I like to climb rocks. Sometimes I question the sanity of climbing rocks for fun because I’m not sure if it’s for the challenge or if it’s just that I have to much idle time on my hands or simply because the rocks are there. At any rate Paul and I found ourselves headed for the Gower Peninsula in South Wales to climb the Three Cliffs.
The Gower Peninsula is a fifteen-mile-long stretch of undulating limestone that faces the Bristol Channel just to west of Swansea. The peninsula is dotted with yellow sandy beaches and bays with a multitude of precipitous cliffs. I had never climbed a sea cliff before, so was looking forward to combining two things I am naturally attracted to – the sea and rocks.
It seems always on the drive down to these adventures, we invariably end up questioning why we continue to work in the corporate saltmines when we should be chasing a life of adventure and meaning instead of lining some fat cat’s pockets with cash. To day was no different.
We couldn’t have asked for a better day. In fact I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming…sunny and warm…in Wales…in Feburary? Can’t be. Yet there we were in t-shirts preparing to climb sections of the Three Cliffs.
Our first climb was long but easy. The climb took us up a route called the Plumb Line, which is rated as a VDiff. It felt good to be gripping some warm rock and hauling myself up to the sounds of the waves breaking on the shore. This definately beat, pushing paper in the office.
Paul is a more aggressive climber than I am. On our second climb of the day, he wanted to have a go at a line called Scavenger. I didn’t like the look of it and if it had been up to me, I would not have attempted it. I derive my pleasure from the feel of the rock, not the challenge of overcoming a difficult problem. The isolated position on the rock can have a very zen-like feel, but its hard to get that feeling when you are literally hanging by the skin of your fingers thinking am I going to fall.
Paul wanted to have a go, so I took the position of seconding his lead. Paul started up Scavenger. He reached the face placement of gear with no issues. On the way up to his third placement, his second piece of gear fell out. If he slipped now, he would have a long way to fall before being caught. Not to much of a problem as long as his first only placement at this point was good enough take his weight in a fall. My palms began to sweat as I watch Paul scurrying to find a crack to place some more protection. It didn’t help that his legs were getting tired and visibly beginning to shake. I was silently chanting to myself, place some gear Paul, place some gear. Finally, he found a crack, placed some protection and clipped in.
The next few moves up were equally a bit scary. Paul reached the crux and took a breather before continuing up. Another piece of gear fell out after I lost sight of Paul. Now all I could do was watch the rope and hope for the best. It was ages before I finally heard Paul shout down those sigh of relief words, “I’m safe,” which means he was tied in and ready to belay me for my climb.
Now it was my turn. The thing with Scavenger, is you really have to rely on your feet as the hand holds…well really finger holds…are small. Reaching the first two placements wasn’t to bad, but after that my hands raced to find something to grip on. Reaching the crux was difficult. I was sweating and breathing heavy. Okay time to commit. I went for it and lost my footing taking a fall. Paul caught me almost instantaneously, so I did fall far or hard. I recovered…focused…and went for it again. Success. I reached the crux and had a breather. The rest of the climb was tough but not tenuous. I reached the top breathing heavy.
Paul had a great big grin on his face and so did I. This was for me the most difficult climb i’ve done in my short climbing career. It was the perfect end to a good day. The sun hung low in the sky just shy of sunset as we headed back down to solid ground.
This a picture of the Three Cliffs with the routes outlined.