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The striking sea cliffs of Pembrokeshire are not only home to some of the UK’s rarest sea birds, they also host five thousand ‘World-Class’ traditional rock climbs and with not a single bolt in sight, they are truly adventurous. The wonderful thing about climbing here is that twenty minutes after leaving the car park one can be totally committed to getting to the top of a climb, where retreat is difficult and the outcome is not certain…Now that’s adventure! Beware that there are nesting restrictions and MOD firing restrictions in some areas (see below).
Climbing in Pembrokeshire is not just for the expert it also has a lot to offer the novice on boulders and short slabs.
To find a POCG member that offers climbing Click here, and then on the Climbing logo.
Where are the climbs?
With around 5000 routes there are too many to list here. Pembroke’s climbing areas are spread north and south of the Cleddau estuary. Summit Post.org has a good overview of the climbing areas and the new Climbers Club Guidebooks list all the routes.
Bird nesting Restrictions
To give the rare and not so rare birds that nest on the cliffs the best chance to breed some of Pembrokeshire’s climbing is subject nesting bird restriction see the BMC’s Regional Access Database or pick up one of the leaflets at all the access points to climbing in Pembrokeshire.
MOD Firing Range Restrictions
Unfortunately some of Pembrokeshire’s finest climbing has MOD firing restrictions.
Range East Castlemartin: They do not use ‘live’ ammunition. Access is permitted whenever firing is not taking place, which is normally on Weekends, Bank Holidays, and in the evenings (after 4.30 pm). Night firing normally occurs on alternate Mon/Wed and Tues/Thurs nights. The Range is sometimes open during the week, but it is best to check before travelling. Phone the 24 hour help line on (01646) 662367 or got to the firing notices for up to date firing times. .
Range West: This area is used for live-firing and visitors need to attend an annual briefing to obtain a valid permit. Access is available for briefed climbers from the end of May to the end of January. IMPORTANT – LIVE high explosive ammunition is fired on Range West and it is paramount that climbers (and all users) stay away from and DO NOT touch anything metal.
Climbing in Pembrokeshire has something for everyone, but much of its finest climbing is serious. The tides chase you up the crag, the rock is battered by storms, anchors are not always available and access is by abseil where once committed, you must get to the top. Most Pembroke climbers carry a static rope that can be left in place to aid escape. At the top of many crags, metal stakes have been provided, but test them well.
Fixed gear and ethics – In the past many of the more challenging routes in Pembrokeshire were climbed with the aid of pegs on their first ascent- most are now rotten. The ethics of the area require that no new pegs should be placed to the area’s cliffs (including stainless steel ones). Fixed threads are common, but they are still controversial in some climbers minds. Climbers should be wary when using them, and if they decide to replace a worn out thread, they should remove the existing one before doing so. Stuck wires should be removed. Lastly, with the exception of Tenby South Beach Quarry, bolts have no place in Pembrokeshire, a fact now firmly accepted by the entire climbing community.
Tides are a very important consideration in Pembroke. The gravitational pull of the moon and the sun creates tides. When the sun and moon are in lined up Twice a month) higher than normal tidal ranges occur called spring tides (in Pembrokeshire they occur when the high tide is around midday). Twice each month, the sun and moon are at a 45° to each other and lower than normal tidal ranges occur – neap tides. Additionally, when the sun and moon are at perigee i.e. as close to the earth as they get, they exert a greater gravitational influence and produce greater tidal ranges the opposite is known as apogee and tidal ranges are smaller.
- Spring tides come in much faster than neap tides – at such times areas of flat rock and boulder beach can disappear rapidly and escape routes can be cut off.
- The smaller fall to low neap tides may give much less access than low spring tides to certain crags.
- The lower level of high neap tides may allow access to certain routes, which are normally cut off in high spring tides.
- Persistent and strong onshore winds can prolong or even slightly raise high tide levels, as can a high swell from some distant ocean storm.
Climbing and Wildlife
Climbers have been exploring the Pembrokeshire coast since the 1900s and have developed routes that are world class. What makes it world class is much more than the climbing – just stick your head over the edge – incredible geology, fragile plants, birds, seals, and, if you are lucky cetaceans such as porpoises and dolphins, all sharing a spectacular landscape and seascape all add to the experience.
Climbers have developed an excellent relationship with local conservation organisations and the management of the area for conservation and recreation is held up nationally as an example of best practice. The ‘Pembrokeshire Green Guide to climbing‘ is designed to help maintain this good practice and to allow climbers to enjoy the natural environment even more while helping to conserve it. It is based on the work of local climbers, the BMC, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority (PCNPA), the National Resources Wales (NRW) and POCG.
Do you struggle to identify wildlife or want to learn more?
Fact Sheets on the wildlife and geology of Pembrokeshire have been produced to help you to interpret the natural environments of Pembrokeshire, and pass on information about the plants animals and goelogy of the area to others. You can download and print out your own paper copy of these fact sheets for free here: Fact Sheets
Or you can order a set of the waterproof fact sheets for £11.50 + p&p by clicking ‘add to cart’ button below: