Kenidjack and Gurnard’s Head

Kenidjack…

is the perfect spot for some sheltered warmth – a 40m sheet of sculpted kilas slate, set well above the sea and with a friendly ledge at its base. A bit crumbly at the top of the descent, so well worth setting up an ab from the obvious block – we had a 70m but 60m should do.

Saxon, HVS, gets star billing with the “Top 50” accolade

But there’s a clutch of half a dozen quality HVS/E1s that are all very worthwhile. Rock Dancer is worth it’s E point for the bouldery start, and it’s sustained loveliness for the remaining 30m.

Jim and I left with those couple of classics, to head over to Gurnard’s Head, on the basis it should now be coming into the sun.

Our objective was a long-standing aspiration to climb Mastodon, E3 5c and an Extreme Rock tick. Battling through “barely able to stand up” wind, we made it to the viewing position from the other side of the Right Angle wall.

Mastodon takes the clean wall between the black cave (the start of Behemoth) and the obvious corner of Shark, then blasts through the overhanging headwall above.

We rapped straight down to the stance at the top of pitch 1, as the foot of the route was underwater (missing the first 5b pitch). “Stance” is something of an overstatement – it’s half a foothold and a couple of marginal wires, so well worth backing it up with the ab rope.

The first moves from the belay are a testing traverse and mantle leftwards to reach a thin crack. The next 30ft alternate between tenuous moves and scratching round for fiddly gear, then repeat. Once level with the pedestal belay, another balancy traverse takes you right to a much more comfortable stance. Tricky to find the way without any chalk marking the way.

The final pitch could hardly be more of a contrast – from vertical crimpy wall to overhanging butch crack. The first half of this succumbs to a heelhook and big pull, but I end up weighting the rope to place a fat cam to protect the final pop for the top. It needs a committed slap, and I was very glad of the gear. Not perfect style but very pleased to have covered the ground. Here’s a view from the top, and you can just about make out the chalk on the black rock.

Having enjoyed the Kenidjack routes so much, it struck me that the style of climbing was right up Helen’s street. She didn’t take much persuading to head back the next day.

In The Gallery is worth more than its one star, and possibly more than the HVS grade it gets.

The Shield is tough for E1 5a, with the move off the 2/3rds height stance being quite sketchy, passing a rusted stump marking what was once a peg (better to do it in a single pitch as we did). The thin headwall is absolutely outstanding though.

Finishing off with Thane, we felt it was easier than The Shield but perhaps even better than Rock Dancer. Anyway, rather than pick hairs, why not just do them all as we did. Fab spot!

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