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Topic - It’s a Disgrace – New Bolts at Carn Gowla, Cornwall

shane ohly - on 04 Aug 2013
The Rockfax introduction to Carn Gowla says, “…for climbers looking for adventure on a grand scale this is a cliff that is unlikely to disappoint”… Until now that is.

Three heavy-duty belay bolts have been placed at the top of Triple Buttress where the routes ‘Rainbow Games’ (E2 5b – a superb three star route) and ‘Four for Texas’ (E2 5b – another classic two star route) top out.

I heard from a local climber earlier this week that someone had placed some bolts near the top of these routes and this evening I took the opportunity to run over and check out this act of vandalism for myself.

It is true. There they were, three brand new, heavy-duty belay bolts at the top of the crag. My first reaction was of great disappointment, then disgust and then a moment of fear.

Disappointment, because for decades the vast majority of climbers, both locally and nationally, have agreed that Cornish sea cliffs should remain bolt free. There have been many forums for discussion and some disagreements along the way but I am totally confident that I can speak for the vast majority of climbers when I say that placing bolts at Carn Gowla goes against all the values of adventure climbing and that these bolts are not wanted.

Disgusted, because placing these bolts is an act of wanton vandalism, damaging the rock permanently and leaving sica glue spilled randomly on the top of the crag and on the plant life. The perpetrators of this act had even left a washer and a nut just lying around at the top of the crag, which I believe speaks volumes about their ignorance and/or arrogance to the beautiful and natural landscape they were in.

Fear, because I thought for a moment that anyone stupid enough place these bolts might well have placed more. Had they placed protection bolts on the routes themselves I wondered as I peered over the edge? Not that I could see.

I suspect that the person responsible for placing these blots will never have the strength of character to own up to their actions, but in the fullness of time their identity will probably become known. However, I would be fascinated to hear their justification. Having climbed both of these routes many times, I suspect that the bolts have been placed for convenience, because arranging a traditionally protected belay takes a little time and a little skill.

Many climbers travel to the South West to experience the superb adventurous climbing at Carn Gowla and routes like Mercury (E2) and America (E4) have justifiably grand reputations. Both Rainbow Games and Four for Texas are of the same ilk – bold, traditionally protected, adventure climbing routes.


Many experienced climbers have likened the climbing at Carn Gowla to Gogarth and I have often heard the expression “more Gogarth than Gogarth”.

Carn Gowla is one of the premiere adventure climbing sea cliffs in the South West and clearly the person who felt that these bolts were necessary was completely out of their depth and completely at odds with the expressed wishes of the climbing community at large.

If you would like an historical context to this story, please have a read of the guest editorial I wrote for UKC in 2011:
http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=3563

I have added some photos to my UKC profile but they are waiting for approval.
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