Tag Archives: Severe

What do you mean he’s not damaged!!?

2nd November 2018

Luckey Tor

Eagles Nest – Severe 4a – Lead
Original Route – Severe 4a -Lead

Sat on the ledge at the top of Eagles Nest, Pete and I reflected on what it means to be able to enjoy the opportunity for a bit of solitude and time away from the usual influences of everyday life. I know that there are people who go to extremes to capture moments like this, but here in our own backyard is a little bit of paradise.

What light!

It’s not good to gloat, but sometimes it’s so nice to realise that you’ve captured a moment in time which only you (and a few close mates) are privy to. Staring out across the canopy of trees towards the dart Pete and I, for a while, were the only people enjoying one of the most beautiful views in Devon (Dave and Tom were battling up an adjacent climb). It was also nice to be able to completely relax. Another thing our culture ensures is in in short supply.

Life Affirming

Enough of the eulogising. The walk in and out of Luckey Tor is nothing short of breathtaking. Moss covered boulders; twisted tree trunks and roots; a rock strewn river and an umbrella of trees accompanies you to a hidden gem of a crag. Tom and I had been here a few times before, but it was Dave and Petes first time. The video clip says it all!

The four of us concentrated on two severe’s for the day, but both were tough for the grade and also very good for the grade. Eagles Nest is all about the final ‘out there’ move through the V cleft, whereas Original Route has a gnarly traverse (poorly protected on the lead). They made for some real entertainment on this day.

Pete jammed in approaching the crux on Eagles Nest

Most importantly was the return of Pete, following his retirement. Great to have him along for the day. A real return to a fun day out. Dave and Tom seemed to have things wired as well, with two good leads. Got to love these Dartmoor sandbags 🙂

My name is Riddell…… Jimmy Riddell

5th October 2018

Predannack Head

S.P.E.C.T.R.E. – eE1 – 5b Lead
Little Nellie – Severe – 4b Second
Astral Blue – Moderate – Solo

Quite a strange day really. This was a crag Dave and I had been meaning to explore for a while. Tom accompanied us on this trip making for a nice relaxed day at the crag.


Little Nellie proved to be a tense start in a way, because the belay ledge (just enough for two as Tom stayed higher in the dry) was in imminent danger of being swamped by the tide. Dave kindly got a shifty on and saved me from a drenching, but only just.


To rewind a bit, the approach to LN is via an abseil off the top of the Octopussy Zawn left hand wall. Climb down to some perched boulders through an airy scramble and rig a belay on a slab resting against a big boulder. The its off into the unknown. Fortunately for us the swell was small because in anything but small conditions this climb would be impossible.

Its really about a series of strenuous opening moves and then its over. A bit lame really but the position of the climb makes it an adventure. Somewhat like S.P.E.C.T.R.E. This involves abseiling down to a sentry box and then climbing back up a crack line. It has its moments, with a few 5 b moves but in general I found it well protected and amenable. The top is strange in that the topo line would send you up the face making it bold. I could see a path through but the holds looked dodgy and unreliable. I ended up finishing up the crack as per the guidebook description, a more natural finish.

Tom, topsout on S.P.E.C.T.R.E

Now Astral Blue is just a jolly with a few spicy moves if done solo. The main event is the transition from the lower quartz crack to the upper groove. We took a highline, discovered by Tom and the more natural route, but exposed you to a pretty horrific fall if you blew it. There’s a delicate traverse across the v groove where the rock is a bit questionable and you need to have your wits about you.

Tom watching Dave on Astral Blue

As usual the team made for an amazing day in amongst the beautiful cornish coastline. It is amazing that we get to live in this fantastic county. How lucky are we! Again….

Daves new hands

30th March 2018

Predannack Head (Lizard Point)

The Dunny – Severe 4a – Second (Tom Lead)

Sometimes you just have to hope and take a chance. The weather forecast was the same as usual (since we have been trapped in this global warming moisture bubble), sun, cloud, rain…. take your pick. For once this year we lucked a clear, bright sunny day.

Beautiful Predannack

The only issue was the swell. A booming south coaster which ended up putting paid to a lot of climbing at Predannack. But more importantly we got to mooch around and get our bearings which is not easy to do here. The main problem is finding that one feature to define your location. Here its the leaning Pinnacles. Once you find these you’re OK. Somehow we walked straight past them, but to be fair they are much easier to spot from the South than from the walk in from the North.

Sun at last and the remnants of the old Coastguard hut.

We overshot massively, ending up in a complex area of zawns and bluffs. In the end we checked the guide and found that the old Coastguard hut would be a good marker. Turns out that exactly where we were. Walking back everything becomes recognisable. Strange, but that’s the way it works 🙂

The Dunny

We dropped down into Downunder Zawn which has loads of routes, although on this day because of the swell we opted to stay higher up and tackle a Severe. Its disconcerting when large waves crash underneath you as in the Zawn you are stood on top of a boulder field.


