Adventure climbing on Guernsey.
Condor Ferries very kindly sent us on a trip to Guernsey back in October to see what the climbing was like. It was awesome. To enjoy the superb climbing on offer, we highly recommend hopping on the Condor. The staff are fantastic and the boat is fast. Check out their site for more information!
‘Guernsey is known for its history, delicious seafood, stunning beaches and cliff top walks but few venture over the edge and discover the wealth of traditional climbing.
Traditional Climbing consists of a handful of aluminium wedges called nuts, hexes and spring-loaded camming devices, a couple of ropes and the need for adventure. The gear is placed into the rock, creating anchors for the ropes to link through, acting as protection. Guernsey has maintained traditional climbing ethics since the 1970’s and have banned the use of fixed bolts. This creates some wildly exciting routes which wind their way high up the isolated sea cliffs.
The climbs themselves are nothing less than perfect. The rock, largely Granodiorite or Gneiss, creates a stable base to place gear and the cliffs vary in size, shape and angle. One of the standout crags is ‘Gull Zawn’. To reach this destination you must scramble along the cliffs, over stacks and spires of lichen covered boulders until you reach your abseil point. After abseiling into the venue, the features include stunning vertical walls, a seemingly endless sea and only the sound of the waves and distant gulls to accompany you; making for an incredibly atmospheric day out. A standout climb here, ‘After the Gold-rush’, is said to be one of the best climbs on the island and an adventure for any climber. Further along the coastline, the vertical walls give way to leaning slabs at ‘Le Bigard’ where the bright pink stone can only be out shined by its outstanding quality of routes. The route to try here is ‘Lynx’, a testing groove up a corner which requires perseverance before giving way to the delicate, leaning slab. The majority of the crags on the island are tidal, however, there are a few locations higher above sea level including ‘Le Gouffre’. This scenic crag is nestled in a valley near a small stream which gives way to a waterfall above the sea. There are plenty of easier, well protected routes to climb in this area.
If Traditional Climbing is not for you, the north of the island is home to endless boulders. There are already many established routes, but the area could be developed further if anyone is looking to grab a first ascent. The climbs range in difficulty but often require power, technique and bravery. Fort Pembroke, an idyllic sandy beach giving way to rough crests of rock has some of best highball slab problems tucked away at the far end of the beach. Be sure to bring your bouldering pads as the landing is not soft. A short drive up the coast again, the ‘Pecqueries’ boulder has a selection of challenging problems and an incredible view every which way you look.
As the local scene is strong but small and the sheer quantity of rock is massive, you will most likely find yourself gripped to one of the 1400+ routes with no one else insight. Whether you are new to traditional climbing or a seasoned professional, you will discover captivating routes for any ability. Navigating your way around is fairly easy but paths are often over grown so be sure to wear appropriate clothing and footwear. Although there isn’t an updated guide book yet, there is a vast amount of information and several PDF maps provided by the Guernsey Mountaineering Club on www.gmc.org.gg which will help you track down your ideal climb. As for accommodation, just across the road from ‘Pecqueries’ boulder sits the charming Vaugrat Campsite. This campsite hosts several plots of land where you can park your motorhome or pitch your tent, as well as well equipped, clean facilities.’