With a growing scene in the South West, more climbers are psyched, strong and out there doing it. Crags are more popular, routes are being discovered, cleaned and climbed, and people are generally just ‘Having it!’
South West sport crags have seen a real surge in popularity in recent years. Of late, the Anstey’s Cove scene has heated up with draws regularly hanging from the once deserted Ferocity Wall. Even old projects have been brought back to life with a good clean and some chalk, leaving a vague trail of hope. Whilst there’s been little in the way of new routes, a new generation of South West climbers in just their mid-teens, have been inspiring the rest with sends of area test pieces Tuppence, 8b, and Pet Cemetry, 8a+.
Torbryan, Anstey’s little bro, regained the limelight briefly with its first 8. Bob, 8a/+, tackles the full length/width of the impressive flowstone wall taking in the crux of most the routes, as well as covering new ground along its 35m length. The line flows brilliantly and the rope runs fine, giving a long, sustained outing. A comprehensive run down of the beta and video can be found on the new routes page of javu.co.uk.
Cheesewring has continued to see its development from in-frequented trad quarry into a popular sport venue. After the new guide came out it has become one of the more popular places to go bolt clipping. Locals have continued to keep adding new lines and retro bolting old ones; the most significant being Tom Bunn’s recent addition Talking Heads, 7b. This is essentially a free version of the old aid climb Super Indirect, A2. Tom Bunn also successfully redpointed a hard new extension to Wring the Changes (F7b+) in Cheesewring Quarry, bumping the grade up to 7c.
Finally, further East, Cheddar keeps on giving with Dave Pickford’s new 8a+ direct start to Tonight at Noon at Lion Rock. This improves on what was previously a fairly contrived line. Dave also brought back to life what has turned out to be a popular modern classic by re-bolting A Day Called Zero, 8a. This was a previously unrepeated Pete Oxley route from the 90’s at The Wave sector.
The South Devon coast seemed to be the in place to get your splash downs, seeing more traffic than ever despite the water temperature being a couple degrees below average this year. First up, yours truly added a direct finish to Neil Gresham’s 8a/+ Berry Head test piece, Cutlass. This tackled the main crux but instead of bailing off right you slap your way direct over the final bulge, adding more brilliant climbing to this already 3 star route. A month later, Gresham’s original route saw more attention, which resulted in impressive flash ascents from both Ryan Pasquill and Neil Mawson.
Just around the corner at Long Quarry point, Ken Palmer’s notoriously hard roof, Christine, 8a, received its first ground up ascent (3rd overall) courtesy of Cailean Harker (UKC Report). This is a fine effort indeed, which has repelled some of the big names. For those that don’t know the intimidating nature of the route, after some faff to get to the start you tackle the furiously steep cave, putting in heel toe cams above your head whilst crimping small greasy edges, all above an uncomfortable fall. To increase the ‘rad’ factor the tidal window is short; at low tide you can wade across the fall zone and even at high tide a fall from high up can result in touching the bottom!
The best of the new routes came from Ken 'local hero' Palmer, who is still finding, cleaning and establishing classics. His latest find, Rubber Dinghy Rapids, E7 6c, climbs the incredible stepped groove feature down on Longship's Wall at Land's End. Unfortunately the corner is often damp, which meant Ken needed several visits before finding it dry enough to climb – in fact, on one occasion a freak wave soaked the whole route just as Ken finished drying the last of the holds! Another stunning hard line on the granite is Martin Cathrow's Skyfall, E7 6b, at St Loy (UKC Report). On hearing the quality of this new route it wasn't long before it saw a repeat, courtesy of Tom Bunn.
Martin Crocker also headed down to the South Coast of Cornwall, adding five new climbs to various seaside venues. Perhaps the most noteworthy of these is Unzip Real Slow, E5 5c, at Dodman Point, which sounds like a frightening lead; protected mostly by skyhook runners and 'feather-weight' gear. Also at Dodman Point, Martin climbed Deadman's Chest, E1 5a, which he says is worth a star and offers excellent climbing on good rock. Finally, Martin climbed a new route on the remarkable Western Gear Pinnacle at Rame Head. Keep On Lovin, E4 6a, is a fine pitch on great rock and takes the wall to the left of Pete O'Sullivan's 1984 route Framed. Full descriptions of these routes, along with many others, can be found on the New Routes page on the Cheesewring Climbing website.
It seems that most of the development over the last year has been on the bouldering front, with more and more people venturing out with their pads looking for projects. This is no surprise, as historically the South West scene has been one centred on routes, leaving easy pickings for those keen to leave their mark. These recent developments have really put the South West on the map for the travelling UK boulderer, with a huge selection of rock types, styles and grades it is no surprise that more people are heading down to sample some of the gems on offer.
