neilgresham.com
Cart 0
 

DWS First ascents - UK

 
 Olympiad 8b, Pembroke. First ascent in 2012  Photo: Lukasz Warzecha

Olympiad 8b, Pembroke. First ascent in 2012

Photo: Lukasz Warzecha

Selected list

Pembroke

  • Olympiad 8b, Pembroke, UK. 08.12
  • Hydrotherapy 8a+S2, Pembroke. 08.11
  • San Simeon* 8a S3, Pembroke. 08.07
  • Pollinator 8a, Pembroke. 08.11
  • Excalibur 8a, Pembroke. 08.10
  • The Wizard 8a, Pembroke. 09.07 (ground-up)
  • Occams Razor 7c+, Pembroke. 08.11 

Devon

  • Cutlass 8a, Devon. 09.07 (ground-up)
  • The Flying Dutchman* 7b S2, Devon 07.04 (ground-up)  

* first solo ascent

 Olympiad 8b, Pembroke. First ascent in 2012  Photo: Copyright Lukasz Warzecha

Olympiad 8b, Pembroke. First ascent in 2012

Photo: Copyright Lukasz Warzecha

PEMBROKE

Olympiad 8b  Forbidden Head, Pembroke, UK, 08.12 

Climb Magazine – October 2012 – ‘Hot Lines’

'Taking advantage of a short spell of warm dry weather in late July, Climb’s ever-psyched training guru Neil Gresham finally made the first ascent of a line he’d spied the previous year on a severely overhanging wall at Forbidden Head in Lydstep, Pembrokeshire. The wall, contained within a small zawn typical of the coastal geography of east Pembroke, is one of several DWS ‘supercrags’ discovered by Gresham in the region in recent years. After making five separate trips and spending seven days in total on the line, when Gresham eventually climbed it he said this afterwards: ‘I’m really delighted with this one. I’d put it alongside routes like the Indian Face and Equilibrium in terms of satisfaction level.’ Gresham initially attempted the line from a suspended homemade portaledge before finding a more natural and ‘ethical’ approach traversing in from the back of the cave. Gresham’s final piece in the technical puzzle was the purchase of a £10 children’s rubber dingy from a tourist shop in Tenby, enabling him to approach the route’s start at neap high tide whilst keeping his kit dry.

 Abseiling in to attempt Olympiad 8b, Pembroke.  Photo: Copyright Lukasz Warzecha

Abseiling in to attempt Olympiad 8b, Pembroke.

Photo: Copyright Lukasz Warzecha

At F8b, the route stands as the hardest climb in its style in Britain and one of few deep water solos of this standard in the world, and shows the UK still has potential for revealing world class new routes in established areas, as Gresham explains: ‘these Pembroke DWS routes compare in quality to some of the best in Majorca or Vietnam, so internationally the crag stands up. The question is whether people are prepared to monitor conditions and risk disappointment with the weather. I guess it’s comparable to Scottish Winter climbing in that respect.’ Clearly on an outstanding run of form following his 2011 success in establishing Hydrotherapy (8a+) at nearby Hollow Caves Bay, it will be interesting to see what Gresham unearths next in his quest to find and climb the hardest deep water solos this country’s sea cliff have yet to reveal.'

Logistics: Neap tides are best. The bottom traverse may be wet after high Spring tides. Calm seas are essential. The route is only dry in the mornings only and an on-shore breeze brings best conditions. Access the start by abseiling into a dingy or tyrollean traverse or dry-bag-swim into the cave. There are flat ledges for stashing gear and drying off.  To escape, swim back to the cave and jumar out of the sea.

 Hydrotherapy 8a+ S2, Pembroke. First ascent.  Photo: Liam Cook

Hydrotherapy 8a+ S2, Pembroke. First ascent.

Photo: Liam Cook

Hydrotherapy 8a+S2  Hollow Caves, Pembroke, UK, 08.11

Climb Magazine - November 2011 – ‘Hot Lines’

‘On the 14th of August 2011, Neil Gresham succeeded on his new DWS, Hydrotherapy (8a+/S2) in the Hollow Caves Bay area of Pembroke. The route is located in the huge, west-facing cave just to the right of the unrepeated trad E7, Underworld. Gresham discovered the line last year whilst climbing a new DWS called Submariner (7b+) on the wall to the right, which was filmed by Alistair Lee for his movie Psyche II.

