Standing on the shoulders of giants
Alex Wellings reports from the club's trip to Pembroke
You don’t get to meet the pioneers of climbing too often, but on the club’s trip to Pembroke we were lucky to meet an amazing group of 27 of them.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Range West trespasses which led to the access rights we all now enjoy.
The MoD didn’t want climbers in its tank range, but a hardy group of pioneers ignored the rules, sneaking into the range – often under the cover of darkness – to bag those precious first ascents.
And it was just by chance that we bumped into them as they marked the 30th anniversary of their mass climb-in.
Six of us had made it down to Simon’s Field, Bosherston, for the club’s Pembroke meet.
We decided to climb in Range West and headed for 40 Foot Wall where we found the trespass reunion in full swing.
Climbers as old as 84 were ‘cranking it out’ on the immaculate limestone to mark their daring deeds of the early 90s.
“We used to sneak in under the cover of darkness. If we got caught we would be escorted out, but that didn’t stop us,” said one of the old boys.
It was a privilege to climb next to these pioneers and wonderful to hear their stories.
As the MoD realised the climbers were here to stay, access was grudgingly granted and the hunt for new routes was on. New routes need new names and the climbers took great delight in sneaking rude titles past the military establishment.
Now those pioneers are still climbing and if you are in your mid-80s you have access to a wonderful range of excuses to back off.
“You’ll have to lower me down. My knee has just popped out,” called one elderly gent with a knee brace.
At the end of the day we all walked out together chatting to the trespassers, delighting in their stories.
And it was only right that we toasted these pioneers with a trip to St Govan’s Inn where some of those climbing rebels of yesteryear had gathered for a pre-celebration drink.
This meant Sunday morning was a bit slow for us, but we finally got our act together and headed for Fisherman’s Point, near Tenby, for a day’s cragging in the sun.
After that it had to be fish and chips overlooking the beach in wonderful Tenby.
It had been a great weekend – the weather was amazing – and just by chance we had shared an hour or two climbing with the Range West pioneers. We truly are standing on the shoulders of giants.