In which I take a photo every day that I'm 50, and post it here on this blog, with a bit of related blurb.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Day 190 - St Bees

king of the hill

Another adventurous day today...this time, down by the sea.

Just south of Whitehaven, on the Cumbrian coastline, is a place called St Bees.   Steep cliffs of ruddy sandstone tower above a rocky, red platform, dotted about with a myriad boulders of all shapes and sizes.

It's unlike anywhere else in the UK, so we were really keen to visit, whilst staying only a few miles away in Wasdale.

According to the guidebook, there's a 15 minute walk in to the boulders...which, it turns out, is misleading in the extreme.

First you have to skirt around the edges of Whitehaven, before turning off into a private, single track road.  This road winds and weaves towards the coast, through grassy, featureless fields. 

After several miles, somewhat improbably, you come to a couple of dwellings and a farmstead. 

The farmer charges £2 to park in his yard, and from there, although the road continues, you have to walk...

So with my bouldering mat on my bag, and Anna carrying a bag of shoes, food and drinks, off we set, sweating in the midday sun...after half a mile, we reached a lighthouse and associated buildings on the cliff top, before the road runs out altogether.

Following a cliff top path northwards for a quarter of a mile or so, crossing a style, we eventually found ourselves at the top of a thin path disappearing steeply down the bracken covered upper slopes towards what appeared to be a 50 or 60m drop to the rocks by the sea.

Heading tentatively down a path so steep it seems only suitable for goats, we nervously picked our way down, all the while aware that every steep step downwards had to be climbed back up to get out!

Here's a photo looking up at Anna halfway down the path...

path less travelled

And another looking down on me from Anna's position...

path to enheavyenment

Neither of these remotely do it justice, or give any impression of how precarious the path was. 

This one is closer to our experience:

uneven ground

This doesn't show the actual path, which was just to the left, but it's similar in size, steepness and general characteristics...imagine a small path picking it's way straight up to the top... 

Anyway, once at the bottom, we then had to scramble over a variety of huge boulders for about 100m to get to the boulders we were aiming for.   

The claimed fifteen minute walking must have taken an hour or so...

Still, when we got there, it was worth (though hard!) bouldering, warm sunny weather, calm seas, and almost nobody around.

tiny boulder

After spending a little time orienting ourselves, and trying to hydrate, we pulled on our bouldering shoes and threw a few shapes.

tiny boulderer

It's curious how boulders that seem huge at the time, suddenly look a lot smaller when I'm on them...fortunately, Anna makes them look the proper size!


Here Anna is mantling up in the hope of being able to reach a decent handhold...a precarious move where you don't feel as though you're really holding on, more just balancing on whatever contact points you have. 

sunny climbs

Here, and in the top photo, I wasn't bouldering, I was simply clambering around for fun, finding a good vantage spot to see whether I could spot any seals...which I didn't...

After a couple of hours in the hot sun we were fried.   Aware of the difficult scramble back along the shoreline, before the steep, committing climb up the tiny path, we packed our bags, hydrated some more, steeled our nerve, and set off for home. 

Fortunately the climb out wasn't as horrendous as (I) expected...Anna hadn't been concerned at all, but having struggled up several steep approaches with very heavy bags of climbing gear over the last few days, I was wary of it.   

However, with just the relatively light weight of the bouldering mat, it really wasn't too bad, and before long we were back, hot and soaked in perspiration, at the cliff top.

As we got to the lighthouse, we saw another couple walking towards us, laden with bouldering gear...three mats, and two or three bags between the pair of them.  The girl just had a bouldering mat, but the guy had two bouldering mats, one on his back, the other in one hand...he also had a loose bag hanging around his neck, flapping about in an uncontrolled manner, and a plastic shopping bag of food in the other hand.

And he had flipflops on his feet...

Alarmingly, he asked us if we knew the way down to the bouldering...we told him the way, and pointed out that the descent, with no free hands and in flipflops, (not to mention the hard scramble over broken rocks along the shore) was going to be interesting, at the very least...the girl said she'd told him all that, but he just shrugged as if to say, "It'll be alright...".

As Anna said, if we don't hear about the rescue operation on the news, it's because they thought better of it when they got to the top, or they stashed most of the gear in the bracken before descending... 

wast water

Having survived another adventure, we decided to head up Wasdale towards Scafell Pike, taking in the Wast Water along the way.  

Anna took this lovely photo - lakes and mountains seem to be a speciality of hers! 

Finally, just to add to my collection of animal photo's in this blog (and either more interestingly, or more disturbingly, depending on your sensibilities), to my collection of dead animal photographs, here's an odd creature we found on the rocks...some kind of giant water louse... 

having a louse-y day

And here's a dead crab, which, of course, no self respecting blog should be without.

he's a bit crabby

One last of the problems I climbed today was graded V2 6a - I'm not sure if the 6a is font grade or English tech grade, but in either case, I think it ticks off my challenge of climb a font 6a boulder problem...

Bonus - yay me!!


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