Mother Carey’s and No Man’s Zawn – a Pan Odyssey

Regular blog followers will know I’m a bit of a ticker (feel free to insert the word “sad”) and I’ve been gradually working my way through the routes featured in the various “coffee-table” books that capture the diversity and splendour of British climbing. Chris Craggs’ opus “Limestone” is one of my reference points, and I reckon I’m about three quarters of the way through. Pan, weighing in at #86 in this Top 100, has been on my tick list for many years, but had thus far escaped a serious attempt. Despite recruiting Jake to the mission over the last five years or so, the stars (actually moon / tides, weather and conditions) have never aligned…

… until now!

But that’s jumping ahead – one of the logistical challenges of Pan is that you need a dead low tide to get on to it (not to mention a speedy leader to get up it before the tide returns!) With low tide not scheduled until 16:44 we had time to kill, so headed to Mother Carey’s – which itself is bound by the whims of the tides, especially when there’s a big sea running!

Warlock looked to be a good option – starting from a dry ledge to the right of (what remains of…) Crithmum, an E2 that runs parallel to Sunsmoke and looks to be its twin. Rapping in (quietly and carefully to avoid the nesting visitors in Threadneedle Street)

… I felt the first spots of rain. Helen had used her weather wisdom to predict this shortly before I stepped over the edge with a cheery: “it’ll be fine” and I spent a few anxious minutes at the bottom wondering if she’d retreated to the car thinking: “I told him…”. I was relieved when she appeared on the ab line and we were both rewarded by the drizzle passing.

Anyway, Warlock is every bit as good as its neighbour, with a pressing top 30ft (made trickier by trying to avoid the VS on the right, whereas actually the guide says step into it). It’s weirdly untravelled (as illustrated by there being only 7 recorded ascents on UKC compared with 333 for Sunsmoke – explain that!?) Get on it!

We bumped into Rachel and George (a long way from Arboli, and having narrowly missed them at Tierra de Nadie the year before) and had a good catch up, which left us in good time to ab into No Man’s Zawn just before low tide. No Man’s Zawn is truly off the beaten track – only one minute from the car, but so well hidden that you’ve almost fallen into it before you spot it…

It is a very narrow slot, sliced perpendicularly into the seaward end of Frontier Zawn (itself hardly in the Pembroke mainstream – see post link above). Lurking in this dingy slot is one of the best bits of rock in the area; a 40m gently overhanging wall, with very little in the way of features or holds.

Lowering myself over the edge on the ab rope, a number of things became apparent:

A) the base of the route was still under a meter of water (and in fact never emerged from under the briny – you need a spring tide!) so I’d be taking a hanging stance for the duration

B) the wall was seeping pretty badly, with absolutely no sign of chalk to mark the way

C) it was STEEP! (and quite atmospheric!)

Placing gear and clipping in I managed to get across leftwards to the “pancake” flake belay (failure to do so will mean you lose contact with the wall and end up in the sea). (Tip – the belay is about 4m left of the abseil line if you use the upper steel tube / stake) Here’s Jake rapping in after me.

… and the view down from the belay (Tip #2 – a rope bag was absolutely invaluable!)

Route finding is really difficult, based on vague and conflicting descriptions, compounded by the fact that it’s almost impossible to get a photo of the wall (as the Zawn is so narrow) for a topo.

Here’s Jake’s account of how the route unfolded from his ukc logbook:

As many others seem to have done, I fell victim to some rather unhelpful route descriptions! Didn’t go far left enough trying to do Pan, then some easy looking climbing and a peg lured me up ’86, which was seeping. Realised my mistake but thought I might as well push on, took a decent lob a few metres from the top, then lowered to the junction with Pan, and finished up that, having eventually figured out the right line. Bit of a shame as me and Dad had been excited to do this for ages, we’ll just have to come back and do it properly.

Here he is whilst probably still on the line of Pan before that route traverses left at around 25m (though he possibly went direct rather than taking a zag right then left via cracks that were dripping).

… and well into E5 6b territory approaching the crux of 1984 / Class of 86

… and the view of the final top out of Pan from the clifftop opposite

Having retraced Jake’s tracks (recovering gear then following his version of Pan) and re-read all the conflicting guidebook descriptions, I’m still not sure where the route goes! One thing’s for sure – I’ll be waiting for a sustained dry spell and ideally a fresh set of chalk marks before I head down for another visit!

2 responses to “Mother Carey’s and No Man’s Zawn – a Pan Odyssey

  1. Hi Dom,

    An excellent post, like you this route has been on my todo list for many years- ever since seeing the wall when wandering into the zawn before doing Gunner.
    Sounds like I’ll need to recruit a strong leader to get up it!

    • Thanks Tim. I think it would make a world of difference if it was dry and chalked – assuming that the person applying the chalk had a clue where they were going! Cheers, Dom

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