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Deep Water Solo – Dorset Climbing

By 14th August 2016 No Comments

Dorset climbing offers many disciplines of the sport and hosts some of the best Deep Water Solo (DWS) climbing in the UK. The lack of equipment and ‘faff’ appeals to many with the freedom of solo climbing over the potentially safe entry of water, where we hope big or awkward falls are protected by the depths of the sea. DWS are given an ‘S’ grade to help inform climbers of the risk potential given for each route considering: fall heights, water depths and other potential objects in the fall zone. However climbers often forget to consider the hazards posed by our safety net of the sea. This series of blogs is therefore going to consider some of these hazards and discuss potential safety measures that we can take whilst climbing with friends.

Cold water immersion unfortunately presents a problem throughout the majority of the year for us in the UK and can cause DWS 2problems for the best of swimmers with breathing and the ability to swim effectively. The thought of preparing for this by wearing a wetsuit kind of ruins the appeal of DWS and therefore we need to consider the best time of year to choose to participate. The sea takes months to change temperature unlike the land which changes daily and therefore we need to select the warmer months of the summer. The sea will always be warmer towards the end of the summer and late July though to early September can be the best time to choose. Sea temperatures can be found on the Magicseaweed website and for the nearest location to Dorset DWS search the site ‘Kimmeridge’. At time of writing the Kimmeridge sea temperature is 17oC as recorded on Magicseaweed.

Having the correct water depths can obviously provide the difference between having deep or shallow water and in some cases even a fully dry and rocky sea bed. Tide heights can vary massively depending on the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun. To help with understanding on tides please find 3 detailed blogs discussing tides on The Adventure Brand website. In short ensure you’re not disappointed by obtaining a correct tide forecast and ideally go with somebody who has prior experience of the site. If you have any doubts about the depth use a pair of goggles to help see depths or potential objects in the water and make your own informed decision on whether to climb the route or not.  

DWS 3The Atlantic is exposed by the wind throughout the year with either wind or ground swell (waves) being a potential hazard. Waves can either knock you off the rock or make life very difficult to get back on the rock after taking a swim. Waves smashing into the rocks can be a very daunting prospect when trying to regain the safety of land. To find information about wave heights the Magicseaweed website will again provide swell heights with reference to waves measured in feet. Dorset climbing is often affected by south westerly winds, which will produce waves and potentially be problematic to DWS. Either very light SW winds or winds from WNW through to NE are preferable, however waves can still be generated out in the Atlantic so checking the swell forecast on Magicseaweed is advisable. To obtain a good wind forecast use the Windguru website and again search for Kimmeridge.

A big hazard posed to DWS climbers is the water itself and either having difficulties in swimming or if very unlikely becoming unconscious or injured from a bad fall. In the next blog we will be looking at how to help those who are having difficulties in the water and what basic equipment can be used.