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First time DWS, advice!

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Hi, me and a few friends are planning on doing our first DWS in Portland later this month, from what I've read these seem like reasonable steps to ensure we're safe:

  • Pick a more 'beginner-friendly' crag
  • Climb at high tide (I'm not sure if this is always the case)
  • Climb in good weather
  • Pick easy/safe routes to start
  • Have a swim and scout out the landing and escape plan
  • When climbing sure someone is always in eyesight of the climber

If I'm missing any safety tips or if there's quality of life advice let me know!

2
 Mick Ward 08 Jun 2022
In reply to oceanwaves742:

> Climb at high tide (I'm not sure if this is always the case)

On Portland it's very important to keep an eye on the tide. Routes can change from S0/S1 to S2/3 much faster than you'd like. (Don't ask me how I know this!)

Although there is DWS on Pulpit Rock (and the local kids go tombstoning off it), there's also a very impressive tidal race. Best avoided. 

I'd take all the usual sport climbing gear so you have more options and don't feel pressurised into DWS if conditions aren't right. But hopefully they will be. 

Hope you have a good visit. 

Mick 

 Offwidth 08 Jun 2022
In reply to oceanwaves742:

A practical rescue set up for climbers who get winded on entry?

 Sir Chasm 08 Jun 2022
In reply to oceanwaves742:

Make sure everyone can swim.

 Ciro 08 Jun 2022
In reply to Offwidth:

> A practical rescue set up for climbers who get winded on entry?

And be ready to react when something looks off.

I once got winded and knocked unconscious underwater after landing on my back at Cala Barques. 

There were loads of experienced DWSers around that I had been climbing with for a while, but nobody dived in when I didn't resurface.

I came round several meters below the surface, swam up, got my breath back and exited to comments of "you were down there a long time!". 

It's easy to get complacent when you've seen lots of similar falls with no repercussions.

In reply to oceanwaves742:

Wear a wetsuit. Stops you getting grazed to pieces when the swell drags you up and down when you're trying to exit. Avoid swelly days for that reason (magicseaweed forecasts will help here).

3
In reply to oceanwaves742:

Take a rope, draws and harness as its cold and scary so you'll want a plan B!

 Paddy_nolan 08 Jun 2022
In reply to oceanwaves742:

I did a few routes in N Wales where I bought a small ‘mega dry’ dry bag and shoved my harness, 30m, handful of nuts a few draws in whilst me and my mate gained confidence that was quite nice. To be honest was probably a bit of a placebo but also we didn’t try anything too hard but having kit made us both feel a bit less likely for mega shit fest

cheers

paddy 

 remus Global Crag Moderator 08 Jun 2022
In reply to oceanwaves742:

> Have a swim and scout out the landing and escape plan

Maybe obvious, but make sure you work out how to get out before you get in. It's usually just a case of spotting the easiest looking spot to scramble out beforehand but occasionally exits can be a bit more involved.

The only other big thing I'd say is to have a backup plan in case the conditions aren't great. It's still pretty early season for DWS (august/september are usually better). It can be good at other times but you'll want a nice warm day so you dont get too cold if you fall in and are drying off.

Have fun, DWS is the best.

 AJM 08 Jun 2022
In reply to oceanwaves742:

There's a link in my profile to my blog where I wrote a bunch of Portland dws beta if it is helpful. 

For Portland you almost always want to climb on a high tide. There is certainly very little you would want to get on at a low tide, particularly a spring low. If you get the tides right though there's a reasonable selection of easier routes at a fairly low height, more so than some of the other Dorset venues

 Paul Baxter 08 Jun 2022
In reply to oceanwaves742:

May not apply, but...

Think about glasses / contact lens usage and plan beforehand.

My one recent DWS attempt floundered because I assumed that, as I could confidently swim without glasses, DWS without would be fine. Turns out my climbing confidence is tightly linked to high-quality vision of holds, practice climbing without beforehand would either have helped, or stopped me wasting time trying...

 Martin Bagshaw 08 Jun 2022
In reply to oceanwaves742:

  • The red crane traverse or temporary lifestyle area would be a good place to start, along with low level traverses with plenty of water underneath them
  • long shorts and t shirts can be adviseable to not graze yourself on the rock which can be quite sharp on Portland
  • keep a keen eye on the tides. If you feel yourself touch the bottom when you fall in, it is probably time to call it a day or go sport climbing
  • if the swell picks up after you fall in, it may be best not to try and get back to the shore immediately- you can waste a lot of energy trying to swim through aerated water, then get bashed against the rocks and generally have a bad time. Basically it’s best saved for warm, sunny, calm days with less stuff to intimidate you and better conditions for drying off
  • check out the exit from the water beforehand, and look out for swimmers / kayakers etc. Places like Stair Hole, it is advisable to have spotters for this.
 TheGeneralist 08 Jun 2022
In reply to oceanwaves742:

I found a buoyancy aid was great. Really gives you a higher safety margin.

I recall a very nervous Niall Grimes being very grateful to borrow it at Barques a few years ago. I think he was a very unconfident swimmer.

