Great Head South

Warning and disclaimer on the fixed protection: This is not a climbing gym, climb at your own risk. Please read the information about the in-situ protection on the safety page.

The Great Head South - Bermuda Rock Climbing Topo
Grant Farquhar on Bogeyman. Photo Andrew Burr.

The Great Head is easily the biggest and most impressive cliff on the island. It is in a very spectacular location gazing trans-atlantically east. The venue is set off by the guns of the battery above. Read the warning on the home page about Longtails and Cahows which do nest in many of the other cliffs in Bermuda but do not seem to favour this one. None of the routes described below have longtail nests on or them or in their vicinity. The nesting season is from April to October which are generally poor months for sport climbing anyway due to the high heat and humidity.
 

St David's - Bermuda Rock Climbing Topo

Looking north over the Great Cave towards The Scarface and Nereids Wall. Photo Grant Farquhar.
 
The routes are approached from the south end of the cliff and described left to right.
 
From the gun battery find steps leading down to an old searchlight station above sea level at the south end of the cliff.
 

BENSALEM 5.10d 20m

 
This excellent climb takes a spectacular lip trip above the sea cave in the south end of the cliff. Scramble across easy ledges to the base of the obvious white band of rock. Bolt and a thread belay. Follow the rising white band of rock up and rightwards above the cave past eight bolts to an in-situ belay at the top of the cliff. Either lower off and belay your second from the ledges on the other side of the cave or top out and belay from above. Take extra care with the large Damoclean flake at the last bolt. Don’t let anyone stand directly underneath the lower-off when the route is being climbed in case this flake gets pulled off.
 
Grant Farquhar and Bryan Caldwell 8 March 2008. Second ascent and first Bermudian ascent by Sean Kelly and Tristan DeSilva 2008. Re-equipped with titanium glue-in bolts 2016.
 

St David's - Bermuda Rock Climbing Topo
Sean Kelly and Tristan DeSilva on the first Bermudian ascent of Bensalem. Photo Sean Kelly.

The next routes require some 5.7 soloing in serious positions to approach. It is possible to utilise the belay at the base of Bensalem to protect the short but steep and serious downclimb.


THE VOMITORIUM 5.10b 15m

This route is barfed up past the tonsils of the Bensalem Cave. Puke steeply past five threads. Avoid a spew on the run out to revisit your breakfast at the two-thread belay on the stalactites in the apex. Drive the porcelain bus home. Video here. Grant Farquhar and Davie Crawford 27/11/10. Second ascent Devin Page 18/12/10.

The Vomitorium
The first ascent of The Vomitorium. Photo Grant Farquhar.


THE ONLY GAY IN THE VILLAGE 5.10a 20m

Tackles the white streak in the arete right of the Bensalem cave. The handholds and footholds are very fragile in places but the protection placements are in sound rock. Mince past three bolts and three threads. Take the no-hands rest in the closet at the final thread before coming out to run it out up the pink streak in the immac headwall. Bolt and natural thread belays. Grant Farquhar and Bryan Caldwell 20 June 2008. Second ascent Johnny Pearson 2009. Re-equipped with titanium glue-in bolts 2016.


BATHSHEBA 5.11b 20m

 
The excellent left-hand finish to The Only Gay in the Village has some pumpy climbing in a very spectacular position on the overhanging prow above the cave. Follow The Only Gay in the Village to the no-hands rest in the closet. Felch leftwards past two bolts and two threads to gain the belay above Bensalem. Grant Farquhar and Davie Crawford 18 January 2009. Re-equipped with titanium glue-in bolts 2016.

 

Fear Liath Mor
Davie Crawford on the First Ascent of Fear Liath Mor. Photo John Langston.

FEAR LIATH MOR 5.7 18m

Just left of the Smugglers route cave is an area of grey, near vertical rock. This route takes the cleanest line on the big grey wall via five threads to a lower-off point. Note- this route features lots of brittle rock (particularly in the first 6m) that must be treated with care. Falling off is not advisable. Davie Crawford 1 March 2010. Second ascent Josh Hill, same day.

