Hard Pembroke Trad by Barbara Zangerl & Co.

© Jacopo Larcher

A strong group of international climbers recently descended on Pembroke's sea cliffs, returning home with an impressive ticklist of its hardest trad lines. Austrian all-rounder Barbara 'Babsi' Zangerl and her Italian partner Jacopo Larcher joined German friends Lara Neumeier and Roland Hemetzberger to climb some of the hard classics, of which Babsi headpointed Chupacabra (E8 6c) E8 6c, Do You Know Where Your Children Are? (E8 6c) E8 6c, 'Muy Caliente!' (E10 6c) E9 6c and The Big Issue (E9 6c) E9 6c, in addition to flashing Point Blank (E8 6c) E8 6c. Babsi and Jacopo's ticklist stands out as one of the most impressive and quick-fire sequences of trad ascents in the UK, especially given their status as visiting climbers.

Babsi Zangerl on The Big Issue E9  © Jacopo Larcher
Babsi Zangerl on The Big Issue E9
© Jacopo Larcher

Returning to the UK following their trip to Scotland last year, where Babsi ticked Achemine (E9 6c) E9 6c and Requiem (E8 6c) E8 6b and Jacopo repeated Rhapsody (E11 7a) E11 at Dumbarton Rock (UKC News Report) - as well as making a team ascent of the iconic Dalriada (E7 6b) E7 6b on the Cobbler - the pair decided to see what Wales had to offer. Babsi told UKC:

'We started the trip with no expectations. We all went there with mixed feelings: a bit scared about all the hard trad routes, with what we knew from photos and reports. So we played with the idea of climbing a lot of 'easier' routes to get a feel for whether the harder projects would be worth trying or not. This was especially important for Lara - it was her first ever trad climbing trip that wasn't exclusively on cracks, but face climbs! Roland had done some trad climbs before but also had little experience in that style of climbing.'

Lara Neumaier on Chupacabra E8 6c  © Jacopo Larcher
Lara Neumaier on Chupacabra E8 6c
© Jacopo Larcher

Upon their arrival in Pembroke, the team had to learn the eccentricities of climbing in the area:

'We realised that it would be quite complicated with all the different things we'd have to deal with: the military firing closing times, the tides and the weather in combination…and working out how to make enough time for climbing. That was quite a battle!'

A short trip to North Wales was also on the cards, to see more of what the country has to offer. The team stayed a few days near Tremadog, but didn't get the chance to climb longer than 30 minutes, 'because of all the rain.' Babsi explained:

'Everything was soaking wet there. One time we went to Tremadog and climbed some easy wet routes like The Void or Zukator…but soon after our day got spoiled by the rain and we bailed again.'

Jacopo on Chupacabra E8
© Paolo Sartori

When they arrived back in Pembroke, Roland jumped straight on The Big Issue and Lara on Chupacabra. Babsi was motivated to try Muy Caliente and Jacopo 'wanted to get on everything.'

Describing the climbs, Babsi told us that Tim Emmett's Muy Caliente E9 at Stennis Ford was the scariest of the lot - unsurprisingly given its former grade of E10 - with its long runout:

'There was a tricky boulder sequence - I couldn't reach the long move (where the long runout starts). I had to take the intermediate hold - a really small side crimp - so for me the crux was much lower than the original crux. Jacopo also sent the route straight after two quick toprope sessions.'

Babsi Zangerl on Muy Caliente E9
© Paolo Sartori

After Roland ticked John Dunne's The Big Issue E9 6c, Babsi was keen to give it a go. Unlike the majority of previous ascents, Babsi opted not to use pre-placed gear. She commented:

'The Big Issue was the most spectacular line in an awesome setting, because it was steep athletic climbing (a different style compared to most of the other lines) and I think the best looking route there, although I would give all the other routes we climbed 5 stars as well!'

Roland Hemetzberger on The Big Issue E9
© Paolo Sartori

Using beta worked out by her fellow climbers, Babsi made an impressive flash ascent of Point Blank E8, which she described as a great route, but also that 'it felt easier compared to the other E8s.' She added:

'Chupacabra felt quite hard for the grade. Lara did great work on that one and had some scary long falls as well - impressive!'

On their final day of climbing, the range was closed due to military firing, so the team opted to 'do as the locals do' and swim in the sea. They returned home not only with a long ticklist, but also with a rare case of UK sunburn (!)

