Beyond the South Pembroke Top 50 - E1 to E5

© Stefan Morris

So you've ticked your way through a bunch of the Rockfax top 50 classics. You've fondled the relative polish on Army Dreamers, struggled to find early gear on The Arrow (E1 5b) and thought, 'blimey that's a big roof for E1' while flaking your ropes under Rock Idol (E1 5a). You've descended into the chasm of Huntsman's Leap and realised that's is weirdly less intimidating from the bottom. But what if you're after something a little less popular, something may be right under your nose or at a different crag entirely.

Rock Idol  © Stefan Morris
Rock Idol
© Stefan Morris

Deep water soloing at Trevallen and huge abseils into the Greenbridge/ Stack Rocks Area area are just a couple of the lesser known pleasures to be had in this summer playground. I'm not going for anything super obscure, so many of these will probably be known to a few. Rather suggesting a couple of alternatives. But first, a couple of pictures from those fabulous classics.

The Arrow - E1 5b at St. Govan's Head  © Stefan Morris
The Arrow - E1 5b at St. Govan's Head
© Stefan Morris

Bloody Sunday - E4 6a at Huntsman's Leap  © Stefan Morris
Bloody Sunday - E4 6a at Huntsman's Leap
© Stefan Morris

Trevallen Cliff is well known for its fantastic selection of everything from 'The Hole' aka Oh-god-get-me-out-of-here-I-want-to-go-home', to 'Ships that Pass in the Night (E5 6a)' via a whole lot of 'Facist and Me' hero arete in between. Despite being no ones first thought as a DWS crag, it boasts a fun little adventure in the form of 'Rock around the Block (E3 5c)' E3 5c / S0 6c. Best saved for a sweaty summer day when you've sacked off everything because its too hot. Don your most fetching swimming costume and put your chalk in a dry bag. Walk down to chapel cove and swim out to the huge block off the Big Bruiser area of Trevallen. Starting at the blocks' northeast corner the route does a full anticlockwise lap of the block. Just high enough to be exciting but low enough to be safe at a good high tide. As a friend who did it this year put it: "As much fun you can have with your pants on."

Rock Around the Block - E3 5c at Trevallen  © Viki Harvey
Rock Around the Block - E3 5c at Trevallen
© Viki Harvey

Possibly the closest crag to the car park, the Big Bruiser area is one of the lesser frequented parts of Trevallen. This crag contains 'Vogage to the Bottom of the Sea (E5 6a)' E5 6a, a relatively short but rather good pitch beginning with an airy step out over the sea. A very careful approach is required for the ab in and top out which, even by Pembroke standards, feels a bit like a tottering house of cards. 'Stem Them' is adjacent, begins on the same belay ledge and is a good exercise in hard E4. I backed off.

Trevallen winter sunrise – might have something to do with the loose topouts.  © Stefan Morris
Trevallen winter sunrise – might have something to do with the loose topouts.
© Stefan Morris

At the very opposite end of Range East is the winter 2018 edition of the Greenbridge of Wales. Here the routes are big, stakes are spread very sparsely and building belays takes time and a little creativity. Please avoid hammering anything into the ground though, there is a very real risk of hitting live unexploded ordnance that may be under the surface. As unlikely as this may seem - some historical unexploded and live munitions dating back to the second world war was found last winter, less than six inches below the ground, just a few meters back from the top of St Govans!

The Greenbridge, seen from Arettica  © Stefan Morris
The Greenbridge, seen from Arettica
© Stefan Morris

New Age Traveller - E2 5b at The Green Bridge Area  © Stefan Morris
New Age Traveller - E2 5b at The Green Bridge Area
© Stefan Morris

Beginning on a short toe of rock reached by a huge free hanging abseil, New Age Traveller (E2 5b) E2 5b traverses an imposing wall between Stack Rocks and The Greenbridge.

"That's the best bit of adventure climbing I've done this year!" beams Henry (pictured above) as he tops out in a fetching Hawaiian shirt. His client had asked for something a little more adventurous than the St Govan's classics they climbed the previous day. It clearly has the desired effect as 20 minutes later Ben picks his way over the top and cracks a grin to match Henrys.

This area also contains the soaring line of Arettica (E5 6a) E5 6a and The Gong (E1 5b) E1 5b, the latter also providing the novelty value of an actual gong on route.

But what if it's midweek, not August and the Army are letting fly on the range?

The Gong - E2 5b at Stack Rocks  © Emma Alsford
The Gong - E2 5b at Stack Rocks
© Emma Alsford

Chimera - E2 5c at Penally East  © Stefan Morris
Chimera - E2 5c at Penally East
© Stefan Morris

The crags surrounding the Penally contain some excellent low angled slabs, perfect for beginners taking their first steps. Eleven years ago I would spend many afternoons there, clad in army surplus camo trousers and a baggy sweatshirt figuring out how to place a nut and rig an ab rope. It took me a few years to realise it wasn't all about the slabs. There are some really interesting routes in this area, the obvious candidate being 'The Magic Flute' where you climb into and then out of a tube running up the inside of the wall. Towards the end of Giltar head is 'Chimera (E2 5c)'. A steep crack into a technical slab followed by a burly roof, giving a pretty tough ride for E2 5c.

