenge, and not all went to plan.

Sleep deprivation was a bit of an issue, having driven from Derby to Fort William to start in the early hours of the next morning, but more for the drive back South at the end. The main problem was that floods had caused a landslide, closing the A82, so a detour via Stirling meant that the start was delayed, and inevitably the rest of the Challenge. However, I was only helping with the first two legs, leaving Snowdon.

Conditions on Ben Nevis were not too bad – low cloud and light, scattered showers – but the group were not accustomed to the long haul up the Tourist Track and the arduous broken ground. Conditions on Scafell Pike were worse, with higher winds and the onset of darkness, so we reached the screes above the Woolworth Boulder before turning round, to ensure the group had a good chance to complete Snowdon the following day.

I must have been slightly delusional with the affects of sleep deprivation and the fact that the Challenge was so different to what I normally do, so the enduring memory of the day was a dead, half-eaten and mouldering fish wedged under a rock by the summit trig point!

The eponymous fish…

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