ST. ALDHELM'S HEAD


sea to do some easy new stuff by way of warming up. Rain had fallen overnight and it was slippery. When I got close I realised that the sea was immensely rough, and although the tide had fallen, there were puddles of seawater 15m above the normal high tide mark. I turned back and looked through the boulders between Devil's Chapel and the Place of Nightmares. I found a new boulder and started to develop a new line. All this time the wind had been getting stronger and storm clouds had appeared to the west. I kept thinking about the forecast and eerily remembered the day you crushed your finger. This was playing on my mind as a reminder that the area is not as stable as it can seem - I guess I was a bit spooked when the first fog came in. After a bit of time I sent the new problem and within minutes the sky went dark. I decided it would be prudent to go home sooner rather than later.

I walked up the hill keeping Copelandia Express on the right, where there is a bit of shelter from the westerly wind. It was actually very pleasant and I even considered climbing some more. Thankfully common sense prevailed, I continued up the slope and the wind quickly got very strong, more so the higher I got. My bouldering mat was blowing all over the place and it was all I could do to not get blown over and down the slope. Boulder-hopping in those conditions is never going to end well. At several points I was clinging on to boulders with hands and feet so I didn't get blown away. I'd wait for a lull and move quickly before holding on again. At one point the wind caught me and all I could do was jump and go with it, which allowed me to turn around and rebalance. Exhaustion and a lack of options left me with little choice but to crawl like a snail slowly up the scree slope commando style, to the terrace where I crawled up the gully to the quarry. The stone steps were the last obstacle and once again I scaled them holding on with hands and feet. The walk to the car was exhausting but I was at least safe from being blown over the cliff.
The following is an email the author received from Marcus Dymond during the wild winter of 2013 - 2014:

Touching the Cloth
After the first set of storms around Christmas, I was off work and it was mid-week, so I went down to St. Aldhelm's to have a look about and have a crack at the projects. Weather forecast was 15mph westerly, clear day. Basically I had a blinder - I thought it would be a bit windy and cold, but far from it, the conditions were pristine.

I was now at home completely psyched to return and then bad weather rolled in for day after day. At some point there was a break in the weather and a 15mph westerly with clear sky was forecast for the morning, turning to an apocalypse around 5pm (it would be dark by then so I would be long gone). It wasn't windy when I got to the Undercliff so I wandered down to the sea to do some easy new stuff by way of warming up. Rain had fallen overnight and it was slippery. When I got close I realised that the sea was immensely rough, and although the tide had fallen, there were puddles of seawater 15m above the normal high tide mark. I turned back and looked through the boulders between Devil's Chapel and the Place of Nightmares. I found a new boulder and started to develop a new line. All this time the wind had been getting stronger and storm clouds had appeared to the west. I kept thinking about the forecast and eerily remembered the day you crushed your finger. This was playing on my mind as a reminder that the area is not as stable as it can seem - I guess I was a bit spooked when the first fog came in. After a bit of time I sent the new problem and within minutes the sky went dark. I decided it would be prudent to go home sooner rather than later.
slope and the wind quickly got very strong, more so the higher I got. My bouldering mat was blowing all over the place and it was all I could do to not get blown over and down the slope. Boulder-hopping in those conditions is never going to end well. At several points I was clinging on to boulders with hands and feet so I didn't get blown away. I'd wait for a lull and move quickly before holding on again. At one point the wind caught me and all I could do was jump and go with it, which allowed me to turn around and rebalance. Exhaustion and a lack of options left me with little choice but to crawl like a snail slowly up the scree slope commando style, to the terrace where I crawled up the gully to the quarry. The stone steps were the last obstacle and once again I scaled them holding on with hands and feet. The walk to the car was exhausting but I was at least safe from being blown over the cliff.

I am glad no one witnessed this and in all seriousness it was a very close call. In retrospect I should have left my mat somewhere and come back for it but I was already in too deep to turn back.

Routes

197 boulder problems (f3...f7B+)
Graded List of Routes
List of First Ascents
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Buttress (click for routes) No. of Routes Route Type Sunshine
or shade
Approach walk Other
West Beach
Although part of the St. Aldhelm's Head Undercliff, the West Beach is usually approached from the...
25
Bouldering
Sun and shade
Downhill

30 mins

Cliff-top Quarry
Above St. Aldhelm's Head Undercliff is a short cliff-top quarry. The craglet immediately under the...
63
Bouldering
Sun and shade
Level

25 mins

Windy
Undercliff - Place of Nightmares
A chaotic area of boulders and scree that is thought to be the remains of an ancient rockfall.
13
Bouldering
Sun and shade
Downhill

30 mins

Undercliff - Copelandia Area
No description as yet.
14
Bouldering
Sun and shade
Downhill

30 mins

Undercliff - Notley Area
No description as yet.
21
Bouldering
Early morning sun
Downhill

30 mins

Undercliff - Devil's Chapel Area
The furthest west sector on the beach is home to a handful of low-to-mid grade problems.
10
Bouldering
Early morning sun
Downhill

40 mins

Undercliff - Burning Sugar Area
Perhaps the best beach sector with a concentration of good quality problems across the...
35
Bouldering
Morning sun
Downhill

33 mins

Undercliff - Dolly Dagger Area
No description as yet.
15
Bouldering
No sun
Downhill

37 mins

East Beach
The beach between St. Aldhelm's Head and Buttery Corner is currently being developed. Check out...
1
Bouldering
Sun and shade
Downhill

40 mins

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