Friday, 13 June 2014

A Lovely Day Part 2: Rock Stuff.

It's not well known, but I do like me a bit of amateur freehold rock climbing. Sounds like a mouthful, doesn't it? But it's very simple if you break it down into bits:

- Amateur (I'm not good at it, but I still try)
- Freehold (No ropes, no pitons, no boots, just bloody mindedness and casual disregard for one's own life)
- Rock Climbing (If you need help with this bit, you should be my henchman. I like 'em stupid.)

Pwll Gwaelod, you see, is a place of many rocks to climb, and pretty rewards for those who like to go to the effort of finding their secluded hideaways. So a villainous type like myself is right at home here. The first part of the ascent is fine, but I really should talk about the rocks around here. The rocks around Pwll Gwaelod are mostly Limestone, shearing at a 15-30 degree slant from vertical, and lots of other crazy stuff abounds. But it's the shear angle that's really important here, because it makes for cliffside clambering that is both pleasurable, frustrating, and pants wettingly horrifying at the same time. Also remember that, being at a beach, many of these rocks are also wet. Even when dry, the wet bits are enough to make any standard boots (like my steel toecaps) unreliable for short periods of time. The shear also means that barefoot is a Decidedly Bad Idea. Here, let's show you where the climb to my favourite place becomes somewhat difficult.

Right click, Open Image In New Tab, zoom it in, think about it for a second.

For reference, that shelf on the upper left is something like 4 feet, so no, you can't chimney along like a boss, you have to either:

- Get wet (bad for later bits, and treacherous footing)
- Clamber along rock formation to the right, realise that leaves you nowhere to go, choose option 1.
- Go from the lower portion (with damp bits) to the higher portion, keeping in mind that there are large puddles in the upper portion that can cock you up. In the "Whoops, I broke select portions of my cranium on this hard thing wot is conveniently angled to fuck me up real good."

Option 3, you may be surprised to know, is the safest one. This was made even more tense by the fact that, since I was not here with family or friends, and nowhere safe to stash my gear, I had it all on my backpack... Which, like backpacks tend to do, especially when not tightly secured, changes your centre of gravity in ways that make the whole thing a lot more tense than it would be unhindered.

Did I mention I love rock climbing, by the way?

How it looks once you've safely taken Option 3.

So you've gotten the hard bit over with. To give you some idea of how I felt after that one, I not only have a photo, but can tell you. Put a hyperactive toddler on your back. Lean forward at a 30 degree angle (whole body!), with said toddler attempting to wrestle you, and reach up for something on a high shelf while lifting one leg sideways, as if you were trying to be Spiderman. Providing Social Services haven't twigged what a horrible person you are for actually following my suggestion, and you have some idea what it was like to make the first grab. It's not easy. So let's see how... Exhilarated I was that I'd made that short step in what would overall be a 25 foot journey across rocks of varying degrees of slipperiness, pointiness, and occasionally, lack of good handholdiness.

This is how I look when I'm dead chuffed I'm not dead.

Nonetheless, the hard part is over with, and I can now look unutterably cool, most of the way to a lovely little spot that's quite hard to get to without a boat or good body awareness... Or rather, I would look cool if the reason for the hyperactive toddler analogy hadn't made itself clear in this photo. I was not aware of it until I got back and asked some lovely folks to take a pic. This is a pic I took with a timer, just to emphasise how oblivious I was.

Paging Dr. Ru Paul, Paging Dr. Ru Paul, Zipper Emergency In Ward A...

That's right, I'd overpacked the bag, and the zipper has a nasty tendency of coming completely open when it does that. Overpacking a bag, or indeed, bringing a bag as large as this one, when one is climbing over nice, killy rocks, is not recommended for normal Mensch. But I, as you well know, am a true blue moustache twirler, and Work Safety is not really a thing I subscribe to. Also bothering with matching socks... I mean, who does that these days?

You can tell what an Ubermensch I am because of the legs. I am proud of those legs. They let me walk squaddies into the ground, perform Percussive Maintenance really well, and my scissor grip is something to behold.

I'm so sorry, legs. We'll see why soonish. But for now, our reward for climbing this craggy side, and the somewhat treacherous, smooth, and most of all, unpictured final descent?

This place doesn't know even the sight of man more than once a month. It's quite beautiful, has an interesting little feature you may or may not notice already, and it also has some absolutely insane climbing prospects. Quite literally, you'd have to be less sane than I am to try them freehold, and that takes effort. Is it sad that I know someone who did just that, because he couldn't be arsed to go back? You know who you are, and I salute you.

Well, let's take a look at some of the wonderful features of this place, shall we?

This is something I can get behind... Some quality trolling! It's not a pigeon nest, it's definitely not a house (look at the previous photo zoomed in to get some idea of how tiny this thing is), and I fucking love it. If I were to move my Evil Lair here, even if I installed the traditional Bloody Massive, Yet Oddly Pointless Doors in the cliffside, this would stay. I'd even put tiny bunting on it sometimes, just to say "Yes, the villain who owns this lair has well and truly lost it"

But if that were all that attracts a crazy welsh moustache twirler like me, the place would only be a curiosity. Ohhh no. There's some other stuff here too.

"Okay", I hear you grumble ", it's a tunnel. So what?"

Well, apart from the minor interest to student geologists (Shoutout to Geop, LPer, Mod, and Master Geologist, he knows more about "Rock Stuff" than any 5 people I know!), it proves a small point I'm going to make about the potential for true crazy. One of these days, I'm going to god-damn do it, and the resulting documentary deals will set me on the road to WORLD DOMINATION MUAHAHAHAAAAAA- Oh, sorry, beach, yes...

This is what lies on the other side. Doesn't look like much, but you'll notice it's just as craggy round there as it is back where I started. It took me ten minutes to go forty some feet  (IE - here) along the coast, literally along the coast forty some feet, and theoretically, theoretically, you could freehold climb the whole fucking way from here to Fishguard (6 or 7 miles, give or take a few). And one day, I'll be crazy enough to do it. One day.

Oh well, time to head back, and... D'aww. Little filter feeders, chilling out after a hard day doing their best X-Factor viewer impressions. You carry on, little guys, you carry on...

So I clamber my way back (anyone who tells you that climbing back along a route is the same as going forward is a bloody idiot... Remember that 30 degree shear in the rocks? Now that's working against you, and specifically, your bollocks when you have to go over one particularly difficult bit.), and find, quelle surprise, there are still more tourists and Welshmen in the pub than there are on the beach. Fuck 'em, time to head -

Hrm, I might save some small amount of time, and get to see more enjoyable scenery, this couldn't possibly go wrong!

Next post, dear readers, you get to find out about the wonders of Pembrokeshire's coastal paths and...


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