Portland, Autumn 2012
It was a beautiful sunny day and five of us and a dog set off from Brighton to Portland.
I was particularly excited as I’m fairly new to climbing and as a new member of Craggers this was my first trip so I was also a bit nervous.
We arrived at what seemed at first rather a strange camp site but as the week went on we grew to love it. It did have a touch of deliverance cross father ted but if you like original 60’s wallpaper and fittings and retro egg cups and have a penchant for caravans then it was definitely a grower.
Although we decided to forgo the creepy shower block in case we got murdered….
We unpacked, and after a lovely vegan meal we cosied up round the fire reading climbing books and learning about knots.
The next day we got up early and headed off to the west side of the arctic, no I mean island but it may have well been the arctic! It was freezing cold, and very windy. I had six layers on and a huge hat. But as we battled along the cliffs it was so beautiful that it made it worth it. it was definitely a “blowing the cobwebs out” day. The descent to the beach was quite tricky; we climbed down by hand sometimes with the aid of a huge in situ rope. We had to pass our bags down and Suki the dog.
Tony skilled us up with some Bushcraft knowledge and we saw some sea kale, samphire, sorrel and mint. also, there was an amazing type of lime stone called flow stone, which looked like candle wax dripping down the cliffs… by the time we had got to the bottom it had started raining , which made it hard going under foot, quite treacherous, also most of the belay points were in the sea!
So after sheltering for our lunch we decided to go to the east side of the island, to an area called the cuttings. Which in comparison, was like Spain in the winter- warm, sunny, sheltered and lovely.
We set about finding some routes, sizing them up. The quarry walls were steep and seemed quite meanly graded. They said 2plus which should of been easy but were very polished. even more experienced people found them tricky. We got a few climbs in each and as the night drew in we went home looking out to sea at the beautiful sun set, happy from our blustery walk and then finding a calmer place to climb. Excited about the weeks climbing that was in ahead for us.
The next day we were joined by Jo and her two little monkeys, Spike, seven and Billie, three who brought much fun and smiles. Both kids climbed throughout the week and it was lovely to see their confidence and ability grow as the week progressed.
For most of the week it was great weather but when it tipped it down we had well deserved rests, visiting the amazing sculpture park in an old quarry that Kate found, walking on the beach and perusing Portland’s charity shops including the amusingly named feral cat shop…
I had only attempted lead climbing / belaying a few times and did not feel very confident about it, but with a bit of a kindly pep talk from the group I got over my fear and started on a few easy ones. also once they shown me how to lead belay properly I was shadowed by Dan and belayed Danny, sixteen, who was an absolute star. He took a bad fall on the first go which was great (sort of!!) Because I realised I could save him! Despite being pumped full of adrenaline and shaking, he got straight back to it and completed the climb. He also showed excellent leading skills and was very helpful. In fact everyone was very helpful and i felt very welcome and safe.
I’ve wanted to go on a climbing expedition for a while now but without Craggers could never have afforded it or had the courage.
Today I went to the climbing centre and lead a long 4 that before the Portland holiday I was unable to do, but today managed it and felt so happy I’ve bounced around all day!! This is definitely a good way to beat the winter doom.
Thanks very much everybody & a huge thank you to Dan Fogg who organised the trip.
The arctic conditions on the west coast of Portland
On the east side, Ellie and Jo climbing, Dan and Tony belaying, Danny, Suki and Billie watching. Danny just before his fall!
Ellie’s next Course And Sculpture at Tout Quarry
Portland bill the light house and Billie the Monkey!