Sunday, May 13, 2018

Zero Waste Climbing Trip to Pembroke

Oh Pembroke, what have you done to me? I can’t eat, I can’t sleep and all I can think about is your fantastic lines, great gear and views overlooking the sea with its many creatures swimming among your crashing waves. I think I can honestly say that all it took to fall in love with this place was a few days of climbing over the Bank Holliday weekend. Would I recommend you going to do some trad climbing there? Absolutely. But just a word of warning.  If you do go, every other place might just seem inadequate (apart from Peak grit of course) when you compare it to these incredible limestone cliffs and you might just want to sack it all off it, buy a van and move there for 6 months.

I have heard so many stories about Pembroke from my climbing pals. Everyone said how amazing this place is and that it has to be on every trad climber’s destination list. Because you climb on sea cliffs, this is naturally more committing as you need to abseil into a lot of the crags. The only way is up and you have to either climb up or prusik up a rope which is not in the usual repertoire of skills of a beginner trad climber. Some of the routes are also only accessible at low tide so that is one more thing to think about when planning a trip to Pembroke.  There are however crags where you can scramble to routes and there are introductory routes so don’t be put off if you are fairly new to trad climbing. Best thing to do is to go for the first time with someone who is comfortable with this sort of climbing and enjoy the exposure, views and adventure. And if you are not new to the trad game, Pembroke will blow your mind. The rock is really good, the gear is plentiful and there is lifetime of climbing on those cliffs no matter what grade you climb. 

                            Leading one of the classics - Army Dreamers (HVS 5a) 

Although there are some classic routes which have more traffic than others and so are naturally a bit more polished, most of the routes that I have done were really good and well protected. I only spent two full days there but as everything is so close together you can go between the crags and pack loads into your day.

There are many straight forward routes where you can try whatever your hard is, but if you need a bit of a rest day, there are plenty of adventurous routes where all you really need is a solid head. The exposure is definitely a factor that has to be taken into account. The sound of crushing waves and wind make you really aware where you are and it is a really powerful experience to climb in such an environment.

 UK Trad Climbing really does not get much better than this. Here seconding Sea Mist (HS 4a) 

Since I got back, I have been trying to pin point what it is exactly that I loved so much about the place. There are so many things but I guess the biggest one is that it feels strangely pristine. I have done sport climbing on sea cliffs before but it had a very different feel. The approach to these places is usually via a scramble.  I always found lots of trash around the crag where as Pembroke seemed, well, clean. At the bottom of the abseils there were no traces of climbing other than some chalk on the cliffs, no bolts, no rubbish, no unnecessary stuff anywhere and it just felt 
well preserved and almost remote in a way. At one point I watched a seal swimming below me as I was getting ready to climb and I wasn’t sure who out of the two of us had more fun at that moment. 

                              How can you not fall in love with this place? 

Perhaps the fact that it is so committing prevents people from just going there and trashing the place? Once upon a time when trad was a distant and scary dream for me and I though Sport climbing was the only way to go, I used to ask why they don’t bolt the routes on the main cliffs in Pembroke? Surely it would be better and easier? I don't even have to explain that I feel ashamed to even admit that I ever though this. I have finally come to realize, that trad indeed is the true path and if anyone was to ever contemplate doing such a thing  (very unlikely anyway if you know what the British trad ethics is like), I would act as human shield for these cliffs. ;) 


                                  Racked up and ready to lead Rear Wind (HVS 5a) 

I took a full trad rack with me and doubled up on
1-11 nuts as they seem to be the first port of call. My offset nuts came in handy too on every route.  I would never go anywhere without my set of cams either and even though nuts felt bomber, there is nothing like placing a cam when you are pumped out of your eye balls. Some of the routes are long so I took all 16 quickdraws that I have, which were a mixture of medium, long and extendable (I like my climbs to resemble a Christmas garland by the time I’m at the top with all the gear that I put in) and that seemed enough. We used two half ropes on every climb and you also need static rope if you will be abseiling into sea cliffs. More often than not, someone already has one in place by the time you get there and people are usually happy for you to use it. Don't rely on it though as it would be a shame to not be able to get to the route that you want to do.  As with everything in climbing, if you are using other people’s gear, triple check the set up. As a lot of the crags are in the army firing range, there are access  as well as conservation restrictions so a good guide book is therefore essential. If you are in a group, it is good to have two different ones as the route finding is quite challenging and so you have two different route descriptions to help you along. One thing which I have learned on this trip is that bringing a power bank charger is essential! My pal lend me his which saved some desperate scrounging for electricity juice. There is no electricity in the campsite so unless you go to the pub you will need to charge your phone for those amazing photos (and emergencies). I have now invested in one and it will be travelling with me everywhere. 

