Added to these cautions should be, always wear a helmet and be prepared to spend some time locating the crag, let alone the route.
It is tempting to take one of these remnants home as a souvenir, but don't. The ammunition may be unexploded and even if obviously not, if caught doing so it may result in a ban not only for you but for all other climbers. So stick to the rules otherwise this wonderful climbing area may be lost to us all.
Once at the bottom however, things looked less intimidating and Mark was soon sailing up the initial overhanging 30ft wall of “Flake Shake”(HVS) while I stood well to the side and under the overhangs, just in case.
Mark cruised up the flake above and after a pause to dispatch the crux disappeared over the top, leaving me to start doubting my abilities and contemplate the long jumar out if I failed. Then CRASH! A brick size rock hit the platform, I cowered under the overhangs. A shout. Zoom CRASH! Another rock hit the platform. Then the ab rope disappeared soon to be relowered with Mark's helmet attached. I scampered out untied, it adjusted it and thankfully stuck it on my all too exposed bonce.
The ropes come tight, three tugs and I'm off. WOW! This is incredible thirty feet of overhanging jug pulling, I've never climbed anything like this, it's like a climbing wall. Pull onto a ledge I can now see Mark above me. Thumbs up a short breather and up the flake. Much easier than it looked from above. Now I'm at the crux. “It's a little tricky there”. We are now in audible communication. “Yes I thought it might be.” The flake has run out with a flat top. The problem is to get standing on it. There are no more jugs just a crack in the gently overhanging wall above. So pull up, smear, stick a hand in the crack, get a foot ontop of the flake, stuff another hand in the crack and pull. Phew, I've made the move, now just the loose stuff to the top. Relief, excitement, enjoyment. What a great route. We excitedly babble about the climb and how we found it while sorting out the gear and retiring to the shelter of the lookout for some food and a well-earned fag.
So once more into the breach. Once at the bottom of the zawn I felt more comfortable and with the company of mummy seal, who watched us throughout from the sea, Mark effortlessly despatched the route (“Bird on a Wire – VS). After an initial steep wall things turned surprisingly slabby the climbing straightforward but the situation superb. I was soon at the top and starting to get into this Range West thing. What next?
We scrambled down to the cliff top but in the gloom found it hard to locate our exact position so bagged it until the morrow in favour of a few pints in the St. Govans.
The next day we followed the same procedure and were again numbers one and two, except this time we were the only ones as confirmed when we checked our passes back in. Where else would you have such an extensive range of climbing all to yourselves?
This time we forsook the long walk and headed straight to Juggy Point. The day was beautiful, blue skies with a few tall clouds on the horizon and warm sunshine. We located the area quickly, but to our disappointment there was a heavy sea running, the waves breaking forty feet up the cliffs. Juggy Point was out so we contented ourselves with an easy day on the 40ft Wall, the angle of which and the height of the ledge being such that the routes were still dry. This wasn't to say that as the tide went down and the sea grew more ferocious we weren't hit by spray. I manfully lead a VD that was excellent, interesting climbing all the way. Mark followed this with a VS, again excellent and quite technical. Mark soloed a couple of other routes and I rounded things off with a disappointing VD. By then the attraction of the wall had worn off and we wanted bigger things but unfortunately time and tide stop for no man and so it was we departed to the prospect of a long drive back to Bristol and London respectively.
We only scratched the outer skin of the surface of Range West, yet we came away enthused, keen to get back for more. Although we were climbing existing routes listed in the guidebook, the lack of chalk, polish, other climbers and easily identifiable features made the weekend feel exploratory. Of course with familiarity this will lessen but to any climbers who want to feel a sense of adventure, enjoy the solitude and value this above pushing the grade or counting the numbers, get down to the next briefing and go west, Range West.
Will Hunt writes about discovering new problems in Colsterdale, which he has documented on his website Unknown Stones - a free... Read more