This route has been stripped due to the first ascentionist’s concern about the generally poor quality of the rock. The description is left for posterity.


In the section of cliff between the Bensalem Cave and the Great Cave there are three caves at mid-height. The next route gains the curious little middle cave which has some old paraphenelia

SMUGGLERS’ ROUTE 5.6 10m

Climb the runnel to check out the curious phone booth sized flowstone cave. Reverse the route to the ground. FA unknown.

THE GREAT CAVE

The Great Cave is the massive central cave in the middle of the cliff. Approach from the south or north. Both directions require some 5.7 soloing in serious positions. If coming from the south it is possible to utilise the belay at the base of Bensalem to protect the short but steep and serious downclimb. This venue stays dry in the rain unless the wind is coming from the east.

ROOTS WALL

The Roots Wall lies on the headwall above the the Great Cave. There is a large belay ledge at half-height on the left-hand section: The Roost. This is accessed either via Johnny Rotten or by abseil.


JOHNNY ROTTEN 15m 5.10a R

For me the best rock is not what you play. Johnny Rotten.

This pitch takes the rotten canine which could do with a root canal and accesses the Roost from the ground. Unfortunately the rock in the first 20 feet is very fragile. Climb the rounded pillar left of the cave, steeply past three drilled in-situ threads, to the Roost. There are numerous spikes upon which it is advisable to place additional protection slings. Grant Farquhar, Pebble and Kyle Kaptain 11 Jan 2020.


THE ROOT OF EVIL 30m 5.10a

Follow Johnny Rotten to the Roost. Continue directly past three threads to the roof, grovel onto the ledge above and step right to the fourth and fifth threads which can be used as a lower off – beware of rope drag. Grant Farquhar, Josh Hill and Devin Page 14 March 2010 (The Roost was accessed via abseil on this ascent).

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Josh Hill and Devin Page on The Root of Evil. Photo Grant Farquhar.


ROOT 666 30m 5.10a

A left-hand finish to The Root of Evil. Follow Johnny Rotten and then The Root of Evil past three threads to the ledge. Step left on the lip and finish up the groove above. Grant Farquhar and Rob Sutherland 1 Feb 2020.


NURSE RATCHED 30m 5.10b 

Nurse Ratched, literally, overlooks The Cuckoo’s Nest. Follow Johnny Rotten to the Roost. Walk rightwards along the ledge to two threads. Clip into these and pull your rope through. Now aren’t you ashamed of yourself? The best thing we can do now is to get on with our routine. Climb diagonally leftwards through the roofs past two threads. Watch out though – your filthy hands are making my holds dirty. Crank the lip in a spectacular position to join The Root of Evil at its final two threads. Lower off these. Now, if you don’t want to take your medication orally then I’m sure we can find another way. Grant Farquhar and Rob Sutherland 1 Feb 2020.


DEAD MAN’S HAND 30m 5.10d

The protagonist of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Randle McMurphy, has a dead man’s hand poker hand tattooed on his shoulder which foreshadows his fate at the end of the novel. Follow Johnny Rotten to the Roost. Walk rightwards along the ledge to two threads. Clip into these and pull your rope through. Climb up and rightwards through the bulges past two threads with a long move to gain a handrail on the lip of the roof. When you clip the final thread, above, you will realise that you have been dealt the Dead Man’s Hand. Will this thin natural thread hold or will it blow if you fall? The gamble is yours to take. Climb the crucial headwall leftwards in a spectacular position to the top. Step left to the Root of Evil’s final two threads. Lower off these. Grant Farquhar, Eli Cagen and Sam Shadbolt 21/March/20.


