Since we are based in Swanage it seems only right that our first blog post be about climbing in Dorset. Although many UK climbers often daydream about the orange, sunsoaked limestone crags abroad in places like Mallorca and Kalymnos, Dorset holds it's own gems across all climbing disciplines that will keep any keen climber entertained for years to come.
Climbing in Portland
For sport climbers, The Isle of Portland is the obvious destination as its multiple crags have something for everyone. The feel of each venue on Portland varies enormously- the East side of the Isle catches the morning light and tends to have more relaxed approaches. The West side will certainly appeal to the more adventurous climbers with approaches often steap and overgrown, however those willing to put in the extra effort will be rewarded with immaculate face climbs with perplexing flowstone formations and magnificent aretes extending upwards of 30m. Being open to the Atlantic only adds to the wild atmosphere and since it faces west, evening climbs in the summer can be particularly spectacular.
Late summer into autumn would also be the best time to head to Dorset if Deep Water Soloing is your thing. Portland is a great venue for DWS beginners since the routes are often short, but as always, research the tides before you go as there is a huge tidal range there and some routes will be safe at high tide but expose rocks at low tide. If climbing around Pulpit Rock watch out for the current!
Climbing in Lulworth
Little known to all the tourists Lulworth is one of Britains hardcore DWS venues, with routes up to 8a+ it is perhaps not a beginner area although there is a tranverse that runs around the bottom of the main routes. Steep overhangs relentlessly jut out over the sea giving the ultimate pump in your forearms.
The bouldering at Church Rock near Lulworth is also noteworthy as well as some steep trad and bolted routes in the surrounding area that are rarely climbed.
Climbing in Swanage
The climbing around Swanage is truly varied with high quality trad, sport, DWS and bouldering spread across 6 miles of coastline. The best bouldering can be found at St Aldhelm's Head home to a large boulder field but beware high winds which can make the walk into the lower field treachous while carrying bulky bouldering mats.
Most of the sport is contained in the numerous abandoned quarries which were all strategically located as close to the sea as possible to transport the stone away by boat. This has left over some ideallic climbing spots which get plenty of sunshine making the climbing good year round.
While most of the quarries have been developed for sport climbing, this leaves the rest of the sea cliffs open to the trad climber. Although almost all crags require access by abseil, there are still friendly venues suitible for beginners with plenty spots predominately with grades around HS.
That said it would be a disservice to leave out the hard trad climbing around swanage - the routes often require bold climbers to escape the depths of stupendous caverns in multiple pitches and certainly makes for an adrenaline fuelled experience.
This should give you an idea of what climbing dorset has on offer and hopefully stir up your climbing motivation. For the most part, crag names and specific routes have been left out because route quality and enjoyment are totally subjective and therefore, chasing the 'best' routes or areas would leave so much climbing under represented.
Don't forget if you ever need climbing gear, we are here in Swanage to help you out!