This year for me is turning out to be more of a trad climbing year than a sport climbing year. I was hoping at the start of the year to do some more hard redpoints and maybe even push my grade up again. For numerous reasons it’s not quite happened this year but I’ve had a bit of a trad revival instead. On a recent trip to Norway with Steve, Charlie and Liam I climbed my first ever big wall. Kjerag is an amazing 800m Granite wall which is one of the must jump walls in Europe for B.A.S.E jumpers. Unfortunately our trip was a bit of a wash out and we had to retreat to steep sport climbing cliffs that stayed dry in the rain. But before the heavens opened for 6 days we got to do one route up Kjerag. Steve and I managed to climb the classic E5 Hoka Hey in a day, a very long day! A 4:30am start, we topped out at 10pm then didn’t get back to camp till 3am! I was wrecked the next day.
Since then back in Britain it’s rained quite a lot too. I’ve been sport climbing in the week after work and trad climbing away at the weekends. Last weekend I was in Pembroke with Charlie psyched for some more adventure trad climbing. As the bird band had just been lifted we made the decision the climb at the cauldron. I’d never climbed at the very weird and impressive rock formation which is definitely one of the more intimidating places to climb in Pembroke. The outside walls have a whole host of great looking E5’s & 6’s and our target was a route called Free Masonry. This is an unrepeated four pitch E6 that Crispin Waddy and George Smith did the first ascent of back in 97. It weaves an amazing looking diagonal line all the way across the lip of the steep south facing wall, to end up climbing out directly above a sea arch which is the mouth to the inside of the cauldron itself. Crispin did the route on a number of visits over 2 years with a couple of abseils off into the sea to get out!
After the interesting crawling approach through caves to get to the start I set off on the first 6b pitch. It didn’t matter which pitches we each led as the route was very sustained with pitches of 6b,6a,6b,6b! After getting off route on the 1st pitch and spending ages finding our way on the 2nd and 3rd pitches we arrive at a cave stance situated directly above the sea arch into the cauldron. As I looked out of the cave belaying Charlie seconding the 3rd pitch I was glad it was his lead next, it looked desperate! It was a very blind and committing looking pull out of the cave which he did heading leftwards (looking in) to find a very rusty stuck wire and a horrendously loose corner. He reversed to the cave to try a different way, pulling straight out of the cave. This looked way harder and very blind which he didn’t fancy either. I was spent from the other pitches and didn’t fancy it which left us with one option…retreat. Neither of us was that keen on the idea of a swim with all the gear so we decided to try and reverse what we’d done to get there. After a lot of faffing we managed to reverse aided the 3rd pitch and then climb the 2nd , as it was a down climb, and reverse aided the 1st pitch. Even though we didn’t do the route it was a great adventurous day out. We’re both keen to go back for a re-match, especially now we have a bit more knowledge about where the top pitch goes, it does pull straight out of the cave!