ROOTS MANUVA 30m 5.10a 

Traverses the Roots Wall with some sphincter twitching runouts. Wild territory for the grade. A fall will result in swinging completely into space so carrying means of ascending the rope are essential. Start from The Roost. Maneuver rightwards past two threads and two bolts to the belay of Roots Controller, no-hands rest. Clip the bolt right of the belay and run it out to join Three Sheets to the Wind at the final thread and bolt. Grant Farquhar and Marc Burgess 4/Feb/12.

 

roots-wall-topo-2

Roots Wall topo by Grant Farquhar.

ROOTS CONTROLLER 12m 5.10d

This route climbs the headwall above the cave and is the final section of The Cuckoo’s Nest. Gain the bolt and thread belay at a no-hands rest on a ledge on the very lip of the cave via Roots Manuva or by abseiling down the route itself. Praise Jah by riding from Babylon to Zion up the very steep and highly exposed headwall past two threads and two bolts. Grant Farquhar and John Langston 8/Feb/10. Re-bolted with glue-ins October 2010.

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John Langston on (One Shoe Over) The Cuckoo’s Nest. Photo Grant Farquhar.
 

(ONE SHOE OVER) THE CUCKOO’S NEST 5.13c 35m

 
This is a world class route. It starts steep, then gets steeper, then the holds get smaller, then it gets dynamic, then you pull a roof. This is all on the plumb line of the biggest cliff on the island. For location, climbing quality, and wildness, this route can’t be beat. This cave is steeper than the Madness Cave in the Red River Gorge and just as long. For grade, it’s a full value pitch, long, sustained, and with difficult cruxes. Head to the very back of the cave and climb out the steepest part. Don’t stop until you’re sitting in a park looking at a cannon. 17 quickdraws: 13 bolts and four threads. There is no anchor, simply top out, untie your rope, and walk down. John Langston, April 5, 2011, Belayed by Jazmyne Watson with two broken wrists. Grant Farquhar FA’d the last four  bolts for a route called Roots Controller. Second ascent Dave MacLeod 31/3/18. Third ascent Charlie Woodburn 4/April/18.
 
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Charlie Woodburn on The Cuckoo’s Nest. Photo Gilly Woodburn.


THREE SHEETS TO THE WIND 5.11a 75m

A three-pitch three-star extravaganza culminating in a very exposed right-to-left high level traverse spacewalking above the great cave. Don’t be fooled by the bolts, this is more like a Gogarth adventure than a sports climb. It’s run-out in places and a fall will result in swinging completely into space, so carrying means of ascending the rope are essential.

  1. 5.10b 20m. Start left of the crack of Shelter from the Storm. Gain and follow the ramp rightwards across Shelter and Power Junky to the large sloping ledge on Crackhouse. Thread belay.
  2. 5.11a 30m. Continue traversing rightwards across the weakness in the Bogeyman wall past two threads and a bolt to a no-hands rest in a niche on the arete. Continue up the arete past five threads to a belay on the large white ledge below the large overhang above Bogeyman. Beware of rope drag on this pitch, twin rope technique advisable. The belay ledge can also be gained easily from above by abseiling/scrambling diagonally leftwards 20 feet to the ledge, two-bolt belay.
  3. 5.10a 25m Traverse leftwards on the lip of the cave past two bolts and two threads to a no-hands rest in a niche. Clip the third bolt and make tricky moves around a rib. Continue to more ledges and the final bolt and thread. Finish up the vague groove above. Mostly re-bolted but a couple of stainless steel expansion bolts remain.

Third pitch: Grant Farquhar, Davie Crawford and Roger the cabin boy 30/01/10.
Complete route: Grant Farquhar, Davie Crawford and Marc Burgess 10/12/11.

Three Sheets 2nd pitch
Marc Burgess following Grant Farquhar on the second pitch of Three Sheets to the Wind. Photo Davie Crawford.