Tom led The Dunny, a tricky severe because of the rock quality in places. You can see how the rock is really sticky and good to climb on; but this comes with some looseness and unreliable holds. I think the main climbs further down look a lot more stable. On this route, it is the upper areas which suffer worst. Most importantly though, Dave got to test his grip after his operation on his elbows. It looks like the hands came up trumps as he cleaned the route with no problems.

After this we just spent the day wandering around scouting the various areas. With this info now stored I cant wait to get back and onto some of the really top looking routes.


We’re going to a Bear Hug

29th April 2017

Pendower Coves

Pendower Grooves – VS 4c – Lead
The Cut – Severe 4a – Second
Pendower Direct – HVS 5a – Lead (dnf)
Time Tavern – VS 4c – Alt Lead

What an amazing location! And a top find on a day when nesting birds killed our initial objective of Excalibur at Carn Les Boel.

I think the reason I picked out Pendower was because there was very little info on it. Seldom (if ever) climbed I wondered weather it would be worth seeking out.

Pendower Buttress

The guidebooks hammer the point about environmental conservation and protecting the cliff edges so Dave and I made sure we avoided the plant life and did litle to disturb the wildlife. The Choughs were nesting in the square cut cave about 300 metres further West, but nothing appeared to be nesting in this area, although there were signs a Peregrine had been operating in the area with a number of feather piles and carcasses. But no nesting Peregrines in our area that we could see.

Belay on Pendower Grooves

We abbed into an amazing location. A boulder beach, quiet, relote and just stunning. The crag itself is excellent. The rock is crunchy in places, but this is more than made up for by the positive nature. No polish here. Just sharp edges, solid foot placements and holds which are easy to hold (once the loose crystals have fallen off 🙂 ).

Pendower Grooves is a class VS. We did it in one pitch. The bottom groove felt hardest to me, possibly because of the wave wash, but maybe because the first ascensionist was good at grooves. Who knows. Anyway, from then on it was just a joy to climb. Great moves, outrageous exposure and a bit of everything- feet free, traverses, laybacks and jams.

Being chased by the tide

Dave did a variation of this which tackled it straight up from the beach. This way you get to chomney and bridge as well. Who could complain. A quick lunch and we were back down racing the tide to get on the HVS Pendower Direct.

Joe and Tom silouetted

Now in my opinion this seemed a bit of a sandbag, but to be fair the situation we found ourselves in could have been part of the issue. The tide chased us up onto the face so Dave ended up below me when I was making a tough move. Had I fallen it would have been bad for both of us. This coupled with the fact the move was hard and bold, the pro suspect and the remainder of the face looked nails we bailed after I had fallen off a couple of times.

Stunningly beautiful

Instead I went up Time Tavern (we didnt know this at the time), with Dave finishing off in an overhanging flake/groove which was very crunchy and friable. A very good lead for this top section imo. And so ended a great adventure and a minor epic. Its what climbing days are made of and why we do it I think.

What is for certain is that I will be back to do a few more of these class routes.

I’ve gone all religous

17th Feb 2017

Vicarage Cliffs

In Memorium – HS 4a – Lead
Tombstone – S 4a – Second

After a long layoff (since October) I finally got back to some proper climbing. The recent rain meant the Culm was the obvious choice to avoid seepage, but as it turned out the day was bright, if a bit windy.

The nice solid descent

My pre Christmas jitters seemed to have settled down as well, as my excursion onto ‘In Memorium’ demonstrated. For HS this packs a bold punch. Climbing on flakes and edges which are not reliable adds some nerves to the route, but unexpectedly for HS there is little reliable gear. To the point where the run outs are actually dangerous.

Joe on belay duty

You follow the arete basically, climbing inside and outside up the line of least resistance. But other than a CAM low down there is no bomber gear until higher up. The best thing for me is that I didnt back off and I didnt have problems with my head game. Sorted…

On the main slab

Dave and I then moved across to Tombstone, a really good severe tackling the overlap on the main cliff. Well worth the effort and well protected as well.

Sunset at Vicarage

As usual Cornwall delivered the breathtaking scenery. And a buttery yellow sunset capped what was a thoroughly good return to climbing ways.

Now I need to return here and bag all the VS/HVS routes which look damn good.



Put your left foot in…left foot out ….

23rd September 2016

Haytor/Low Man

Levitation – VS4c – Lead
Honeymoon Corner- Severe 4a – Second

I think that the routes on Haytor in general are very different to those we normally climb in Cornwall. At first its easy to jump at the fact that they are high in the grade, but maybe this is just because they are different. The holds generally are slopers, rails or flakes meaning you need to approach them differently.


