Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Pembrokeshire climbing

Since the late 70s, the Easter bank holiday weekend has seen vast quantities of climbers descend on the small village of Bosherston to climb on the cliffs of the Pembrokeshire coast. 'Big deal', you may say, the same happens at any number of crags all over Britain. The difference is that the Easter 'meet' at Pembroke has a bit more tradition about it - in the late 70s/early 80s, the campsite at Bosherston would swell with some of the leading climbers of the day who would all head off out to force new routes and generally explore the coastline. In those years the brilliance and sheer volume of rock climbing in Pembrokeshire was rapidly unearthed, and the Easter weekend was the unofficial 'opening weekend' of the season. These days the supply of new routes has all but dried up, with only the most difficult challenges remaining unclimbed, but Easter time at Pembroke has still retained that special vibe, where pasty climbers emerge from their indoor walls and leave their freezing gritstone problems, and enjoy a long weekend ticking a seemingly endless stream of quality rock-climbs, probably getting a healthy tan along the way. This Easter was no different.

A few months ago I started making noises to see who'd be interested in Pembroke at Easter, and thanks the efforts of Ian Lau the numbers swelled until there was a good 15-20 of us who knew each other, joining the couple of hundred climbers camping in the various fields that are opened up by the Bosherston residents. The atmosphere in the village was great as usual, loads going on, lots of smiling faces and a great buzz around the pub in the evening - which, incidently, probably took around £20K over the course of the weekend. The weather was perfect, sunny and warm but with a crisp air temperature that ensured climbing conditions never got too greasy. I climbed on alternate days with Djanira and Jo Bertalot, and managed to tick off several classics that I have had my eyes on for a while, from the uber classic Hard-Severe Bow-Shaped Slab at Flimston Bay, to seconding Jo up a the 3* E4 Body Language at St Govan's East. I led a couple of E3s, the best of which was probably Forbidden Fruits, a pumpy face-climb also at St Govan's East. My fitness is good but I still have plenty to learn - I didn't fall but spent ages faffing around with gear during the crux sequence, so making the final moves harder than they should have been. Still it was my first trad weekend since a visit to the Wye Valley last September, so I'm pretty pleased. I was also quite happy to speak as much Welsh as English this weekend - the Bertalot brothers grew up in Pwllheli, and all my climbing with Jo was done through the medium of Welsh - a first for me and very nice too.

I was particularly pleased that Djanira really enjoyed the weekend too and has refound her climbing 'mojo'. We had quite an adventure on the classic VS Blue Sky at Saddle Head, which involved a free-hanging abseil and getting drenched by a big wave on the belay ledge at the bottom. Good job it was hot and sunny, and that the climbing was so good! DJ also seconded Cathy up an E1 at St Govan's East, Calisto, so well done to both of them.

Climbing wise I have one more weekend's trad in a fortnight before it's off to Spain and the world of bolts. I have no doubt though that I'll be back in Pembroke next Easter!

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