I can already hear the shouts of 'but Penally is a firing range too!' Yes, but thankfully not all of it. Head west from Chimera past the guard post towards Lydstep and you'll find fence walls, home of 'Gladiator (E3 5c)' E3 5c. Fence walls doesn't look like much from the cliff top, a steep rubble covered slope and a dubious looking top out. But gingerly lower over the top and it offers a pair of routes both featuring slab, chimney and crack climbing. Gladiator is the star of the place, but 'Triceratops (E2 5b)' E2 5b is worth doing if you fancy the bottomless chimney but not the swing out onto the face.

Gladiator - E3 5c at Penally West  © Stefan Morris
Gladiator - E3 5c at Penally West
© Stefan Morris

Still further west, past Lydstep and Mother Careys is Skrinkle car park. Favoured park up spot for van dwellers and boy racers, it overlooks Skrinkle Haven and the stepped roofs of 'Hungry Heart (E5 6b)' E5 6a, plus a massive amount of brambles and gorse.

'Get me down.." Edmund dangled in space after taking a sizeable fall inches from the end of the crux on 'Gorak (E5 6b)', E5 6b. "..Get me down NOW!" rapidly lowered to the floor, he keeled over on all fours dry heaving before rolling over and curling up on the barnacles where he remained for a few minutes. Louis tentatively leaned over to check he was okay before glancing up with a positive nod.

It had been a great fight to watch. A committed, guns blazing on-sight attempt. I stashed my camera and got ready to swing in and strip the gear.

Gorak - E5 6b at Skrinkle Haven  © Stefan Morris
Gorak - E5 6b at Skrinkle Haven
© Stefan Morris

Post-Gorak  © Stefan Morris
© Stefan Morris

Apparently, there is a stake for this crag, but despite a few painful attempts to find it in the undergrowth and myself having to swim out from the belay, we're still none the wiser and have had to opt for alternative anchors a couple of times. On this occasion, my photo perch was rigged off Edmunds van in the car park with 120m of static.

If Mowing Word is Stackpole Heads little brother, then that must make Gun Cliff the runt of the litter. Maybe that's a little harsh, but looking over to it from Mowing Word and it seems rather innocuous. Being relatively short, pretty good and with a couple of threads, 'Reformed (E4 5c)' E4 5c is the most popular route of the crag. But around the corner is 'Double Glazing Salesman (E5 6b)' E5 6b. Cursed with that odd Limestone that you can never quite tell if it's dry, this route is well endowed with pegs and threads… and a V3/V4 crux. Edmund (pictured abbing the line below) commented that he felt he 'Climbed well despite the grease on the lower wall'. His second, Louis, was a little less sanguine in his assessment

'It was greasy as f*ck. Lanky b*stard just pulled straight through the slime!'

Alternative Anchors: A van belay  © Stefan Morris
Alternative Anchors: A van belay
© Stefan Morris

Abseiling into Gun Cliff  © Stefan Morris
Abseiling into Gun Cliff
© Stefan Morris

I realise I've barely scratched the surface of different route options but I've tried to offer something at every grade E1-E5. I hope this has been seductively illustrated enough to encourage a closer look at the guidebooks. One final recommendation is the chip van found outside Penally Army camp most summer evenings. I'm a big fan.

Thanks to Emma Alsford, Paul Donithorne, Viki Harvey, Edmund Morris, Steve Quinton, and Justin Lowman for route suggestions and photo contributions, I'm sorry I could only include a few.

Sunset at Stennis Head  © Stefan Morris
Sunset at Stennis Head
© Stefan Morris

UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Stefan_Morris

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27 Jun, 2019

Enjoyed that, some great routes (and photos) in there.

Point of interest, Rock Around the Block was put up by me, Graham Parkes and Colin Binks - using rope and runners and approaching across the boulders at low tide. I wrote the route up and it made the guide but there was no entry in the FA list at the back - our only new route in Pembroke :-(


27 Jun, 2019

Enjoyed this, cheers.

27 Jun, 2019

You're credited with it in the new guide, Chris.

27 Jun, 2019

Ah - cheers. I haven’t seen the new series


27 Jun, 2019

It's somewhat disappointing that the author has neglected to leave out the stuff in the North of the county, some of which is utterly excellent!

I climbed Barad (E1 5b) a few weeks ago which was utterly fantastic for its grade (in fact, just utterly fantastic), the approach is a bit of an arse but only really adds to the adventure, the rock is of impeccable quality and the exposure on the crux pitch gets pretty obscene quite quickly.

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