Articles - Bosigran - Cornish sea cliff climbing
Danie Rushmer mid-crux on the all-time great Bosigran classic Little Brown Jug (V5 5a)
Quality sea-cliff climbing
The large granite sea-cliff of Bosigran lies at the very tip of the Cornish Peninsula. West Penwith itself is an extraordinarily special place, its physical ambience an intermingling of wild moorland, restless seas, quite coves and beautiful beaches. Add to this a rich Celtic and maritime history and you have the key ingredients that go into making climbing at Bosigran such a memorable experience.
Bosigran is a large, heavily featured sea-cliff perched high above a boulder-strewn cove, and more often than not a boiling cauldron of icy blue
Après-climbing activities ranging from surfing and sunbathing to eating pasties and drinking cider will at times swamp the desire to climb, especially if the body has been ravaged by the often physical nature of the routes, but eventually the lure of some of Britain’s finest will have to be answered.
The non-tidal nature of many of the routes at Bosigran is a big plus and allows a certain amount of flexibility, routes being slotted in around the varying access to the majority of the other sea cliffs dotted along this coast. For the most part climbing on the Main Cliff is not serious; the classics are well protected on magnificent clean, super solid granite. Terra firma is only an abseil away and the path and ledges beneath the crag are very accommodating, although narrow and awkward in a couple of spots. Perhaps the only word of caution to the uninitiated is the feel of the granite routes at their respective grades which, on first acquaintance, can seem under-graded. Best adopt a cautious approach, with a grade or two in hand and to tell yourself its good practice for
Let's get down to business
The mood is set as soon as you pull into the car park: the old ruins of Carn Galver mine and the remote Count House evoking a sense of the past and pointing the way to the as yet hidden cliffs. A stroll through walled fields reveals the confines of Porthmoina Cove and the serrated Commando Ridge (V. Diff ) to its west. The contouring path suddenly exposes the sheer profile of the Main Cliff.
The Main Cliff
The initial section of crag is very friendly and possess a good number of easy routes, the most trodden being the three pitch Alison Rib (Diff )** and its equally amenable neighbour Oread (V. Diff )*.Moving further seaward beyond the descent gully the crag now takes on a more imposing look but still provides a superb easy expedition in the guise of the four pitch Ledge Climb (VD)**. Bisecting Ledge Climb are two legendary routes. The operatic Anvil Chorus (HVS 4b,4c)** has a fearsome reputation for spitting out the unfit from its crux layback, but as compensation the crack eats up protection. The second legend, Little Brown Jug (VS 4b,4a,5a)*** is even better; its admirably positioned final pitch is not a place for those unsure at the grade but is nevertheless one of the finest VS pitches in
The section of wall to the left of Bow Wall is massively impressive and has a host of extreme lines – some direct and others linking the odd chink in the crag’s formidable central defences. The easiest, but not that easy! way up this area of rock is via Suicide Wall (E1 - ,4b,5a,5c,4b)*** which traverses both thin and wide cracks and powers up short hard walls. Equally unforgettable is the counter line of The Ghost (E3 5a,5b)*** which takes on the daunting high level roofs, managing to side-step the steepest section via a heart-in-mouth rightwards traverse with toes on the last inches of rock above a huge drop. Even harder climbs such as Morgawr (E6 5b,6c)**, Shaft (E3 5c,6a)**, Vulcan (E5 5a,6b)**, Phantom (E3 5a,5c,6a)** and The Absolution (E6 5a,6a,6c)** find their way more directly to and through the upper overhangs, but given the relatively amenable grade of The Ghost non are anywhere near as popular. As the upper overhangs diminish, the wall once again changes in character, this time criss-crossed and featured by slim corner grooves, ramps and wide cracks and flakes both vertical and horizontal. Beowolf (E2 5a,5c,5b)*** and close by Paragon (HVS 5a,4c,5a,5a)** are typical of the style on this section with diverse, technically challenging pitches that although short lived leave a lasting impression. The shallow corner on the second pitch of Beowolf is typical, where strong-arm tactics play little part in achieving a successful outcome. As the rock becomes better featured the climbing becomes less sustained and more in the way of a rhythm can be found: Nameless (VS 4b,4c)**, Zig Zag (VS 4c,4c)** and Autumn Flakes (HS 4a,4a,4b)** are of similar style and character.
The crag now starts to lose height and the routes become single pitch with large comfortable belays from which to watch the goings on above. The reduction in height is balanced by the steepening rock and dramatic lines. The routes here are hard and uncompromising and unlikely to be forgotten in a hurry. Kafoozalem (E4 6a)***, Raven Wall (E3 5c)***, Gwendal (E2 5c,)***, Patience (E2 5c)** and Evil Eye (E5 6b)*** are some of the South-west’s greatest and should you tire of these the fillers in of Dominator (E3 5c)** and Pump it Up (E4 6b)** are worthy interlopers. Only Beaker Route (HVS 5a,5a)** and Armchair (HVS 5a,5a)** allow the wall to be sampled at a more amenable level, although more class low to mid grade routes lie down on the Seaward Cliff.
The Seaward Cliff
The first section of the Seaward Cliff is also non-tidal and is again multi-pitch territory but the base is closer to the sea and more prone to spray in heavy seas. Black Slab (Diff )** is a tremendous route with impeccable position and rock. Just left are the starts of Ochre Slab Route 1 (VS 4b, 4b)** and Ochre Slab Route 2 (Severe 4a,- )* both worthy of anyone’s attention providing both delicate and strenuous manoeuvres as well as being useful alternatives if the more accessible routes on the Main Cliff itself are busy. Ding (VS 4c,4b)** and Dong (Severe)* provide equally engaging pitches here, all on superb granite. Out of sight around the corner and on the only true section of sea cliff at the Main Cliff area are quite a few routes with a slightly serious feel about them due to the paucity of gear hereabouts. However for those looking for a some real solitude and a dose of adrenaline, Geronimo (E1 5c,-)**, provides an idea of what’s in store.
Across Porthmoina Cove and on the other side of the serrated classic alpine-like 700ft long Bosigran Ridge (V. Diff ) is a charming almost nontidal wall with a half dozen lines of which the exquisite Gallipoli (E1 5c)*** is the best. Just around the corner lurks the slit of Great Zawn. Here are the cream of
Bosigran - What you need to know
On the north coast of
When to go:
Bosigran Main Cliff receives the sun from midday. Summer is prime holiday season and the crags including all the Zawns are usually in top condition. Spring and autumn are, if anything, a little better as the crowds of tourists are not in evidence although the sea in Spring is very cold, and winter seepage can be a problem in the Zawns. Winter is much less reliable but is still worth a punt for the adventurous.
What to take:
a standard rack and double ropes are ample for the routes on Bosigran Main Cliff, cams are very useful.Many of the other cliffs in the area require an abseil approach so a spare rope is desirable.Windproofs are useful as is sun cream and a hat, as there is no shade at all from the sun.
Guidebooks and Route Information:
West Cornwall Climbers’Club,Cornish Rock Cicerone, South West Climbs by Pat Littlejohn, Hard, Classic and Extreme Rock all feature routes on the Main Cliff.
Shops & Pubs:
There are two large supermarkets in
Where to stay:
Campsites, B&B’s and holiday cottages are numerous.A good campsite is at Trewellard and a very nice private hostel is located at Zennor.The Count House is a Climbers’Club Hut next to the Carn Galver mine and can be booked by BMC clubs www.climbers-club.co.uk
Other Climbing in the area:
The climbing available in the