I found this with the first climb. looks straight forward, but is steeper and off balance with holds not being as positive as you might have thought. But once you work the move out, it is straightforward. It’s all about getting your feet up early and then straightening out your body. A good lead by Dave who as with the rest of us got a rude awakening on this one.


Levitation gets stars and probably desrves them, although the whole climb is really all about the traverse/stepover (or undercling for Tom). The climb starts with some good moves and them heads out onto the lip of the overhang. You then have what looks like a blank wall to negotiate, but the crystals and hidden holds are there. It just feels nervy because your gear is behind and above you so you know you’ll get a swing. For the second it is just as bad. Tom went high, using the upper rail/overlap for an undercling. Dave went low and had one of those moments where you cant commit. Mind says go, body says no!

We all did it in the end and Tom and Dave joined me on my very breeezy and bloody freezing perch high on Low Man. Still the view was awesome so I can complain too much. Some people would give their back teeth for a view like that.

Dave on the top moves of Levitation

Dave on the top moves of Levitation

I think the next time we visit Haytor its going to have to be a very calm day. The wind up there is a killer.

On Belay! Just don’t fall off…..

17th April 2016

Kellan Head
Hidden Amphitheatre

Gambit – Severe 4a – Alt lead

Its a shout that doesnt instil massive confidence. Mind you I should have realised this was no normal belay stance Dave was on when a football sized chunk of rock went whistling by and plummeted into the sea!

Slightly wet strat to the E1.

Slightly wet strat to the E1.

This trip turned into a great adventure. We had set off to climb a couple of fairly hard routes in the E1 range but they were still a bit out of condition. Seepage meant the opening moves were a bit dicey (no pro and wet foot placements) so we left them for next week hopefully.

Kellan Head_Apr16 (4)

Instead we went exploring. The guidebook suggests an abseil into the Hidden Amphitheatre, but there also looked to be a traverse around the point. Green and slimey in some places, but not where we climbed, it was possible to get around the nose of the zawn/bay and onto the main slab.

Sitting amoungst the slime.

Sitting amoungst the slime.

Its great fun, especially when you dont have a clue whats coming. As it turned out it wa a spectacular area of rock. High and a bit intimidating, but with plenty of obvious lines. It took us a while to get out bearings and sort out the routes. Still not sure about some but we did find a massive VS which looks epic. Next time though, as we were running out of light, so we settled on the Severe called Gambit to climb out.

Top pitch Gambit

Top pitch Gambit

Probably not as straight forward as the guidebook suggests. It’s described as ‘slight’ which in comparison to the other routes it probably is. But ti shouldnt be underestimated in the context of the rock, which in places is loose and unreliable.

For the most part it follows good rock and has a couple of good sections. The start of pitch two which Dave led was great, but again not easy. Well worth Severe 4a/b and possibly higher in the severity grade because the pro is there, but will it hold?

The final hanging slab gives good exposure and lots of dodgey rock. Dave’s belay was more likely to caused a cliff collapse than hold me in a fall. Still you have to work with what you have. I think I might run a rope down from the fence posts if I know we will be topping out here next time. Safer and easier.

After Gambit

After Gambit

We finished with a stunning setting sun and the whole area glowing gold as the lichen caught the suns rays. Truly amazing, but a little cold as I only had a wind stopper. So back to the car park in what must be one of cornwalls most scenic places to climb.

Jet Wash

3rd July 2015

Penberth Cove

Nicks Niche – Severe – 4a Second

Horney – VS 4c – Second

Penberth was of course the original venue at which Iwas introduced to climbing by Bart. It therefore holds very fond memories for me and returning there is never a chore.


A new member of our group came along. For Harrison it was his first experience of outdoor climbing and my thought was that Penberth provided a good venue where we could tackle a few reasonably graded routes while at the same time introducing him to the safety routines and climbing protocols that he’ll need when we go to the more serious venues like Bosi or Chair Ladder (no I wouldnt… not yet anyway).

Harrison  warming up on Excalibur

Harrison warming up on Excalibur

So during the course of the day we visited some Penberth classics such as Nicks Niche and The Hornet, as well as spending some time in Area 5 which needs a low tide. It was good practice for Chris and I as well as we went though some of the basics, which we always need refreshers on.


Harrison on Bionicle HS 4b

Harrison on Bionicle HS 4b

The rising tide, which almost caught us on Nicks Niche ( a wave actually spat just past me soaking the whole climb but miraculaously missing me!!) eventually pushed us to the Hornet where Chris and Harrison on his first attempt, made short work of of what I had always found a difficult climb. Must have been me then…

Chris, pre wash

Chris, pre wash

Harrison on the face left of Nicks Niche

Harrison on the face left of Nicks Niche


Meanwhile Joe and Tom had mooched over to Porthguarnon  to something very hard (around E3 I believe), but did return for a quick run on Groucho.

