3 years ago I was one of about 30 hosts on the BMC Winter Climbing Meet held at Glenmore Lodge. The weather was rubbish, the conditions on the hill were pants and most of the guests must have been distinctly underwhelmed with both of those. But it was wicked fun with such a melting pot of different nationalities/cultures. We went dry tooling in Birnham, cragging at Dunkeld, running in the forest, partying and even attempted some winter climbing. With such a high fun quotient despite the weathers best attempts to ruin it I was definitely up for hosting again last month.
Traditionally held out of N Wales the last 2 International Summer Meets have been in Cornwall, sampling the endless variety of sea cliffs on golden granite and other rock types. The guests all stayed in the Count House, the Climbers Club hut, and the hosts camped outside. A heroic catering team looked after us all in fine style and the BMC budget appeared to extend to beer and wine too. What could possibly go wrong?
The temperatures were barely different to the Winter Meet 3 years ago- typically 8 to 12 degrees- but at least we weren’t looking for anything frozen. Partnered up on day one with Florent and Pierre from France we warmed chilly fingers in the shade on a dampish Suicide Wall- they made light work of that. Dave Turnbull appeared after that route to climb with Pierre, so I then swung leads with Florent on Bow Wall. John Dunne, on a neighbouring route was pointed out to us all a nearby basking shark. Florent had the decency to fall off seconding proving that being a hotshot on the bolts in the sunshine doesn’t necessarily make trad climbing greasy overlaps any easier- or maybe he has watched Jaws recently and got scared? The afternoon saw us soloing an exciting Commando Ridge as the bottom 50 metres were drenched from sea spay. “Zees is amaaaazing!” We headed to Great Zawn- others were on Green Cormorant Face and Dream looked unlikely to be dry so we enjoyed the delights of the excellent HVS crack, Variety Show, and back for tea and cakes- yum![caption id="attachment_5137" align="alignnone" width="450"] Cornish sunset at the Count House over Bosigran[/caption]
Day 2 started wet and got wetter. Some brave (mad?) souls still went climbing and Pierre was now with Tony- they did a ludicrous ascent of Right Angle in the storm. A wetsuit might have been more useful than Goretex! I didn’t give Florent a choice to climb or not but he was happy to join me and Heather Ohly on a coastal run to Zennor and back. Another basking shark! Then it was café o’clock- Archies Vegetarian Café is highly recommended in Penzance. As we left the café it looked like it might stop raining and by 4 it was quite bright. The crag looked soaked still and I wasn’t convinced. “A storm is on its way” said a Cornish farmer (I thought we’d already had one) but it didn’t look too bad as several more keen folk heading towards Bosigran. I wavered but stayed put as more cakes were produced. As it turned out the farmer was spot on- the eye of the storm had passed directly overhead and before long there was a full-on lashing gale, much worse still than earlier, with numerous small tents flattened/rapidly disassembled before they blew away. The large marquis in the Count House garden had its lights swinging wildly to and fro and flapped wildly.
Wednesday was much improved but all the cliffs truly drenched so an early sea cliff hit didn’t seem ideal. So I headed off with Pierre to do half a dozen quick drying routes at Trewavas Head- beautiful dry rock in the sun and sheltered too- before we continued to the Lizard to find the classic E3 5c- the Cull- great climbing, massive holds, loads of gear. It was great to find a soft-touch after the grades on the Granite. This definitely wasn’t “Cornish E3”- more like E2 5b for steepness but certainly less tricky than Suicide Wall. Less enjoyable was Dawn- the E4 next to it that I led- snappy rock and mediocre gear. We finished off with a cream tea to die for afterwards in the sunshine- much better than the Atlantic storm of the day before.[caption id="attachment_5136" align="alignnone" width="450"] Rob Greenwood eating wires on Golden Brown E4 6b[/caption] [caption id="attachment_5135" align="alignnone" width="450"] Rob Greenwood on Golden Brown E4 6b[/caption]
Wednesday and Thursday I teamed up with a trainee Mountain Guide from Slovenia, called Jan, and we visited Kenidjack, Carn Barra and Sennen. Back to the granite grades again and everyone got stuck in- Samson Arete is no pushover at E2 (Jan fell off seconding me) and neither was the damp E2 crack of Golva (I fell off seconding him!). I acquitted myself better on the excellent E3 next to it called Gillian, and Jan made light work of it. Multiple lobs were taking by hosts and and guests on the iconic “Cornish E3” on the front cover of the West Penwith guidebook- A Swift Fight of Fancy (used to get E2..) . First prize for lob of the day goes to Pierre who decided, on lead, that the best solution to the crux was a double dyno! “Zut alors” or words to that effect as he went flying upwards then rapidly downwards, luckily into space on his good gear. Given that route spat off at least 4 very competent