17th Apr 2009
It’s raining, cold and windy outside my office windows. Perfect running weather, but not much good for anything else. Perfect weather for dreaming of summer plans. After last year’s dismal attempt at good weather we’re surely due a scorcher this year. Aren’t we? It’ll be too hot to climb on the gritstone and too muggy for the limestone, so mountain crags and sea cliffs it will have to be. Sea cliffs. Mmmm. Reminds me of last September in Mallorca. Two weeks of beautiful warm weather, sandy beaches, incredible cliffs and not a rope or harness in sight! I’m talking Deep Water Soloing.
It’s a real shame whoever coined the phrase used those three words. Sure, they’re catchy and sum up the activity in a nutshell. But they also serve to put off the majority of climbers from even trying it. ‘Why would I want to go soloing? It’s dangerous. Deep? That sounds like ‘high’ to me’. And so say many of my friends as I enthuse about my new found favourite pastime. ‘Have you ever tried coasteering’ I ask? ‘Sure, it’s a whole lot of fun’ is more often than not the answer. Well DWS needn’t be high, scary, or akin to soloing if that’s not your bag. Find a bit of rock that’s above water that’s deep enough that you won’t hit the bottom if you jump in and do your own thing. There’s no need to use guidebooks or topos to follow desperate lines if you don’t want to. It’s without doubt the most free and open type of climbing there is. Go as high as you like. Climb as hard or easy as you like. If you find yourself unable to continue just jump off. Unless you are sticking to pre-defined routes you are unlikely to have climbed above your comfort height so jumping off shouldn’t be a problem. Of course, you need to be able to swim, the sea needs to be calm(ish), and you need to make sure you don’t land on your back, but these are all fairly easy boxes to tick. Once you’re in the water you can take a rest, spot your mates as they try to get past the point you just fell off at, swim back to the cliff and try to get back on with wet hands and shoes, or swim to the nearest beach for some dry boots and chalk.