>A swell time at St Bee’s

>Where to head to next? Gowder Crag I thought. One classic VS line and according to the Borrowdale guide, plenty of other things to go at. A less than speedy team on Fools Paradise and a very unhappy Rich climbing through less than perfect rock on another route saw us descending back to the road. Lets go to Shepherds, a safe bet, was the consensus.

So Chris and I ‘warmed up’ on Conclusion – the fantastic E1 groove line left of Brown Slabs. Strenuous but well protected it is an obvious natural line that should compel anyone to want to put their harness on. It was harder than I remembered it.

What next? Brown Crag Grooves. Another awesome E1. The E1+ grade in the FRCC guidebook was making me nervous, i’ve not climbed much this year I thought, i’ve done very little leading above VS I thought, but the line looked a goer. The first moves off the ground did nothing to dampen those concerns, strenuous and sweaty moves on some crimpy holds, one average 0.5 wire placement and then an awkward move right to good gear and a rest. But as I launched through the second crux move, an awesome propelling move into the upper groove, munching my way through my small wires and peanuts I began to enjoy myself, this route was cracked I thought, some of Shepherds Crag at its best.

The Fishermen step back from the incoming tide!

Sunday morning dawned overcast and as the drizzle shrouded the cumbrian fells we hit the road, destination St Bee’s.

I can’t believe this was my first time to this far-flung corner of Cumbria. Cumbria’s answer to Gogarth it definitely is not, but it is an inspiring location with sport & trad lines and great bouldering mixed with seal spotting and distant views to the Isle of Man.

The guidebook gave us a couple of options to descend to the base of the cliffs, why anyone would attempt to descend a path resembling sure fire death when there is a perfectly safe and less steep path 150 yards further on is beyond me, maybe I am just getting soft. But for the record, its there and does not require you to grab hold of some tatty rope whilst slipping down a loose 60 degree cliff!

Classic grooves and overhangs at St Bee’s

The wind was blowing, the sea was a little wild, but the cliff was dry as we hopped our way across the boulders past Apiary Wall to Scabby Back. The guidebook suggested that the area was not really tidal but could be cut off in rough sea’s, well it was rough and waves would have been lapping at my feet had we not abandoned the area beneath Fishermans Friend 45 minutes before High Tide!

Launching through more overhangs – this time at St Bee’s

On first acquaintance, the grades at St Bee’s seemed a little harsh, some of the 5’s seemingly little easier than the 6’s and also in desperate need of traffic. Perhaps it was not being used to the Sandstone but the few trad lines we tried in particular were chocked full of silt and debris and definitely not in mint condition. But inspite of that, the climbs were enjoyable, most of the fixed gear we encountered was in ok condition and i would definitely head back. Next time, in calmer weather, for an evening, with the sun setting .

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About Richard Talbot

An accomplished fell-runner as well as being a keen climber and mountaineer. Since 2005 he has worked for the UK based manufacturer Mountain Equipment and is currently Director of Product. He has worked in the outdoor industry for over 15 years.
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