So about 4 years after starting climbing and about 3 years after doing my first VS, I got round to getting on a HVS the other day at Pembroke. I’d done a fair bit of guidebook reading and checking out the comments on UKC and Bludgeon at Stennis Head had a number of positive comments on it. The route goes up a large groove on the South Side of the crag. I’m a fan of big grooves, you generally get to do lots of nice bridging moves (for the non climbers, where you stand in a wide position, with one foot on one side of the wall and the other on the other side, it’s a stable position, which doesn’t use much energy). Joe and I went round to the main face of Stennis Head and Joe led a VDiff, North Corner as the warm up route. As HVS isn’t a massive physical challenge for me, I decided that the warmup on the VDiff would be enough for me and that we should try and find the route and just get it done. It was about 1200 by this time. So we headed round the otherside of Stennis Head looking for the big grassy ramp to get to the base of the climb. The guidebook mentions some scrambling along sea level ledges to get to the base of the route.
Warning, there will be serious beta on how to do the route from here on in. So if you want the onsight, click away now!
It all starts off quite easily. Hop down a few ledges and you’re on your way. I wasn’t 100% as to where the route was, but thought that 15-20 meters of traversing should see us in the right place. It was at this point that we saw another team retreating from the ‘scrambling’ or as most people would call it Diff/VDiff traversing. So out came the ropes and I went about 8 meters over. So that Joe and I could talk, I bought him down to the belay then. Bit more disscussion and I set off. I ended up going upwards to a bit of a dead end and realised that I should be lower. So I had to downclimb about 4a moves (as I’d started up the bottom of an E1/HVS, depending on which way I’d went) stripping the gear. Went across and down. Till I eventually thought ‘maybe this big obvious groove is the route?’. So I checked the guidebook again and sure enough ‘Bludgeon is the first big groove on the way in’. After looking at the photo topo I was able to match up the features to the picture and I was basically about 3 meters up the route. I tried to convince Joe to head down to the very bottom of the route, but he wasn’t having it. This wasn’t ideal as it would make rope drag worse for me. But Joe wasn’t keen on moving. So we sorted out a belay (mental note, take more gear when climbing at Stennis to setup a belay), shared one of Joe’s sandwiches, wished I’d bought some water down with us and I got going. Pretty committing start to my first HVS really. Can’t imagine many folk daft enough to do something like that. Oh well.
I was a little below the traverse on the route, so I headed across and up to that. First couple of bits of gear in at the start of the traverse and at the end. Then on good holds for hands and feet up onto the route. More gear and more steady climbing, till I got to the first crappy hold. It was a small hold, which wasn’t very positive and a bit polished. A bit of faffing here, moving around, trying to decide what to do, up and down two or three times. Eventually I went up on the good hold to my left and the small crap hold. Feet were pretty good but the good hold was now slightly behind me and under my armpit. To get a good hold on it I ended up in a pretty awkward position. Cast out to the right and there were no good holds. Arse. Began to get slightly worried. Tried the left side of the groove. There was a crack I could get my hand in. Game on. At this point my body took over. I started walking my feet up the good footholds. Got the other hand above the first hand. Moved feet again. Moved the other hand upwards. Bent legs up, pulled arms and got a bit more height. Gear well below my feet now. Not sure how far, but it was probably further than I would have liked. Reached out to the right to what looked like a jug. Thank god, it was. Right foot was good. Looked left and there was a lovely foot hold on the outside of the corner. On it. Now I was in the bridge, I could look for gear. And there is was, right in my face on the left. Perfect nut placement. Leg started shaking a bit, till the gear went in and was clipped. While I could have waited around there, I thought, well you’ve got to climb it, it’s going well, so move again. More bridging and good holds and I was under a small bulge/overhang. Got three nuts and a cam in around here. Think the nuts went in a bit lower down, two one above the other. Then one on the right and a cam a bit above the nuts. Kept on moving up and there was a good hold on the left and a niceish crozzy pocked just over the overhang. Got a good high left foot and pulled. Then over right to the big flake on the back of the overhang. Move feet and get one foot into the wide crack, which was part of the groove. Then standup, foot on the crozzy pocket and as is always the way, when you’ve got great feet and can standup, no real handholds. Just some big open handed holds on the left.
Done. In the bag. I let out a big yell and a whoop and waved down to Joe. I think he got that I was happy and I got a well done. He’d been good at yelling encouragement. The rope drag had been a bit of a pain. And the rope management could have been better. I think the rope had been a bit tight on one or two points as I really had to drag the rope up to clip. I hadn’t sworn too much and hadn’t really got my arse in a twist as I sometimes do.
After this is was nice easy ledge stepping with one last ‘protect the top-out’ nut. One loose block to be dodged. There was a poor hold, loose jug lower down the route, but as there was a jug next to it, it wasn’t a major hardship. Got up the ledges, built the belay and yelled Joe to come up. He romped up it, despite saying he couldn’t have led it.
By this point it was 3pm, so we wandered over to get our gear, get the shoes (which we’d left at the start of the traverse), sort out the gear and get back to the car. Then into Bosherton for a cream tea.