29 March 2012

Climbing the cliff edges of Portland

Blacknor Beach

As I watched my bare feet take turns hitting the sand and edging closer and closer to the water, not long before my eyes closed as I relaxed and took a deep breath while small waves of icy cold water made my feet disappear into the pebbly beaches of Portland. This just about made up for the long drive from London to Dorset on a Friday night the night before.

Arriving just a few minutes past mid-night in Portland in search of the old MOD building that has now been converted in a bunkhouse name the Fathom and Blues. Hidden at the top of the hills in an unnamed road near the lighthouse on Portland Bill road. Thinking that it would be easy to find an MOD building, it was a shock to the system arriving in Portland and finding that the MOD building was shut with gates locked! Where is the mobile reception when you need it?! I couldn't call my friends to ask for directions and no one at the MOD building. It was pitch black almost in the middle of nowhere. Having taken the train from Peterborough to London then collecting my car in London and setting off to drive to Portland, if I wasn't too tired when I arrived in Portland I may have thrown a tantrum or two but pity there was no one to hear it. I finally gave up and circled back to the top of the road and tried again. What do you know?! The Fathom and Blues was on the other side of lighthouse. There are two MOD buildings, separated by a little pub in the middle of the empty field.

Saturday: Lead Climbing
Sunday: Cheynne Wears

Saturday morning I was woken up by the sounds of a bunkhouse full of hungry climbers refueling with breakfast ahead of a day of climbing on the many routes spread across the cliff edges of Portland. It was a beautiful start. The sun was shinning, it must have been at least 30 degrees. We set off to the first sport climbing spot which I have stupidly forgot the name of the crag considering I led a climb as well as top roped a 20 meter route. Climbing for a few hours was topped off with a walk to the beach to give much needed relief to my feet that were tacked away in tight and gripping climbing shoes. It was then time to head back to the bunkhouse for a group barbecue with the climbers and compare scratches and bruises.

A view to thrill: Taken after getting to the top of a lead climb

Having had an amazing time on Saturday we thought we would repeat success on Sunday and head to a few different crags. First stop was Cheynne Wears, a beautiful spot but too busy with people to actually find a sport to climb on. So we then headed for Blacknor beaches which certainly had routes that were tricky to get to. It turned out the paths to the routes where harder than the climbing routes themselves as we soon realized. Finishing the climbing and heading off to the car park we soon found out that hiking up to the top of the cliff was going to be more challenging than we had imagined. The cliffs on Blacknor beach are very steep to the point where looking down at the rocks below we knew (I and 3 other climbing companions) that if we missed a step it would very much be our very last step! Having gone a distance to get close to the path that leads to a long route to the top of the cliff then realising that one of our climbers had just forgotten a bag(phone, gear, food...) in the bushes that left you scratched and bruised from the thorns that you where handling without hesitation  in fighting gravity from pulling you to the rocks that were a few 100 meters below you was a scary thought.

We managed to retrieve the bag and keep moving but it was still another 20 minutes of walking along paths that were not more than the width of your shoes on the very edges of the cliff to get off the Blacknor cliff climbing routes. This walk would certainly render a grown up to utter the words "I want my mummy" but that would have taken up the much needed energy that was required to get off this crazy and dangerous cliff edge. As someone who often seeks a little adventure this was by far one of the craziest things I have done but what surprised me is how exhilarating the whole experience was and just how much more I wanted. If only my family knew what I was getting up to. They would certainly have my ever growing climbing kit hidden or buried somewhere so I cant find it.

Having got to the top and feeling like we just survived the Titanic it was time to walk back to the car and go collect the rest of the passengers I was driving back to London with me as well as say bye to my fellow climbers. Arrived back in London Sunday evening long enough to get home, pack my little suitcase in preparation for my trip back to work in Peterborough on Monday morning. As I write this from the Marriott Hotel room that is fastly becoming my semi-permanent address I am contemplating a climbing weekend this weekend. This time indoors at the Reach, with routes that will no doubt seem like a walk in the park compared to those in sunny Portland. Pictures below and more on Facebook

Scrambling down to the beaches in search of climbing routes

Woman on the edge; Dont push me!

Climbing Trio 

Ever tried rock-climbing before? What are your thoughts on the sport.

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