Senior Instructor Jess Reveals her Favourite Climbing Locations

Cumulus Outdoors Senior Instructor, Jess Gundry describes her favourite climbing locations.

Summer is my favourite time of year. I love instructing a full days coasteering, before grabbing my bag out of the van and heading straight back down for some climbing! I’ve been fortunate to pursue my passion across the UK and to a number of destinations across Europe and beyond.

Here are a few of my favourite climbing locations in Dorset, Italy and Northern Africa.

Swanage, Dorset

Cumulus Outdoors stores and site are based in Swanage, within walking distance of over 1,000 rock climbing routes spread across 12km of coastline. We’re incredibly lucky to have such easy access to so many routes, which cater for a range of abilities.

Swanage has to be my favourite Trad climbing location. It can be intimidating; abseiling in and committing to a route, with loose rocks, sweaty limestone and waves crashing into boulders below. It’s important to know what you’re doing (or make sure you go with someone who does!)

trad climbing in swanage

Portland, Dorset

Portland is less than an hour from home and situated on Dorset’s famed Jurassic Coastline. At just 4 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, you would be forgiven for thinking this little island presents limited climbing opportunities. On the contrary, Portland is PACKED full of climbing and the go to spot for Sport climbers in the South of England. Climbers from outside the area regularly make weekend trips down to hit the crags.

This is my go to spot when 1) seas are too big to climb at Swanage, 2) I’m in the mood for some sport, bouldering or deep water soling or 3) I can’t find a climbing buddy.

sport climbing on Portland

Pembroke, Wales

There’s something special about climbing by the sea – it’s the combined love of rocks and water. So, here we have yet another coastal climbing area.

The rock in Pembroke feels a lot more solid than Dorset. There isn’t that concern about pulling a lump off of the wall and onto your partner below!

The downsides with this one is the journey! It takes 4-5 hours to get there from my Dorset home, which isn’t viable for an evening climb, though it makes for a great weekend trip.

climbing in pembroke, wales

Dolomites, Italy

In the same amount of time it takes me to drive to Pembroke, I could take a 2 hour flight from Bournemouth to Venice, hire a car, drive 3 hours and find myself in the heart of the Dolomites surrounded by 3000m peaks.

The Dolomites has everything! Trad routes, sport routes, mixed routes, bouldering, via feratta and Italian food! It is certainly one of my favourite climbing locations!

The Via Ferrata is what makes this place special; clipping yourself into old iron cables hammered into the side of a mountain from World War One and using these to protect you whilst you scramble over exposed ground, up rusty ladders and along wire bridges up to the summits of the peaks. It really makes for a true adventure.

The downside with the Dolomites? Having to leave at the end of the trip

climbing the dolomites in italy

Anti Atlas, Morocco

The Anti-Atlas range in Morocco is the furthest afield on my list of favourite climbing spots.

Located in North Africa, the whole culture here is very different to the rest of the list. Climbing in shorts and a vest is a no-no for females, so you have to stay fully covered up in the 30 degree heat.

Climbing in the blazing sun with a good group of mates is the best day any climber can ask for. Follow that up with a mint tea afterwards and it’s practically paradise.

All of the routes here have an adventurous feel with some quality climbing with solid rock. It is still relatively new to the climbing scene with plenty of unexplored crags.

Downside? I’ve got a pretty big fear of snakes. Climbing in the crazy warm temperatures in a country, which is home to 27 species of snake brings that fear to the surface.  I’ll often find myself purposely avoiding ledges and deep cracks with some good handholds, due to the fear that they could be home to something else! Also, don’t drink the tap water!


climbing in morocco

Climbing sessions in Dorset

If you would like to join a Dorset climbing session with Jess and the Cumulus team when the time is right to do so, contact us and let us know. We can either run a standard climb and abseil activity session or we can develop further to meet your groups specific needs.