Expert's tips for deep water soloing
- Get wet, and enjoy the feel of water on your body. This might be your single most important consideration.
- Go with some good mates, and enjoy yourselves. Then go to the pub and giggle about it.
- Do DWS on a day when you don't give a damn (like when you're desperately hung-over, or your divorce has just come through). You'll be woefully reckless, and that's just great.
- Go for that perfect on-sight of all routes in the S0 - S1 bracket. You have little to lose, if you're happy with the concept of falling in the water.
- Avoid performing backward somersaults for the entertainment of your pals, especially from great heights. Both times I've watched this, I've had to get involved in a full-blown rescue. Trust me, perforated lungs just aren't pretty.
- If you're into climbing your first S3, make sure that you are totally prepared. Check tide times (and the actuality of the tide on the day - remember tide predictions are just that, and are not set in stone). Make sure you're fit enough to do the deed. In the case of shallow water S3s, check the seabed religiously (i.e. This is the Life E3 5C, at Cave Hole, has exactly 4ft of dampness at a top spring tide).
- In the case of 'highball', stamina S3s, be prepared for the consequences of a long, long fall (Durdle Door's 7A+ Riding to Babylon represents the highest DWS in Dorset to date, with the pumpy, 'out-there' top crux situated at 85ft).
- For your first DWSs, avoid the ones that linger above rock in their opening stages; get chilled and take on the ones that offer unlimited water below.
- Think about your clothing. It's possible to take a fair amount of 'Old Neptune' up the rear passage (been there, done that, don't want to do it again). So get a bit of clothing about you. Don't solo Conner Cove's Freeborn Man naked, like some folk do... It's not clever and it's not pretty.
- Take lots of spare kit. Especially chalk bags. If you want to solo routes with troublesome access (e.g. White Hole North at Portland), consider making a hanging bench seat. This will facilitate removal of your harness and provide a 'chill zone' before you set off. No doubt your partner will 'helpfully' and eagerly pull the seat away from you!
- Relax! Don't pull so hard! There's great water below, so just enjoy the moment and start dancing.
Mike has been climbing for over 20 years and has worked for several big-names in the climbing world including Rockfax climbing guides and Mountain Hardwear. He has written extensively on deep water soloing in areas of the UK including Dorset and Pembrokeshire and has used his professional photography
skills to record his achievements.
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