More rain on Sunday, with the weather system blowing in from the Atlantic, so we had the idea to attempt an outflanking manoeuvre and head to North Pembroke – we might just catch the tail of it and get an evening route in. Part one of the plan worked, and we drove out of the other side of the rain, and with our campsite more or less on top of the Craig Caerfai, it was worth a look.
Unfortunately, high tide and heavy seas put paid to that idea… A shufty further along the coast to Initiation Slab told the same story, but at least we’d got a different view from the van window.
Monday started damp too, but by afternoon things had brightened up and we headed over to the magnificent Whitesands Bay for the approach to Craig Coetan.
There’s a whole series of crags scattered around this most westerly bit of Wales, and surprisingly they’re composed of the finest gabbro (a rough granite synonymous with the Black Cuillin on Skye). Craig Coetan has the benefit of being West facing (despite being on the North of the headland) and being big enough to have a substantial non-tidal upper tier (because inevitably it was all still a bit splashy!) Unlike many seacliffs, this one’s a doddle to find – marked by the Coetan Arthur dolmen, also known as Arthur’s Quoit – Wikipedia describes it as the remains of a Neolithic burial chamber dating from around 3000 BCE, but I rather suspect it’s the oldest example of a crag cairn marker. You can see it for miles…
The crag itself soon comes into view, and it’s a strange cross between Pembroke’s answer to Bosi and a Welsh mountain crag.
You rap into a convenient half-height quartz ledge system, down an unappealing gully…
As soon as we’d hit the ledge, an ominous black rain cloud appeared out to sea…
… and looking up we’d got a bunch of 50m 2-pitch routes to choose from. Surely the weather gods had had enough of toying with us by now!
Happily the rain passed us by and the blue skies kicked in. We did the two classics: Silmaril Direct, VS (a bit contrived – seeking out and finding a couple of really quite tricky sections in amongst easier angled fare) and Fuzzy Peg, an excellent and more consistently interesting Severe.
Here’s the view leaving the crag
… and the surfers at Whitesands
A couple of days later and we’d finally got the kind of weather you might hope for in the run up to the Whit Bank Holiday, low-tide had udged begrudgingly towards midday and the sea was millpond smooth – perfect conditions for a return visit to the lower tier. The big attraction here is the presumptuously named Act of God – presumptuous until you realise that it manages to find its way through the towering overhangs that top the lower tier at the highly unlikely grade of VS thanks to some very well positioned and accommodating holds. Pure chance, or divine intervention – you’ll just have to get on it to decide for yourself. Well worth the Wired guide’s smiley face icon for must-do route.
A couple of exhilarating pitches which we ran together, and then we did Libra, a two-pitch Hard Severe to top out
That still left a few hours before beer o’clock so we hopped over to the southern side of the headland for South Buttress, and it’s very friendly and largely non-tidal routes. The unimaginatively, but accurately, named Overhanging Wall, HVS, takes the fun, juggy line in the corner
… and here’s Helen on Step Up.