'Wonderland' Traverse Completed: 67 Pitches in Total!
David Coley has completed his long-awaited mission to traverse the Boulder Ruckle in Dorset. The 1278m-long route - named Wonderland - involves a horizontal traverse consisting of 67 pitches, which David has graded E1 and given 3-stars. The climb is without doubt the UK's longest - albeit horizontal - multipitch trad route.
Climbing with a series of partners along the way, David began working his way along the cliff section by section in February of this year and completed the final part on 21st August. David explained the objective:
"The idea was a simple one. The cliffs in Southern England are short, very short, so let’s climb sideways. Swanage already had a long traverse and it wasn’t clear if it had been repeated, so we went to have a look. We quickly found that, although it takes the most obvious line, it follows a mid-height band of the worst rock on the cliff, the worst that is apart from the blocks and mud near the top. We decided that it would be safer to do a new route on the solid rock either side of the band. We guessed we were looking at 50 or so pitches."
The existing traverse mentioned by David was the Girdle Traverse (1070m, given E1 but rumoured to be XS) first climbed by Crewe and Winkworth in 1969. This follows the fault-line with only the odd deviation when the climbing becomes too difficult. As far as David and friends can ascertain, this has only been repeated once, by Hounsome and Gumn in 1978. Crewe and Winkworth climbed West to East, Hounsome and Gumn East to West. Unfortunately several parts of the route have since fallen into the sea.
The 67 pitches were split into twelve sections. Each section starts up a well known and easy to find route, and finishes up a reasonably well-travelled top out, hence each can be viewed as an independent route and climbed in this way. Since the sections begin well above the the boulders, there are now 12 new routes to complete when the boulders are wave-covered.
Due to the poor quality of rock and logistical impossibility of viewing the cliff from the ground, route-finding proved a difficult and dangerous task. Rather than completing numerous and time-consuming abseils to inspect the best route, David and his companions used the age-old tradition of "following their nose" to seek out the best route along the cliff. David described an instance of dealing with the choss as follows:
"I extract a series of pancakes of rock from the bowels of a horizontal crack, remove some mud and dust and place three cams for a belay. Pete comes across. He looks worried. I continue cleaning and climbing sideways, only to be stopped by a block bigger than me that forms an arête. I kick it. It doesn’t sound solid, but it doesn’t move. The question is not so much how good is it, but what is it holding up? Just itself? Or a hundred tonnes of cliff? If I don’t clean it I will have to swing around the arête with all my weight on it. Ego says get on with it. Common sense says the tea shop is closing in an hour, so please give up."
Whilst anticipating the finish-line, David described the unique nature of the route:
"When finished, Wonderland will be a very British big wall: above the sea, never more than 2 miles from a tea shop, within walking distance of one of the world’s best pubs, no need to haul, no need for a portaledge (there are several good bivvy sites on the route – but if you end up spending the night make sure someone tells the coast guard). Don’t forget to bring your swimming trunks."
According to David, one of the ideas behind doing the route was to give as many people as possible as much fun as possible. Despite being the only person to climb the route in its entirety, he was helped along by a mixture of individuals who contributed the the challenge:
"Some were on a sea cliff for the first time and climbing very close to their limit. The youngest was 12, the oldest nearly 70. The route is a testament to their strength of character."
The pitches are graded as follows:
5a, 5a, 4c, 4c, 5a, 5a, 5a, 4a, 5a, 5a, 4c, 4a, 4a, 4a, 4b, 4b, 4c, 4b,
4b, 4c, 4c, 4b, 4b, 4b, 4b, 5a, 5a, 5a, 5a, 4c, 5a, 4a, 4c, 5a, 4b, 5a,
5a, 4c, 5a, 5a, 4c, 4b, 5a, 5b, 4b, 4a, 4c, 5b, 5b, 4c, 5a, 5b, 5b, 5b,
3a, 5c, 5a, 4a, 5b, 5a, 5a, 5b, 4a, 4a, 4b, 5a, 4a.
Who's up for the first one-day ascent of Wonderland?
For more information on Wonderland, a mini-guide will shortly be available on David's website www.multipitchclimbing.com.
For more information on David's time on the route, read his trio of articles on Cold Mountain Kit's website here.