This post is an article I wrote for the MUMC 2012 Journal.
Pembroke – Best Trip of the Year
The Pembroke trip is annually held on the May bank holiday weekend and is the official hand over trip for the new committee; it is traditionally the largest UK trip with exceptional climbing, BBQs, cream teas and weather.
Pre psyche, as usual, was sky high for this trip. Fortunate lecture timetables and unfortunate pricing of the mini bus trip resulted in a team, consisting of myself, Mike (from the wall) Richmond, Chi and Rachel heading down on Wednesday night. Chi’s car was slightly too full and the tires desperately needed more air.
After a butt aching journey we arrived late, we quickly pitched and crawled into the monster tent. We woke to drizzle! Pembroke had not treated me this way before, something had changed…….
Eventually the rain eased and we set off to see what was dry. The answer was: not much. Rachel and I did The Flanker. “A VS in Pembroke, this will be no problem” we thought. Again Pembroke decided to show us a different side to its personality, Flanker was hard, how can this be? St Govans was never this harsh!
Retiring back to the tent the pre psyche was diminishing. Perhaps Pembroke was unhappy due to the lack of psyche from the Font-obsessed hordes? But why should it punish us? We are its disciples, eagerly awaiting our annual pilgrimage.
The next day promised better weather and we headed for Mother (S)Careys. It was my first visit to this famous Kitchen and I had been told that I must tick the classic E1’s of Straight Gate and Rock Idol. On arrival the blanket of clouds was thinning. The rock was damp, Rock Idol was out of the questions but Straight Gate was drying fast. Rachel and I decided to climb the classic Severe of The Cracks to give the rock more time to dry. Chi and Mike geared up for Brazen Buttress (E2 5b). My extremely shaky lead of the first pitch smashed my confidence, which wasn’t ideal. As I belayed Chi was going well on Brazen Buttress. Rachel and I abbed back in while Mike took Chi on an exploration of the Sea Groove on The White Tower. On their return they first heard me and then saw me screaming some very inappropriate phrases three quarters of the way up Straight Gate. Setting off with low confidence and little psyche I had climbed badly, it wasn’t that the climbing was hard just a lack of commitment and confidence. The moves were easy and the holds were big, as a result I climbed slowly trying to rest on each hold and even mid move. I noticed the tide closing in on Rachel and I urged myself to stop being stupid and climb properly. The final straw came when I messed up a nut placement and couldn’t remove it to place a better one. The curses flew and I wailed like a baby, much to the amusement of Mike and Chi watching from the headland. I sat on the rope and pendulumed across to the finishing gully of Rock Idol. This was not what I had expected of myself on a route that Chi had described as “A slab with jugs ”.
By now Rachel wasn’t happy with the one square foot of dry rock that was surrounding her belay, so I threaded some cracked flowstone and bridged across the chimney, I called down that I was safe but I certainly didn’t feel it. Back on top it transpired that the seagulls had eaten my lunch, this was not the best mornings climbing of my life.
After the team had laughed at me and I sulked for a while we headed over to see if the army had stopped shooting things, which they had. We ambled over to Bosherston Head where Rachel and Chi climbed the HVS of Poltergeist and Mike led me up Quoin. Being in a foul mood I wanted to go and sulk in the tent but Rachel was campaigning for one more route, I decided that I should lead another route to try and salvage some confidence from the wreckage caused at Carey’s. Belayed by Mike I went up Poltergeist while Chi led Rachel up the adjacent route of Telekinesis (HVS 5a). Some of Chi’s nuts had been used in Rachel’s belay, this resulted in a few forced run outs causing him considerable concern. Unbeknownst to Chi and myself, Mike and Rachel had decided that we were in a race, cheering us on like petty racehorses. They both raced up the routes on second, Rachel’s route was longer but Chi’s enforced run outs gave her a slight advantage. The best team won – obviously Mike and I.
We lay in the tent listening out of the familiar crunch of a mini bus crashing through the gate, however the lone mini bus had been warned and the driver had decided to not onsight the gate. It was the cries of gate beta from Dan which signified their arrival, the turnout this year was sadly pathetic, but those who made the journey were keen. A small hamlet of tents was drunkenly erected (unsurprisingly a few had a case of brewers droop) while other passengers (Gaz) spoke of their ambitious plans for the trip.
Somehow the late arrivals were up earlier than us, however due to their slow consumption of !!coffee!! we were soon leading the race to the crag. Hollow Caves Bay sounded exciting, Jon ‘Aryan’ Fane lead the way down the hole in the ground kicking aside artillery shells as he went, Chi did not look happy about the slimy down-climb.
