Pembroke Rock Review

© Climbers' Club

Pembroke at its not quite finest: Rob Greenwood making the most of things during last years somewhat wet/windy Easter  © Nathan Lee
Pembroke at its not quite finest: Rob Greenwood making the most of things during last years somewhat wet/windy Easter
© Nathan Lee

Pembroke Rock  © Wired Guides/The Climbers' Club
It’s always nice when a new guidebook comes out to an area you love, and there are few areas I love quite as much as Pembroke. Its arrival is quite timely too, with Easter just around the corner and winter - we hope - soon to end*

*at least that’s for trad climbers, winter climbers may feel differently…

After the success of the Lake District Rock guidebook at BANFF, the next guidebook in the ‘Wired Guides’ series was always going to have a lot to live up to. Fortunately, Pembroke Rock - at least in my humble opinion - far exceeds Lake District Rock in terms of action shots, aesthetics, topos, diagrams and all the other things that you want out of a guide (although this is the confession of a sea cliff fanatic, so it's hardly unsurprising I should favour the guide in question).

Pembroke Rock really does the whole coastline justice, which isn’t surprising given that the authors - Emma Alsford and Paul Donnithorne - have probably done more routes in the area than anyone else, including putting up new routes, developing new areas, and climbing the existing classics many, many times over. In fact I can think of very few occasions that I personally have visited the area without seeing them at the crag or in the St. Govan’s Inn! Emma’s work in particular deserves merit, as she alone did the layout/typesetting for the guide. It's an enormous task and the end result is exceptional.

In terms of size and format the guide is printed in the moderately controversial (and much discussed) A5 format. Personally I like this size. Whilst it’s big (and admittedly heavy to carry) I think that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. The extra size gives that bit more space for not only the superb topos and action shots, but also other extras such as the additional maps, images of descent and tidbits of information (quotes, pictures of razorbills, and bombs in the case of Range West) that make it that bit easier and more enjoyable to use. Furthermore I am not sure that the issue of weight is quite the same in Pembroke as it is in the Lakes: walk-ins tend to be shorter here after all, and you can always leave the guide on the end of an ab-rope if carrying it really is an issue. For those who have a problem, take a picture on your phone, scrawl the description onto a piece of biodegradable parchment, or buy one of the CC’s definitive guidebooks (which are in a reassuringly traditional pocket-sized format).

Lydstep Area  © Wired Guides/The Climbers' Club
The Lydstep section:a great example of clear layout and excellent design

The quality of the action shots in the guide really is something, with some absolute quit your job and drive to Pembroke material from Emma Alsford, Don Sergeant, Dan Lane and Mark Davies. Pembroke Rock also has the healthiest ratio of male to female climbers that I have ever seen, which is quite refreshing. Furthermore, there also seems to be an even spread of action shots across the grades, with equally inspiring imagery throughout the grades - not just the hard ones! One example of this is Mark Davies’s shot of Don Sargeant on The Crack, a VDiff at Porth y Fynnon. Irrespective of what grade you climb, you just want to go there and do it: stunning setting, stunning rock, stunning route… At the other end of the scale, the inclusion of some of the deep water soloing areas has added another twist to the guide and, once again, some stunning images that draw you ever closer to Davey Jones' Locker…

Craig Coetan   © Wired Guides/The Climbers' Club
Craig Coetan, one of many esoteric venues featured throughout the guide

Talking of easier routes, Pembroke has never been historically renowned as the best venue for the lower grades, but I feel this guide makes the most (and more) of what it has got - and not just within the classic areas such as North Pembroke (Porthclais, Porth y Fynnon) and Range East (Flimston Slab, Crystal Slabs, Saddle Head etc). This guide also opens up the wonderful world of Range West, which despite its somewhat wild reputation has some of the best lower grade climbing in the area. Also, Craig Coetan - I mean where the hell is it and why haven’t I climbed there?!? 

Crystal Slabs  © Wired Guides/The Climbers' Club
Crystal Slabs, one of the many mid-grade venues that shine within the guide

In fact, one of the greatest things about the guide is the overall impression it leaves of Pembroke as a whole, from North to South, East to West. Despite being a selective guide, it actively highlights what else there is available in each area, doing so by including each cliff within the area maps, even if only one in that area is included. Part of the reason for this is to promote the fantastic selection of comprehensive guidebooks that are available for the Pembroke area. To put it into perspective, despite Pembroke Rock containing 1000 routes there are over 6500 routes within the five guidebooks in the definitive series.

Finally, it’s great to see some French grades attached to the harder routes (E6+) within the area. I personally think that this is a step forwards and hope to see it becoming something of a trend in future guides, as it helps to give a better insight into what you’re about to get involved with when the going gets hard. Purists may not like it, but I need everything I can get…

For more info, as well as some great tick-lists, check out the Pembroke Rock - OUT NOW product news.


A great guidebook to the whole of Pembroke - North to South, East to West - with a fantastic array of routes throughout all the grades. It has obviously been a labour of love for the authors and that comes across within the text. The imagery throughout is fantastic and inspiring, with a selection of action shots that leave you begging for a bank holiday. The inclusion of some of the more esoteric venues in Pembroke North and Range West also act to highlight some of the other areas that are off people’s radar, but shouldn’t necessarily be. 


The Helyg Hut in the Ogwen Valley  © The Climbers' Club
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9 Mar, 2016
A wonderful guide with such great pictures. I'm almost sad to be away this Easter and miss the 'Pembroke squeeze' in the St. Govans Inn
9 Mar, 2016
Well done Emma and Paul. Remember Pat's forecast of 'a 1000 brilliant routes'? Four years later I wound up the intro with 'The boom will continue, 2000 brilliant routes seems a reasonable prediction... ' And now we have a SELECTED guide with 1000 (brilliant) routes! Let's hope it sells out soon and you become millionaires, you deserve it!
9 Mar, 2016
I must say that the split between women and men in the action shots was something that stood out to me as well. Lots and lots and lots of photos of ladies climbing hard routes.
9 Mar, 2016
A fantastic guide full of inspiring routes and images so maa-hoosive props to Emma and Paul! :-)
10 Mar, 2016
matriarchal Bristol
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