On his major new addition to Pembroke climbing and to DWS in Britain, Neil commented: ‘Hydrotherapy took more effort and determination than any other DWS that I’ve climbed before. It took me four trips from London in order to get all the necessary variables in my favour. The cave dries out only in the last three hours of daylight, and this needs to be combined with a high tide, calm sea and the Range not to be closed for firing practice!’

 Hydrotherapy 8a+ S2, Pembroke. Photo: Liam Cook

Hydrotherapy 8a+ S2, Pembroke. Photo: Liam Cook

‘The route is awkward to access due to the depth of the Cave. I solved this by rigging a tyrolean traverse into the back. From here an easy traverse leads into the line, which is continuously steep at an angle of about fifty degrees. The style of climbing is power-endurance with two definite boulder cruxes: the first is about V7 and the second maybe V6. There’s also a tricky last move to gain the finishing jugs in the chimney of Underworld. I would love to have tried the route ground-up, but for me it was out of the question. It took ages to work out the sequence on an abseil rope, and the ‘conditions window’ is so narrow that I reckon I would still be falling off the first hard section in about 5 years time if I’d tried it from the base! In addition, the cave has a big and serious feel to it. It would be amazing if someone repeated it ground-up.’

‘It’s certainly the hardest DWS I’ve ever done in terms of the combination of physical difficulty, logistics and position. Some will question whether many of the new genre of DWS routes in Pembroke are worthwhile due to all the logistical hassles, but to me this is all part of the fun and the challenge. The most exciting and futuristic lines are not going to be handed out on silver plates!’  

Logistics: Late afternoon high spring tides are essential. Dry conditions are found only on late afternoons, preferably with sun and/or an onshore breeze. Access is tricky - abseil down the Eastern flank of the cave and swim or dingy in with a dry-bag. Or rig a tyrolean traverse at low tide from a ledge on the Western flank. It is also possible to traverse in from the Eastern flank at approx. F6b but be wary of the reef below the easy first section. To get out of the water, scramble out up the abseil line on the Eastern flank, or jumar out.

 San Simeon 8a S3, Pembroke. First solo ascent.  Photo: Mike Robertson

San Simeon 8a S3, Pembroke. First solo ascent.

Photo: Mike Robertson

San Simeon* 8a S3 Hollow Caves Bay, Pembroke, UK, 08.07  (* first solo ascent)

As I belayed my good friend Charlie Woodburn on the first ascent of San Simeon E8 6c in the summer of 2004, a wicked idea flashed through my head. This immaculate leaning wall would surely make the perfect deep water solo, if it wasn’t for the fact that it was clearly way too high. With a high Spring tide, it stands between 70 and 80 feet tall, and with sustained climbing all the way, it seemed fairly improbable. The gauntlet was laid when Mike Robertson wrote in the new 2007 DWS guidebook that if soloed, San Simeon would be ‘the biggest tick in Pembrokeshire’. The first DWS ascent ended up becoming an epic sparring contest between Gavin Symonds and me, and some monster splashdowns ensued. On his second attempt, in a moment of panic, Gav ended up grabbing an in-situ runner and was left with no choice but to bail out. He ejected into the sea from 70ft, shaken but not stirred and left the door open for me to snatch the route on my final attempt in the fading light. Gav returned the following year to settle the score and the first ground-up solo ascent was made by Bob Hickish five years later. Whilst technically harder deep water solos now exist in Pembroke, San Simeon holds its reputation for offering a potent combination of height and difficulty. 

Logistics: High spring tides are essential. Optimum conditions are found in the afternoon as the wall can be damp in the morning; however it may become greasy towards the end of the day unless it's breezy. To access the route, abseil down, placing runners and to escape, jump out of the sea.

 Pollinator 8a S2, Forbidden Head, Pembroke.

Pollinator 8a S2, Forbidden Head, Pembroke.

