12th - 15th September 2019

Rob, Ben and I stopped in a service station before the M1 for ‘dinner’ on the way to Dorset, which was the most eventful event of the journey. Once on the island (or should that be headland?), we took sight of our abode: amongst a slightly desolate scene, on a roundabout, next to “Hump and Dump Skip Hire”.  Fortunately, the place brightened up considerably on the inside and it looked much nicer on the outside in daylight. I had re-discovered on the previous meet how truly special is the range of acoustic torment that can be inflicted by snoring. However, if you stick with the Peppits then they always find a hidden quiet room. Our bunkhouse consisted of several small rooms with two bunks, a basin and a little shower. As the last to arrive, Ben and I found ourselves on the top bunks in one of the rooms, potentially imprisoned with snoring monsters beneath. No International Peppit Sleep Rescue on this occasion! I had a quick look to see if the local Premier Inn was within walking distance. Discovering, it wasn’t, I then went upstairs for some drinks and to plan the climbing for the next day. When we went to bed, sometime after midnight, we were treated to something actually more horrible than the hog-garrotting snoring of the previous meet. A combination of angle grinding from roadworks outside and bunkmates hell-bent on having the window open! The next challenge came at around 3am. The little bunks were devoid of ladders. How should I get off the bunk to visit the loo? The successful method, I discovered, was to swing legs over the bedrail, take hold of Ben’s rail and swing legs in free space like a gymnast on parallel bars. I then opened the bedroom door, let go “BANG!” then exclaimed “Christ! Sorry!”, before I added insult to injury by flushing the loudest loo known to man. The only way back into the bed was to climb the footboard and swing my leg over, bashing it with the side of my knee and following up with considerably more swearing. Could it be that I was to be the worse bunkmate after all my concerns about other people snoring and disturbing my sleep? At about 6.30am I again awoke, not having had my requisite 8 hours, this time to Portland water torture. On and on came the terrible hiss of water ejected at high pressure from a tap. Every minute or so I would open my good eye (I was half way through eye surgery) and see the same sight of my bunkmate running water without the merest hint of any self-cleansing. I couldn’t work out what on earth he was doing. I later discovered that the hot water took an age to come through – obvious, really. Regardless, I couldn’t help reflect that the shower, not two foot behind, would have been a quicker and easier way to eradicate oneself of the previous day’s grime. How lovely it was not to be short sighted in at least one eye and able to use an unfamiliar shower with sight for the first time since before I was a teenager. If you aren’t extremely short sighted, you may not be able to empathise with how amazing that feeling was. Wonders of modern medicine.

After breakfast we set off for Cheyne Cliff, which is a sport climbing cliff on the east side of the island. We parked in the Cheyne Weares (apparently pronounced “Shaye Warne”) car park and found a route down to the beach beneath. The Peppits skipped effortlessly across massive beach stones whilst I held Ben up by slowly making my way from stone to stone on all-fours. After longer than I would have liked, we reached our climbs. A fine section of limestone sport routes, some 15m, punctuated by bands of flint. We later found that flint is only found in chalk and this material has a different name, in spite of being, well, flint. It made for nice, positive, sharp handholds and rather slippery footholds. I bravely took the decision to let Ben lead the climbs. We began with a 3+ and worked our way up three 4c to the heady heights of a 5a. These were Valerie’s Patio, Wave Warrior, Jody Sunshine, Jasper, Willen and Ben. Ben the climb, not Ben the climber. I Pink Pointed them which apparently means I bravely let Ben put the quick draws in but otherwise I led the routes – much like a climbing wall. Pink pointing makes a big difference and I remember thinking on several occasions “I’m glad I’m not leading this!” Though I was, sort of leading. We began climbing in shade and as the sun swung round and bathed us in surprisingly hot hotness, Mike and Rob were all over Ben. Ben the climb, not Ben the climber. Finally, Ben and I climbed on Ben and our adventures on this cliff were complete. The whole weekend was one of beautiful sunshine – a little too hot for climbing but very pleasant in the shade.

