Thurba Head

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Thurba Head
Thurba Head
Thurba Head
Rock Type Natural Carboniferous Limestone
Climbing Style Trad
Approach Time 20 minutes
Area Gower
Sub Area Thurba to Overton
WGS-84 Location 51.558822, -4.279271
OS Grid Ref. SS 420 868
WGS-84 Parking Location 51.565848, -4.270856
GR Parking Location SS 427 876
Parking Postcode SA3 1PH
Base Elevation 5 metres (Other)
General Info
Faces Direction Various
Aspect Sunny
Wind Sheltered Seldomly
Climbing Type Serious
Seepage Quick drying
Crags Within 400m

Block Buttress, Catacomb Gully, Cathedral Wall, Four Gullies, Grey Wall, Mewslade Short Wall, Molar Wall and White Edge, Rolly Bottom Buttress, The Aisle, The Prows, The Pulpit, Thurba East, Thurba Head, Thurba West, Trident Gully and Ridge, Upper Jacky's Tor, Zero Gully

RAD Notice/Restriction Thurba Head@BMC RAD

bird image
Restrictions apply from 1 March - 14 August on Thurba Head itself. Nesting Birds - Restricted routes, Fountain to Unearthly Power, on the front pillar of the head. Please check BMC RAD for changes in restriction. See link above.



No bolting. The old bolts on Thurba West and the BB above Thurba Head to remain.


Thurba Head itself contains some fine lines, which to the east of Right Crack (not inclusive) are generally on good rock. Although the south-facing front face is the most spectacular, it is a pain to get to. However, the routes to the east of Cool Britannia(inclusive) are very good and not as difficult to approach as you may have been led to believe. . There are a couple of recent minor routes in the rocks 150m east of Thurba Head itself, now called Thurba East


From the main Rhossili road, turn left in Pitton (south) to Great Pitton Farm (SS 427 876 or 51.556076, -4.267799) where there is a car park. The honesty box no longer exists and a system of seasonal tariffs is now in operation. Payment is made via a machine or paybyphone Ⓡ. See Pitton Parking for information on charges. Currently a maximum of £5.00 is charged for parking from 06.00 to 22.00.

On walking out of the car park, turn left and, after about 25 metres take the public footpath off to the right. Pass through a gate after about 15m and then follow the rough path for a further 200m where there is another gate. This is the top end of Mewslade.

Follow the path down the valley.

After about 5 minutes, where the sea starts to become visible, turn left (east) up the hill through an NT marked stile. A path wends gently up onto higher ground. For Thurba West, contour round towards the sea about 50m below the top of the hill to reach this small outcrop overlooking Mewslade Bay.

For the main crag, continue to the top and walk out towards the headland until a path cuts down and left (east). Follow this for 100m, then strike out to sea, to reach a non-tidal platform below the shoulder of the head and at the east side of the area. The routes on the front face are normally approached by abseiling down from the non-tidal platform to a highly tidal platform on the front face. This is only really practical on big tides. The routes on the east side are accessed by either abseil, or more commonly by traversing in from the platform above the high tide level.

For Thurba East continue along the coastal path.


For Thurba West, turn left at the top to reach the path. For Thurba Head front face, walk up to the top of the hill and contour back round to the non-tidal platform. For the main area, descent is by easy scramble down and right to the non-tidal platform.


Front Face

The most obvious feature of the cliff is the steep pillar overlooking the sloping platform, bounded on the left by a gully and chimney topped by large overhangs. On the right of the pillar is a large corner with a chimney at its foot. Off to the left (west) are a number of highly overgrown gullies and ridges. The real routes start at Central Cleft. However, the first couple of routes are mentioned for historical interest and have not been checked for this guide. They are located to the west (left) of Central Cleft.

1. Toad 45m S

The first arête and groove on the left (west) side of the front face.

C.J.Lawrence, J.Brown 00.00.1968

2. Pristine 45m S

The gully between Toad and The Needle.

J.Talbot 00.00.1970

Thurba Head

3. Fountain 45m S Climbs the wall right of Pristine.

J.Talbot 00.00.1970

4. The Needle 45m M

Climb up to and past a needle on the main face.

J.Talbot 00.00.1970

5. Gully Climb 45m D

The first major gully to the right of The Needle.

J.Talbot 00.00.1970

6. The Bastion 45m VD

The next arête to the east (right).

J.Talbot 00.00.1970

There is also a nonsensical east to west rising traverse - Traverse Of The Gods (J.Talbot, 1970).

7. Central Cleft 42m S

A disgusting route after the nesting season, but a useful escape. Start below the gully and chimney left of the main pillar. Climb the chimney and groove bearing leftwards below overhangs to easy rocks, then climb the obvious deep groove above and left.