My trusty tent has been with me for many years and has tons of adventures left in it. The cool box is a one off :) 

As I was camping, I took my usual sleeping set up set up which had served me well for years-backpacking tent , ultra-light sleeping bag and an ultra light roll mat . I have had this gear for years now and although it was a bit of an investment to start with it, I use it so much that I got my money back tenfold. Car or no car, you will always see me bringing this along as it just works well and it is super comfortable.

Where to stay

                   At the end of the day, sit down, chill and share your stories 

There is a small, basic campsite not far from Bosherston. It has limited facilities with portable toilets and a shower, but for £3 a night you really can’t go wrong. It is only a short drive from the main car park at St. Govans so the location is very convenient.

The atmosphere in the campsite is pretty amazing. It is full of climbers chatting away, getting psyched for what is to come.  I  realized that Pembroke is best enjoyed when you get a crag party going and bring your pals with you. But don't worry even if you don't, chances are that you will see loads of people who you know!  Because at the end of the day, what is climbing without the banter with your pals? 

                                                     Crag party was definitely on! 

 During popular weekends, the one and only shower gets quite busy but I found that a wild swim will do the trick just as much!

I usually prefer to go in without nothing on when I go wild swimming (much easier and more liberating to be fair) but since there were people around I opted to wear my swimming costume for a change.

Zero Waste

                       Some of my Zero Waste food for the weekend  which I brought with me 

I like to see myself as more of an adventure rather than a happy camping kind of girl. I usually carry everything ultra-light in a backpack, but this time, I went all the way and brought a cool box with me. The luxuries of driving somewhere! We were meant to stay for longer but the weather changed so it ended up being a long weekend trip. I prepared everything in advance so that I can spend the whole time enjoying myself but not produce any rubbish.  In the summer, you have the added challenge of food going off quicker so I had to take that into account. I brought lots of vegetables, salad stuff, and my usual cheese, salami and pork pie combo. I always bring food for the first night too (lamb curry this time) as who can be bothered with cooking after a 6 hour drive? We were also planning to have a BBQ and so I bought some ribs from the butchers at home, froze them and took them with me. I stored them in the cool box and my friend’s fridge in his van (thanks Tom!) so I was able to pop them on a BBQ and save myself buying meat in packaging. I also stocked up on tons of nuts and sweets before I left so I was pretty covered. 

                                             Same set up as always but different day

I found that ultra-light stuff wasn’t necessarily that essential this time round as I left my bag at the top of the crag together with my
lunch box, water bottle and a Flask . My usual set up which I bring everywhere with me worked magic once again!

I did buy some packaged stuff- mackerel, baked beans, eggs and some chocolate. All of these were fully recyclable (no plastic either). In the heat, having some stuff in tins is really handy. Although my opinion on recycling is that it is not a solution, only a first step, prolonged trips in hot weather will require producing some recycling. As long as there is no landfill waste, it is a good start in my books.

On my previous trips, composting tea leaves and eggs shells as well as fruit and vegetable peels was a problem. I asked the farmer if he has a compost bin. He didn’t have one but after asking what sort of compostable items I produce, he told me to throw it to the cows across the field as apparently they will enjoy it. So I did! Sometimes it is really worth just asking.  

Compostable items weren't an issue thanks to the friendly farmer!

Any recycling that we had we sorted out in Tesco’s on the way home. 

                                  Recycling is easily disposed off en route home 

Again, I had to be really prepared in terms of thinking ahead and planning but it was worth it as I have produced no trash at all on this trip apart from a small plastic tag from my new harness  which I had to buy en route to Pembroke. That was kind of an essential purchase as my old one didn't fit anymore and I didn't want to risk an inverted fall. 

                               Spanish style weather and UK rock - perfect combo 

Yes sometimes it takes a bit of an effort to keep your trash to minimum but I think some things in life are worth the effort. Like pushing yourself on a climb. Or making yourself get out of the tent in the morning and go for a swim. Or bringing your food without packaging. Because all of these things will give you a sense of satisfaction afterwards. And you can't buy that feeling. You have to earn it! 

                         Andy fighting his way through Army Dreamers. Totally smashed it. 

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