Giltar Slabs – Penally East

We only discovered the climbing around Penally last year, so had plenty more of this quiet Pembrokeshire backwater to explore. Only a mile or so east of Mother Carey’s, Penally offers slabs and solitude and a contrasting alternative when they’re playing soldiers in Range East. Whilst there is a firing range at Penally, it only affects a small portion of the climbing and is used much less regularly than the main range.

Approaching from the free parking at the station you arrive at the coast path (assuming that the red flag isn’t flying at the guard post) to be greeted by a vista of slabby loveliness as far as the eye can see.

Crescent Slab in the photo above is an obvious landmark, and Giltar Slabs are fairly easy to locate, a few hundred metres further west. There are abseil stakes above the main slab, though it’s probably worth equalising a couple as they’ve seen better days!

A lowish tide gets you down to a shingle cove and allows you to enjoy the full extent of these 50m routes, though you could get the main installment with various semi-hanging belays.

The prime attraction hereabouts is the eponymous Giltar Slab Route, Severe, which is fully deserving of its place on the cover of volume 5 of the CC guides (beating off competition from anything at Scareys or Mowing Word!) and well worth three of anyone’s stars. Immaculate!

Back in the main bay, the wall bounding the right of the slabs offers a small bunch of much steeper fare (30m straight up rather than 50m at 45 degrees – that Pythagoras knew his stuff!) Gilt Trip, E2 5c, gets a couple of stars and if it was somewhere more fashionable it’d be on every to-do list. It starts with puzzling moves to leave the starting slab and reach the base of a leaning groove, which is climbed to a cave and a wild swing rightwards to turn an overlap and reach a steadier headwall. Very 3D (and a nightmare to strip the gear on ab) – well worth seeking out!

We did a couple more fun routes on the main slab: Wander Slab, D, and 45 degrees in the Sun, VS, before turning our attention to Giltar Ramp. This 2* VS (according to the Wired guide) was given VDiff in the CC guide and we were intrigued… The line described (or at least the one that we climbed) takes a parallel fault line a couple of meters above the Giltar Slab Route, on a narrow gangway just a couple of feet wide. Unless you have a huge cam, the first 10m would be pretty harrowing (especially as a VDiff leader!) and interest is maintained further up as the ramp all but disappears. Another absolute gem!

That marked the end of another great trip to the paradise that is Pembroke – the weather broke the next day and we abandoned the other two campers in the Bosherston field. Still can’t believe how quiet it had been (though I guess the hordes will return once they put the cabins back on the port-a-loos next week!)

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