Roisin Burke cast her fears aside and found sleeping precariously on a cliff edge in North Wales deeply relaxing
I would never have said sleeping off the side of a cliff, 40 feet above the sea, with waves crashing relentlessly against the rock face below, was a calming experience — until I tried it.
I was sceptical, to say the least, when I heard you could pay to sleep precariously on a cliff edge in North Wales, with nothing but ropes and fancy knots for security. However I must, very firmly and publicly, eat my words.
This is an experience worth paying for. Falling asleep under the stars, with my buddy alongside me and waking up, snug and warm, suspended mid-air on a two-metre canvas ledge, is probably a memory I will cherish long into my elder years.
The sound of the sea beneath me was as soothing as it was exhilarating and the soft fresh breeze that hit my face as I peeked out from beneath the covers to view the vast expanse of blue sea and sky that surrounded me, has to be noted as a very gentle yet invigorating way of regaining consciousness.
In terms of a holiday with a different edge, this is the one. Whether you are a couple looking for a unique romantic experience, a buddy bonding trip with an adrenaline kick, or a family holiday that will have the kids raving, Gaia Adventures seem to have it sorted.
Climbing-based adventure holidays are the focus of Gaia Adventures, a company built on the premise of enjoying the outdoors.
Founder of the company Sam Farnsworth, and his partner, Will Nicholls, are driven by their profound love of climbing and equally their enjoyment of sharing their expertise with others.
“We’re both climbers,” Sam said, “Luckily we also love teaching and instructing. I think if I wasn’t teaching climbing I’d be teaching something else. So for me, it’s the perfect combo!
“In 2012 we were both working as freelance outdoor climbing instructors, totally psyched to get folks out into the mountains and onto the sea cliffs having adventures.
“I think Will and I have a common interest finding out just how far each person we work with wants to take their adventure. Everyone is different and needs a different kind of encouragement and support. This common interest in people and a relaxed approach helped us to end up working together.”
Indeed, Sam’s relaxed approach was very much needed to get me and my buddy Jonnie comfy and cosy out on a ledge, balanced over a cliff edge in Rhoscolyn.
The evening kicked off with some gentle climbing on some basic routes as Jonnie and I had not been climbing much in recent years. We were quite literally shown the ropes by Sam, and were scaling rock faces in turn almost immediately after arriving. After tiring ourselves out scrambling about, Sam took us for a stroll around the area, giving us an opportunity to take in some scenic sights and learn a little about the area.
Then it was time to set up our beds for the night. Helping Sam set up camp, albeit on the side of a cliff, was extremely helpful in calming the nerves.
Sam’s nonchalant manner made it clear this was something he did regularly and the deft manner in which he set up the ropes led me to believe we were in safe hands. Once our sleeping arrangements were in order, we meandered down to the nearby pub, The White Eagle, which was 15 minutes away, back through fields of sheep, and past an old church.
After a drink, some snacks and taking the opportunity to use the toilet facilities before returning to the wilderness, we headed off for dinner. It was pretty dark by the time we got to the rockface and head torches were needed. Sam lowered us down to the ledge one by one and then lowered down sleeping bags, which we attached to the harness around our waist before manoeuvring into them.
Then it was time to relax. Jonnie and I sat on our ledge, soaking up the surreal experience of being suspended on a cliff edge by ropes while Sam cooked up some ravioli for dinner at ground level. In no time at all, Sam scurried down the wall alongside us to his own ledge adjacent to ours. With him, he had a rucksack from which he pulled reusable lunch boxes full of hot ravioli!
After an evening of activities, we were both glad of nourishment and wolfed down our delicious meal perched on the side of a cliff, staring into the darkness that surrounded us, broken only by the faraway silhouette of the moon and a few sparkingly stars.
After dinner, it was time for some cheese and crackers, before cuddling up into our warm sleeping bags and getting some well-earned kip. Morning came all too soon. Before I opened my eyes, I remembered where I was thanks to the fresh salty air that pushed past the exposed elements of my face peeking out from under the covers.
Opening my eyes, I was staring up at the blue sky and turning slightly I was once again taken back by the sheer expanse of sea that stretched out in front of me.
Peering over the edge, I spent a few minutes watching the water crash against the rocks below me in a rhythmic, methodical sequence until I heard shuffling behind me as Jonnie awoke to the same sensations I had awoken to.
Soon after we awoke, there was movement on the ledge beside us as Sam began to stir. Breakfast was the next port of call and thanks to Sam it was breakfast in style. Jonnie and I chilled out on our ledge as Sam scampered back up the rocks, and reappeared in what seemed like minutes with hot coffee and chocolate croissants. Ooh, la la!
Eventually, it was time to leave our makeshift home, on the edge of the cliff, and head for home.
Scaling back up the rocks seemed harder than before but eventually, we all made it back to solid ground and began to pack up everything we brought with us.
The whole time we were cleaning up, Sam was chattering away with bits of information about climbing or the equipment or simply offering additional details about the area that kept us entertained.
Strolling back to the car, through the fields of sheep, I felt refreshed and revived and headed for home delighted with my adventurous exploits. Sam and Will run a range of climbing and outdoor activities that are very popular with climbers and non-climbers. As well as offering cliff camping, the lads accommodate family camping and run adventures in the Snowdonia mountains or in Anglesea.
For the more savvy rock climber, the dynamic duo also run a Climbing Academy. This is a series of courses that progressively develops climbing skills.
During the colder months of the year, from October to March, Sam and Will abscond to Spain to run courses in El Chorro, near Malaga in the South.
For more information on North Wales or Spanish adventures with Gaia Adventures, log onto www.gaiaadventures.co.uk.