Tag Archives: 4a

Richard Burton eat your heart out!

Not I might add the actor, but the famous explorer Richard Francis Burton, purported to be one of the first Europeans to cross Africa from West to East. I read a story about how they had to cut their way through miles of jungle; so Tregiffian’s not Africa but today’s outing felt like it for a while.

Sophie in the Jungle

It was a pretty harsh introduction for Sophie as a new member of the group. Shame I forgot to mention that we would be hacking our way through 100 metres of dense thorn, stingers and brambles. Still, I managed to forget my trousers as well, so shorts it was and the tingling sensation is still there in my legs 6 hours after leaving. I suppose its a right of passage though. Here’s Rule 4…. live with it!

Me on Acid Test

However despite the pain it was an amazing day. Sunshine, perfect rock and great climbs. And finally a plunge in the freezing briny. Tregiffian is a truly magical place. Remote; a hard slog to get to and requiring commitment to jungle bash your way in, but the climbing is very fine.

De-rigging after Acid Test

Sophie and I started on Thea, a nice Severe with a tricky leftwards move at half height. Th rocks not perfect on this route, but the final slab makes it worthwhile. And then on to Acid Test, one of my favourite VS’s. Joe explained that I was doing it all wrong because I just step into the crack and try to walk up it. Precarious, but fun, but there’s nothing for your hands so its a bit of a trust things using the crack to cam your body on.

No explanation required!!

Our final swim capped off a great day. Still a bit cold, but actually not too bad once you’ve been in for a few minutes. Not a bad turn out for this one. 6 of us with Dave, Piers, Chris, Joe (back from his adventures in Norway), Me and Sophie.

Must eat more carrots!

Brandy Slab/Rosemergy Towers

Flash Back – Severe 4a – Second
Monkey Puzzle – VS 5a – Lead
Monkey’s Lunch – Severe 4a – Lead

OK, two weeks in a row we’ve had long days. This one ending in a solo of the top part of Rosemergy Ridge in the dark in an effort to escape the claws of the viscous brambles. We had problems right at the start finding our way down to Brandy’s Slab. Probably should have read the guidebook instead of setting off on the first faint trail we found which lead in roughly the right direction.

Jelly Baby feast to start the day off

Back at the beginning of the day we had arrived at Rosemergy Towers, me with a view to having another go at Hard Times (which I fell off on the final move having gone too far left). However my still not recovered shoulder made a few protests on Flash Back (a good lead by Dave on what is an understated climb at Severe) so I gave this up as a bad idea.

Tom on the upper moves of Flash Back

And so we set our sights on Brandy’s Slab. Of course even though Tom had been there, we had no idea where to go, which resulted in an hour of bramble and Gorse bashing and a very zig zag route down. We had picked Piers up on the way and so a very scratched team arrived at the slab. I was to be honest a bit disappointed. I’d expected more, but the harder routes were just very bold and the easier routes not that inspiring. That said, I enjoyed the climbing, although I tend to agree with a comment on UKC that the detached flake of rock on Monkey Puzzle is just waiting for an opportune time to fall off. Hopefully, not with anyone climbing on it.

Lost in the Brambles

Monkey Puzzle is either a straight forward VS if you go slightly higher before moving into the narrow crack or a very bold VS if you go early. The nicer line is to follow the corner a bit further and then move across. Other wise you’re relying on friction on a very hairy and mossy face. Still it was fun despite the pain of setting up a belay with no anchor points… or at least not obvious ones.

Piers on Monkeys Lunch and having fun 🙂

And so we set off heading out via Rosemergy Ridge, which soon turned into slightly more than a scramble in the dimming light. To give Piers his due, he did brilliantly considering he has only come back to climbing recently.

There were some distinctly nervy mantles and padding going on. Still we’re alive, so that counts as a grade A adventure in my books.

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 🙂

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.

David Blane… ‘eat your heart out’

3rd June 2016

Screda Point

Needle Direct – VS 4b – Lead
Seabreeze – HS 4a – Second
Tourist Trap – E1 5b – Lead (dnf) T/R

Neither Nick or I have any concept of how long it actually takes to get to the Culm. We were both 45 minutes late and arrived within a few minutes of each other. Doh!  Obviously tuned in on the same wavelength.

The view over towards Screda Point

The view over towards Screda Point

The drive up to Hartland is lovely and the lanes leading through the village and out to the quay were decked in purple rhododendron and vivid green trees showing their new leaves. Quite spectacular. Of course you then drop down to the quay itself which has its own splendor, this time with stark rock outcrops and prehistoric jagged runnals heading out to the sea.

The detached slab of Fohn

The detached slab of Fohn

Screda Point sits to the South and is only a short walk away. We decided to ab in so that our gear wasnt at the bottom (a good decision that one) and head straight out to the outer fin where an HS and VS lurked. Both turned out to be great routes. The Needle Direct was a well protected and tricky route up the centre of a slab. Fantastic climbing with a real out there feel because of the isolation of the fin. Nick’s HS also had a character of its own. Following the arete and then breaking out onto the slab it was a cool peer for the VS.

Casting a shadow on the great moves of Needle Direct

Casting a shadow on the great moves of Needle Direct

The tide was chasing all the way though and we left as the waves started surging up the runnals toward the main face. Just enough time for me to bag an E1 in order to get to the grassy saddle… or not???

Nick celebrating after Seabreeze

Nick celebrating after Seabreeze

The start of the E1 was fine but I soon found myself high up with just a micro and a difficult move. The combination was enough to stop me in my tracks and with the water lapping at Nicks feet we opted for a me to downclimb and both of us to shimmy up the ab rope on prussics. So it was a lower off to fetch the gear and then a climb out.

The prussic out.

The prussic out.

Of course I couldnt help but try to impress Nick with my magic tricks. David Blane makes planes disappear into nothingness. I make quickdraws and runners disappear into the sea in a blink of an eye. Impressive huh? The trick is to switch off your brain, use a bit of thuggery on a stuck nut and not bother attaching it to your rope. That way it cartwheels into the ocean and its possible to just stand there and look really stupid…

The fairly blank top wall

The fairly blank top wall

When will I learn. So with Nick safely up the route as well, we called it a day fairly early and so ended a brilliant session and a good return to ‘business as usual’ for me and Nick. Lets hope for loads more days like that in the near future.


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.