M.Hogge, E.Pardoe 00.00.1969

8. Right Crack 48m E2,5b,- *

Perversely, this route takes the thin crack and groove in the left side of the central pillar. The first 25m are good, the rest is a bag. Start just right of the gully below a thin barnacled crack.

  1. 1. 39m Climb the crack and groove, then overcome an overhang directly. Continue to a bulge and tiny overlap of brown rock. Follow a diagonal line rightwards across the top of the pillar.
  2. 2. 9m Easy climbing remains to the top.

E.Pardoe, M.Hogge 00.00.1969
FFA P.Littlejohn, J.Harwood 03.10.1980

9. The Thurba Pillar 45m E5,6b,4a ***

A superb pitch up the square-cut pillar between Right Crack and Earthly Powers. Start as for Right Crack.

  1. 36m Climb steeply up the left arête of Earthly Powers. At 6m pull round left to the base of a crack on the face. At its end swing up left to a shallow niche below the slim section of the pillar. Climb the pillar using the right arête until better holds are gained slightly left. Continue up the leaning wall via a line of hairline cracks and a short angular groove to a belay.
  2. 9m Climb the arête easily to the top.

M.Crocker 07.09.1985

10. Earthly Powers 45m E5,5b,6a ***

Another superb route on good rock, attempting to climb the striking black groove line on the main pillar. Start beneath the groove an hour either side of low water.

  1. 15m Climb steeply on good holds to a small stance beneath the black groove.
  2. 30m Climb rightwards to the arête and move up to the band of overhangs. Traverse left beneath the overhang until above the blank section of the groove. Climb straight up steep ground to reach the broken crest of the buttress. Finish easily up this to block belays.

T.Penning - P1 06.07.1982 P.Littlejohn, T.Penning - P2 14.06.1983

11. Unearthly Power 35m E5,5b,6c **

  1. 15m As for Earthly Powers P1.
  2. 20m Desperate bridging up the corner which Earthly Powers avoids to the right. Small wires are very useful. From the top of the corner, move right to finish up a short steep white headwall.

M.Crocker, J.Harwood 07.02.1999

East Section

The following routes are to the east of the main pillar of the crag and reached by traversing in from the tidal platform mentioned in the access section.

12. Cool Britannia 45m E6,6b **

Takes the top half of the the spectacular arête to the right of Earthly Powers. From a belay in the chimney of Barnacle Bill, traverse out left and step up to place a large wire in the flake of Thin Ice. Step down and gain the arête, PR. Desperate moves up the arête past a crucial Rock 5 lead to a poor TR and PR, then an overlap. Pull over this strenuously to better holds and easy ground.

M.Crocker, J.Harwood 15.11.1998

13. Thin Ice 24m E4,6a **

From the belay in chimney of Barnacle Bill, traverse left and climb the cracks in the wall right of Cool Britannia.

M.Crocker, G.Jenkin 07.09.1985

14. Barnacle Bill 24m E1,5b **

A good climb taking the big corner right of the central pillar. Traverse in from the platform on the east to gain a large chimney (not visible from the start). A belay is wise. Climb the awkward chimney and the good crack up the subsequent groove.

R.Griffiths, P.Parker 1pt 09.05.1971
FFA J.Bullock, C.Lownds 28.07.1982

15. Summer Wine 24m E3,6a **

A strenuous, well-protected pitch right at the top of the grade. Start beneath the thin groove right of Barnacle Bill at dead low water, or traverse in from the right (east). Climb to the overhang, move leftwards around this and follow the thin crack to a desperate move onto a sloping ledge. Finish more easily.

P.Littlejohn, T.Penning 14.06.1983

16. The Thief That Never Was 24m E3,6a

The arête between Summer Wine and Junior Jaws.

M.Crocker 01.11.1998

5m right of Barnacle Bill is a shallow corner easily visible from the non-tidal platform on the east.

17. Junior Jaws 21m E1,5b *

Start at high-tide level, below and slightly right of the upper section of the shallow corner. Climb up to the foot of the groove and pull in from the right. Climb the corner directly.

T.Penning, D.Hope 05.09.1982

18. Laughing Gear 18m E1,5a

The smaller groove right of Junior Jaws. Not well protected.

T.Penning, J.Harwood 12.09.1982

19. W i m p 18m S

Start below the open groove in the upper right part of the cliff, just left of a deep chimney crack which bounds the cliff on the right. Climb to the steep broken groove and the top.

G.Richardson, M.Danford 00.00.1982

20. Delegation 18m HVS,5a

The cracks and the mini groove right of Wimp, gained from the start of Wimp.

M.Richards, J.Harwood 28.08.1999