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EXCERPT: James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini’s New Book, “Climbing Beyond”

The power climbing couple of James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini share their favorite climbing spots and outings in their new book, Climbing Beyond. In this excerpt from a chapter on climbing around Pembrokeshire, Wales, Pearson shares beta on Stennis Ford and Muy Caliente, one of the area's most difficult lines.

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Climbing Beyond CoverWalking onto St. Govans Range East for the first time, you might be surprised to find out that here is one of the UK’s premiere traditional climbing areas, world famous for its compact, grippy limestone and amazingly varied routes. On first glance there is nothing here that resembles “rock” in the slightest, just endless flat grassy pastures, dotted by the occasional sheep, or decaying tank track. Be very careful, as all of a sudden, the green flat fields drop away 30 vertical meters to the crashing sea below. Pembroke is British Sea Cliff climbing at its very best, and climbers from all around the world flock here every summer to test their fingers, and their nerves.

Climbing here comes in all forms, from long, bold slabs, to technical, brutal finger cracks, but on the most part it is well protected and relatively simple. Pembroke is often referred to as Trad climbing for Sport Climbers – If you have the fitness and know how to wiggle in small “wires,” then you’re going to love it here! There is something magically intimidating about descending on abseil to your chosen route, giant waves pounding over the rocky shore below, and knowing that the only way back out is to succeed on your challenge for the day. There is no question about it; climbing in Pembroke is committing; far more so than some of the other popular UK Trad Venues, but it is also so very rewarding, and you finish each and every day with a real sense of achievement.

After the disappointment of falling on his flash attempt of Muy Caliente (E10 6c) in Stennis Ford, Pembroke, James Pearson goes back the next day and climbs the route on his first try that day. E10 ground up in two attempts! Photo: Climbing Beyond/David Simmonite.
After the disappointment of falling on his flash attempt of Muy Caliente (E10 6c) in Stennis Ford, Pembroke, James Pearson goes back the next day and climbs the route on his first try that day. E10 ground up in two attempts! Photo: Climbing Beyond/David Simmonite.

One of the first main areas any visiting climber will see is the wide-open lawn of Stennis Ford. Although home to some of the hardest routes Pembroke has to offer, Stennis should not be thought of as only an elite level crag. Whilst it is true there are no ‘easy’ routes here, there are plenty of classic E3s, 4s, and 5s with routes like Mysteries and Suspense being some of the best of their grade in the country. At the extreme end of the difficulty spectrum, and currently the only route of this level to have ever been climbed without the security of “top rope” practice, is Muy Caliente, E10 6c. This imposing, dangerous route takes a bold and direct line up one of the blankest faces around, packing many difficult and tiring movements, with very little in the way of reliable protection. Climbing a route like Muy Caliente requires total commitment, and an acceptance that any mistake could be fatal. Routes like this are not for the faint hearted; yet the total immersion in the moment that they offer is what drives climbers to tackle its challenge.

Muy Caliente has to be the most fun, dangerous route in the UK – its simply just brilliant. After climbing the first easy 10 meters up to a nest of good gear, you bust it out up a gently overhanging wall, with every move taking you further and further away from your pro. The moves are fun, the rock is fantastic, and everything flows perfectly – its easy to lose yourself in the moment and forget that a fall from the last few moves on this section will likely see you in pieces on the rocky beach below! It’s bold trad at its best – total immersion!


To pick up a copy of Climbing Beyond, head to Amazon or your local bookstore.


Watch Pearson on Muy Caliente: 

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