TWO LINES OF CRACK 5.11c

If you and your climbing partner ever decide to climb a three pitch route, that neither of you have ever been on, with darkness fast approaching and only one headlamp between you, you’ll probably end up on this. Bearing in mind that you don’t know exactly where the route that you intended to climb goes and one of you has no multi-pitch experience, begin on the far left side of Shelter From The Storm and make quick work of the first pitch as you climb precariously over to the ledge on Crackhouse, ensuring that you clip only two pieces of protection. Build an anchor on the ledge, using a thread and bolt on Crackhouse. For your third anchor point, feed a sling through a very thin and sketchy hole on Fresh Squeezed Crack and just don’t put weight on it. (Using the obvious bolt on Fresh Squeezed Crack as third anchor point is considered cheating.) When the second climber pulls the first pitch and reaches the ledge ensure that there is only about 20 minutes of daylight left; getting the timing right for this may take some practice. At this point, take a moment to realise that you have gotten in way over your heads, and make the executive decision to for-go your previous plans and simply finish by topping out on Crackhouse, so as to escape the cave before centipede hour. To enhance the experience of taking on Two Lines of Crack, you should make sure to exhaust yourself prior to your over ambitious adventure by climbing Crackhouse as quickly as you can (on a clean float). Matt Boyer and Jazmyne Watson 24/03/14.

St David's - Bermuda Rock Climbing Topo
The final pitch of Three Sheets to the Wind. Photo Davie Crawford.


SHELTER FROM THE STORM 5.10b 17m

 
Just left of Crackhouse, follow threads past multiple ledges. Rappel off the two-thread anchor. Great fun. Five threads plus potential spots for more natural threads. John Langston and Josh Hill 1/March/10.
 

Shelter
John Langston on the first ascent of Shelter from the Storm. Photo Davie Crawford.


STORMRIDER 5.10d 25m

Follow Shelter from the Storm to clip the belay anchors. Teeter precariously rightwards along the shelf passing the anchors of Power Junky. Continue to the belay of Crackhouse (crux) and lower off. Grant Farquhar and Devin Page, Spring Equinox 2010.

Shelter Josh
Josh Hill on the second ascent of Shelter from the Storm. Photo John Langston.


POWER JUNKY 5.12a 20m

The Power Junky lives next door to the Crackhouse. Follow the line of seven threads and three bolts in the wall between the crack of Shelter from the Storm and the line of Crackhouse to the belay. Grant Farquhar and John Langston 15/03/10. Second ascent Dave Macleod 18/3/10. First Bermudian ascent by Jazmyne Watson 01/01/11.


POWERHOUSE 5.11c 20m

 
Start up Power Junky past one bolt and five threads, step right to join Crackhouse at the third bolt and finish up this. Grant Farquhar, 20/3/10.
 
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Dave Macleod on the second ascent of Power Junky. Photo Grant Farquhar.
 

CRACKHOUSE 5.11c 20m

 
Get your fix by inhaling this line in the steep wall on the right hand side of the cave. Head near the obvious crack. Expect excessive consumption of white powder past five bolts and six threads to a two-bolt and thread belay at a no-hands resting ledge on a plinth. The come down begins here.
 
Grant Farquhar and Sean Kelly 6/April/08. Ground control from Eloise Pitts Crick, Katie Kent and Paul Van Rensburg. Second ascent on-sight flashed in midsummer sauna conditions by Ward Byrum, 7/Aug/08. First Bermudian ascent by Josh Hill, 2010. First female and first teenage ascent by Jazmyne Watson (13 years old!) 16/4/10. Re-equipped with marine grade stainless steel glue-in bolts winter 09/10. Threads replaced Feb 2014.
 

CRACK JUNKY 5.12a 20m

Start up Crackhouse to the second thread, step left and finish up Power Junky. Grant Farquhar 29/3/14.

 
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Jazmyne Watson on Crackhouse. Photo Grant Farquhar.
 

CRACK BABY 5.12c 35m

Born from the Crackhouse. This is a second pitch spawned from the parent route. Climb Crackhouse to the no-hands rest at the belay. Step left to clip the belay anchors of Power Junky. Pay attention but unleash your hyperactivity through the roof above past 3 bolts and 2 threads to the top. Good luck retrieving your quickdraws. Grant Farquhar and Marc Burgess 15/01/12.

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Jazmyne Watson on Crackhouse. Photo Grant Farquhar.


FRESH SQUEEZED CRACK 5.11d 20m

Not as much of a squeeze job as the name implies. This route starts off the obvious jug eight feet right of Crackhouse. Climb through a thoughtful crux on good holds, then up a low angle trough. Once you gain the ledge, blast out the crack until you regain the final moves of Crackhouse. Five bolts before the last two bolts and thread of Crackhouse. Hidden bolt between the first and second thread. Be careful on the ledge in the middle. Plentiful use of longer draws will really help with rope drag. All bolts are marine grade glue ins. John Langston, Josh Hill, and Devin Page, April 2010. Second ascent Grant Farquhar 11/11/10.
 
The Great Head South - Bermuda Rock Climbing Topo
Jeff Achey gains the belay plinth of Crackhouse. Photo Andrew Burr.
 
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John Langston high on Fresh Squeezed Crack. Photo Devin Page.
 

ECTOPLASM 5.12d 20m

Start up Fresh Squeezed Crack to the no-hands ledge. Clip the first bolt of Fresh Squeezed Crack above the ledge. Step right and finish up Technical Ecstasy. Dave Pickford 26/3/15.

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Dave Pickford lowering off Ectoplasm. Photo Grant Farquhar.


TECHNICAL ECSTASY 5.12d 20m

Black Sabbath’s sixth album depicts two robots having sex on the album cover. I’m not saying you have to be a fuck ing machine to send this but it helps. This route contains two distinct sections, the upper being harder. Devious moves, weird beta, and steep climbing make this route a real classic. This route needs repeated to confirm the grade as the first ascensionist doesn’t know a grade from a hole in his ass. Six threads and four marine grade stainless steel glue-in bolts. Two bolt anchor. John Langston 25 March 2010.

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John Langston on Technical Ecstasy. Photo Devin Page.


BOGEYMAN 20m 5.12c

 
This monster lurks under the right-hand side of the cave. Climb past seven threads and five bolts to the two-bolt and thread belay. Grant Farquhar and Eloise Pitts Crick 27/11/08. Second ascent John Langston 4/March/10. Re-equipped with Titan titanium bolts in 2016.
 
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John Langston nearing the second crux on Bogeyman. Photo Grant Farquhar.
 
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Grant Farquhar stripping Bogeyman. Photo Andrew Burr.
 

SOUS LES PAVéS, LA PLAGE 25m 5.10c

 
This route takes the right-most equipped line and is a direct start to the second pitch of Three Sheets to the Wind. Climb past ten threads to the two-bolt belay. Grant Farquhar and Rob Sutherland 7/March/20.

 

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Great Cave topo. Photo Grant Farquhar.

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Crackhouse area topo. Photo Grant Farquhar.


THE SCARFACE

The area of cliff to the right of the large white rock scar has one route.

SCARFACE 30m 5.10c

You wanna play games? Okay, I’ll play with you. You wanna play rough? Okay! Say hello to my little friend! The striking orange stalactite gives superb, pumpy climbing motherfucker! You think you can take me! You’re gonna need a fucking army to take me, you hear! You fuck with me, you fucking with the best! If you don’t clip the eight threads, you die, motherfucker! Who put the threads in? Me, that’s who! Who do I trust? Me! The large gun in the bunker 30m back from the top provides a belay which is literally bombproof motherfucker! You got that? All I have in this world is my balls and my word, and I don’t break ’em for no one. You understand? Grant Farquhar, Davie Crawford and Tony Montana 18/10/09. The threads on this are dynamic climbing rope and will need to be replaced.