Category Archives: Dartmoor

Even Hardcore Climbers Hate Cold Hands

Last November, I went with Mad Jim to Magic Wood, in South-East Switzerland and we found, to the surprise of no-one back home, that it was a bit cold. Now, it’s February and i’m in the South-West of England and there is a reminiscent feel to things.

At the end of my last post, I was watching the rugby (England won, beating the French, always worth mentioning) and what followed was a brilliant evening with my new paddling friends. Two from the night before became 12 and four pints and a plate of ribs and chicken later, I was surprisingly refreshed with the joys of life. It was a really fun night, although I was a bit gutted I didn’t get up in time to say goodbye before their departure back to London but considering the low temperatures outside, I was tempted to get back into bed and wait for them to come back some time in the afternoon.

No! I thought, this is a climbing trip so I should get out and get climbing. After all, it’s still dry and at least the friction would be good. That, and i’m supposed to be a hardcore mountain man, I should be able to cope with a bit of cold. So with Tess secured in her perch on the back seat, I headed out to Bonehill.

This was the crag that got me back down here, after calling in on the way back from James’ wedding last November. It’s the one that I was most keen to get back to, especially as i’d had some recommendations. So, we headed over, and as I got out of the car, it struck me that it was definitely colder than yesterday. Another couple of climbers turned up and we wandered up the hill for all of about two minutes before getting to the rock.

Alas, it was not to be: I finally got on a couple of nice easy slab problems, only to get snowed on in a passing blizzard. The stupidity of things came all too quickly after last year’s shenanigans, and the rockboots quickly went back in my bag for the day. I did mill around with the other lads for a few hours, watching one get Rippled Wall V4 but there was no way I was willing to get on rock at 0C again.

But today is looking a bit warmer and as much as the Red Bull Cliff Diving is interesting, I better head out. Today is gonna be Hound Tor, to see if I can finally get a decent amount of ticks for a change.

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…