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:
If I'm missing any safety tips or if there's quality of life advice let me know!
> 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.
> 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.
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).
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
> 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.
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
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
> 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&
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.
> 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!
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?
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.
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.
Watch the sea, watch the tides
Watch the sea, watch the tides
Watch the sea, watch the tides
Do you have seacliff experience, or not? If not, watch out, be cautious, it's a whole different game
And oh yes have fun
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