/ DESTINATION GUIDE: Beginners' Pembroke
Good article that should be useful given the number of threads asking about first trips to pembrokeshire.
I wouldn't recommend the "scramble" descent at st govan's on a first visit though, dirty, polished and easy to slip off especially in descent. I have "scrambled" up it many times but it would be easy to slip off it even in ascent. There are very easy to rig abseil approaches, usually with ropes already set up.
Nice article Alan but a couple of corrections on the annual restrictions - On Mowingword the routes Diedre Sud to New Morning are subject to seasonal restrictions, March 1st to July 31st. Do not abseil down Diedre Sud during this time. Heart of Darkness can be climbed but to finish you have to climb up routes left of Diedre Sud.
The most up to date access restrictions are posted on the climbers notice boards located adjacent to the main car parks at Stack Rocks, St Govans and Broadhaven South, next to where the paths leave them. There is a also a free leaflet, produced by the National Park, the BMC and the MoD available in the dispensers at the car parks with the latest access and restrictions information for 2018.
And on the safety side of things - in the event of an accident remember to dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard. There have been delays in rescues in the past due to climbers mistakenly calling for an ambulance rather than the coastguard!
As always the definitive source of access info is the BMC RAD, https://www.thebmc.co.uk/modules/RAD/
BMC Access & Conservation Officer (Wales)
It's easier to scramble into Red Wall & Porth y Ffynnon than ab and Caerfai too, tide allowing.
The abs are all over routes which can be busy and at Caerfai as the picture shows there's a lot of loose rock at the top
The step across to Red Wall makes the routes more interesting too.
Thanks Elfyn, I have updated the article. There is a problem at the moment auto-updating the BMC RAD to UKC Logbook feed which should be automatic but doesn't appear to be functioning. I have let Paul know so this should get fixed.
I also noticed that the web site http://www.stgovansinn.co.uk is dead. I hope that isn't a sign of problems at the pub?
How is public transportation for climbing in Pembroke?
> How is public transportation for climbing in Pembroke?
Pub was open for business as usual when we called in for our tea after the first Range West brief last month. Their FB page seems to be active as well so there doesn't seem to be anything to be concerned about. (Phew!)
Always worth a reminder to wash cams as soin as possible after use on seacliffs, to remove salt.
That's a polite way to put it!
> Always worth a reminder to wash cams as soin as possible after use on seacliffs, to remove salt.
I'm not convinced that is crucial.
I speak as someone who lives in pembrokeshire, climbs outdoors 30 or 40 times a year, and is a lazy bastard who hasn't washed his set if dragon cams once in the 5 (?) Years he has had them.They still all work fine.
I think I did put a drop of oil on them once, and i am not in the habit of chucking them directly in the sea.
> How is public transportation for climbing in Pembroke?
They is a bus twice (?) A day to st govan's during the summer holidays. And more regular buses st David's, lydstep and penally. From any of these stops you have 100's of climbs within a 30 minute walk.
It would take quite a time to move between areas, but quite doable to get the bus to one of them for a day out or to camp in that area for a few days.
Thanks for the informative article - and I've definitely seen friends' eyes light up at the mention of Pembroke, so that really rang true.
Out of interest, what's the thinking behind the recommendation to take "fewer camming devices which are not so good on the limestone cracks." I would have thought there were plenty of times when they might be very handy, e.g. traversing a long horizontal crack, as on Heart of Darkness, and am not really sure why they're described as "not so good" in general. I've not yet been acquainted with Pembroke, but I've climbed limestone cracks elsewhere almost exclusively protected by camming devices...!
Rocks are more useful. I know people who have ripped cams in Pembroke limestone. Cams are useful, but I find I place rocks more often, and hence it's worth having more with you than at destinations where cams are more secure, e.g. granite, grit.
The cracks on Pembroke Limestone generally tend to be non-continuous and non-uniform in nature and even though you might get a cam to fit, it's usually much easier to get a bomber nut that sinks into a smallish crack with constrictions, etc.
As for 'Heart of Darkness', it certainly isn't a nice clean continuous crack and is more a series of small/medium cracks formed by the joins in the bedding planes. Can't remember the specific gear needed, but it will certainly be nut biased as that is the type of rack that I use when climbing in Pembroke.
