Articles - Trad Climbing in Pembroke, Lucky Strike(E1 5b).
Lucky Strike, by Tim Glasby
by John Horscroft
What machinations and prevarications, false starts and broken hearts finally lead to climbing heaven, to a route pored over and imagined, idealised and lionised? Some routes are so long in the mind that the reality must be exceptional to ward off disappointment. Some routes simply have to be great to overcome the big build-up, to meet heightened expectations, and when they are to be found deep in the midst of the world’s greatest crag, their job is even harder. Would Lucky Strike fall foul of comparison with the likes of Deranged or Ultravixens, Deep Space or Chimes of Freedom? Would I be up to the task? For some reason one warm June morning, I felt confident that my fears were unfounded, that this would be one of those days.
The omens were all good. Take the name. What could go wrong with a climb called Lucky Strike? And who did we have to thank for that name? None other than the route finder general, Pat Littlejohn. Were he not such a capital fellow, it would be easy to begrudge him all the wonderful routes he’s unearthed over the years. As it is, he has been a climber’s pied piper, his discoveries have become our playground and Lucky Strike is just one of the climbs he contributed to the Pembroke new route boom of the seventies and eighties. I’d already climbed a few of those signature Littlejohn routes and found them entirely in keeping with his character: bold and adventurous. Lucky Strike held an aura of seriousness. The approach, the threatening sea and steep exit all conspired to unnerve.
It wasn’t as if I hadn’t served my apprenticeship doing battle with Razzle Dazzle and Army Dreamers, Crithmum and Diedre Sud. Now I was making my bid for the big time, standing at a vantage point looking down at the peerless slab across which Lucky Strike sweeps. I’d survived abseiling into Mother Carey’s with a big sea running, overcome the perplexing technicality of Ricochet and coped with the claustrophobic confines of Huntsman’s Leap. I’d had my arse kicked a few times too. Memorably on a VS escaping from Mowing Word and trying Shark’s Fin on Bosherston Head. I was ready like a boxer with just enough fights under his belt, just enough close calls, just enough KO’s.
So Lucky Strike and I danced around the ring, looking for an opening, sizing each other up. A couple of sharp jabs to the ribs, a gripping abseil and high tide, and I was on the defensive, shimmying to my right. But where other traverses can be ungainly crabbing affairs, this was tip of the toes show-boating. I may not have been Ali, but I wasn’t Joe Bugner either. Aeons of battering waves had done the job, sculpting a procession of perfect holds, a logical progression and the further I went, the more in tune with the rhythm of the climb I felt. It was engrossing and perplexing but entirely feasible, hard but not too hard, enough to test without threatening to cast me into Davey Jones’ locker. The wait had been worth it and the timing just right. Sometimes, all it takes is a little patience to grab your very own tiny slice of climbing heaven.
Lucky Strike, Rusty Walls, Pembroke. FA Pat Littlejohn
For all you need to know about climbing in Pembroke check out Mike Robertson's beginners guide.