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Topic - Cornwall and Devon fixed gear policy.

Mark Kemball - on 13 Aug 2014
At the last SW BMC area meeting, we decided that we should try to produce a fixed gear policy for Cornwall and Devon. I have consulted with a number of active local climbers and produced a draft policy. The S Devon area is awaiting more import, but as I am about to go away for a couple of weeks, and the next area meeting is 5th September http://community.thebmc.co.uk/Event.aspx?id=3221 , I felt I needed to post a copy so as to allow the wider community to have their say. Please post below if you have any suggestions. Here's the draft text as it stands at the moment:

Devon and Cornwall fixed gear Policy.
The attitude to bolts, sports climbing, pitons etc. varies from crag to crag throughout the area. I propose that we adopt separate policies for the different guidebook areas.

West Cornwall (CC 2000) i.e. the coastal cliffs from St Ives anticlockwise around the coast, up to and including the Lizard. This area already has a fixed gear policy, agreed at a special BMC meeting 2nd September 2011, see http://community.thebmc.co.uk/Event.aspx?id=492 . (To summarise, no new fixed gear of any sort on sea cliffs and natural inland outcrops, any existing pitons etc. to be left to rust away and not be replaced.)

North Devon and Cornwall (CC 2000) i.e. the coastal cliffs from Baggy Point to St Ives.
Belays:
Belay and abseil stakes may be placed on cliff tops whenever they are needed – that is where ever there are no other adequate belays. Existing stakes should be replaced on popular crags (e.g. Screda Point) by the BMC style stakes (as at Swanage and Pembroke).

No drilled / bolt belays should be placed anywhere in the area.

Other fixed belay / abseil points. The issue is that for some of the culm cliffs, the only sensible means of descent is by abseil, this can result in an accumulation of slings etc. An example of this is the Lunakod belay on the middle fin at Lower Sharpnose. Following discussion at the BMC SW area meetings, it was agreed to replace the slings with a stainless steel chain. See http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=233734 and http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=233729
It is proposed to extend this to other popular cliffs throughout the area.
General principals – such chains (or similar) should only be placed on popular cliffs where there is no easy walk-off. The chains should only use natural belays (spikes or threads), no bolts or similar should be placed. Once the belays have been placed, any existing slings etc. should be removed.
With these principals in mind, it is proposed that fixed abseil points should be set up at the following cliffs:
Vicarage Cliff – 2 points on the Promontory, 1 at the top of Vicarage Tower and one above Harpoon. All other slings should then be removed.
Lower Sharpnose Middle Fin – in addition to the existing point at the top of Lunakod, a point should be set up at the top of Fay, then all other slings etc. should be removed.
Marsland – this will probably require the use of cables rather than chains.
If, in the future, other cliffs prove popular, then belay points may be established using the above general principals.

Protection :
It is not acceptable to place drill any type of placement anywhere in the area (i.e. no bolts).
It is acceptable for pitons to be placed on new routes and for them to be replaced on existing routes on a "like for like" basis. However when placing or replacing pitons, climbers should consider the following: Is there adequate alternative protection (nuts or cams etc.)? Pitons rapidly rust on this coast, so on new routes which may well not be repeated for some time, leaders should consider removing their pitons and including in their route descriptions details of the placements and pitons required. (See for example Martin Crocker's description of Ex-Man Cometh in the 2000 guide, climbed in 1996 and not yet repeated!) If pitons are removed or have rusted away and adequate alternative protection is available this should be noted on the UKC website, Javu, the CC website’s new routes section and on any other relevant websites.

Cheesewring and South East Cornwall (St Ives publishing 2012), i.e. all of inland Cornwall and the Cornish coast east of the Lizard. What seems to be the consensus opinion is stated on pages 18 – 19 of the guide. The natural inland outcrops are bolt and piton free and should remain so. They should remain so. Inland quarries are generally acceptable as suitable venues for bolt protected sports climbs. The guide book includes the following list of such venues: Cheesewring (but not the natural outcrop above the quarry), Luxulyan Valley Quarries, Gold Diggings Quarry, Bearah Tor Quarry and Carbilly North Quarry (note, at the time of writing, Kit Hill Quarry did not have any bolted climbs and was not included in this list). However new sports routes should not affect existing trad routes and existing routes should not be retro-bolted without permission of the first ascentionist / first free ascentionist. (If they are no longer alive, a consensus should be sort prior to retro-bolting.)

Dartmoor Granite (CC guide in preparation and Nick White’s guide)
I suggest that this is the same as inland Cornwall – we need a list of quarries where bolting is acceptable (if there are any).

