Wye Valley

A breakthrough weekend

This weekend I went back to Tintern Quarry, where I have already been before, but somehow it felt massively different and I liked the place so much more this time around. Everything worked together this time to make this weekend a breakthrough moment in my outdoor climbing so far this summer.

Tintern Quarry lies on the east bank of the River Wye, not far from Chepstow and just over the Severn Bridge if you’re driving from London. The Wye Valley will always be memorable to me as the place where I did my first trad lead, but the sport climbing in England hasn’t really managed to find its way into my heart until this weekend.

The quarry is pretty big and has a vast selection of walls with quite epic names – the Jurassic Wall, with routes up to 40m; Sunnyside Wall, which felt more like windy wall to me; Red Dust Wall and Strawberry Wall.

We started climbing that day on the first wall that we came to, Entry Wall, and my god the climbing was just wonderful. The routes are well-bolted, for England, which I think is why it helped so much with my confidence. It felt like climbing on a normal sport route in Italy or Spain (I will do a separate post on Spain, because THAT is something else entirely!).

Clay, with whom I have been training for a few months now, and I both marvelled at how our labour has finally begun to bear fruit. Both of us struggle with fear of falling on sport routes and therefore our technique falters and we end of overgripping the hand holds and tiring ourselves out. But this weekend, we kind of nailed it.

We warmed up on a lovely 5+ at the very entrance to the crag, which felt exceptionally easy, and moved on further down the wall, where a 6a+ called “The Unkindest Cut of All” crosses with a 6b line, “Burning Embers”. They both end on the same anchor, which also houses a 6c route, “Dispossessed”, probably the best 6c I’ve done outdoors thus far. I wasn’t quite ready to lead it, but I happily led the first two, and I will definitely come back to the 6c to lead it clean after working out the moves a bit better. Clay dominated it, so he’ll move on to bigger goals no doubt, but that would be my first outdoor 6c lead.

The best part was that I felt pretty comfortable and the sheer terror of falling that I usually get on real rock seemed to be well and truly gone this weekend. I hope it’s gone for good! Of course, I still felt apprehensive about some moves, but I no longer felt paralysed by it. I felt in control.

I guess all the fall practice and the amount of time we are spending outdoors has really been paying off, even though it isn’t immediately noticeable. It feels pretty amazing to get confirmation that we are on the right track, even if it probably isn’t a straight road up. So exciting!

The great stuff doesn’t end there. We also found a great spot half way up the path to the quarry from the parking lot for wild camping – tucked away, we weren’t disturbed by anyone all night and ended up sleeping in until nearly 10am because it rained too heavily in the early hours to get out of the tent. Great excuse 😉

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