Tom on Groucho

Tom on Groucho

There are two E1’s here at Penberth which I would like to try, so I might pay a mornings vist on the way through on one of our outings and try and get on them.

Everyone needs a boost

28th November 2014


Corner Crack – Severe  4b – Second
Monday Face – VS 4c – Lead

It was a bit of a disappointment really.  The forecast had been suggesting all week that Friday would be dry and sunny, but although the sun did its best, the faces of the crags were sopping. It didnt stop the coast from shining in all its glory, but as regards climbing it would be a frustrating day.

View to Cape Cornwall

View to Cape Cornwall

Our first stop was Pentire. I had it in my mind that this would dry quickly on a day like this, but alas it was not the case. Both Rip Tide gulley and the main point were unclimbable so it was on to Sennen for what was a fall back location.

Tom on damp ground

Tom on damp ground

This continued the mood of the day with all the faces being in poor condition. When the rock is wet it does not inspire you to climb hard and I started to get a feeling that maybe we should pack up and go.

Tom on Corner Crack

Tom on Corner Crack

Tom however got us started with Corner Climb, probably the first route I ever climbed back with Bart and Tony. It sandbagged me then, but this time I had the better of it taking a slight deviation to finish on the bulge.

Tom and I mumbled about going to the pub, but it was Dave who had more determination on this day, eventually cajolling me into taking on another route. To be fair he was out to test his ankle and one route was not enough.

Longships in the sun

Longships in the sun

Monday face is a good route to do when its damp. Juggy and confidence promoting (despite the less than bombproof pro) it was a good finish to the day and set us all in a good mood for the return journey.

Equally inspiring was the amazing view towards longships, with a golden sun and battleship sea. Just amazing.

Vegetables are good for you. Sometimes…

2nd May 2014

Pen Olver – The Lizeard

Lying Eyes – Severe 4a – Lead
The Womb Tomb – Severe 4a – Second
The Giant Carrot – E1 5b – Lead
Sesame Street – V Diff (Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha………!! ) – Second

Before we even got to Pen Olver I knew I would end up preoccupied with The Giant Carrot. I’d checked it out on our previous visit but didnt have the nerve to do it. This time I thought I’d better give it closer attention.

Pen Olver_May14 002

Pen Olver was looking its best. Calm seas. light winds and a cool temperature. Typical spring day really. Chris and I paired up, with Tom, Dave and Pete in the triumvate. I suspect Pete felt that Dave and Tom might give him an easier time of it so he could rest his damaged leg. I think maybe he was wrong here as Dave set off on the brilliant but tricky ‘The Peoples Queen’.  Pete who has been climbing superbly recently had time to squeeze in an ascent of Lying Eyes, my first lead of the day as well. No rest for the …..

Pen Olver_May14 005

Lying Eyes is short but OK. A good warm up route and it gets you to the top of the pinnacle which is always a treat. Looking across at Dave fighting his way up TPQ ,I think Chris and I had the easier option but Dave despatched yet another VS to add to his growing list.

Pen Olver_May14 007

Chris then subjected himself to a bit of ‘trollism’ as he negotiated the fantastic ‘ The Womb Tomb’. Anyone who goes to Pen Olver should do this climb. It is excellent. The final exposed traverse just caps off what is a truly different experience form most climbs. And the famous cave painting is still there. Or is it a fake??

Pen Olver_May14 011

So onto my main event. Or would it be? From below I thought I had this one sussed.But once on it, it becomes a different beast. Not sure I agree that there are small wires to be had on the traverse. I placed two in what appeared to be good slots, only for one of them to shatter when Chris removed it. A crucial cam in the face settled my nerves and I was away. It was scary, but scary good. A few difficult moves later I was sucking in air on the arete and feeling decidedly sick. Way too much adrenaline. But what a buzz. I was soooo pleased to get this one, especially after making a couple of false starts.

Pen Olver_May14 020

The adrenaline wasnt finished for the day though. Chris was scratting around for a lead wanting something around HS but not finding anything. So he settled for a really good looking line called Sesame Street. Given V Diff in the book. V Diff My Arse!! I always trot out the saying that if it looks hard from the ground, it is hard.

Pen Olver_May14 028

Chris found this out, battling up the route and getting a real shock at its difficulty. Looks like he got his VS, because I rekon this was the more appropriate grade. It made for a fitting end to what was a great day out.  Tom spent a lot of the afternoon racking up leads on the Main Face with Pete. Looks like Pete might get his 60 after all.