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Sea Cliff Climbing (Part Two)

By Martin Chester

I vividly remember, as an enthusiastic teenager, my first visit to Swanage. Jonny and I abseiled in to Boulder ruckle (down marmolata buttress) not the best choice I've ever made. On arrival at the base of the crag, it transpired that we had forgotten the guidebook. Several abortive forays later, and we were back at the base of the cliff. Like sensible lads we had left our rope in place, but we had no prussic loops. A terrifying ordeal followed involving slings, a vice like grip, and fear (in equal measures) before we finally got out of there.

Tip One

Sea Cliff Climbing (Part Two)

Now this has been mentioned in an earlier top-tips, but:
Leave a rope in place if you abseil. More importantly have some sort of plan, and the kit, for getting out.
Don't forget your guidebook (and some sort of cover)
I also remember . . . After a banging night in Newquay, and now with a banging head to match, we abseiled in to Carn Gowla. Several abortive forays later, we were back on the deck, only this time we had our prussic loops. Unfortunately, the rope was hanging over so many sharp flakes, that climbing it was out of the question (This time, it took some swimming and streaking to get back to the rope and retrieve our clothes). The moral of the story is this:

Tip Two

Sea Cliff Climbing (Part Two)

Choose the line of the abseil carefully, and think about rope protection. You can buy proper rope protectors from caving suppliers, but rucksacks and clothing come a close second. Just make sure it's all attached.

Tip Three

Sea Cliff Climbing (Part Two)

Once at the base of the routes you'll realise that you are at the mercy of the waves (swell) as well as the tide.
Check the sea state by getting an inshore waters forecast. These are available from Marinecall, or phone the local coastguard. They'll be happy to help.

Tip Four

Sea Cliff Climbing (Part Two)

Don't let your ab ropes dangle in the briney. They may get tangled, and you may never get them back.

Tip Five

Sea Cliff Climbing (Part Two)

Some of the bigger sea cliffs have simply shocking top outs. Now you may think this is all part of the adventure, and maybe I'm getting soft, but the risks here often totally outweigh the rest of the route. Picture the scene - you're going for the top at Swanage. You've run it out already for the finishing holds and you pull over into a world of steep grass and blocks. Many people have taken enormous falls in this situation, so here are a couple of tips:
Think about leaving your ab rope where you can use it at the top of the climbing. Parts of Lundy, or the great zawn on the Orme, would be examples of this.
At the very least place some bombproof runners before the good rock runs out
Good luck and happy cragging.


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