As we go climbing every weekend (weather permitting) Lucy informed me she wanted to do something different for at least one day of her birthday weekend, so I started racking my brains and came up with the idea of getting some sit on top kayaks and going for a paddle around the Pembrokeshire coast for the day.
I did have a secret agenda though as Pembroke does have some amazing deep water soloing and I had just been given a spear gun that I wanted to try out.
So we left early on Saturday morning and headed off to Pembroke, where we were joined by good friends Paul, Sarah and Alys. When we arrived in St Davids to collect the sit on top kayaks we encountered our first problem of the day. I used to work in a shop that sold sit on top kayaks but I had kind of forgotten how big they are, especially double seated ones! So after a lot of faff we managed to strap a double and single on to my van and a double to the top of Paul and Sarah’s little Ford. Luckily we weren't going too far to launch them.
We arrived at the small port to discover the tide was out that meant we had to carry the boats down to the water which took some energy. We loaded up for which I got a lot of stick as I had brought a big duffle bag which had deep water solo gear, spear fishing gear and food for the day but it did look like I had a small suitcase strapped to the back of the boat and was attempting to paddle over to Ireland!
We set off at a leisurely pace checking out all of the little coves and caves as we went. We carried on heading for a deep water soloing venue called Barrel Zawn. We had chosen this location as it had said in the guide book that it worked on any tide however as we approached it became apparent that this wasn't the case. We had not factored in that it was a super low Spring tide so there were a lot of rocks sticking out at the base of the crag. Shows that you shouldn't always trust the guide book. Never mind we were having a lovely day so we just carried on up the coast until we got hungry and pulled in to a small beach for some lunch.
After Lunch we headed back towards the small port, by the time we got close we still had an hour before we had to start thinking about getting out so we could get the boats back to the shop before it closed. Everyone pulled on there snorkel and fins and start snorkelling. Having just been given a spear gun by a friend I decided I would give it a whirl. Now I have never dspear fished before and decided I should probably paddle away from the group as I didn't want to hurt anyone.
I suited up, set up the spear gun and jumped in and started looking for fish. The water around Pembroke is very clear which is what you need however there is a lot of kelp on the sea floor which the fish seem to be hiding in and every time I spotted one it was in to the kelp before I could take aim. The other issue I quickly discovered is that if you look down on the fish they are rather small so you need to dive down to the same level to get a side on view. In order to dive down and stay down you need to wear a weight belt which I had also been given however when I was given it I lifted it up and straight away thought I would drown if I had that around my waist so had taken a lot of the weights off. Mistake. Every time I dived down I would eventually float back to the surface.
I had also worn a summer wetsuit, however what I had not anticipated is how cold the water gets as soon as you go 1 or 2 meters down. Having spoken to the friend that gave me the gun since he said that you do really need a winter suit with a hood even in summer.
I persevered though and took 4 or 5 shoots at some delicious looking fish hoping that we could BBQ one up that evening but after an hour I had caught nothing and we had to get the boats back, disappointed but having enjoyed the challenge I vowed I would go back and try again.
Having not caught any fish we all went to the Pub for Lucy's birthday meal everyone was disappointed not to be eating the fish I had cockily told everyone I was going to provide.
The next day we got back to our usual climbing escapades and headed to Carreg-y-Barcud a crag that despite living in wales for over 10 years I had never visited.
I had two E1’s on my list but started off on a big HVS called “Ethos” which was really good fun. I then went on to do “Beyond the Azimuth” a classic E1 that a lot of my friends had done and said was amazing. They weren't lying, its an amazing slanting crack with loads of gear and really enjoyable to climb, I would even go as far as put it in my top 5 UK climbs.
We then moved on and Lucy did a few HS’s as she had never really gotten on with Pembroke style of climbing so did not want to push herself to hard.
Just as we finished up on Lucy’s routes Paul and Sarah were just toping out on Sinecure the other classic E1 I wanted to do however we were all starting to feel pretty tired from the 10km of paddling the previous day and I was losing motivation to lead.
We therefore finished the day by dropping some top ropes down some hard scare E5’s right in the middle of the crag and working those for a few hours before we left. I always love working hard routes as you start to realise that they are not totally out of reach and it is just keeping the mind under control however I would need a few more sessions before attempting “Mean Feat” (the classic E5 of the crag) on lead.
Brilliant weekend and found out that kayaking is more tiring then it looks and spear fishing is really tricky. Will be back for “Sinecure” and to see if I can get “Mean Feat” a bit more dialled.