I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something about climbing sea cliffs that fascinates me. I’m not sure if it’s situation you’re in with the smell of the sea and the crashing waves below or the extra dollop of ‘adventure’ you encounter, relatively uncertain of your route choice and where to abseil down!
Either way after the success of climbing A Dream of White Horses at Gogarth the weekend before when Friday rolled around again, I was determined to continue my love affair with sea cliffs. Unfortunately, the forecast had other ideas, and a large, very grey rain cloud seemed to have settled over the whole of the UK. Not deterred I packed the climbing stuff up and decided to make a last minute decision as to where looked best.
Studying live weather updates, various forecasts, Magic Seaweed and UKC with enough precision to become a meteorologist I managed to pinpoint the one part of the UK that was supposed to be dry, had climbs (within my grade!) and enough waves to surf on Sunday – Woolacombe.
After a six hour drive on Friday night and an excellent night’s sleep in the van (a new purchase and far better than a tent!) I woke up to somewhat disappointing views. Despite being pretty much right next to the sea – you couldn’t even see the beach for the mist and drizzle. Apparently, my hours pouring over the weather had been in vain!
Determined it would get better Tom and I waited for the (worst of the) rain to stop and headed down to Baggy Point. First on the list was Shangri-La, a three-star classic. Perched on the one belay point not being engulfed by waves Tom set off on lead to assess how slippery the rock was – the verdict was an optimistic damp but climbable!
After ticking off a few more routes, including Last Horizon, a fantastic but sustained crack climb, it was time to try the route everyone had recommended – Kinky Cowboy. A combination of two routes (Kinky Boots and Midnight Cowboy) the first move had a reputation for being somewhat bold…
Rockfax describes the pitch as follows:
1) 4c, 20m. Not a pitch for the short! Fall across the zawn to reach the spike and pull across on good holds. Move steeply up to the edge of the slab and pull around onto it. Move right and slightly upwards to a peg before traversing 7m right, either high or low, to a stance on a small sloping reddy/brown ledge. Belay on good wires.
‘Fall’ is not a word that should be used when talking about how to climb a route but on reaching the start of the pitch I could tell that was exactly what you had to do. Stood on the edge of the rock there was a giant gaping space between me and the rock opposite, beneath this was just air and the waves below. Not convinced it was wise to ‘fall’ I tried to reach out and place anything (a finger would have done) on the next hold – it seemed miles off. Taking a big breath, I realised I was just going to have to trust the guide and go with it!
After a fair bit of faffing and doubting I eventually summoned up the courage to flop towards the rock! Although awkward, still wet and slimy, from the rain it held. Reassured not to be dangling in between the rocks I quickly made my way round to the belay, simultaneously proud and relieved.
The rest of the pitch continued in a similarly epic manner! Now drizzling the commonly grippy sandstone was slippy and a little precarious. But despite the lack of friction, I was having an incredible time – the whole cliff was (understandably) deserted except for the odd walker stopping on the path above to observe our madness. Topping out I felt like a hero – maybe it wasn’t the day or conditions we had planned, but it made me realise – I do love a bit of ‘adventure-trad’!