South Devon Limestone and Esoteria, we need a list of cliffs where bolting is acceptable. I suggest for these we adopt the same guidelines for retro-bolting etc. as for those in the SE Cornwall area.
maisie - on 13 Aug 2014
In reply to Mark Kemball:

Sterling work, Mark. It's not complicated stuff, but excellent to know that someone's keeping local ethics visible.

Martin

Ps no issues with the content - all good
kingholmesy - on 13 Aug 2014
In reply to Mark Kemball:

Pretty much agree with all that.
David Hillebrandt - on 15 Aug 2014
In reply to Mark Kemball:

I will be away for the meeting but am in total agreement with this policy and thank you for your work on it. Dave Hillebrandt (Culm resident)
3 Names - on 15 Aug 2014
In reply to Mark Kemball:

All looks good to me

cheers
The Ex-Engineer - on 15 Aug 2014
In reply to Mark Kemball: Hi Mark,

All looks great so far. Especially pleased that Sharpnose etc. are being properly sorted out as the situation the last time I was there with a dozen corroding krabs on the rope sling above Fay was getting silly.

Last time I was down a Chudleigh (a while ago) there were a couple of poor in-situ belays there. Not being a regular I don't know what the best option is, but that is potentially another crag where a positive decision needs to be made going forward. I certainly would not object to a wholesale removal of every bit of fixed protection (including threads) but that might not be the best option and it might be that some stakes and/or cables might be useful if existing peg belays are to be replaced.
Kafoozalem - on 17 Aug 2014
In reply to The Ex-Engineer:

Certainly some of those in situ belays need looking at at Chudleigh in terms of safety and longevity. I think they would be missed by solo climbers if they were to go. They offer some excellent shunting opportunities.
Mark Kemball - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Mark Kemball:

Well, it's a week until the meeting. I've not yet had any suggestions / comments on the Dartmoor granite area. Anyone any opinions? Are there any quarries which could be considered suitable for some sports routes? What are people's views on the lower-offs at the Dewerstone?

I have, however, had detailed suggestions for the south Devon limestone area from one of the authors of the next guide. Any further comments / suggestions would be welcome. The document is too big for one post so it will follow below.

Mark Kemball - on 29 Aug 2014
South Devon Guide Ethics

South Devon is perhaps a more ethically complex guidebook area than most. Much of the climbing, including some of its “sea cliffs” is quarried limestone offering limited natural protection. It has a long history of traditional climbing by some very bold protagonists though it has to be said that the old practice of carrying pegs and a hammer would have been a source of comfort. Some of the later Trad climbing first ascents definitely blurred the boundaries between trad and sport climbing with extensive preparation involving numerous in situ threads and pegs. Some of these have been retro bolted to produce a similar experience to that of the first ascentionist. This has usually been done with the first ascentionist's approval but not in all cases.
This raises some interesting points for debate. Should we support the wishes of the first ascentionist over the common consensus? Does a first ascent imply some sort of ownership over the rock? Does a solo first ascent of an unprotected easy route deny all others the opportunity of a protected subsequent ascent? Many may feel a more democratic decision making approach should be considered particularly where the first ascentionist may have employed some drilled gear.

Bolts

South Devon has two nationally important bolted venues in Anstey's Cove and Torbryan Quarry. Both venues currently have a mix of bolted sport climbs and trad climbs. This has not been achieved without controversy but the consensus is that most of the bolting has been for the best and has more fully realised potential of these venues.

Policy
It has been suggested by Mark Kemble that South Devon adopts the same ethical standards as inland granite in Cornwall. This does not seem unreasonable though we already have a couple of instances which contravene these rules which are set out below.

Natural outcrops – no bolts or drilling.
Quarries - bolting allowed where this does not impinge on existing trad routes, retro-bolting only allowed with the permission of the first ascentionist, if he/she is no longer alive, consensus must be sort at a BMC area meeting on a route by route basis. * Some may wish to argue for consensus at a BMC meeting to have equal weight to the FA's views (especially where some drilled gear was used).

Natural Outcrops include -
Chudleigh South
Chudleigh Black Crag
Sanctuary Wall
The Wake
Daddyhole
London Bridge (debolted)
Saddle Point (debolted)
Churston Sea Cliffs (but not quarries)
Berry Head Coastguard sea cliffs
Oz Wall
Berry Head Old Redoubt
Cradle Rock
Durl Head
All natural sea cliffs including all of S Hams and all of the sandstone of East Devon.
Nb Many quarries have a trad ethic and bolting would be considered unacceptable at these venues which include
Meadfoot
Telegraph Hole
Much of Long Quarry Point
Mark Kemball - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Mark Kemball:

Continued...

