Surfboards, climbing gear, mountain bikes, wetsuits, running stuff, tent, ropes, hiking gear… You know it is going to be a good few days when you literally can’t fit any more gear into the car!
Friday night we began the long drive from Sheffield to Pembroke. As normal I fussed about, so we set off later than planned and ultimately arrived at the campsite at 2 am! We had decided to stay at a small campsite in St Petrox conveniently located very close to a lot of excellent climbing areas and surf beaches. The tent was set up in a matter of minutes – it seems one small positive is that I am getting faster at putting up the tent in the dark in the middle of the night!
The next day after a bit of a lie in and food shop we debated what to do first – so many options! As the weather was beautiful, we headed down to Freshwater West for a spot of surfing. The waves were pretty tame, but it was perfect conditions to play around in and remind myself how to stay upright again. There was a lot of falling over, but luckily I remembered more than I thought – admittedly style was certainly lacking, but I was soon catching plenty of waves! Eventually, our feet and faces became too numb to stay in for much longer, so we packed up in search of warmer activities. After a quick look through the guidebook (taking extra care to pay attention to tides, bird bans and firing ranges!) we decided Stennis Head would be a good choice for our first attempt at sea climbing…
Now let me point this out now – we made every rookie mistake in the book!! The first stumbling block came when trying to pick a route. I am used to picking my route standing at the bottom of the crag – not the top! It certainly took a bit of figuring out what was what, peering from the adjacent cliff at an entirely different angle to the guide book. After this realisation, we decided it would be best to start on climbs that didn’t involve abseiling in so headed to an approachable section that you could reach by scrambling. This had a whole range of routes and made for a fantastic afternoon. The dramatic scenery and having the sea crashing beneath you just added to the experience – I can easily say I want to do a lot more sea climbing!
Climbing at Stennis Head:
Given the slight learning curve on Saturday the plan for Sunday was to head to a slightly smaller area to hone our technique. However, we woke up to a lot of rain and mist. This called for a slight change of plan as it was too wet to climb, so we headed back to Freshwater West for a trot along the coast, running and scrambling (all practice for Lakes Sky Ultra!). We timed this perfectly as by the time we arrived back at the car it had brightened up enough to head out climbing.
Trotting along the coast:
Despite earlier thoughts, we returned to Stennis Head as it was so close and had so many routes we wanted to try. The first of these being a very cool looking and exposed multi-pitch route involving a traverse across then up one of the larger cliffs. We eagerly set off – not only were the views amazing but the exposure and sense of adventure added to it. The only thing we noticed was that for the grade (severe) this was pretty tough. In the back of my mind, I did have a slight niggle we were maybe not on the right route. However not perturbed we continued along an increasingly hard climb up a chimney making it to the top a little out of breath but psyched about the route. Both of us had had similar thoughts on whether we were on the right climb and agreed it was not a severe! After a re-read of the guide book, we discovered we were right to trust our instinct and Filled with confidence from the last climb we decided it was time to try abseiling into a route. As you can imagine – this did not go quite according to plan. Firstly Tom slightly overestimated the distance to the bottom and threw half the rope in the sea! The next slight issue came when he abseiled down to find we had gone 4m too far to the left and missed the belay point. Unbeknown to me sat at the top of the cliff; Tom was 30m below trying to bounce and swing across to the start of the route. I was just totally confused as to what was taking so long and why the climbers on the cliff opposite were laughing in our direction! Unfortunately, the start was just a little too far away, and Tom had the delight of having to prussic up to the top! I am happy to say the remainder of the routes for the day went much more successfully without major incident.
Luckily the weather stayed good for Monday meaning we could spend the day climbing at Porth-Clais which had a whole host of less intimidating easier routes for me to improve my leading. The highlight of the day had to be an HVS called Dreamboat Annie. This was a lovely climb, and despite looking pretty sparse on the holds, I was pleased to find I found it pretty manageable. The rookie error for the day came on an easier HS where somehow I ended up on the rock I was belaying from without the rope as Tom had mistakenly pulled it all up to the top! Then on lowering it down it managed to knock part of the gear on the route into the sea – luckily this was in the one spot it could be retrieved and was pretty shallow, so I only got a little wet! After this it was decided, as I was partially wet already, it was warm enough to go for a swim (not my idea and entirely debatable) despite having left the wetsuits at the campsite. It was certainly refreshing – I think it took me about 30mins to get my head under and another 2 hours to warm up after!
More climbing pictures:
Our last day in Pembroke came around far too fast, and after a great breakfast at Food By Williams we packed up the tent and headed off for our last day of adventure. The plan was to set off in the direction of Sheffield stopping in Brechfa Forest for a mountain bike. As it turned out, we accidentally stumbled on The Raven Trail a fantastic black graded 19km ride made up of fast, undulating trail that sweeps between trees and flows sinuously into berms and over jumps. All in all, a great way to end our trip!
A selection of photos from Raven Trail, Brechfa: