I’ve done a lot of climbing at Gogarth over the years, but at risk of getting slagged by some North Waleans I have to say Gogarth doesn’t have a tenth of the amount of Pembroke and the quality of the Pembroke routes are generally higher (sorry George et al). Some of the beaches such as Broadhaven and Flimston Bay are surely some of the finest swim spots on earth too, so long as the chavs aren’t there.
The MOD bans are off in August making it a good month to spend some time here allowing access to most areas. There is a wide variety of routes on offer, techy slabs on Carreg Y Barcud and the White Tower, pump fest clip ups on Mother Careys, choss fests by the Green Bridge, bizarre and frightening runnel climbing in Huntsmans Leap and endless cracks and exposed routes that appear highly exposed and improbable at the given grades.
I’ve done a ton of trips since, alone and with friends. I can’t think of anywhere else I’ve climbed with so many great routes. On the last day of a trip in 2003 I remember soloing the Ducking Stool and being chuffed I could squeeze through a hole on the 2nd pitch, the swimming out of the Leap to solo Star Wars and being nervous of seals in the water, then arriving at Ma Westons later that afternoon and Tim Emmet talked me into going back into the Leap to DWS Hunter Killer. Me, Tim and Barry Durstan abbed in, Tim made light work of it, then Barry set off and was busting a gut to stay on, making me think about a very real prospect of pitching into the dark water of Huntsmans Leap when it was late in the day and not an appealing prospect.
Up until last year I’d always had a good run of luck in Huntsmans Leap, having onsighted the E7s, most of the E6s and E5s, admittedly only just on a few of them. Terminal Twilight was dank and at the end of a long wknd with Pete Robins, a very impressive lead from Pat Littlejohn without chalk. NIghtseeker had lost a block and felt E7 and Dusk till dawn was a poor warm up. Pickford had assured me there was a good keyhole RP4 halfway up the runout on Boat to Naxos and I remember cursing him when it failed to materialise.
I was thinking I might have stood a chance of doing all of the routes here in good style but as it turned out some e5 at the bottom of the Leap on the left gave me an undignified kicking, I probably deserved it on the karma front.
Roll on 2020 and I’d given up on trying the hardest ones without an abseil check and to get my aged and abused body up these routes would require all mod forms of cheating. After abseiling Nothing to Fear a couple of times I grabbed a belay off Ryan and assured him it would be a great warm up for him, it’s probably the scariest of the Leap ones, having a punchy start and serious ending, I don’t know what Crocker was on to give it E7. I was glad the chemistry between myself and Ryan was still there, early in lockdown I’d put a facebook post out late one evening, touting Ryan as a lovely Lancastrian, and putting his number up for potential date offers. I turned my phone off and went to bed and when I woke up I found what I thought was impossible…Ryan was angry. He’d obviously missed some of the nuance in the post.
Later that day I belayed my fellow Cumbrian, Emma Twyford on the E8, Do you know where your children are. I first climbed with Emma when she was 12, her dad, Paul had come up to me to say she wanted to climb with me and she wanted to lead an E1. I got her straight on the sharp end on the Grasp at Shepherds crag, and after taking a couple of lead falls she got up it. She obviously loved climbing and the last few years its been quite something to see her hit pretty unstoppable form. She obviously pissed up this Leap E8, as its only E8, and I enjoyed seconding.
Ryan was on top form during this trip, certainly not at placing wires, he was dreadful at that. It’s well worth observing and timing him in action at the moment, he can’t place a piece of protection within ten minutes and if he gets one in within 20 minutes it is likely to blow when he weights it. We’d talked about firing him up on the onsight of Chupacabra, which requiring little gear to place I’d have had money on him getting close. Ryan also brought a new word to my vocabulary, “Alpinewanker”, all one word. I saw this as a beautiful thing indeed and much slagging ensued, but privileged toffs and spoilt brats gave too easy a target so it didn’t last long.
Later this trip a lesson was had on the value of helmets. After the crux on Aristocracy in Raming Hole I reached up for a big quartz jug, as my fingers gripped it i grinned for a second, it was a sinker and i thought I 'was in', a second later it came off, as did I, the quartz jug landed on Dan Mcmanus helmet and he held my fall. If he'd not had a helmet on we would both have been in trouble.
During this trip Bob Hickish and co were exploring the Underworld sea cave for DWS. This was an E8 of Vicker’s and Bransbys and Bob had DWS as did Howard. It looked huge and fairplay to Bob for really pushing this realm of climbing here, a real searcher. Pat Hill and Jim Pope (the Duracell boys) were also here, doing lots of classics, Pat had mentioned I had a horrible rat. I’d not given it thought before but he was right, it was an evil bastard, all too often going too far.
A week later and we were all back in Pembroke, not able to resist the good forecast. I’d dodged a bullet which hit Ryan. A few days before going Georgia had asked to climb in Pembroke, I thought it through for a split second before realising her glacial pace of climbing had meant she’d run out of willing belayers from Sheffield. Ryan was the last climber in Sheffield who hadn’t clocked it and would have to belay the ponderous sloth. When they came back to the campsite at the end of each day and said they’d done 2 routes I figured they must have really been stepping on the gas. My favourite DJ was not my favourite belay.
Ben Bransby made the first ascent of Chupacabra after minimal inspection and did a very bold lead, missing out a good cam placement which would have meant a monster fall if he’d blown it on the crux. Emma had been climbing hard for a few days and must have been tired but on the last day strapped it on anyway. I was pretty impressed as the sea was coming in and only ten metres away from me (the belayer) added to the pressure. She pissed through the crux runout and it looked like she was in, but a foot blew on the techy final slab. She said “oh well” and pulled back on to climb to the top. I had to get piss wet feet to access the base of the climb for the second and was more impressed than if she’d led it clean tbh, just by giving it a go and not worrying about it. On a more critical note I think she should do some more onsighting rather than top roping though, if you are 9a fit you can definitely onsight more than 1 easy e6 over the course of a few years, or else a nickname of 'too much top roping twyford' might be brought in.
Emma did a very good lead on it, having had a foot pop on the set up into the crux she reset herself and carried on to the top, having slipped off the top slab once this would have felt ‘heady’. Tony tested his new thread with the biggest fall you can take and Nick fell off the easy slab moves above the big thread!. The next day Tony polished it off and after a couple of good efforts Nick almost did it, lobbing off the final slab. Although I rib Tony about top roping he is one of the silent heros of UK trad onsighting, having done shitloads. I’d given up on trying it and snuck off to climb Eat, Drink and beat Gary (well worth doing) on the outside of the Leap. Although Chupacabra is a safe outing I can feel the pressure of Bransby laughing at me if I blow it, like a demon perched on a shoulder hoping for a foot to slip. Git.
Some general top routes I’d recommend here are: Preposterous Tales, White Heat, Dreaming Again, Crimes of Passion, Honeymonster, Trevallen Pillar, Dusk till dawn, Nightflight, Orange robe burning, Free Masonry, Silver shadow but tbf most of the ones here are pretty damn great.
Get to Pembroke.