On valentines weekend a few of us made our way down to Portland, Dorset, for some coastal sport climbing. We were very closely monitoring the weather during the week leading up to the trip as it was not looking good. After making the tough decision on Wednesday to commit our places in the bunkhouse we went for it.
Saturday had a very wet start. Despite this Tony and Ian (our guest from Sheffield) decided to go in search of dry rock in Swanage as the weather station had reported no rain so far. Their drive saw constant rain and even when parked it was still drizzling, windy and very cold. They managed to find one dry route (Solstice 7a+) in an overhang in Windspit. It was a little shielded from the fierce wind and rain and the only one without any seepage. The two went on redpointing the route until late into the afternoon when the temperatures dropped and made it just too unbearable for them! An awesome effort by Tony and Ian despite the harsh conditions.
Meanwhile the rest of us decided to head in the same direction, however, being a little more sensible we decided to have a little walk from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door while it was still raining. The sea there was quite choppy to say the least. We watched a golden retriever bail on an attempt to retrieve his yellow rubber duck chew toy from the sea which slowly began it's emigration to France. After the scenic walk we got a little hungry so we ventured into Lulworth Cove in search of lunch. We enjoyed crab sandwiches, venison burger, mussels and a pair of jacket potatoes loaded with baked beans and cheese. Now we were warmed up, fueled and ready for some climbing. A quick debate resulted in a heading for Battleship Back Cliff intent on having a quick climb before the day was out. By this point it was drizzling again so we opted for an excursion without our gear. We found very moist and greasy rock there which ended our day a little prematurely. Tony and Ian caught up with us a little later on. Despite their exhaustion it was clearly visible they were envious of our lunch break, Tony admitting he quite fancied a plate of mussels as well.
Sunday was a cold, but more importantly, very dry day. We made our way back to Battleship Back Cliff and spent all day there. It was evident that the weather had changed the landscape recently. Back in the summer when we tried 'Wiggi and Mopoke's Excellent New Hilti' (next to 'Dream of White Porsches') I had to start the route on a tower of precariously stacked rocks to get above a small section of featureless overhang. Now there is a lovely flat top mound of clay to help you to the first bolt, now almost within reach from the ground! Further down the coast at Battleship Edge me and Anni struggled to gage the start of a few routes as the boulders that either marked the start of a route or offered a good belay position had disappeared down the shore's steep edge.
We all had some fun warming up on a few short grade 5 and 6a routes, Coming Unstuck 6a+ offered aninteresting and short challenge for all of us. In the afternoon Simon scaled a challenging 6b+ (The Sound of One Hold Snapping) before he, Tamela and Rachel had to abandon us for Leicester. Tony and Ian got a full day of redpointing 7a+/7b routes while me and Anni continued steadily on 6a/6a+ routes.
Poor food planning resulted in the remaining four of us enjoying a Valentine's day set menu at the New Inn Pub. Most meals were to share and despite the atmosphere we really enjoyed the food. I especially after received a chocolate tart the size of your face with a scoop of blood orange icecream. This was after insisting I wanted a single portion instead of sharing.
Monday was a GLORIOUS day!!! The Cuttings was the destination of choice sheltering us from the northern wind and amplifying the sun's rays. We felt like ants under a magnifying glass, though, thankful as it meant we could take our down jackets off and even get down to our t-shirts. at one point. We had another full day of climbing. This time swapping climbing partners a little meant we sensibly made our way through the grades from 'Chalkie and the Hex' 5+ to 'Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth' 6b. Tony and Ian got back to it in the afternoon with "Live by the Sword' 7a+ while me and Anni decide to climb a rather fitting 'Winter Sun' 6a on The Bower.
It was a shame for Simon, Tamela and Rachel that the weather shortened their climbing experience this trip. I hope that the trip to Lullworth Cove made up for it though. For the rest of us who stayed the full three days it was very satisfying. My arms feel full from climbing, a bit like my stomach after that chocolate tart, very happy, but if I had another bite I think I would have burst. I think I'll allow my finger tips a day or two to recover now.