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

Wet Day at the Office

I am back in South Wales, hoping to complete my SPA Assessment, so Dan and I risked an outing to the Gower in the face of a poor weather forecast.

Dan on an unnamed line to the right of Little Tor and left of Little Star Wall

We both wanted a solid outing to build some confidence and complete a few routes each, so Tor Bay was the choice. I have visited Little Star Wall a number of times, and so filled in the gaps, leading Scout Crack S** and Stella VS 4c. Dan lead Twinkle S and an unnamed climb.

The rock on the wall is nice and compact, but the bottom half was still wet from high tide. The top half became steadily wetter as the rain set in. Dan was keen for ‘just one more climb’, so headed up an undocumented part of the buttress to the left of Little Star Wall. It looked about Severe standard, but typically carried more of a punch on closer inspection, probably about Hard Severe.

Better day than before, but it was a shame that Midsummer’s Day was spoiled by the wet.

Trad Climbing: Eskdale

Finally, a break in the cloud and drizzle, and it was back to Hare Crag for some more leads to put towards my SPA logbook.

I cannot convey how glorious the weather and situation were, and the contrast of how depressing West Cumbria can be in the clag. In any case, I got down to business on The Upper wall with Labyrinth Route, MS to warm up (but again rather disconcerting because of the lack of gear). Then, to cut to the chase, I decided that VS and above is the standard I should be climbing at, so ticked Right-Hand Route, VS 4c and Upper Slab Route 1, VS 4b. Right-Hand Route was particularly good with a thoughtful crux move and then beautiful steep upper wall with excellent cracks and crimps – lots to keep the climber thinking and moving.

Crux moves on Right-Hand Route, VS 4c

To finish on a high, we headed down to The Lower Buttress and I lead Fireball XL5, MVS 4b. The name of the route had intrigued me ever since I came across it, and apparently had some significance. However, it was only till I spoke to John and Bridget that it became clear – the rocket from a ’60s television programme!

More crux moves on Fireball XL5, VS 4b

As for the route, the ‘gasp!’ comment in the guidebook route description made me a little apprehensive, but once I had stepped off the flake and onto the crux moves, it was great fun. The warm granite was simply superb, and I felt confident with the moves, so it was indeed a good way to end the day.

Slightly odd comment to finish the description…

Let’s hope there will be at least one more break in the weather this week…

SPA Training Photos

Finally managed to extract the photos of the SPA Training from my reluctant mobile. They were taken on the first day in glorious sunshine at Holyhead Mountain, Anglesey.

Plenty of good lines to go at.

Hard to believe it now!

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Little Tor, Gower

Getting to grips with Twinkle

During a lull in the onset of the wet and windy weather here in South Wales, I snatched an outing to Little Tor on the Gower peninsula for further personal climbing to put towards the SPA.

Lead climbing, as I have mentioned before, is to a large extent about the mind, and I my head was full of irrelevant thoughts, which made it hard to concentrate: ongoing personal circumstances, the choice of venue, the state of the tides, the weather forecast, to name a few. However, perhaps the biggest burden was being responsible for another. I was out with Josh, who has had previous experience, but somehow the burden of responsibility was on my shoulders, and I just did not feel relaxed. Suffice to say that all of these factors affected my climbing.

That is not to make excuses, as I know that I was in a rush to tick off the routes, rather than use the opportunity to its fullest to focus on gear placements and movement, for example. One important area for improvement for me is to focus mentally on mapping out moves at crucial points in the climb, and not get ahead of myself or unnecessarily far above gear in an attempt to get to the top quickly. I think I struggled on both my leads because of this, thinking that because they were Severes, I did not need to concentrate.

Anyway, looking back at the photos, it was a good outing for training and development purposes, as I highlighted areas for further work. And on that note, we found a DMM Wallnut No. 4 (gold) at the top of Little Star Wall. I really do not need it, so if it belongs to you, feel free to get in contact for its return.

The routes we did were:

Twinkle, Scout Crack, Central Flake and Right Corner

Sunset over the Gower

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