The seas are warming up, the boulders are burning my tips and ice cream is the only thing on my mind! It’s time for DWS!
We are so lucky to live in Dorset with its top quality Sport, Bouldering and Trad but it’s getting to that time of the year to dig out every pair of shoes you have and any spare chalk bag as its time for Deep Water Soloing! DWS takes the purity of soloing but limits the danger by throwing you in to the cold wet drink (aka the sea). It’s important to remember that being above the sea does not remove the danger! You can minimise the danger by following some simple rules.
Check the guide book – The Rockfax guide (sold in The Project Climbing Centre shop) gives you tried and tested crags and safety levels through the S grading system, make sure you understand these before you pick your route.
Check the tides – The Rockfax often gives you the best tides to climb that area in and speak to local climbers about when is best. High tide is most likely the best as that’s when the sea is the deepest but it’s always worth checking the guide.
Check the conditions – If its choppy probably best to grab the rope and head to a crag with bolts. The sea doesn’t mess around and even a small swell can drag you around more than you would want.
Go with a local – It’s so important to head out with other people! If you know a climber who has got involved with DWS in that area, ask to join them. These guys and girls are the ones who know when it’s safe and what to watch out for. I am sure they be happy to help out another climber and would love to see your face the first time you fall in.
So, you are nearly ready to get your feet wet (or not, if you’re lucky).
All you need is any spare shoes you have as your first pair might get a little wet… and your second. If your shoes get wet then I am guessing your chalk bag did as well. A good little tip to prevent you having to wait a lifetime for your chalk bag to dry is to get a two-litre bottle of water, cutting all the way around about 5 inches from the bottom, so you just have the plastic bottom adding two holes to put a bit of string through and having that as your chalk bag. Its means when/if you fall in, all you have to do is tip out the sea, give it a little wipe with a towel and fill it back up. Boom! Done! Time to send it this time.
Essentials done. It’s time to climb - but where?
Everyone is going to have their favourites but I thought I would give you a heads up on a few I like and a few I would like to do.
-Temporary Lifestyle, Ixtlan Area, Portland (4+, S0) – If your first experience DWSing is on Portland then this should be the route. It’s a super fun and easy route which is super safe and makes for a good picture hanging on to the horns at the end.
-The Maypole, Stair Hole, Lulworth (6a, S0) – This route is super cruisy until you hit under the cave and depending on the tide it can be easy or hard. A great fun route which you can chase your friends on.
-The Big Easy, Ixtlan Area, Portland (6a+, S0) – A great route which traverses to a small ledge around an arete. You can escape before it gets to the 6a+ climbing by heading up the arete but if you do carry on a round you will find yourself 10 meters below the cliff top. At this point you can decide to try and climb back, swim or head up one of 4 other climbs all worth doing!
-Troubled Waters, Fisherman’s Ledge, Swanage (5, S1) – This is a very popular line which is used as a warm up/psych up for the mega classic to its left.
-Russian Roulette, Ixtlan Area, Portland (6b+, S1) – The pump is real on this one! After climbing the super long ‘Big Easy’ traverse you can sit on a ledge and chill. The rest of the route is pumpy and in the back of your mind you know it’s a long swim back to your towel. A brilliant route!
-Horny Lil’ Devil, Stair Hole, Lulworth (7a, S0) – A super classic for DWS in Dorset, possibly the UK? This jug haul does get greasy and often gets wet so get a go on it early. Also, important to have a spotter for the first couple of moves.
-Ostopus Weed, Lighthouse Area, Portland (6c, S0) – The most amazing line! This route starts on a hanging ledge which you can crawl across and is suspended across a cave. It’s hard to describe how amazing this line looks, you need to go and check it out!
-Freeborn Man, Fisherman’s Ledge, Swanage (6c, S1) – This is a route which takes a level head and a fair amount of technique. 18 meters high and the crux being a few difficult moves to get on the upper slab, this is a daunting climb for sure! A Top 50 and a must for many DWSoloers.
I could carry on, as there are endless incredible looking lines on our Dorset coast but I will let you discover them yourself. Let us know what you think of our post on Facebook and free feel to share your DWS stories.