With the weather looking good, we had plans for a weekend in Cornwall for the annual trip to Bosigran.
With such sunny weather, I check with Matt to see if we could leave early on the Friday to make the most of it, and when he agreed, I hatched a plan for an adventure on the way down.
We left early in the morning and headed with some secrecy, to a dark cliff on the Atlantic coast called Pentire, to get an accent on the Great wall. When we arrived, the dark north facing wall was quite damp and as we looked up, it can best be described as the entrance to Mordor – dark, wild and intimidating.
As we sat at the base of the cliff, discussing if the conditions and if they might improve, also trying to work out why I chose the only damp shaded crag on a beautiful sunny day. “Well, I think this is about as good as its going to get, lets do it”
Eroica is a 1970’s Pat Littlejohn Extreme Rock classic route with tons of history. Originally aided at the crux, however due to the loss of vital fixed gear, now has to go free as an E4 6a mega adventure.
The start was wet, but easy going, leading to a loose section where the blocks are stacked like a Jenga puzzle “Matt, make sure you only pull down on these”. After this you arrive at a huge flake that creates an overhang where you get an amazing exposure as you pull round with undercuts and clever footwork. As the guide says though, it’s easier than it looks.
Then the crux arrives, and as you stand on a pedestal ledge that was once a belay. Looking up you can see several rusty peg stubs on the smooth slab above, but nothing much else, for years this was a peg protected section at E3, but not anymore. I search around and find only a shallow No4 at my knee and a flush sideways RP4 at my chest, neither would stop me hitting the ledge unless I jump out, and then the shallow placements are unlikely to hold. I search again and manage to get a No1 half-nut sideways behind the RP4 – Will this help I say to myself? I doubt it. So with the ropes tucked behind the flake below to protect me, I wonder if they would hold, be damaged and even cut on the sharp rock.
The 6a Crux moves are actually not too bad and more balance than strength, the issue mostly being that the rock was damp and greasy. I pull up and as I stand, I see the only piece of gear above, looks like an RP4, so RP3 it is then, as I don’t carry doubles of them. As the RP3 sits loosely in the small V cut in the rock, I think to myself what now? I can’t reverse the crux, as I just don’t have the friction on the damp rock to do that, I’m alone up here, no help, so the only option is to keep calm and carry on. I look up and see a rotten peg at the end of the slab, may be 10 feet away, but that wouldn’t hold anything. I have loads of drag from the ropes behind the flake. I choose the foot holds I plan to use and dab them with chalk to dry them off and step up and balance over to the peg, which almost disintegrates as I clip it. To my amazement I see a small slot above the peg, too parallel to take a nut, but my tiny red Dragonfly slots in a treat, the only thing that would stop me going 50 feet. I reach the belay and make a sign to Matt about needing new underwear. I’m done, Matt can lead the rest.
Matt makes a good ascent of the route, and as he does, I wonder if he can imagine how it would have felt to lead it. “Well done” he says as he arrives, “bet that was full on” “It was” I reply, “You’re doing the corner above.”
The final pitch is a sustained 5b corner crack, with good protection. Matt sets off and works his way up as I watch and also enjoy the view. I look up just as he is moving up in a layback position and I pay out rope. Suddenly I see him slip, loosing a foot and a hand. I’m mid paying out, hands up, split second thoughts, do I lock off or try to take in a bit? I take in and lock, can’t do anymore as I’m tight on the belay. Matt manages to do some sort of a super gecko move and holds the crack with the other hand and a fall is averted. “You ok Matt?” “Yea kind of” he replies
The rest of the route goes without a drama, and I follow up the top pitch, now cold from standing on the belay in the shade. Moving up the crack, it feels hard as my cold arms try to get going again, pulling feels difficult as things always do before you warm up. The rock is dryer, but yellow lichen is covering it and stopping the feet getting any secure traction. I’m seconding, so no real worries, but think of Matt as I pass the point where he slipped. Soon I’m at the top, Matt has the ropes securely round a boulder well back from the edge. I’m glad I have 60m ropes, as the rusty stake in place for those who climb on 50’s is not so inspiring. The sun is shining, warming my back and so is the sense of achievement, but also relief you get when a proper adventure is done and your back to normality.
Down at Bosigran the others were enjoying a sunny and pleasant experience, with Jake and Lizzy climbing Oread (VD) and the classic Doorpost (HS). Jamie and Lisa went to try Right Angle at Gurnards Head, but heavy swell put them back to Bosigran for Doorpost and my favourite (VS) Little Brown Jug.
Matt and Myself arrive at Bosigran on Saturday ready for action. Matt takes on the overhanging corner of Grendel (E2 5c), but is pushed back by the greasy conditions, I take the lead and manage to find dry feet out to the left on the slab and pull through. Paul joins us midway though and seconds up with Matt.