Pollinator 8a S2  Forbidden Head, Pembroke. 08.11

A less serious but harder direct version of Gav Symonds’ Imposter Bee 7c+, which was the original route on the intimidating main wall at Forbidden Head. Start as for Imposter Bee at the foot of a juggy chimney-groove, which bounds the right-hand side of the wall. Follow this to the point where it ends, then pull out left as for Imposter Bee, to gain a faint scoop in the centre of the wall. Make tricky moves up to the horizontal break at two-thirds height, then swing 1m right and make a desperate crux move, which leads to the compelling final crack. Pre-practiced on abseil.

Logistics: High spring tides are essential. The landing zone is just clear of the ominous reef, which lies below the exit moves of Imposter Bee. Calm seas are essential for getting on to the route. Optimum conditions are found on sunny mornings, but evenings can be ok with an on-shore breeze. For access, abseil down the big corner to the right (facing the route). You need to place trad gear. To get out of the water, jumar out of the sea.

 Excalibur 8a, Skomar Arch, Pembroke.  Photo: Mike Robertson

Excalibur 8a, Skomar Arch, Pembroke.

Photo: Mike Robertson

Excalibur 8a S1 Skomar Arch, Lydstep, Pembroke 08.10

A powerful line that breaches the roof of the Skomar arch at its widest point. From the base of the descent scramble, make a rightwards sea-level traverse below the arch past an awkward step-across and follow the steep initial flake-line of Restraint of the Beasts. Resist the temptation to escape right at approximately 30feet and instead pull-up leftwards into a hanging niche. Desperate horizontal climbing leads from here to a tough pull round the lip and an easy but well positioned headwall. Climbed after brief and minimal abseil inspection of the lip and headwall. The moves weren’t practiced but some holds were chalked up. The first ascent was filmed by Alastair Lee for his ‘Psyched II’ production and the second ascent was made by Gav Symonds in 2013.

Logistics: High spring tides are essential. The window for attempts is fairly short but the seabed is flat and sandy in case you cut it fine. Early mornings are best for conditions as the arch nearly always holds the afternoon grease. To access the route, scramble down ledges and broken ground on the northwest side of the arch, then traverse in. To get out of the water, scramble out as for the approach.

 The Wizard 8a, Kato Zawn, Pembroke.   Photo: Mike Robertson

The Wizard 8a, Kato Zawn, Pembroke. 

Photo: Mike Robertson

The Wizard 8a  Kato Zawn, Pembroke 07.04 

Guidebook quote: ‘This is just classic sustained territory…. A slice of history in the making – the route constitutes the UK’s first 8a ground-up DWS new route, after some nine splashdowns’ – Mike Robertson, Deep Water 2007.

The Wizard takes the soaring groove on the left side of the overhanging back wall of the zawn. From the abseil landing spot on the far right, traverse left along the ledge at sea level to the base of the groove of Waterland. Make some blind moves diagonally leftwards to gain the groove-line and follow it all the way to the top. Low in the grade, though it certainly felt hard and intimidating at the time. Bob Hickish made the second ascent in 2013. 

Logistics: Kato Zawn is a user-friendly crag by Pembroke's standards. To access the route, abseil down to the right of the main steep wall (facing the cliff). To get out, swim across the zawn and scramble out. High spring or neap tides are required.

 Occams Razor 7c+, Forbidden Head, Pembroke.  Photo: Liam Cook

Occams Razor 7c+, Forbidden Head, Pembroke.

Photo: Liam Cook

Occams Razor 7c+ S1, 08.11

The dramatic leaning, knife-edged arête of the main wall is followed on the right hand side all the way. The climbing is sustained and technical until the last few metres. It is possible to escape leftwards at half height but clearly this avoids the challenge. Pre-practiced on abseil. High in the grade and some have suggested 8a. Featured on the cover of Climber Magazine. 

Logistics: High spring tides are advisable, though high neaps may be possible. Be wary of the slab at the base. Optimum conditions are found on sunny mornings, but evenings are possible with an on-shore breeze. Access the route by abseiling down the vertical wall to the left (facing the cliff) and make a rightwards sea-level traverse in to the start. Escape by jumaring out of the sea.

