Avon Calling

Jim and I had pencilled in a mid-week slot for a mini-adventure, but a browse of the usual destinations was coming up distinctly damp: Pembroke – nope; Cornwall – nope; Highlands – nope… You get the idea! The only couple of even vaguely promising venues were the Aberdeenshire coast (only just visited) or Swanage. That settled it – we were heading for the south coast…

… But it’s a long way, so we decided to break the journey in the Avon Gorge in Bristol. This is a bit of a Marmite climbing area. Fans will point to the urban accessibility; the long, multi-pitch adventures; and the striking rock architecture. Others might note the undesirable combination of polish and suspect rock; the ageing fixed gesr; and the ever-present road noise. They’d both be right, but I’ve had some fun days there and it’s undeniably convenient as a drive-by crag on the M5. Added to that was the opportunity to fill a couple of gaps in one of my “ticking missions” with Chris Craggs’ Limestone 100.

The Main Wall is about as roadside as you get – about 50m from the A4 to the foot of the routes! Good to see the disused parking area and derelict toilet block being repurposed into allotments and art installations respectively:

Our first objective was The Pink Wall Traverse (visible above the graffiti in the shot above) accessed via Sinister, a HS on the lower Morning Slab (note the Pink Wall is sometimes bird banned but according to the BMC RAD the Peregrines are nesting elsewhere this year).

Here’s Jim linking the first two pitches of Sinister – not quite as polished as we’d feared (nothing like a Stoney sheene!)

A further pitch gets you to Lunchtime Ledge, about 2/3 of the way up the Main Wall, from which a rambling traverse leads leftwards and gently upwards to a stance on some crumbly pegs overlooking the Pink Wall.

The next pitch is a funky little number – you climb diagonally down and leftwards towards the foot of a groove (alarming for the second!)…

… from where you can reach across onto the overhanging pink headwall and grab the first of three huge quaryman’s iron spikes. You yard up these to a tricky mantleshelf onto a commodious sloping and stance. Quite full on for 4c!

The final 5a pitch is short but intense, following the obvious rising hand traverse along twin parallel cracks. Happily the gear is good.

A 50m+ rap gets you down (and hopefully the ropes pull OK!)

An alternative means of reaching The Pink Wall Traverse is to do Mike’s Mistake, upgraded to E2 following the loss of a couple of bolts. We’d dodged doing this as a warm up as there was a threat of rain, but found ourselves still dry with a couple of hours to kill before we hit the road, so hopped on afterwards instead. It’s another tick in Limestone. It’s a spicy proposition, with the meat of the route between the two horizontal breaks. You get an inverted peg just above the first break, backed up by a couple of wires in lieu of the original bolt, and then run out 5m or so up and rightwards to a tricky move into an intermittent crack, at which point you can relax somewhat. You wouldn’t want to slip off at that point. The rest of the pitch (about 40m in all) is much steadier, and yields a lot more gear than looks likely (if you apply some cunning). An enjoyable level of mild peril. No pics I’m afraid but here’s Jim rapping down the pitch.

Time to get back on the M5 to reach Swanage by tea time, but a reminder not to leave it so long until the next fix in The Gorge – Avon Calling – Ding Dong!

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