Monday, 25 July 2011

Penrhyn Mawr and the Stacks - 24th July 2011

A last minute pass out from Nancy allowed me to "bag" another personal first - going round the South and North Stack lighthouses on Anglesey.

We launched from Porth Dafarch with the intention of using the flood tide to take us north and then use the ebb to return. The idea was to play in the tide races on the way out and to take our time exploring, since a number of us had not been along this section of the coast before (I'd not been much further past Penrhyn Mawr).

Porth Dafarch
A lovely sunny day meant we left in high spirits and we were soon approaching Penrhyn Mawr. This tide race has a notorious reputation, but with it only being a neap tide it wasn't showing it's nasty side. We split up and played in various parts of the race - the bigger waves were to be found on the "outside" of the islands/reefs and the easier water was in the inner channels. A number of us did rolls and some planned/unplanned rescue practice! The waves on the outer race were perhaps 2-3 feet at times but fairly gentle.

Penrhyn Mawr inner channel
Barry and Kate surfing the outer race
After a reasonable play we grouped up and headed north rock hopping around Abraham's Bosom (the bay between Penrhyn Mawr and South Stack) and we had lunch on the first boulder beach.

Rock hopping
lunch stop
Continuing on our way with interesting rock hopping and caves throughout we approached South Stack with it's impressive rock architecture. We passed under the bridge and through the small channel that separates the lighthouse island from the mainland and entered Gogarth Bay.

Approaching South Stack
Typical Cave - must bring headtorch next time!
The high cliffs with their in-situ climbers provided an awesome backdrop to our paddle. In my climbing days I'd never quite got around to doing the classic route, "Dream of White Horses" but it was great to finally see it, if only from below. We had a quick nose into Parliament House Cave but didn't stop and we continued around North Stack.

Looking into Parliament House Cave

By this time the tide had started to turn, and the North Stack race was just starting to kick up some playful waves - enhanced significantly with the swell from the SeaCat when it passed. Barry Shaw told me to just look out for the sea level rising on the horizon to get a warning of the incoming swell, and sure enough you could see the sea rise as the large set of waves came in.

North Stack race starting up
We played around in the race for a while then retired back to Parliament House Cave for an afternoon snack. The cave is a real sun trap and it's easy to just lay back and relax in such wonderful surroundings.

By this time another group of paddlers from the NWSK appeared from their circumnavigation of Holy Island, so we all joined up for the return paddle to Porth Dafarch.

This paddle has a reputation for the powerful tide races, but for me I haven't seen much better cliff and cave scenery, so to do this paddle on a calm day on neap tides is a magical experience.

About 18km paddled. Launched around 10:30am, off the water around 5:30pm.

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