Pushing the Grade on The Earl of Perth

Pushing the Grade on The Earl of Perth

The Route

A big budget route with 2 challenging pitches up the steeper territory of the Suspension Bridge Buttress.  The first pitch climb a thin crack to the large ledge before tackling the steep black bulge which climbs through exciting and exposed positions to a semi hanging belay.  The second pitch, in contrast to the first, climbs a thin technical corner until reaching the spectacular traverse pitch on Howhard.


Accessing the Suspension Bridge Buttress is not as straight forward as Sea Walls or Main Area.  There are 2 possible parking spaces off the A4.  They are on the right-hand side after passing under the Bridge as you head out of Bristol.  These are tricky to access due to the road being busy so alternatively, park in the layby at Main Wall or on Clifton Down.  From Main Wall it is a bit less than a kilometre walk back along the A4 to access the crag.  From Clifton Down, walk towards the observatory.  When nearing Engineers House on the left, there is a trail heading steeply down on the right (565766).  Follow this to the bottom until you reach some stairs.  At the bottom of the stairs, you be back on the A4.

From the A4, walk towards the Clifton Suspension Bridge passing under the overpass.  On your left will be a clearly walked path through the fence.  Take this whilst being careful not to damage the fence as the council are responsible for maintaining these fences and damage could cause crag access to be revoked.  Once crossing the fence, follow it up hill, ducking under/or over the fence supports, up the steep slope.  After 20 meters, do not continue up the path and instead, pass through another gap on the left.  After a few more meters you will be on the large grass platform beneath the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

The Main Face of the Suspension Bridge Buttress often has nesting birds in the large pockets, including Jackdaws and potentially Peregrine Falcons.  It is advisable to avoid this route from April to June to minimise disruption to the nests, but it is essential that you check the information on BMC RAD which contains the most up to date information on crag restrictions.  BMC RAD linked here.

The Climb

Alex and I turned up at the crag in the afternoon after work with an aim of warming up on Suspense HVS 5a and then climbing Baby Duck E1 5b and Limbo E1 5b.  Alex lead Suspense which he quickly dispatched with the cool confidence of someone who’s been climbing a lot of trad.  When climbing, we came across a few nests inside the pockets which we were able to avoid so we didn’t disturb the inhabitants. 

Alex making quick work of Suspense

The whole time we were climbing there were Jackdaws circling above us, watching our every move.  Realising, that we should avoid this area due to the nesting birds, we set our sights on The Earl of Perth E1 5b.  A 3-star route with a steep and intimidating first pitch.  Alex opted to lead the first pitch and I the second. 

The airy abseil under the watchful eye of the Jackdaws

The first couple moves require careful thinking, as it is awkward stepping off of the starting belay ledge. 

The thin starting crack with the ominous black bulge above

A few quick moves took Alex onto the next big ledge beneath the black bulge.  He spent a while placing thread protection as high as he could in the deep buldge before leaving the ledge. 

Working in the thread protection

After shouting down “this is going to be thuggish” he pulled up into the bulge.  In the middle of the crux moves, there is a peg out to the left which through an exposed layback, Alex managed to clip before climbing powerfully out of the bulge and then delicately climbing across the face to the belay.  The “Semi Hanging” belay stance is not very obvious, and Alex missed 2 pegs slightly higher on the right that would have made the stance a lot more comfortable. 

The semi hanging belay (the ropes are not twisted, red is right!)

Once safe, I was put on belay, so I started to climb.  After a couple awkward moves, I was off the starting ledge and worked my way up to the ledge under the black bulge.  As I climbed into the bulge, I reached for what I thought was a jug that turned out to be an awkward, polished pinch.  I had to commit to this slippery nightmare and as I pulled on the hold, my hand began to slip.  I dived my hand deeper into the bulge and found an excellent jug.  Stretching out behind me I unclipped the peg which Alex had put in then continued to power up the jugs until exciting the bulge and climbing up to the belay.  Once I had found the jugs, the moves were big, powerful but an absolute joy. 

It was now my turn on the hot end of the rope.  The second pitch is a complete opposite of the first.  The first was obvious and thuggish, whereas the second was delicate, thin climbing up a corner.  After placing a quick piece of gear to protect the belay, I found the following sequence very thin and technical.  The gear was inadequate so through some bridging and delicate balancing I ran it out to the large break.

The end of the pitch meeting the middle of the brilliant traverse pitch of Howard.  I was momentarily confused as the break has been very well travelled but it is not the correct line.  After getting over my confusion, I continued to climb up the corner towards the next big break above.  I was grateful that we had brought 2 sets of nuts with us as I didn’t place anything larger than a no 3 in the corner.  Only in the breaks did I find solid, confidence building gear.  After topping out of the corner, I was faced with an easy but exposed 10+ meter traverse before pulling up onto the large metal plate with a fixed anchor point. 

The exposed rising traverse

Alex seconded up, only loosing time to “encourage” a troublesome nut out. 

When he reached the anchor, we both marvelled at the vast difference in the 2 pitches.  The first was intimidating, exposed and powerful.  The second was thin, technical and thought provoking.

We abseiled down the face back to the ledge both thoroughly agreeing that the route was sensational and well deserving of its 3 stars.

The final abseil

If you are ever in Bristol and want to climb an epic route, I highly recommend The Earl of Perth.

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