Commenting on her trad experience, 19 year-old Lara wrote:

'The trip to Wales was my first real trad climbing trip. I've been to Cadarese once before for two days of crack climbing but Pembroke was totally different. On our first day we started with some easier routes at the sea cliffs and afterwards we went to see the two gorges 'Stennis Ford' and 'Huntsman's Leap'. This was just overwhelming! Perfect limestone that looks like sandstone and a lot of amazing lines. There I realised that climbing a trad route takes a lot of effort!'

Lara Neumaier on Point Blank E8  © Paolo Sartori
Lara Neumaier on Point Blank E8
© Paolo Sartori

Babsi added:

'It was very impressive to watch her climbing - she had no fear at all and is a really strong girl!'

Summing up their trip, Babsi and the rest of the team were full of praise for Pembroke trad:

'We all loved all the climbs we tried there, we had a lot of fun together! It was just an incredible trip! I have never seen so many high quality trad climbs in one place before. I didn't know what to get on first.'

She added:

'The whole crag was packed with "German speaking" over-psyched climbers. By the way - sorry to all the local crushers who put up with us and thanks for all the hospitality we experienced there!'

A strong German-speaking team - Roland, Lara, Babsi and Jacopo
© Paolo Sartori

Babsi is one of the most accomplished allround climbers in the world and has bouldered 8B (Pura vida), sport climbed 8c+ (Chikane), climbed 8b+/c multi pitch (Bellavista) and E10 trad (Gondo Crack FA). She was the first female to complete the famous Alpine Trilogy:

Kaisers neue Kleider (Wilder Kaiser AUT) (6c+,7c+,8a+/b,7b+,8b+,8a,6b,8b+,6c)

Silbergeier (Rätikon CH) (8b,7c+,8a+,7a+,8b+,7c+)

End of Silence (Berchtesgaden DE) (7a+,6c,6a+,6a,7b+,7c+,7b,8b,8b/+,7c,7a+)

The Ticklist

Every route was climbed clean - no pre-placed gear.

Jacopo Larcher
Chupacabra E8 6c (worked on toprope, first try on lead) over 3 days
Do you know where your children are? E8 6c (worked on toprope, first try on lead) 2 days
Point Blank E8 6c ground up / flash
Muy Caliente E9 6c (worked on toprope, first try on lead) in a day
The Big Issue E9 6c (worked on top rope, second try on lead) in a day

Babsi Zangerl
Chupacabra E8 6c (worked on toprope, first try on lead) over 3 days
Do you know where your children are? E8 6c (worked on toprope, first try on lead) in a day
Point Blank E8 6c ground up / flash
Muy Caliente E9 6c (worked on toprope, first try on lead) over 3 days
The Big Issue E9 6c (worked on toprope—4th go on lead) over 2 days

Roland Hemetzberger
Point Blank E8 6c (worked on toprope, first try on lead) 3 days
Chupacabra E9 6c (worked on toprope, first try on lead) 3 days
The Big Issue E9 6c (worked on toprope, second try on lead) 3 days

Lara Neumeier
Point Blank E8 6c (worked on toprope—first try on lead) 3 days
Chupacabra E9 6c (worked on toprope, second try on lead) 5 days

Barbara is sponsored by: Black Diamond, Climbskin, La Sportiva, Sterling Rope, Friction Labs and fazabrushes

Jacopo is sponsored by: Black Diamond, La Sportiva, Sterling Rope and The North Face

Roland is sponsored by: Black Diamond, Gloryfy and Kabriol

Lara is sponsored by: adidas and Scarpa

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We bumped into them whilst we were down in Pembroke for a friends wedding. Babsi always comes across as down to earth, constantly smiling. That said, the whole group seemed to be smiling - it was great to see them all having so much fun.
10 Jul, 2017
It was an absolute pleasure seeing these guys tick their way through most of the hardest routes in Pembroke with ease. They were always the first at the crags and last ones to leave - climbing on in what were, at times, terrible conditions or rain (it wasn't always sunny). And the volume that they managed to do each day put us all to shame! Just goes to show once again what a different level the true climbing elite operate on. And also nice to see this world class trad destination getting the attention it deserves.
10 Jul, 2017
Every now and then someone says something that makes you wonder why on earth you bother. "One time we went to Tremadog and climbed some easy wet routes like The Void or Zukator…" . Time to kick the dog and have another cup of tea. :ol
10 Jul, 2017
yeah - I like the idea of an easy, wet Zukator
I still have flashbacks of climbing/squirming/crying my way up that awful, featureless groove...
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