 Submariner 7c, Hollow Caves Bay. First Ascent.  Photo: Mike Robertson

Submariner 7c, Hollow Caves Bay. First Ascent.

Photo: Mike Robertson

More NG Pembroke DWS First ascents.....

 

  • Submariner  7c, Hollow Caves Bay. 08.10
  • Renaissance 7c, Broadhaven. 07.04
  • Fine Art of Surfacing  7b+, Hollow Caves Bay. 07.03
  • Waterland 7b+, Kato Zawn. 07.04
  • 9 ½ Weeks 7b+, Newton Head. 07.04
  • Wet T-shirt contest 7a+, Broadhaven 07.04

 Cutlass 8a. Berry Head, Devon. First ascent (ground-up)  Photo: Mike Robertson

Cutlass 8a. Berry Head, Devon. First ascent (ground-up)

Photo: Mike Robertson

DEVON DWS

Cutlass 8a  Berry Head,UK, 09.07 (ground-up) 

Cutlass is a short, steep power problem, which blasts up a wave of compact, orange limestone on the sea cliffs of Berry Head. The line had originally been top-roped by Ken Palmer and it can be reached easily via the start of the popular sea-level traverse of Rainbow Bridge. After being tipped off by Mike Robertson, I decided to attempt it ground-up and by the third day, the frustration was starting to kick in. There seemed to be three possible ways of doing the final crux moves and I threw away so many goes trying it incorrectly. The pressure was on as a few strong climbers were also in contention, and in the end I resorted to asking Rich Heap, who was filming, to provide some crucial beta from the abseil rope. This enabled me to unlock the sequence without having to resort to making an abseil inspection myself! Cutlass saw a string of repeats soon after I made the FA and it has become established as a test-piece of the area.

 The Flying Dutchman 7b S2, Lundy. First DWS ascent.

The Flying Dutchman 7b S2, Lundy. First DWS ascent.

The Flying Dutchman 7b S2  Lundy Island, UK – 1st DWS ascent of pitch 1 – 08.06

With majestic granite cliffs surrounding its perimeter, Lundy Island is one of the finest trad climbing destinations in the UK. In September 2006 I joined a small team on a one-week trip to explore its hidden treasures. Following a tip-off from Tim Emmett, I honed in on trad testpiece, The Flying Dutchman E7 6b, with view to a possible solo. First climbed by Nick White and Dave Thomas, The Dutchman climbs the edge of a striking leaning arch via a serious of thin discontinuous cracks. I wasn’t used to the style of climbing but it looked compelling. My plan was to do pitch 1 and then create a new variation rightwards finish, thus avoiding the second pitch, which lies above a reef. I waited patiently for calm weather and the obligatory high spring tide and abseiled in with my heart racing. I zipped down the rope as fast as I could to avoid obtaining any unwanted beta, then swung in and detached from the GriGri. The first crack proved to be an arm-sapping struggle and then sure enough, things got pretty technical and I ended up going off line and crashing into the sea twice from the final thin cracks. I was out of daylight but returned to snatch the route at 7am the following morning just in time to race off and catch the Ferry. For me personally, The Flying Dutchman is one of the most exciting and memorable Deep Water Solos.

 Once a Dogger 7b+. Long Quarry Point, Devon.  Photo: Mike Robertson

Once a Dogger 7b+. Long Quarry Point, Devon.

Photo: Mike Robertson

Once a Dogger 7b+ S1/2  Long Quarry Point 20.8.06

 

Guidebook description: ‘A superb and mega steep test-piece,’ Mike Robertson, Deep Water 2007.

The leaning knife-edged prow is climbed on the left via some hard compression moves. Scramble down to the right of Arapiles oh Arapiles and make a leftwards traverse in, as for that route. Continue leftwards around the arête and make dynamic moves to reach the crest of the block. Choose a big tide, preferably a Spring. The ominous shelf below the route isn’t quite as close as it looks. The route has been fallen off many times, with no ensuing problems, but care is still advised.