Cambridge University Mountaineering Club

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Pembroke Annual Meet 2014

Pembroke Annual Meet 2014


Annual Meet 2014 - Pembroke

Annual Meet 2014 - Pembroke


It was 7 o’clock on a wet Friday morning in Cambridge, but this could do nothing to dampen the spirits of the eager team of CUMC members, with Luke valiantly turning up in his pyjamas after just 4 hours sleep to drop off some kit. Sure enough, in a statement of intent, we set off just one hour later than our intended departure time, and made good progress, our only major delay coming when Alex and Cameron spent half an hour looking for Laurence in a service station, only to eventually find him nonchalantly sipping his second refill of his Starbucks coffee.

We arrived at the campsite in the afternoon, and after setting up our tents set out to walk along the coast path to St Govan’s, the nearest crag. This proved optimistic, as it was actually about a 10 mile walk with full climbing sacks, so, deciding we’d quite like to get there before midnight, we quickly returned to the car, and arrived in time to fit in a couple of routes. Laurence set the tone for an exciting trip with a dramatic fall on the first route of the trip, after deciding the E1 variation looked more fun than the VS he was on, and I suppose if your idea of fun is dangling head first in mid-air after a fall of 5-10 metres then it was!

Tom, Imogene, and Rose arrived in the second car in the middle of the night, with our team spirit shining through as the three of us already there decided they’d be far better off without our help putting up their tents in the pitch black.


Saturday was everything we had hoped for from the trip: clear blue skies, not a breath of wind, and beautiful sunshine all day. Everyone was keen to make the most of the day, particularly those who were only coming for the weekend (the super-keen, super-efficient Rose was ready before most of us had got up!) so we again headed to the St Govan’s area. In perfect conditions, Tom and Alex both led the brilliant HVS Army Dreamers, before also later in the day doingthe classic traverse Riders on the Storm, with both declaring it one of the scariest routes they’d ever done. Meanwhile, Rose exhausted Laurence by dragging him up an E1 and 2 E2’s. After a full day, we all headed back for some dinner, enjoying cooling off in the sea and the revelation of warm, powerful showers on a campsite!


Tom, Imogene, and Rose had time for a morning’s climbing before heading back in the afternoon, fitting in some great routes at Mother Carey’s, including the classic 3 pitch severe Threadneedle Street.

Cameron and Phil also decided to give it a go but somehow mistook the first half of the neighbouring E1 for the first pitch, meaning Cameron led 10 metres of E1 with only two pieces of gear, somehow battling his way to the top of the pitch, but not before he had utterly terrified both himself and Phil with his increasingly frantic running commentary, which was more befitting of a rhino about to have a heart attack than a Cambridge student!

We then headed back for a dip in the sea and an early dinner, before fitting in an evening route at St Govan’s, meeting Luke walking from the station on our way. A highlight of the trip ensued as Luke, waiting at the top as we had left his harness at the campsite, decided to cook himself some dinner. The student staple of baked beans may seem a simple meal, but Luke’s decision to leave the beans in their tin and then place this on top of his mess tin as he heated it left him with a nice circular hole in his mess tin and distinctly dubious-smelling baked beans!


On Monday we paid a visit to St David’s, about an hour’s drive away. Despite being baffled by the fact that our turning actually had a sign to the place we wanted to go, rather than being unsignposted as advertised in the guidebook, we eventually made it, and arrived to another day of perfect conditions.

Being the more experienced pair, Alex and Lawrence went to do Ethos, one of the area’s classic HVS’s. Their expertise shone through as they managed to forget the rope when they abseiled in, having to use prusiks to escape!

Meanwhile, Luke, Phil, and Cameron had a great day, with Luke deciding it was sensible to take on the classic E1 Sinecure, his first lead at the grade, as his first since coming back from injury after taking a groundfall on his previous lead. Yet despite any misgivings the rest of us may have had, Luke made impressively short work of the route, even if his first three pieces of gear did fall out. He, Phil, and Cameron all declared it one of their favourite routes of the week.


