The esoteric, scary and adventurous walls of Gogarth South Stack have recently received attention in the form of new routes and hard repeats from a group of UK trad climbers including James McHaffie, Dan McManus, Oli Grounsell, Pete Robins, Ben Bransby, Charlie Woodburn and Calum Muskett. New-routing legend George Smith has been behind tip-offs for unclaimed lines and seems to have sparked a wave of new routing at Gogarth over the last few months.
Porth Dafarch South - Stone Masonry, E7 6c:
James McHaffie has been on a new-routing frenzy this year, finding quality hard new routes, often in well-travelled locations. In terms of Gogarth routes, early this Spring James caught wind of a line at Porth Dafarch South that Alex Mason had previously tried. He went to inspect it with Oli Grounsell in May this year and promptly put up the modern classic Stone Masonry E7 6c. The route tackles the until then unexplored cave, questing up the line of weakness through the centre to the right of The Blue Horse.
Dan McManus commented:
James did it in one session I think, which is a good effort as it’s quite beefy. He then proceeded to under-grade it in my opinion. I tried it once on a damp day with Ben Bransby and Charlie Woodburn, but it was dank and hard and none of us did it. I went back the other day though with Pete Robbins and finished it off, as did Pete. It turned out to be one of the best pitches of its type at Gogarth, the well protected upside-down type. It feels like it’s getting on for F8a and requires a lot of kit; it's definitely E8 if you were to place the kit on lead. We didn’t, mainly because you’d have to go to the trouble of taking all the kit out after drying the holds and trying the moves, and then again if you fell off! I don’t think it’s had any other repeats yet, although Calum Muskett, Charlie Woodburn and Ben Bransby have tried it and plan to get back on it soon.'
Jordan Buys has since then repeated Stone Masonry too.
The Range North - Divided Britain, E7 6c:
Next, a tip-off from George Smith that involved 'a huge roof and the grade of F8b' lured James back down to the sea cliff caves of Gogarth again, this time with Dan McManus. They headed to The Range North, and there, in One Stack Zawn, the knee-bar-rich climb Divided Britain, E7 6c, was born. Recent UKC report here
Dan expressed his delight at the prospect of the route:
'When we got there I wasn’t too psyched as it looked impossible...as 10m roofs do. Caff had the belief though, and went and dogged along it and seemed to be having a great time. So I also had a look and, surprisingly, it was covered in jugs, gear and knee bars! It took some drying, but after a go each, swinging around, we both led it on our first attempts. It would definitely feel E7 if approached on-sight though. Another phenomenal route with tons of gear and amazing upside-down climbing with loads of hands-off rests hanging off your feet and knee bars.'
George Smith also commented on the route that he'd first discovered:
'Divided Britain is not really like any other Gogarth upside-down climbs. Having aided it I can tell you it is a lot harder and is also furnished with really solid and interesting rock formations.'
Porth Dafarch North - Combined Energy, E8 6a:
However, Gogarth had not seen the last of these two and before the month was out, James and Dan were back hunting out new route potential. This led them back to Porth Dafarch, North this time and the distinctive Fishura Cave Zawn. The zawn is so named after George Smith's 2012 route Fishura E6 6a, which boldly breaches the cave, encompassing an 'arm bar crack' and a roof that leaves the climber 'turning the lip like a steam train puffing at full pelt.' The only other route in the cave was another George Smith line, The Allure, E5/6 6a, put up in the same year and bearing the characteristic George Smith mark of 'requiring a great deal of body contortion and effort.' After having repeated Fishura, on their last visit the day after Divided Britain, James and Dan saw the potential for another exciting line to go arcing up the left-hand side of the cave, opposite Fishura.
Last Friday night, after work, James and Dan completed what James described as 'a stunning new route.' They have named it Combined Energy, as 'It took both our efforts to get up it' James explained. 'We didn't know if the upper groove would be feasible or desirable as the rock looks weird, but it ended up being a brilliant finish.'
James explained the process:
'We tried it on Wednesday night after work and got two-thirds of the way across it when it got too late. We both did it first go Friday and it feels about E8 6b I think. A super sustained route, lip-traversing the arch before tackling a really overhanging groove. It takes the other side of the arch than Fishura, into the overhanging quartzy groove.'
Dan on our friday night post work new route on gogarth south. pic.twitter.com/qtpbzyLJj4— james mchaffie (@McHaffieJames) July 22, 2016
Dan, having been 'once again dragged to Gogarth new-routing with Caff…' and survived, told us his thoughts:
'So this time it was to try a new line he’d spied a couple of days earlier when climbing Fishura (which probably hasn’t seen many ascents). This line also looked outrageous. As usual we took it in turns going up placing gear, drying holds and coming down when we’d had enough. We got close but didn’t make it to the top that evening, I was almost there when a cam ripped and after that I’d had enough!
'We got back there a couple of days later and having left the kit in part of the route got straight to trying to climb it in one. Caff, it being his find, went up first and managed to finish it off, but it did look like he got a bit pumped this time! I also got it first go, but only by the skin of my teeth and I was so pumped I felt ill and could barely speak. This was the hardest route yet, and although we got a lot of kit none of it was that good.
'It's a three star route again, taking a wild overhanging line along the lip of a sea cave. E8 for how sustained the climbing is and with the gear being less than 100%. Hopefully this and Divided Britain will see some repeats soon, they’re both awesome routes.
Good effort to McHaffie for first finding these brilliant lines and second for having the optimism that they’re worth trying!'
The route itself sounds like an incredible find, 'taking super improbable ground' and the final groove that James described as 'mind blowing.'
'It felt the best and most adventurous of the Gogarth new ones I've done this year.' James continued before adding a warning: 'It should be tackled carefully, as some of the best looking cams on the route aren't as great as they appear, one came out on me with the rock delaminating.'
Porth Dafarch South - Dame, E2 5b:
Alongside these elite test pieces, James has also recently put up a new E2 just left of Stone Masonry, with Dan, one of his guiding clients. James commented: 'It's pretty good if a little loose, but that will clean up. It was named Dame after his family, Dan, Amanda, Matthew and Emma.'
This new route just goes to show how much good potential there is in the area throughout the grades.
What's next at Gogarth?
'Caff has been the driving force behind this recent spate of new routes, and unless he has a few more tipoffs, I can't see anyone else going hunting around just now. I don't currently have any ideas for new routes in the area, and to go exploring would take a lot of time and effort. I know he has a few very big projects on the go, one of which is at Gogarth, so I think he'll be focussing on them for the foreseeable future
However, there will a quite a few more good hard routes to do. It's a large area of complex coastline with caves hidden all over the place. So there's bound to be some gems to be found if you're keen enough to go searching.'
Dan also expects the recent handful of new routes to get some repeats though, a few people have already been getting on Stone Masonry.
George Smith's thoughts on the recent activities at Gogarth:
'I'm glad the new guide seems to have sparked off lots of attention to zawns that have been overlooked. I'd done most of the stuff I could cope with so I gave Caff and the guys some 'secret spots.''
'I have been amazed how quickly they have dispatched some of these things. They are hard and inconvenient and tidal and wet, sometimes even on a still summer day.'