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Choss Monkeys and Champions

September 4, 2015 Comments (0) Thoughts

the best of all worlds

I’m off to Alicante tomorrow with a good bunch of mates, and you know what? I don’t much care that there’s lots of sport and trad.

Blasphemy! I hear you shout. Worry not, I’ve not gone soft – yet – but I will do when I’m there. Soft and wrinkly in the briny sea, because I’m going deep water soloing.

You can’t beat DWS because it combines all the best of bouldering, sport and trad – and swimming – so it’s pretty much impossible to get psyched for anything else when it’s on offer.

Moving free above the sea on solid, wave-washed rock is one of life’s great pleasures. If you haven’t tried it, do so. In case you’re not convinced, here’s a tale I wrote a couple of years back about the best route in the world. It’s right here in Britain…


Thirty feet above the crystal sea, my feet skitter on the steep, smooth rock and I cut loose, but I don’t care because my hands are in the most beautiful sinker finger pockets I’ve ever felt.

Even so, it doesn’t do to linger, and I force myself onwards through smaller crimps to an edge on the lip of the overhang. I’m powered out and the next move is a slap. I glance down, but I’m committed now, a decision was made 45 seconds earlier and now there’s no way back to the safety of the groove. I set my feet and lunge upwards.

I reach the pocket with the tip of three fingers. It’s slopey. My hand peels off backwards and my body follows. Splash. My attempt at Rainbow Bridge ends like all the others, this time with the added spice of a really low tide.

Rainbow Bridge at Berry Head is the best route in Britain. Most of the people who doubt this simply haven’t done it. But I’ve never done it either because every time I get to the end of pitch six (in old skool terms), the siren call of the Barrel Traverse lures me onto harder territory. It’s lucky that the Barrel has such a soft landing because I’m simply incapable of turning away from it. This gorgeous sweep of wave-worn limestone teases me along its perfect line of pockets, then demands that I throw myself into a baffling crux sequence with all my vigour. If the penalty for failure were certain death, I doubt I could exercise the control to turn away from it – just to feel those pockets once would be enough.

Even when I lived in Devon, I only got to Rainbow Bridge occasionally. It’s kind of a special occasion route, to be done when the planets align in a particular combination of no bird ban, the right tide and a hot sunny day. This was therefore my third attempt at the Barrel in as many years, and now that I live 500 miles away I don’t suppose they’re set to become any more common. That is also part of what makes it my favourite route in the world.

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