climbers it is almost certainly a proper sandbag. Less satisfactory was Roy (aka the Flying Dutchman) who fell off leading Dolphin Crack (a naughty offwidth HVS). His massive cam held but he inverted and landed head first (luckily on stretch). He was briefly knocked out and, as designated first aider (I pointed out I had never done a first aid course but my role remained), I was summoned as he had blood coming out of his helmet. Fortunately nothing more than a scalp wound from the helmet itself (Petzl Elios helmets inexplicatively have a hard hook-like knuckle of plastic on their insides- I recommend sawing it off if you have one). He rapidly perked up and walked up to the top of the crag but nonetheless the paramedics insisted he had a free lift in a SeaKing to the hospital.[caption id="attachment_5134" align="alignnone" width="450"] Lazy cragging in the sun at Carn Barra on Crack in the Sky E1 5b[/caption] [caption id="attachment_5133" align="alignnone" width="450"] Stu Bradbury on the new harder start to Grand Plage E4 6b[/caption] [caption id="attachment_5131" align="alignnone" width="450"] Sophie Whyte leading the Cull, E3 at Bass Point, Lizard[/caption]
Can Barra was gorgeous in the sun, but luckily not too hut as it can be baking there; and no leader falls were taken! I was keen to do Grand Plage but reports from John Dunne from the day before were that the start had changed. It used to be E3 6a (no doubt Cornish E3..) but had become harder since the 20 ton boulder, that you used to stand on to start it, had moved away in a storm so you now have to do a different start. In the process the boulder had knocked off a shield of rock so the remaining smaller holds make it more like E4 6b. Stu Bradbury had been on it the day before, but being the day before, he had fallen and was back on again today, placing the crucial small wires efficiently and despatching the crux. Next up Rob Greenwood led it and having watched both of them do it felt I had no excuse not to. What a difference knowing exactly what gear goes where. Felt more like French 7a with the exact wires preclipped on the draws on my harness. We all finished up Golden Brown which was the righthand finish (E4 6a)- certainly felt a lot easier than the start. Jan led the excellent Crack in the Sky on great holds (E1 5b) and I did Sunny Corner Lane (Cornish E3 5c). Cream teas beckoned once again.
The final day was again dry and St Loys was the plan in the morning (quick drying). On my application form for the meet you put down which routes you have done in the area. In my case almost none- Doorpost and Ledge Climb at Bosigran last year with my 9 year old daughter, Rosie, and a memorable frightener Finesse (E4 5c) 15 years ago at St Loy. I had been talked into it by a guy called Dave Wills (hardcore alpinist of yesteryear I subsequently discovered) who had just done it and said it was fine. Well yes fine if you don’t mind a 25ft slabby run out and a 5c leg press with no hand holds. I was happy not to have to do that again but Rob Greenwood led it and his Belgian guest, Siba, followed it and then did the even more ridiculous E5 6a to its left which I suspect doesn’t get onsighted very often- impressive to watch. Ground fall potential on that one- think E5 slab route at Froggatt on a bigger crag.[caption id="attachment_5129" align="alignnone" width="450"] Pierre happy with his seacliff introduction[/caption] [caption id="attachment_5128" align="alignnone" width="450"] Pierre leading West Wing, E2 5c at Trewavas Head[/caption] [caption id="attachment_5127" align="alignnone" width="450"] Steve Long and Pierre on the Ledge below Green Cormorant Face, having just done the memorable "Crevasse Jump" at the Great Zawn[/caption]
My Swedish guest, Maria, was full of cold but we did a couple of nice E1s and seconded the E5. St Gurnards Head called for a beer/coffee. Sophie and I (well Sophies idea but I soon changed my mind from a run I had been planning) had a plan to solo Astral Stroll (4 pitch rising traverse, E1 5b at Carn Gloose). It was a shame we couldn’t persuade any overseas visitors to join us because in many ways it was the route of the week. We sort of convinced ourselves it was a DWS but with a crashing sea beneath it wasn’t really. Warm rock, sunshine, well chalked up from numerous ascents- perfect.[caption id="attachment_5126" align="alignnone" width="450"] Pierre on Commando Ridge[/caption]
The quality of the BBQ and the DJ afterwards was equal to the company- old friends and new. I have just had a week in Font which was also great but I’ll take a week of UK adventure trad by preference any day. A big thanks to the Climbers Club, especially Iain Peter for the yummy catering, the BMC for supporting the meet, especially Becky who did a great job of herding cats all week and Dave Turnbull, who, as CEO of the BMC, leads from the front and took his guest up the classic Pentire Head E5 6a classic- Black Magic on the final day. Where will it be next time- Lundy, Fairhead, Cornwall again or N Wales? Irrespective I will be back for more for sure.[caption id="attachment_5123" align="alignnone" width="450"] Steep ab into the Cull, E3 and Dawn E4 at Bass Point, Lizard[/caption]