Venues with bolts

Chudleigh South – two rogue bolts. No further bolting

Chudleigh North – some fully bolted routes were established by an adventure centre. Some were partially degeared due to a personal dispute rather than for ethical reasons. Some could be restored to fully bolted routes provided they do not interfere with good trad lines. Garden Wall is 100% bolt free and should remain so. Further bolting permissible but if it affects trad lines the FA approval/consensus should be sought.

Torbryan – The main area is fully bolted with the approval of first ascentionists. Right of this the routes remain traditional and can be adequately protected as such. Proposal – no bolting R of Bedrock.

Anstey's – All of Anstey's is quarried but each sector needs assessing separately for the nature and history of its climbing. No bolts in previously bolt free sectors without the approval of first ascentionists/consensus.

Empire Wall -Whilst the right side is bolted the left side is currently trad climbing. Some of it is peg reliant. Where these pegs cannot be replaced there may be a temptation to bolt in the future. Further bolting possible but there are currently no plans to do so.

Mitre Buttress - Currently a mixed sport and trad area. The Mitre has had a bolt added at its originally aided start and goes free but the rest of the route has been suffocated by neighbouring bolted lines. Whilst the permissions of first ascentionists were sought for most of these bolts it is doubtful The Mitre FA (Frank Cannings) would have given approval. Further bolting is not out of the question.

Era area – 2 bolted lines and some easy infrequented trad. Nobody is likely to care enough to bolt it further.

Ferocity Wall – Fully bolted with one notable exception, Devonshire Cream (a Devon sacred cow which is not to be fully bolted for sentimental reasons. The first ascentionist made a very bold ascent involving jumping off and this is celebrated by a very high first bolt where the peg used to be). Further bolting is permissible provided it preserves Devonshire Cream.

The Upper Tier – largely bolted but these are in poor condition. One trad route with pegs and threads could potentially be bolted (Tasty Snappers) as part of a restoration project? Further bolting permissible with permission from first ascentionists or consensus.

St Gregory Area – A popular new low grade sports route (Sunshine) has been added without interfering with the existing trad routes. The slab offers easy climbing but is plagued by loose blocks and the deadly Torbay exfoliating slab syndrome. Pat littlejohn would consent to the bolting of his route St Gregory the Wonder Worker but it is unlikely anyone would be motivated to take on such a huge task. Bolting permissible with permission from first ascentionists or consensus.

Moonshot Area – Trad climbing but with the occasional bolt for protection. Proposal; No fully bolted routes permitted in this sector

Cocytus Area – Mixed Trad and sport on a route by route basis. Permissions were not sought for the original bolts on Cocytus. The recent additional bolt was part of a rationalising action to turn a disjointed 80% bolted route with no lower off into a more sustained 100% sport route with a lower off. The FA (Pat Littlejohn) admitted the battle was lost long ago. I must admit to playing a personal role in this dastardly deed – I held some ropes at the completion of the deed but had no foreknowledge or planning of it.
Further bolting possible with first ascentionists approval/consensus. Blonde Bombshell is not to be fully bolted (adequate protection).
Mark Kemball - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Mark Kemball:

continued...

Long Quarry Point – A mixed venue where partially bolted routes have been fully retro-bolted with the permission of the first ascentionist on Styx Wall. Old bolted lines on the seaward edge of the quarry are largely redundant with a change of style towards DWS. Other areas are generally considered trad but one fully bolted route (Thesaurus E4 6c) on the upper slab dates from 1987. In addition Renegade has two bolt belays, one of which is shared by Black Ice. Whilst there is some excellent trad to protect for future generations there is a tendency for peg decay to make many of the routes far less appealing as time goes on. Further bolting of Styx Wall is permissible. Elsewhere is a greyer area and needs route by route consideration. Wherever possible the trad nature of climbs should be respected. A similar approach to the Avon restoration project – peg replacement where possible bolted belays where other options have been lost and any individual protection bolts should be a last resort with the FA's consent.


Exile Buttress – This totally neglected venue was lost to ivy and it's access paths were overgrown. It has seen a huge revival of interest since the main first ascentionist gave his permission to retro-bolt climbs which were dependent on pegs and threads. Further bolting seems likely but must not impinge on the trad route The Exile.

Ash Hole - A dank quarry with vegetation problems. One new bolted line established recently and the FA has given permission for full retro-bolting of the partially bolted original lines. Further bolting likely.

Churston – In the quarried area many routes were established with bolt belays and in some cases occasional bolt runners. Others are highly dependent on fixed gear in the shape of threads and pegs. One of these has been retro-bolted with the first ascentionist's approval. Further bolting likely but must be restricted to the quarried areas.

