Friday, 28 December 2012

Precipitation, Problems and Pembrokeshire – Newgale Revisited.

Driving around Pembrokeshire can be a surreal experience. Black stretches of unmarked tarmac snake through the landscape like serpents of infinite length. The few signs tell you that there is a mile to the next town, however in this part of West Wales a mile is not an actual measurable distance, rather a dreamy period of contemplation, bounded by the high green walls of natural hedgerows teaming with life. I was travelling along one of these lanes on a recent visit and as I rounded a corner I was greeted by a sign that stated “Budgie Babies £7.50 each.” How this sign could possibly be effective on a road driven on by, at most, tens of people a week, I have no idea.

I grew up in Pembrokeshire and when I visit now I am overcome by memories of past good (sometimes wild) times had in the perfect rural idyll. This usually lasts until the rain arrives. It can rain a lot in Pembs which is why it is so green and beautiful; however this is no consolation when well-made climbing plans are disrupted. The upside is that this inevitably leads to Cream Tea Cheer-Up Therapy, something that should be made available on the NHS as an effective cure for depression.

During my last foray into Pembrokeshire I managed an hour of bouldering in two days. Rain stopped play. However that one hour literally left me begging for more. At least the rain encouraged me to explore more of the possible bouldering areas in this quiet county. Some potential was seen, old problems rediscovered, and I came face to face with one of the best coastal boulders I have ever seen.

Trefgarn is a town found between Fishguard and Haverfordwest in the north of Pembrokeshire. There are two crags with bouldering here, Wolf Rock and Maiden’s Castle. As venues they were given a thorough going over in “Anorak – The Pembrokeshire Bouldering Guide” from 1997 (see previous post on how to get hold of this), however much potential remains. I could still recognise
this even through the sheets of rain that were slowly but surely dampening my enthusiasm. The potential lies in the semi highball bracket, however I could not touch it as these lines were wet. The reason I include Trefagarn is this: you can climb there when it is raining as some parts always remain dry.

The rock at Wolf Rock and Maiden’s castle is volcanic and dries very quickly. The scooped wall behind the main pinnacle at Maiden’s never gets wet. This is where my single hour of bouldering was had; and what an hour it was. I rediscovered problems and eliminates I put up ten years ago, yarding between holds on a twenty five to thirty degree overhang whilst everything around me disappeared in the enveloping mist. If you go to Pembrokeshire and its damp this is where you should go.

There are two types of rain in Pembs: type 1– soul destroying damp drizzle and type 2 – oh god there might be a mudslide! For most of the rest of my trip I experienced rain type two. On day two of my fact-finding mission I had cream tea for breakfast, that’s how bad it was. Spirits lifted, and happy in the knowledge that the tide was out, I thought I would investigate Newgale South. Dolph had developed a boulder there in 2001 and being slightly obsessive about Pembrokeshire bouldering I had to go and see it. Within a minute of walking along the beach I was wet. Within three I was soaked and the mission to find Dolph’s Boulder became an exercise in resistance training as my clothes were so weighed down with the contents of the sky.

The bouldering on the northern end of Newgale is well documented and the topo for the caves there can be found in my previous post on Pembrokeshire. The southern end has been a bit of a mystery to me. The Pembs bouldering guide hinted at potential and Dolph said it was good. I had looked before but had come away with nothing. I must confess I did have a “man look” last time; the kind of look a man has in the fridge when looking for something- the kind of look which is followed by a yell to his partner or wife who will then find the item in question. Despite the rain I was determined to find the potential at Newgale South and yelling would not help as my wife was 200 miles away in Liverpool.

To find the bouldering at Newgale South you need to walk south along the beach past the prominent headland and into the maze of small zawns that point out to sea from that point on. All the documented and potential bouldering on this part of the beach is hidden away amongst this jumble. You may walk around and think there is nothing there, however persistence reaps rewards!! If you take the time, this is the potential you will find:

If you are really diligent in your search of this sandstone jungle, you will also find this:
Dolph’s Boulder

It still has project lines on it!! A photo topo of what has been done and what remains can be found by following this link.

When I say this boulder is good- I mean it is really good! Bullet hard sandstone, wave washed and rounded in its lower reaches like a bowling ball. If you needed a reason to motivate yourself to get down to Pembrokeshire to boulder, here it is. Believe me, if you get there and it’s not raining (and you manage to get onto the beach without consuming too many cream teas) you will have a very good session indeed! Even though it was wet gaining the knowledge, Dolph’s Boulder made the absorption of every drop from the sky worth it. Go to Newgale, you won’t regret it.

Cheers Owen

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