A year and a half ago I had a baptism of fire on Main Cliff with George when we went to try Alien (E6 6b). It's notoriously hard to onsight (still not had an onsight?) but George put in a great effort and dropped it one move from easy ground. Once I made it to the belay the sun was on the horizon and only one pitch in we pioneered a traverse into Gogarth (E1 5b) and finished up that.
On sunday evening we headed back to set the record straight, not even a rough sea could keep us away. Access to Main Cliff is guarded by a sea level traverse that is only comfortably passable at low, calm seas. With a mid-tide and sloshing waves the approach wasnt going to be easy. George left his ropes and rack behind and scampered round timing his movements in opposition to the Irish Sea. He came back round and we decided we would go for it. I went first and deliberated my line of attack, 'Watch out! Wave! Get hold of Something!' I hear. But like a rabbit in the headlights I watch the sea drop away and I know whats coming.
Yep. I. Am. Gopping. Totally soaked navel down but lucky not to have been sucked out on the retreat. After a good laugh at what could have been a lot worse I trudge back up to the bags in wet jeans, no one likes wet jeans.
Shorts donned we decide its best to give Alien a miss (Ok maybe a rough sea can keep us away) and George has a crack at Devil's Marbles (E5 6b). Its a recent addition and as such is a bit lichenous at the top but apart from that it climbs well on steep ground with the hard climbing culminating in a crux pulling onto the top slab.
At the belay we were directly beneath Achilles (E3 5c) so I took over the sharp end. At first I was peculiarly unconfident, but as soon as I set off I felt good and the sport climbing the day before really helped me make the most of tiny footholds on the crux in the top crack. Not a bad evenings climb.
Gogarth is back on the menu but the tides are bad so George and I head to Yellow Wall. Yellow Wall was obviously chiselled out by Escher. Every piece of rock seems to overhang in every direction yet once on the wall you can find yourself stood on a slab. That's not to say that you wont spend most your time cranking through steepness.
The Sun was out but it was pretty windy, once we abbed-in though we were well out of the wind and I experienced climbing in a t-shirt for the first time in what feels like a very long time. The 'warm-up' for the day was The Cow (E5 6a, 5c). I took lead on the first pitch, a steep flared crack about an inch wide. Too wide for hands, too thin for fingers. The crack is often damp and although today it was dry,a greasy veneer still lingered. After a couple of goes, going up and down, I mustered the commitment and blasted into the insecure crack, throwing a high foot up I made a stab for a good jam, 'right keep it together'. Feeling totally involved I plugged in ring locks and jams and started to feel pretty good on this awkward terrain. Getting to aa bottomless corner I stuffed my elbow into an undercut and got a hands-off rest. Woooo! for me this is what it's all about, getting pumped and feeling out there. One more hard move off a sandy finger lock got me to easier ground and the belay. The next pitch, dubbed as 'possibly the best single pitch at Gogarth' did not fail to adhere to its accolade. It pulls through 3 decent sized rooves in quick succession but is never too hard, then finishes up a sustained 5a/b groove. Milked.
I would recommend The Cow as a first E5, especially if you've done The Camel (E4 6a) on Main Cliff, they're very similar.
After a quick bit of lunch it was time to get composed on Ludwig (E6 5a,6a,6b). George led the first ptch with the intention of me doing the second. I figured out the first few moves which were brilliant, a few crimps and a few undercuts on overhanging rock, it felt pretty wild for trad. Gaining a big flake I took a deep breath and pulled into it with gusto, everything I grabbed turned to sand and it was seemingly aa dead end. Where we were didnt quite fit the description and a few half-hearted attempts were made to head in different directions. In the end I conceded and George got involved. Getting to my high point he lashed out a huge move to a finger of rock out right, he grappled around with his left for a hold but it seems like Escher ran out of rock and so decided to use talcum powder to fill in the gaps. Eventually finding an undercut he cranked over in a shower of talcy debris. On second I couldnt even reach the way george had done it.
George led the next pitch too. After a bout of pre-match nerves he headed off, out of sight. The Sun went out of sight and it all got a bit lonely in the middle of an overhanging sea cliff. Remembering 'The Rock Warriors Way' helped me enjoy where I was instead of wishing I was on terra firma, it can be easy to forget that you want to be there. Retrospectively it's quite ironic that I stayed well composed on Ludwig. On the second I had another wake-up call as I tried to pull on the tiny chalked crimps and slopers George had used.
Back up top, we checked the guide and had done both hard pitches wrong. A new route.