After a scramble around the arches and interlinking caves Rachel and I prepared ourselves for Galactic Glory, HVS 5a according to Rockfax, the description saying “Leaders must be comfortable at this grade as it is the easiest route out of the cave”. Still spooked from the previous day of fail I opted to belay high above the waves. Mike had begun leading up Storm Bird as Rachel gingerly eased across a ‘ramp’ she was making it look a bit scarier than HVS, peering around the corner she grumbled about a lack of holds and her short T-Rex arms. After some more umming and ahhing Rachel retreated and passed over the baton (rack) to me. “How will I be able to do this if Rachel can’t, she’s way better than me” I thought, personally I was psyched to practice my prussiking skills. I knew that if I wimped out without giving it a try Mike and Fane would give me a proper ribbing, so my plan was to get to Rachel’s high point grumble a bit, slap a few holds and come down. I nervously ambled up to the gear, which was OK ish, I fiddled with it trying to convince myself it was bomber and then made my way up to the highpoint. After my initial grumble and some persuasion from the team I made a few ‘slaps’ unfortunately during a slap I actually held onto the crozzle and pulled a move, this was bad, I could no longer reverse and bail out. The wall above was a sea of crozzle, hundreds of tiny spikes sticking out from the wall, “which one is best? Where is the easiest path?”. With my pulse rapidly increasing I decided that there must be a jug and some decent gear in a couple of moves, “its only HVS after all”. After two more crozzle crimps I reached a hold, which was marginally better, placing the smallest nut on my rack in a non-existent crack I repeatedly muttered to myself “do not fall”. A couple more meters of crozzle the comfort of a keyboard-sized ledge was reached, the climbing now eased which was lucky as the run out above the awful nut was worrying. At the top I watched Mike belaying off of a grass hummock and stretched my ropes looking for something more substantial. We later discovered that in the climber’s club guidebook Galactic Glory gets E2 5b.
After this sandbag psyche was low so we munched lunch and watched Jon climb Faded Glory (E3 6a), which Chi impressively seconded in his trainers. Rachel and I then did some quick ticks on The Castle while Chi and The Fane wondered over to Stennis Head. Peer pressure forced Chi onto Flash (E4 6a). A steep route with marginal protection, as usual Chi ended up off route, slinging spikes he moved up the roof getting more and more pumped, a trademark Cheng slap of short arse desperation ejected him from the rock, as the rope came tight the sling pinged off its original spike and caught on well position lower spike. Despite this shocking level of safety Chi got back on and completed the route. Rachel and I caught up with Team Aryan China as Fane finished seconding this route. It was then that we learned of a Fane led assault on Huntsman’s Leap, a deep zawn full of hard climbs and tales of daring. A handful of MUMC members jumped the leap that afternoon. Although roped up there were sketchy moments when both Andy Harrison and Fresher Steve hesitated mid take off. Worryingly Steve’s landing was worse than his take off, his feet slid and all present winced at the thought of trying to haul an unconscious fresher out of the Leap. Luckily Fresher Steve had been getting strong at Rock Over and was able to cling to the rock on the other side.
With a smaller turn out than previous years the BBQ was less eventful, no bottles of port were strawpeedoed and the Lily Pools saw no midnight swimming sessions. There was no traditional committee handover; this was made impossible by the sacrilegious absence of the funnel. Instead the BBQ was a very civilized affair, which ended far to early with a mass migration to the pub. The lack of Pembroke experience showed its self the next morning when the mini bus recovery mission began after the National Trust geezer had set up his post in the car park. Dan William’s smooth talking diverted any potential confrontation but one had to wonder who cleared up all the mess?
The next day was spent figuring out whether or not we had got worse than last year. We repeated routes we had done the previous year such as The Arrow (E1 5b) and Army Dreamers (HVS 5a), this showed us that we hadn’t gotten worse but definitely weren’t much better. Not ideal. Demoralised we headed to the Olde World Café for cream tea, this is when Pembroke proved it hated us. What kind of respectable café runs out of clotted cream on a bank holiday!! FFS.
In a much more motivated mind set Chi and Jon headed off to Huntsmans Leap. It is worth mentioning that Jon had not climbed in a couple of months due to the distractions of a rather well paying medical trial. We were therefore surprised when he smoothly dispatched Bloody Sunday (E4 6a). He attributed this impressive performance to ‘roids he was taking during the medical trial! Is the use of drugs comparable to the use of aid tactics? Perhaps the BMC should set up drug testing booths on top of hard crags? Driven on by Fane’s effort Chi mooched over to the end of the Leap to Bosherston Head. His heart was set on an onsight of Starwars, this would be his first E4 onsight. Yet again Chi ended up off route (maybe Rockfax needs a Chinese translation of its guidebooks), trying to down climb from the neighboring route (Luke Skywalker, E5 6b) Chi peeled off the wall, ripping 2 RP’s and pulling Jon from his sling belay. After this false start Chi cleanly dispatched the route, cursing his route finding abilities.
Further up the coast President Dylan was attempting to fly by lobbing himself off the crag. Too pumped to place gear he elected to keep on climbing, unfortunately his arms did not agree with this plan. He fell half the length of the route, launching Beth into the air, a good dynamic belay!
The final day of the trip and the skies were threatening rain, a number of unprepared and uncommitted individuals used this as an excuse to sit in the pub and do coursework! While the remaining contingent made tired attempts to climb but nothing of note was done (except by other Uni’s attempting E7s in the Leap). Hopefully this article will improve next years participation and rejuvenate the psyche for what is undoubtedly the best trip of the year.