Berry Head Quarry –There are currently no bolts but it has been a local discussion topic. It is a neglected trad venue which discourages climbers because it is north facing, reliant on old pegs, vegetated and with a fair amount of loose rock. A few points should be noted. It would be time consuming and expensive to bolt such a big face and no one appears to be interested in such a job. It would seem logical to force bolted lines up the cleaner rock next to the old trad lines where the vegetation and loose rock prevails. It is unlikely this could be done sympathetically to the old lines.
Bolting of the best clean rock could be a possibility in the future.

Landcombe/Forrest Cove South Hams – Some bolted slate slabs on a beach. The bolts are of unknown origin and are unlikely to be viewed as acceptable on a natural sea cliff if it were ever voted on at a BMC meeting. Proposal; no further bolting of any natural sea cliff.

Pegs

It is permissable but not desireable to place pegs on first ascents particularly if alternative protection is available (nuts cams etc). There are rare instances where pegs are placed because it would be too strenuous/dangerous without them (Sanctuary Wall etc). On existing routes “like for like” replacement is permissable where alternatives do not exist. If pegs are required on climbs where the first ascentionist managed without them their approval should be sought.

Abseil Stations

Can be provided where they make the climbing safer (and have been long tolerated where they make the climbing more convenient!) Inkermans. Co Ops. Gagool. Triton. Raw Umber, and perhaps Flying Fifteen are examples.

Stakes
Berry Head – Bismark Wall, Martin Crocker's DWS
Durl Head
Telegraph Hole - may need them in future since the Council cut down the tree belays.
Sanctuary Wall
Oz wall trad

That's the lot! Comments please!
Kevster - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Mark Kemball:

I am not a local climber, but do visit a few of the crags mentioned from time to time.
Having read the thread, it seems to me to be sensible and offers a realistic way forwards. Although I can't offer any opinion on top of what has been outlined, I can offer my acknowledgement and support for what has been suggested. As always, thanks for the work and effort by those actively involved.

Kevin
andrewmcleod - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to Mark Kemball:
> All natural sea cliffs including all of S Hams and all of the sandstone of East Devon.

Unfortunately I can't make the meeting. I would however say that I think any form of fixed gear should be acceptable for anyone crazy enough to actually try any of the East Devon sandstone... isn't the tradition in-situ angle iron and warthogs?

I agree the South Hams schist and other natural sea cliffs should stay trad (at least in general). I also don't like pegs, and would prefer moving to a peg-free world, but I think I may be an outlier in this viewpoint...
Post edited at 20:53
Iain Peters - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Mark Kemball:
> Well, it's a week until the meeting. I've not yet had any suggestions / comments on the Dartmoor granite area. Anyone any opinions? Are there any quarries which could be considered suitable for some sports routes?

Dartmoor Quarries

I brought this up at an earlier Area Meeting, when retro-bolting at Cheesewring was being discussed but I'll repeat it here.

In the 80s I climbed 5 or 6 trad routes in Foggintor and Swel Tor quarries with Pat Littlejohn, Pete O'Sullivan and other local climbers. As far as I'm aware they have had very few ascents and are now overgrown and mossy. I seconded the routes in Foggintor but led 3 in Swel Tor, a HVS, E1 and an E2. I would have no objection to these 3 being retro-bolted as mid-grade sport routes, provided the necessary permission to do so was sought from the owners. I think most people know my position on drilled gear on sea-cliffs and natural granite, but I also recognize that there is currently very little mid-grade sport climbing in Devon and Cornwall.

There are also a number of other granite (and shale) quarries in the National Park, at Hay Tor and the recently closed Meldon Quarry complex. Whether these can or should be investigated for their suitability as sport venues could also be discussed.

Quarried North Coast Seacliffs.

I am responsible for the Tintagel - Backways Cove section of the new guide. This whole area has been extensively quarried in the past. The box zawn at Backways with its two very serious trad routes is an example, and there is considerable scope for new routes around Dunderhole Point (currently 6 or 7 up to E3 all climbed ground-up, on sight). My own view is that the no drilled gear policy on any seacliff, natural or quarried currently agreed for West Cornwall should be extended to the Atlantic and Culm Coasts. Trebarwith Quarry itself is not a sea cliff and there are many others in the Delabole area which might be considered for sport climbing at some point in the future, access and ownership issues notwithstanding.
Post edited at 09:28
Tom Last - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Iain Peters:

Iain. Can you be more specific about the routes you propose in Swell Tor/Foggintor?

Any decisions would surely need to be made route by route to ensure that bolts don't stray onto inappropriate routes in the quarries, stuff like Shear Crack, Limestone Cowboys etc?

