Meet report by Nick Kemp
Well the summer’s meet program rounded off, or came to a climax, with a trip to South Pembroke. For some reason the club has preferred North Pembroke of late which is perverse as there are at least 10 really excellent crags in South Pembroke whereas North Pembroke only really has Carreg-y-Barcud as a top rated destination. I suspect it just looks balanced to alternate between North and South Pembroke, which is really applying the same cretinous reasoning that assumes autistic children will have some special gift. Even when the club did go to Pembroke three years ago we were booked into some hideous caravan park miles away from the climbing but as Simon Wiesenthal often said, let bygones be bygones.
Finally a South Pembroke meet with all the proper elements in place staying at the St Petrox campsite. On paper this site doesn’t seem up to much, it is remote from any shop or pub and you can’t walk to the crag. Also after a very wet week it was very muddy so what’s the attraction? Well somehow despite the lack of obvious advantages everyone likes St Petrox, a gently sloping field of moderate size with friendly owners, adequate facilities (free showers!) all overlooked by the eponymous St Petrox church tower.
Thrashing westwards to the edge of the kingdom the attendees rolled up throughout the night, the final arrival being Anna who turned up at a yawn inducing 5AM.
Waking up at St Petrox on a bright morning must really be the what every climber dreams of. The range of truly outstanding crags is awesome, St Govans, Mowing Word, Saddle Head, Stennis Head, Huntsman’s Leap, Trevallen, Flimstone Bay, Mother Cary’s and the list goes on. Just one of these crags would merit a trip from London and South Pembroke has so many, one could easily have the area on the meets program two or three times a year and still not tire. Furthermore some parts are bird banned until August so the late August Bank holiday is the perfect time to visit.
Chuck and AG went to a surprisingly empty St Govans and were spoilt for choice with a glut of outstanding mid grade classics and so picked of the immaculate Army Dreamers HVS and the Arrow E1. The Arrow is one of the best E1s in the country and this in Pembroke which has an embarrassment of such grades. Chuck led this superb well protected route, stabbing wires into the main crack with the regularity and precision of a steam riveter, roaring with delight as he pulled through the final overlap.
Nick and Gosia entertained themselves at the friendly Saddle Head where they were eventually joined by Anna who had been in Haverford West buying shoes for her friend Olga (don’t ask, it ain’t worth it). Saddle Head was fairly busy but the real bottleneck was the abseil as all the tyro climbers where taking three times as long as normal to get down as they were obsessed with using prussicks (sometimes incorrectly, mostly incompetently). At one point one of them even had to abandon the prussick while on the ab and Gosia had to free it on her way down.
Meanwhile, Pete Murphy and Alex went to Bosherton head to climb Olde Worde Climb a two pitch VS with a confounding initial layback crack. After retrieving an ab rope from Gosia, they attempted to abseil onto the photogenic Ocean Passage only to find themselves 10m to the west – fortunately, at the base of another VS climb, Warm Waves. Undeterred, Alex took up the challenge and climbed it as his first VS lead.
Robin was spotted running past Saddle Head with his dogs.
A fine evening promised and so a collective barbecue was organised and following a brief run into the Pembroke Co-Op for supplies everyone tucked into steak, sausages and spuds.
Sunday dawned with more dubious weather and eventually this crystallised into a thin drizzly rain that irritatingly held the promise of delivering climbing weather without every coming to fruition. This seems to have been very localised as Alex and Vicky still seemed to have good day at Saddle Head.
Meanwhile Wendy, Caroline, Margaret, Peter G, Pete M, Robin + dogs, set off from St Govan’s Head for a ramble along the coastline. The group started off at St Govan’s Chapel, a hermit’s cell built into the limestone cliff, continuing along the coastal path, with Pete occasionally darting off to interrogate climbers about their routes and intentions, and finally reaching the Green Bridge (natural sea arch), and spotting seals washed up on the beach below. The group stopped for a long lunch at Bullslaughter Bay for some exhilarating swimming and wave leaping, and exploring the rocks and caves.
Nick and Gosia had planned to climb but were deterred by the weather so eventually went off to Flimstone bay where they too had a pleasant swim in the drizzle. AG and Chuck tried climbing at Stennis Head but it was not an unqualified success and eventually they backed off Hercules.
On Sunday night everyone (except Anna, Adriano, Caroline, Robin and Olga) went to the St Govan’s Inn for dinner. If there is one climbers’ pub in the UK this is it, an especially on the August Bank Holiday. The place is stuffed full of unfashionable types with thin legs and fleeces so we blended right in. The table were thick with guidebooks and snippets of overheard conversations were of the “ … well I always thought it was either a 3 1/2 friend or a number 8 wire on its side…” variety.
The weather on Monday was absolutely perfect so while the Notting Hill Carnival revellers (funny how revellers only appear at Carnivals or at New Year) got thoroughly soaked, Pembroke basked in beautiful late August Sunshine and so for the walkers the beach seemed the only place to be. Wendy, Caroline, Robin and Peter, found the perfect spot, a near-empty cove on the way to Broad Haven, for swimming and hanging out. The hunt for the perfect cove also afforded the chance to explore another bit of the coastal path, different in flavour, with lots of gorse and wild flowers.
Chuck and AG had brought bikes and eschewed the perfect climbing conditions for a spin around Afan Forest Nick and Gosia went to Stennis Head and racked up a clutch of mid grade classics.
Pete and Alex set off on unfinished business, abseiled from the correct point to the base of the two pitch VS Ocean Passage. Starting from a hanging belay 15m from the waves below, Pete tackled the first pitch with Alex topping out his hardest lead to date. After a 3 hour long endeavour, both were pleased to reach the top before rushing to the car to meet the bikers at the White Hart followed closely by Nick and Gosia for a bite and a bit of a wet on the way home.
And so the weekend trickled to a close, a great trip and a long overdue visit to the best climbing area in the world.