I then make the decision that I want to try Kafoozalem (E3 6a), as it was my main objective of the weekend. Unfortunately, the conditions were not great and my body acted in a stiff and unhelpful fashion. I managed to get up the first section ok and even past the main crux, but was then unable to get my body into balance with the lack of left foot holds. Tiring whilst trying to place gear (the green cam was needed, but already used below) I had to accept defeat and retreat / jump to the gear below. Paul leads up The Armchair (HVS) so I can abseil back down and retrieve the gear.
Feeling the need to move on, and being that Matt was new to Bosigran, we decided to do Suicide Wall (E1 5c). This is another favourite of mine as it takes on the hardest parts of the cliff at a reasonable grade. We swung leads with Paul going first up across the coal face to the pedestal, myself doing the traverse and crux, then Matt finishing up the offwidth crack at the top. It turns our Matt really likes a good offwidth and gave us some colourful language to show his appreciation.
Jamie and Lisa went off to Sennen in the morning to do the classic Demo Route (HS), then returned to do Commando Ridge. Lisa with a phobia of the sea, bravely lead the first pitch of Commando Ridge (VD), which rises out of the sea from a tidal platform at the base, and is not a pitch to be underestimated. After this they headed to do another classic route Anvil Chorus (VS), meeting us at the end of the day as we all left by torch light (a common theme if you climb with Jamie).
Jake and Lizzy spend Saturday at Sennen, completing a wet ascent of The Arete (VS), with a slopy mantle proving too much for Jake, so some tactical gear assistance was required. After this Demo Route (HS) was dispatched in good style and Lizzy lead up Banana Flake(VD).
I have to admit I did not take the issues on Kafoozalem well, and knew I’d not performed as I should. After digging around I got enough gear together for a Top rope solo kit and decided to go at Kafoozalem on my own whilst Matt and Paul tick of some classics. I rigged up the rope and then started up the route, with the intension of just warming up. However, without the worries of gear placements and lead falls, my body moved and behaved as it should, finding positions and rests where the day before it felt impossible. Sent it on the warmup, then twice more for luck. Came back later in the day and lead it with no dramas. As they say, trad climbing is a head game.
Meanwhile, Matt and Paul swung leads on Paragon (HVS), which is possibly one of the best HVS’s on the cliff. Matt then took on the lead of Thin Wall Special (E1 5b), which I can remember as a solid test piece E1 from when I first lead it. The first pitch is thin 5b moves that feel insecure, but after a brief pause Matt pulls through. The top pitch is a very different type of climbing, which is described in the guidebook as “wild and engaging moves” and it’s not wrong. Matt spends some time contemplating the moves around the overhang, that involve you traversing around on hand jams and smeared feet, at the very top of the cliff with maximum exposure. After a little encouragement he pulls round to a triumphant finish. Paul (an old skool Grit climber) comes up to the top and to our amazement, looking down through the crack, all we see 2 fists appear jamming their way across the roof as he laybacks round in a style that’s hard to beat.
Jamie and Lisa started up Autumn Flakes (HS), known for its tricky route finding. After going off route, Jamie decides that the middle of Paragon looks like quality pitch to take, so makes a link up with the Paragon and Nameless that I have to agree probably takes the best rock that all the routes have to offer.
Jake and Lizzy plan a relaxing Sunday on Commando Ridge (VD) and get exactly that with perfect weather and conditions, until a jammed rope on the long scramble pitch threatens to upset things. Jake skilfully managed to back down and sort the issue without a major epic.
Back at camp on Sunday as everyone is heading home, conversation leads to how good the weather is looking on Monday. Matt, Paul and Myself decide to stay on and make it a 4 day trip.
We take a short drive to Sennen and start off with Paul leading up the classic Dolphin Cracks (HVS), which is an offwidth crack challenge first climbed in 1947. On the first ascent they dropped in a granite chockstone 2/3 of the way up, which is still a vital piece of gear to this day. However, I had read online that someone had pulled the chockstone out a few months ago, and luckily we had a cam large enough to protect it. Paul lead the route as a long single pitch to the top, and Matt followed. As they were climbing I noticed a rock on the floor that was different to the others. Is this the chockstone? I made the decision to tie it on using a sling and climbed up with it dangling between my legs like a wrecking ball. Stopping halfway up to drop it back in its home, so all is well in the world again. I enjoyed the route, which I first did with my father when I was about 12 years old.
After this, Paul had to leave us, so Matt and I carried on with myself leading Gillian (E3 5c), before suggesting the crack next to it Golva (E2 5c) looks like a well protected route Matt should do.
Unfortunately, it was only afterwards that I read description and realized that I had sent Matt up a “Crack climbing test-piece”. Lots more colourful language later, its my turn and although I think I may have climbed this years ago, its hard going and I have to use every jamming trick I can think of to get up it.
We finish the day with my lead on Delilah (E2 5b) as the zawn was dry, and the tide out. The route looks really hard from the base, however once you get going it’s a real delight to climb with everything you want just when you need it. Perfect end to a perfect weekend.