With Alex and Cameron starting to feel the effects of the previous four days and with the lack of a driver as Laurence left in the morning, with Lucy not arriving until the afternoon, we decided to take a rest morning, walking into town and taking a tour of Pembroke Castle. Ironically, the day also proved surprisingly efficient, as we still fitted in three routes in an evening visit to Saddle Head, the same number as we managed in a number of other full days!

After retreating from our initial intended route when a seagull divebombed Cameron as he strayed too close to its nest, Lucy enjoyed her introduction to Pembroke climbing, Phil was hugely excited to find that Saddle Head had not one, but two Diffs, and Luke enjoyed showing off by dangling from one arm halfway up a route.


After discovering that the whole St Govan’s area was out of bounds due to army firing, we again headed to St David’s, this time to the disarmingly innocently named Initiation Slabs. As Phil had pointed out, ‘initiation’ can have a number of connotations, and a few hours later we left with Alex and Luke having completed the extremely scary run-out VS Aries, and Lucy and Alex then being forced to prusik out as the tide came in to block access to most of the routes. Undeterred, we headed for the neighbouring bay, only to find a massive rockfall had made the routes unrecognisable from those in the guidebook.

After stopping for a late lunch at around 4 o’clock, we headed to Craig Caerfai, home of the area classic Armorican. Cameron and Luke abseiled in, but, perhaps in an effort to emulate the expertise shown earlier in the week by Alex and Laurence, forgot the rope, leaving them stranded for about 15 minutes as they waited for Alex to return from one of his many explorations of possible DWS routes (perhaps dreaming of Malta?!). It was worth the wait, however, and, with Alex leading Phil and Lucy up after, everyone agreed it was one of the week’s best lines. Our mixed day continued as we dropped three nuts in the sea and discovered a massive gash in our ab rope, but, as we relaxed in the classy venue of Haverfford West’s ‘Kebab’s ‘R’ Us’, we all agreed it had been a successful, if eventful, day.


Keen to make the most of what seemed likely to be our final day’s climbing given the less than promising weather forecast, Alex perfected his porridge-making technique just in time for us to leave for Mother Carey’s at the extraordinarily early time of 9.30. The wind seemed to want to make up for it’s lack of activity during the rest of the week, nearly blowing Phil and Lucy off the cliff as Cameron led them on a wild goose chase attempting to scramble through the raging sea in his blind desperation to do one particular route. After they finally persuaded him that the highest point for miles around might not be the best place to spend by far the week’s windiest morning, they returned to Alex and Luke, conveniently just as they had finished constructing the abseil. Everyone fitted in one final route, with Alex impressively leading the E1 Karma Waters. Rain then drove us back to the car, but Alex and Cameron’s indomitable, but perhaps misplaced optimism meant that we left the ab rope in place, only to be forced to venture out into the rain to retrieve it half an hour later. This left plenty of time for an afternoon and evening of almost constant eating and drinking, first in the pub, and then in the drying room at our campsite. As we emerged from our second pub of the day at about 11 o’clock, it suddenly began to pour with rain again, leaving us to sprint up the unlit road with just one small head torch, getting completely soaked just in time to dive into our tents. That may not sound bad, but Luke was less fortunate, forgetting his phone and so being forced to run alone through even heavier rain in pitch black, as we once again displayed true CUMC team spirit in a collective decision to abandon him.


We had already decided to head home a day early due to the storm, and so the first part of the morning was spent attempting to squeeze five people and all of their climbing and camping kit into one small car. Everyone was very glad to take a break after about 2 hours, when we just about managed to shake the numbness out of our legs for long enough to fit in a few hours climbing at ‘Boulders’ in Cardiff. Luke’s impressive attempt at a 7a route apart, we all soon found that the effect of any fitness we might have gained from the week was far outweighed by the tiredness built up over a week of climbing and being woken up by the world’s noisiest sheep multiple times every night.

Nevertheless, we all agreed it had been a brilliant week and we had probably already done more than enough climbing. Thank you to Tom for organising the trip, as well as to everyone who came and made it so memorable. We look forward to another great annual meet next year!