The Bristol area has always lacked a good bouldering circuit, whether this is down to more psyche for routes from locals or just a lack of good bouldering potential remains to be seen. Nevertheless, more recently things seem to be changing. The best of the bunch must be Ben West's 7C, Tombstone in the Cheddar Gorge. Funnily enough it turns out this was a known project for years but never saw any real attention. Yet in the weeks after Ben's ascent, it seemed to be the problem to try in the south west. The day I headed up to do it there where 11 other people trying it!
Another area classic that has seen plenty of attention in recent months is the The Prow, 7C, at Sand Point. Turns out this was climbed years back but until recently had never been written up or publicised. A couple videos later and it is one of the most climbed 7C's in the area.
The Exmoor coast has seen plenty of attention this year. The unusual style and slick frictionless holds means that many find a first visit to the Lynmouth area a frustrating and sometimes unrewarding experience. It could be said this is a bit of a Marmite crag. However, I can assure that there are some gems to be had. And like a catchy pop song, the more times you visit the more you begin to love it. Several three star problems have been added with the most significant being one of the hardest boulders in the South, Pipeline, 8A+ (UKC Report).
Down the coast and to one of the more popular bouldering areas: Hartland Quay. This seems to be THE place for hard bouldering in the area. Fortunately, Hartland still keeps coming up with the goods with two new roof classics going up in the same day. In the photogenic Spekes Mill roof another 8A was put up. The Revolution is Coming tackles the impressive, imposing roof direct starting on an undercut to the left of the End is Nigh; another 3 star problem and future North Coast classic. In the Ache Ball cave the other new roof line, Ballin', 7C, starts in the break above Ache Ball and climbs out towards the sea at right angles to the original North Coast testpiece.
Moving West and crimpin' Andy Whall, long time Cornwall activist, has again come up with the goods opening up a new area at Zennor Head. On his find Andy said "There are quite a few problems, but with generally very bad landings which require lots of mats. It's as good as Clodgy Point although with a much more difficult access." The best and hardest line to be put up was The Zennor Fool, 7B+, (video). If you're feeling adventurous the venue can be found at Pendour Cove, between St Ives and Bosigran.
Godrevy, West Cornwall's premier bouldering spot, has unfortunately seen more lines fall down this year than put up. However, Dave Biggs grabbed a consolation problem, after some help from the winter storms, by adding the obvious low start to the classic Piss Pot. Cracked Up, 7B+/C, as he named it, adds a couple of intense hard moves before tackling the original line; a good one for board lovers.
Hard bouldering on the Coast of Devon and Cornwall (from St Ives to Lynmouth) is certainly on the up... there are now >20 7Cs, 16 7C+s, 7 8As and 1 8A+. For those keen to find out more a short round up of the North Coast developments from last year can be found here as well as further details of older problems in the back dated news section of javu.co.uk.
Dartmoor has little to offer from this year's developments, despite once being the place to boulder in the South West. Nevertheless, one problem that does stand out is Mikey Cleverdon's bouncy new addition Still Fly, 7b+, which plugs one of the few remaining gaps.
From Dartmoor to Bodmin Moor and in contrast this has seen a surge of interest, mainly from a dedicated crew (Rich Hudson, Rich Pollard, Andy Steinberg, Sean Hawken, Andy Grieve and Myself) who have established a great circuit of boulders up to 7A+. In recent weeks, Bodmin Moor has begun to see some harder lines added thanks to some new eyes and local talent. A couple of the best were captured on video. Tom Bunn's La Baleine a Cornes, 7B, and Mikey 'Coach' Cleverdon's superb roof Beast of Bodmin, 7B+. The latter of these could be one of the best roof problems from either of the moors. With a plethora of more good looking projects being cleaned from 7B-8A on the moor, I'm sure this won't be the last we hear of this place.
Luxulyan Valley Woods, Bodmin Moor's answer to Bovey Woods, has also recently seen some action, with over 100 new boulders cleaned by Richard 'Mosseee' Moss, Tom Last and Jamie Maddison. Most of the development is in the V0 to V4 range along with some micro routes on house sized blocs up to E6. Local enthusiast Tom Last claims "this puts the Luxy crags up there with the likes of Helman Tor and Carn Brea in terms of quantity and dare I say it, quality too!" The only issue comes with finding the stuff, but a pdf guide to the bouldering should be available at some point soon. This short edit shows off Tom Bunn's recent ascent of the hardest route in the woods.
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