Long Way from Home

I’ve spent the past week trying to persuade people that Dartmoor really isn’t that far away, that it’s really nice and that they should come with me, if only for a weekend. Sometimes it’s nice when people don’t listen…

After six hours in the car, Tess sat patiently behind me although almost certainly not very happy, I was thanking my lucky stars that I wouldn’t have to repeatedly apologise to people for dragging them half way across the country. Still, i’ve got five days, not two, so am quite happy to have spent the extra time and money for a change of scenery.

It is, of course, still February, meaning it’s still bloody freezing but true to the forecast so far, it is dry and almost perfect bouldering conditions. I’m staying in Princetown; a nice little village to the west of the moor proper. I’m in a bunkhouse attached to the Plume of Feathers pub (can’t complain, as I am currently touch typing while watching the England vs France 6 Nations game) and will soon be heading downstairs for a complimentary pint from the two girls who unknowingly woke me at 2am last night. It’s not a great place, but has everything I need and considering the price is pretty good value.

So after a good first night, I started off this morning by heading to Tavistock to get some supplies. To be honest, I have been impressed with the area, it is lovely round here and I must confess to getting a bit distracted by the local shops and markets. After a tour of the local back roads, Tess and I finally made it to Combeshead Tor; the first crag Dartmoor in Boulder Britain and with a great review. I did neglect to read properly though, and missed the paragraph pointing out the 25-30 minute walk in…

Never mind, not the end of the world (despite the complaints of my back towards the end of the day) but what was a little more concerning was the height of the boulders. While most of the problems were graded 6b or below, they all seemed quite tall when I got there. I began on a nice simple 5+ called Sloping Arete and promptly fell off. Bugger, that wasn’t supposed to happen, the nature of the rock a little alien and a multitude of footholds invisible. It went second go and I moved round to another 5+, Arete Right. It was this climb that scared the living shit out of me: it felt very high, very shaky and was only completed as going up was marginally less frightening to jumping off or reversing the moves.

I decided to have a mooch around the other blocs, in search of something more suited to my style. There wasn’t much, with everything coming under the heading “high and scary”. To be fair, I might have been more interested had I not been there alone but nevertheless, psyche levels had dropped considerably. Then I spotted a photo in the guide, of someone on the 6a I couldn’t get off the floor on, and realised the beta. I wandered back, changed shoes and promptly sent it feeling much better.

Ignoring the higher problems, I slugged up the hill to the next two boulders i’d been interested in and set about trying a few more. I must admit, the quality of the three that I got on were all superb, from Sharp Arete 6a (just mentioned), to Pervert’s Traverse 6c (a neglected problem due to the literally back breaking potential of the landing) to the last problem of the day, Sloper’s Problem 6b+ (where I jumped off instead of mantelling as the descent would’ve been more than a little tricky). In conclusion, I’d be tempted to return with more people and pads, despite my early reluctance but probably not this week and right now, second half is about to kick off…

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