The other guy who was grateful to have it lobbed at him was floating in a very big swell at portland and getting more and more exhausted by the minute. Every time he got near the get out he'd sink in a wave trough, see the next peak towering above him and shit himself and have to swim out to deep water. He'd then tread water for a bit and then try again with the same result.

His arsehole mates were completely oblivious and did nothing at all to rescue him.

In the end I harnessed up and went down the ab rope to the shelf. Made damn sure there was a huge knot in the rope at exactly the right point.

The guy swam towards me and we linked hands as the next wave lifted him up. We clasped together as the wave hit us and he was then left clinging onto me in mid air as the wave receeded.

Fun times.

Made me realise what an utter fool I had been soloing alone an hour or two before that.

( actually, scratch that. This bloke wasn't alone and ended up in a very bad situation)

So, the answer to your OP is good solid mates.

In reply to TheGeneralist:

Swell is always bigger than it looks once you are in the water!

Throwlines are cheap and work very well (with a bit of practice).

In reply to oceanwaves742:

DWS is scary. 

DWS grades for mortals.

S0, OMG this is terrifying.

S1, there is no way I'm going to try this move, that high up.

S2 unthinkable risk

S3 From that height, I'd prefer a solid landing. At least then I know I'd die instantly rather than slowly drown with a broken back. 

 petegunn 09 Jun 2022
In reply to oceanwaves742:

+1 for the Red Crane area and Temporarily Lifestyle route for your first adventure into DWS, easy get in / out, easy climbs and not too high, plus a good traverse.

In reply to Alex Riley:

> Swell is always bigger than it looks once you are in the water!

and exits are always harder too.

 jkarran 09 Jun 2022
In reply to oceanwaves742:

No idea about Portland specifically.

It doesn't take much swell at all to make exiting over rocks and shallow ledges really quite damaging, weathered limestone and barnacles will take chunks out of you and barnacle grazes always seem to get infected.

Goggles or a mask will take a lot of guesswork out of the how deep is that weird colour change and is it a pointy rock game.

jk

In reply to Dan Arkle:

> DWS is scary. 

> DWS grades for mortals.

> S0, OMG this is terrifying.

> S1, there is no way I'm going to try this move, that high up.

> S2 unthinkable risk

> S3 From that height, I'd prefer a solid landing. At least then I know I'd die instantly rather than slowly drown with a broken back. 


You'll like this. FF to near the end if you like. The zawn dries out at low tide.  youtube.com/watch?v=g9Tz8fNKtFI&

In reply to oceanwaves742:

A cheap rubber dingy is great for chilling/watching other people climbing and means you've always got someone in the water near the landing spot in case anything goes awry. Also often the only way to get good photos.

Sandwich bags, loose chalk and clothes pegs so you can keep refilling your wet chalk bag

A shortie wetsuit is worth it IMO

Counterintuitively, it can be best to start with something hard/steep. The key to enjoying DWS is getting over the fear of (unplanned) falls, so pick something that will spit you off repeatedly at a low height, before you try anything on which you're likely to get to/near the top. 

 AJM 09 Jun 2022
In reply to Conor1:

> Counterintuitively, it can be best to start with something hard/steep. The key to enjoying DWS is getting over the fear of (unplanned) falls, so pick something that will spit you off repeatedly at a low height, before you try anything on which you're likely to get to/near the top

Good suggestion. The first time I really did DWS I was totally gripped because as far as my instinctive brain was concerned it was blue concrete miles away down there and no amount of rational brain insistence that it was water helped. Sometimes the easiest way round this is just to engineer a way in which you end up in the sea!

In reply to oceanwaves742:

I've found found a lot of places a short swim in is less faff than the scramble or abseil approaches, that's my experience using the rockfax guide in Portland at least. Bring a robust dry bag and swim over with your chalk and shoes in that. 

The other thing to be aware of is not all high tides are equal. The phase of the moon determines the hight. It's worth the minimal price to get an app that has detailed tide times. I used this one https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=easton.tides

Ps think we might know each other irl. Does the phrase "it's 2014" mean anything to you?

 Wee Davie 09 Jun 2022
In reply to oceanwaves742:

Check the depth of the water prior to getting commited.

Take multiple chalk bags.

Liquid chalk is very handy.

Synthetic drying cloths/ chamois that you can wring out are better than cotton towels which stay soaked once wet. 

Having mates with you is a good idea as they can help if you get into bother after a fall. 

Enjoy!

In reply to jonzza:

realised I made a typo in here. First sentence should end "...that's my experience using the rockfax guide in Lulworth and Swanage at least." Only done an afternoon's dws in Portland.

 profitofdoom 10 Jun 2022
In reply to oceanwaves742:

Watch the sea, watch the tides

Watch the sea, watch the tides

Watch the sea, watch the tides

No beginners

Do you have seacliff experience, or not? If not, watch out, be cautious, it's a whole different game

And oh yes have fun

In reply to jonzza:

Unfortunately yes, that phrase is familiar to me.


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