Next, we found a nice little bay for a swim before returning to our abode after a pleasant trip to the local pub. There was a truly beautiful sunset off Chesil Beach. A nice meal was served by our hosts and the place was brightened considerably by Martin’s shirt. I didn’t drink too much and had a sensible early night in trepidation of the following day, which I thought was most likely to be one of those DPC days when I am taken out of my comfort zone. The gap in outdoors-ness and fitness between me and the Peppits was brought-home to me the next morning when I sat down to breakfast refreshed having slept well and got up slowly, limbering up the limbs and muscling up the muscles carefully in preparation for the day. The Peppits arrived looking slightly flushed and with tales of having just run the 10 miles around the island. That would have, quite literally, killed me before even thinking about climbing afterwards.

It was another beautiful day. We set of for Blacknor North, which was visible, in the distance, from the pub garden where we had watched the sun set the day before. This accessible cliff was somewhat higher than the cliff of the previous day and quite full of people. After ascending an unoccupied better-than-it-looked climb, Ben and I queued at the bottom of one of the south’s top 50 climbs: the 22m three star 5a called Sling Shot. It was a fascinating mixture of limestone and flowstone. Cave climbing outside! Ben had earlier made a new friend. A bullish chap. His friend’s friend climbed the flowstone without event. Ben’s friend then proceeded to make his way up pink pointing at a snail’s pace. Two or three times throwing himself off the cliff to the bolt below declaring: “I meant to do that. I was scared of failing so I made it happen”. I wouldn’t like to be his belayer. After an age, we set about the climb. Ben led. Ben the climber, not Ben the climb. Bravely, I seconded and on a top rope. I didn’t want Ben to feel as though I might jump off for some inexplicable psychology. It was, indeed, a great climb. At one point I found myself facing ninety degrees to the left-hand-side of the crag and about to climb up the inside of a cleft of flowstone. I then realised that the more correct route was out and around it with interesting exposure. The material was good in places, particularly for jamming, though rather slippery in others.

Not content with just one cliff, we relocated to the Lighthouse Area for some deep-ish water soloing.  This was at the famous Portland Bill and our little cliff was to be found about 200 m east of the lighthouse. I always thought that ‘deep water’ made the soloing sound more intimidating but upon seeing the rather shallow water, I could see that deep water was a much better sloppy wetness to have beneath one’s feet during a climb than shallow water. The waves crashed under the overhang and there appeared no way out of the water, due to the steep sides of the rock and the absence of the ladder that is to be seen in some guidebooks. I didn’t want to encourage tomfoolery and refused to place myself over the water. The Peppits and Ben both found a nice looking route from a slab of rock near the water up to the cliff top some 8m above the sea. I lay down on the grass and drifted off into a beautiful nap. Sometime later, I found myself dreaming about being attacked by some awful insect and awoke as Ben was dive bombing me with his drone.

The previous night was repeated with pleasant drink at the pub, lovely sunset and nice meal at the bunkhouse. The next day we packed up and drove off to The Cuttings, which was a cliff formed from a little railway cutting some half mile north of our first day’s climbing. I was not having a good day and failed miserably to lead a 4+. I eventually got up it on a top rope. After I had made sure that a 2+ was sufficiently safe for me by watching Ben, Rob, Mike, Geoff and David all get up it, I red pointed it. The climb was quite exhilarating. There were some interesting little moves up and right to a bolt and the crux was only a couple of meters above the ground. A shelf was gained just above the bolt where a second bolt could be clipped into. This was followed by one easy move and then an excellent flake to hold to make the final move to the top bolt. I held on for dear life to the huge jug with my right hand and clasped my left around the bolt chain. Falling now would be incredibly unlikely to happen, though to do so would mean bouncing off the shelf below and swinging somewhere near the ground. I clipped in and relaxed. It was nice to have led one climb properly and not pink pointed this one. There was a nice little climb immediately to the right. After completing it, we set off to the little bay for another swim before heading home after another great climbing weekend.