Also, although I guess some or all of those quarries might be CRoW land now, the owners of both Foggintor and Swell Tor have apparently been less than happy with climbers in those quarries not so long ago. There was talk of a ban at Swell Tor and the owners at Foggintor trying to charge for access at one point. So unless there's been a change of ownership, I'd question the wisdom of approaching the owners/bolting in here at all.

Vixen's on CRoW land isn't it? Didn't stop loss of access. Could the situation become quite delicate if routes were to be bolted? After all this would be as a sop to the apparent masses of sports climbers out there. If they turned out not to be apocryphal after all, then I'd imagine it's precicely masses of climbers that the owners don't want on their land! Anyway you will know more about that side of things than most of us, what do you think?

Personally, I have no objection to selected bolted routes in either quarry, but I'd hope that if at all possible it could be done in such a way so as not to jeapordise the current de facto access that we enjoy and insofar as it didn't lend further ammunition to the owners of Vixen Tor.

Cheers,
Tom (not local but very regular visitor) to Dartmoor.
Iain Peters - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Tom Last:

First off Vixen Tor: not CRoW unfortunately

I know about the access issues at Foggintor and Swel Tor. At the latter, I'm only talking about my own routes there, Anarchist, Monarchist and Republican. AFAIK the only other route on that wall is a Severe up the L arete. Obviously Pat L would need to be consulted about FQ as he led the routes, but Fogginard already has a huge quarryman's bolt as the only gear! I did ab and clean some very hard lines on a wall to the R, but couldn't find anything in the way of even a peg crack or hook placement.

The VT affair is on-going as I'm sure you are aware but I do not think it's connected with the 2 quarries.
Tom Last - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Iain Peters:

Ah okay Iain, thanks for clarifying, dunno where I got the idea Vixen was on CRoW land from. Cheers.
David Coley - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Mark Kemball:

Thanks Mark for bringing this up.

I know what I'm about to say will not please many, but..........

Re long quay and berry head quay. I think that these have fallen so far out of interest to many climbers that a new ethic might be applied: bolt if you wish.

By this I mean we create a list of routes that should not be bolted (for example black ice) but then allow, without criticism, others to bolt at will if they have the energy to create something new out of something much ignored and unused.

........I am now hiding someway safe and will not show my face at the DWS fest in Exeter tomorrow.
David Coley - on 31 Aug 2014
In reply to David Coley:

That was meant to be Long Quarry and Berryhead Quarry, not quay


duncan - on 04 Sep 2014
In reply to Mark Kemball:


It is acceptable for pitons to be placed on new routes and for them to be replaced on existing routes on a "like for like" basis. However when placing or replacing pitons, climbers should consider the following: Is there adequate alternative protection (nuts or cams etc.)? Pitons rapidly rust on this coast, so on new routes which may well not be repeated for some time, leaders should consider removing their pitons and including in their route descriptions details of the placements and pitons required. (See for example Martin Crocker's description of Ex-Man Cometh in the 2000 guide, climbed in 1996 and not yet repeated!) If pitons are removed or have rusted away and adequate alternative protection is available this should be noted on the UKC website, Javu, the CC website’s new routes section and on any other relevant websites.

I think this should be more strongly worded. Placing non-stainless fixed gear of any type on sea-cliffs is indefensibly short-sighted and unsustainable. Anyone placing non-stainless steel bolts on sea cliffs would be called to task immediately. Why should pegs be any different?

If you really can't manage without pegs, and can't bear to leave the line to someone better or wait to get better yourself, take them out after the ascent. I've fixed pegs on routes in the past but, on reflection, it was selfish and I wouldn't do it now.
Mark Kemball - on 04 Sep 2014
In reply to duncan:

Is there a reliable source of stainless steel pegs? These have been used on the culm in the past, but I believe that they often snapped without warning.
Iain Peters - on 04 Sep 2014
In reply to Mark Kemball:

I think Jim Titt of this parish has done some research and basically doesn't recommend them. I've still got some Peck S/S channels from way back, but judging by their profile I reckon the smaller sizes of cams would probably be better.

With regard to duncan's comments, I think that pegs are currently being placed only on the higher E grade new routes, and I would imagine that anyone looking to repeat these will probably inspect them first and replace where necessary. I cannot see anyone attempting to repeat the Ex-man Cometh at E7 or How The Southwest Was Won at E9 on sight, unless a third party abseils the routes first and checks or replaces the pegs.
Iain Peters - on 04 Sep 2014
In reply to Mark Kemball:

Here's the link to Jim Titt's article on pegs: https://www.thebmc.co.uk/is-there-a-future-for-pegs-in-british-climbing


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