You have been lucky so far and some cams suffer more than others.
> You have been lucky so far and some cams suffer more than others.
I don't think I know anyone that follows that advice on what to do with gear during and following a climbing trip to the seaside.
Most do what I do: Chuck it in the sack for the next day and dry it out if needs be when you get home. If things stick, spray them with WD40 until they don't.
The exception is if stuff gets dunked/dropped in the sea and then you might well swill them under a tap or wash them in the bath.
Heart of darkness crack narrows down in quite a few places and can be well protected with medium - large hex's and nuts, This is true of most pembrokeshire cracks up to e2, where I feel the hex's and nuts are just as secure and sometimes more secure than cams.
My mate, who climbs considerably harder swears by cams particularly on the harder pembrokeshire routes.
Yes, just switched to rockcentrics last year they do work well and the extendable sling is very useful for saving on quickdraws.
That does refer to equipment "contaminated" with seawater. I guess if you drop your rack in a sea water puddle, washing it would be a good idea. In my experience just having your rack on your harness, even if occasionaly exposed to a bit of sea mist or spray from a breaking wave hasn't lead to any noticeable effect to my dragon cams.
I'm sure washing them occassionall could be a good precautionry measure but after every trip to pembrokeshire seems over the top.
Nice article, and as somebody who has been suitably drenched in the same situation I particularly enjoyed seeing the Blue Sky photo.
I also thought it was wise to focus on North Pembroke first as this has much more to offer the lower-grade climber than the rest.
However I think it is rather remiss to not point out that most first time, sub-HVS, visitors to South Wales may well get much more out of a trip to Gower than Pembroke... apart from being a good hour's less drive for most people, both Fall Bay and Three Cliffs run rings around Saddle Head both in terms of ambience, approachability and route quality.
Good article. A few points to add.
Check your stakes, they're not marked with a use by date - see the article "How do you like your steak" on the Avon Mountaineering Club Website - https://www.avon-mc.org.uk/2016/08/stake/
Keep everything heavy on a bandolier so you can drop it quickly if you have an unexpected swim (I have known it happen to somebody). Tough luck on the gear but the alternative is drowning.
Put in a back rope if the top section's run out. Section from the above article by a professional "Top down sea cliff stuff adds a whole set of interesting hurdles just to get to the sea. Coming back the other way and crossing 20ft or more of loose blocks bedded in dust, bound together with brambles is another area for interesting interpretation of the “climbing rule book”. I usually bring 20ft or more of back rope, anchor it to the top and chuck it over the edge with a crab on the end. At the top of a lonely run out it’s like somebody welcoming you with the kettle on. Somebody once said “isn’t that cheating?” You choose."
Are there any publicly available updates to go with the 2009 print guide? I'm pretty sure I stumbled upon them somewhere online before. It may be useful to link the updates to the article for those who are using the book, and less inclined to purchase the app.
One of my scariest times on rock was during my first visit to Pembroke as a new E1 leader, and warming up on what the 2009 Rockfax guide told me was an HVS, 'Rock a Block.' When I checked it out later, it was listed as an E3 on UKC, and since has settled at E2.
In the context of a beginner focused article, and the possibility that people may not check their routes on the internet / in an app before doing them, it may be useful to know that there have been some corrections to the paper guide.
Yes, the definitive Climbers Club guides published in 2011
Or even better still the 2015 Wired Pembroke Select with about a 1000 of the very best lines
Tony & Sarah
And also the 2016 Wired guide which contains some revisions to the definitive guides: for example, at the easier end of the spectrum, Giltar Ramp is now a VS 4c, previously VDiff in volume 5 of the definitive guide.
Very long slings are useful to equalise an ab point
Often useful to leave a rucksack with a duvet jacket near your expected top out to belay in the bitter northerly wind when you emerge from the sun kissed south facing wall
I haven't had problems with cams, but when I was doing a lot of sea cliff climbing I did have an alarming experience with my harness. On the way to Swanage for a route with a hanging stance it occurred to me to check my harness more carefully than usually. When I undid the buckles on the leg loops I found that the aluminium alloy was corroded right through where it was hidden by the webbing, presumably as a result of being in long contact with damp salty nylon. After a distress purchase of a new harness en route, I became much more careful about rinsing and checking my gear.
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