Surviving Sea-cliff Adventures

by Libby Peter Apr/2010
This article has been read 21,250 times
+Get Out on Rock DVD, 147 kb
This brand new UKC mini-series combines words, photos and diagrams to make it easy to grasp some of the trickier aspects of climbing. With the most up to date info possible it uses the stunning images of Mike Robertson and diagrams from Rock Climbing – Essential Skills and Techniques.

The Get Out On Rock DVD (pictured right) is a collaboration between Neil Gresham (top-level climber and Britain foremost coach) and Libby Peter (experienced Mountain Guide and climbing Instructor). It brings you the very latest in rock climbing skills and techniques and provides instruction and inspiration whether you're venturing onto rock for the first time or getting more adventurous with your climbing.

The DVD is available from: Libby Peter's Website


The UK has 11,000 miles of coastline. Take away the beaches, the promenades, the crumbly sections and the boring bits and that still leaves us with an extensive playground that provides some of our most memorable climbing adventures.

Climbing above the sea is both exhilarating and calming but of course there is also an extra degree of commitment and an added seriousness. Here we look at some of the techniques that will help your sea cliff climbing experiences go smoothly.

Big abseils

Part of the allure of sea-cliff climbs if that they are difficult to access except by abseil and at some venues you can't even get a glimpse of the climb until you've committed to abseil down.

+Castle Helen is one of Gorgarth’s more amenable sea-cliffs and Lighthouse Arete is the perfect introduction at VS 4c, 114 kbCastle Helen is one of Gorgarth’s more amenable sea-cliffs and Lighthouse Arete is the perfect introduction at VS 4c
© Mike Robertson

Most abseils at sea cliffs are rigged on stakes of varying length and quality hammered into the soil. You tie the rope directly onto the stake or use a sling on the stake and clip the rope to this, but either way make sure the attachment is secure. Clove hitches work well, especially if the cross of the hitch is placed at the back of the stake. This enables the clove hitch to tighten around the stake as shown here:

photo
Clove Hitch on Stake-1
UKC Articles, Apr 2010
© MLTUK
photo
Clove Hitch on Stake-2
UKC Articles, Apr 2010
© MLTUK

Don't automatically trust stakes, they may have been there for many years and are vulnerable to corrosion. If there's only one it's a good idea to back it up with your own gear if possible like this:

photo
Backing Up A Stake Anchor
UKC Articles, Apr 2010
© Mike Robertson

Think about what's below you and what the ropes will land on when you throw them down. To avoid dropping the end of your rope in the sea where it may tangle carry the ends down with you clipped to your harness or simply in your free hand as shown on the photo below left.

+Abseiling with the ends of the rope in to Mother Carey's  Kitchen. Pembroke, 130 kbAbseiling with the ends of the rope in to Mother Carey's Kitchen. Pembroke
© Mike Robertson
+The belayer is safely attached as Libby  sets off on the delightful Red Wall, Severe, Porth Clais,  Pembroke, 122 kbThe belayer is safely attached as Libby sets off on the delightful Red Wall, Severe, Porth Clais, Pembroke
© Mike Robertson

+A simple prusiking set-up, 112 kbA simple prusiking set-up
© Mike Robertson
Seaside belays

Standing around at the base of the crag isn't always the safest place to be. In choosing where to belay make allowances for the tide and swell plus a bit extra for exceptionally big waves. The belayer will normally be attached to the rock but if the platform is spacious use a long tether so they can still move around to doge any rock-fall.

Some routes start from a very small ledge or hanging belay rather than a platform and these need particular care and organisation. A well organised stance is seen in the photo above right.

Useful skills

The most useful 'just in case' skill you could practise before venturing onto more committing routes is prusiking, this photo on the right shows the basic set-up.

It's a simple process of transferring your weight between two prusik loops attached to a fixed rope (normally your abseil rope). The top prusik is clipped direct to your harness central loop and the bottom prusik is extended with a sling to create a foot-loop to stand in. Then it's a case of stand in the foot-loop, move top prusik up, hang off this and slide the bottom prusik up and so and so. As you gain height add a back-up knot, like a clove hitch clipped to your harness, just in case the prusik fails.

If you can only remember one prusik knot then just use that one but the best combination is to use the ordinary prusik at the top attached to your harness as this is least likely to release accidentally, coupled with a French prusik for your foot-loop.


You probably know the French prusik already (if not you can see it in my other UKC Article on basic abseiling) and the ordinary prusik knot is shown here:

Photo Gallery - Prusik Knot:

The ordinary prusik knot 1, 14 kb
+The ordinary prusik knot 2, 16 kb
+The ordinary prusik knot 3, 15 kb
+The ordinary prusik knot 4, 12 kb

And Finally

Don't forget to check the tides and remember that the condition of the rock can be hard to predict. Sea-cliffs can be frustratingly damp even when it hasn't rained. Keep your options open and all will be well.




Forums ( Read more )
This article has been read 21,250 times
Return to Articles from 2010 or list other Climbing Skills articles
Share
Share

Staff Picks

Aug 2014

thumb Earlier this summer, when the golden sun warmed the rock of North Wales, alpinist and trad climber Nick Bullock seized the... Read more

What's Hot Right Now

3 Oct 2014

thumb "Every so often you meet someone in climbing that makes you take a step back. Someone with a fire in their eye, passion in their... Read more

Top Spot: Climbing Destination

Feb 2009

thumb The beautiful forested area around Fontainebleau is well known amongst climbers as a bouldering "Mecca." However for newcomers it... Read more