20 April 2010

Winter Returns

It is strange how things develop a reputation. Media or rumour rightly or wrongly influence how the majority of people perceive something.

What has been printed about climbing in Margate is not correct.  Margate is a great place, go there!

The first ascent of Rock-a-bye Baby Wi6 on the RHS (yes right!) of the arch

Photos by Lukasz Warzecha

The chalk at the Northern tip of Kingsgate Bay is unlike any other I have encountered: it is pleasantly soft, with a couple of blows I was able to bury an entire pick. Other plus points: there is good access for hours either side of low tide and there are plenty of belays at the top of the routes. For anyone living in the South East who wants to climb ice routes then this is the best training available in the UK. And the routes are three star experiences.

These cliffs have been climbed for years, I re-discovered them while working on planet Thanet a couple of years ago and did some bouldering/soloing then a couple of routes with Toby Dickens. When I first saw the cliffs I noted pick/crampon marks and fixed gear, which must have been from climbers doing routes that topped out.  When we were there this weekend one of the many interested walkers turned out to be a 75 year old chap who had climbed at Kingsgate and Dover 40 years ago.

I had been intending to return to Kingsgate for some time and when the opportunity arose to go back with Toby and Lukasz it was all systems go, well.... dig out a couple of stakes and some rusty Warthogs from the bottom of a cupboard. The purpose of the trip was to try and onsight some new lines and hopefully provide something interesting for Lukasz to shoot.  To do this we had to coordinate light, tides and routes, this turned out to be extremely taxing as we had to wake up painfully early saturday AND sunday morning.  At least we had time to sleep in the afternoon before an evening session of hammering stakes, soloing slabs and moving flashes.

Soloing the Right Hand Slab

During one solo I climbed to 2/3 height and clipped in to a solitary Warthog while Lukasz took some shots. As I waited attached to the Warthog I must have lost concentration and it was truly disconcerting when I had to climb again and solo the top section of the route.

Narrow Slab Wi5. This route had been climbed by
someone else before we did it

Climbing at Kingsgate is fairly straightforward all that is needed is about half a dozen Warthogs and a decent hammer. I don't think any axe hammer is up to the job of driving a hog in to chalk, it can be done but using a real hammer is a 1000 times easier. The top outs can be a bit crumbly so it is worth getting a couple of good pieces before the top and maybe a belayer with a soft catch would be useful if things did go awry. I was using Nomics this visit and even with head weights they felt too light to easily get good placments in the chalk (and obviously they are useless for hammering) I remember the orange Fusions feeling like they penetrated better (heavy DMM tools might be good here??!).

About two thirds of the way up Sweet Dreams

Toby and Lukasz stood above Sweet Dreams Wi6-
Lukasz couldn't use a lot of the shots from this route

because my eyes were either shut or very wide!

Sweet Dreams, note the rubble on the beach and Toby hiding


See UKC for map

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