Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Lundy - Lessons in Adventure

"It's so dark, I can't see anything!"
"Just pull up the abseil rope and lets get out of here"
"Okay that's it done. Wait, what's that noise?"
"Fuck. Dave is down there, Fuck Sake Dave!" 

For those that don't know, Lundy is a small island located off the north west coast of Devon. It's a mere 3 miles long and half a mile wide with no cars and no roads other than the dusty track that transect's its spine. Most people go there seeking peace and tranquillity, however for a select few it's an entirely different proposition. With an entire guide book dedicated to its over 50 rock venues all mostly comprised of perfect compact granite it's a climbing paradise. Adventure and commitment are the flavour of the routes here, made all the more exciting in the knowledge that should it be required, the only rescue is from the other climbers in the campsite!

Frantic last minute packing and a 2 hour ferry ride saw us landed on the island. After a slow start (several hours putting up tents and practicing cart wheels) we decided we should probably go and do some climbing so headed off the Landing Craft Bay on its west coast. 

Lesson One - An approach 'scramble' actually means abseil!

Ed leading the VS 4c pitch of Roadrunner

The approach scramble off the cliff and down the 'easy grass gully' actually transpired into a sketchy two stage abseil but eventually we made it to the boulder strewn cove. The first two routes to fall were Roadrunner (VS 4c) and Centaur (HVS 5b), neither without incident!

The first pitch of Centaur (HVS 5b) which Jonny
decided to lead in trainers!

Lesson Two - Lundy Routes take AGES to climb

Due to some complications with the routes we had to abseil back down to the beach rather than top out. Even being only two pitches, both routes had still taken over 3 hours due to the required cleaning and other faff. And as we didn't start until 5 it was quickly getting dark and the tide had cut off our escape to the abseil ropes. Instead we had to climb up a loosely vegetated slope in the fading darkness. By the time we were all safely out of the cove it was pitch black. Due to a break down in comms Dave had also returned down the first stage of the approach abseil to provide a rescue that wasn't needed but he had no torch. It wasn't until Jonny pulled the ropes up we realized he was there! After a quick panic we nipped down through the maelstrom to grab him and swiftly returned to the campsite. 

Ed, Dave and Jonny on the 2nd pitch of The Devils Slide HS 4b

After heeding the lessons of the day before we decided to go for a more relaxing day and do the Lundy classic, The Devils Slide (HS 4b). The 'slide' is actually the biggest complete granite slab of anywhere in Europe and is a wonder of geological architecture! To mitigate the communications errors of the day before we brought Ed's walkie talkies. These were especially useful in the what felt like hurricane force wind. At one point Ed did a rendition of a Houdiini act when all his loose chalk blew away in a poof of white smoke!

Lesson Three -Take Walkie Talkies, as on Lundy it's ALWAYS windy

The 'Slide' is actually the longest complete granite slab in Europe and according to the man in the shop had actually received an ascent the week before by a Saudi Princess guided by Doug Scott!



The approach abseil and the main face of Beaufort Buttress

Continuing on the theme of a relaxing climbing holiday we opted to go to Beaufort Buttress again on Lundy's western shore. This impressive granite headland plays host to a series of low grade classics with a 'relatively' simple approach. A quick sideways abseil sees you on the tidal platform at the base of the routes, however if you arn't fazed about missing out the first 10m you could actually make a traverse on ledges round to the '2nd pitches' of all the routes. Rising above out of the turquoise sea is a massive plinth of bubbling golden granite riddled with classic lines. Stuka Direct (VS 4c), Hurricane (HS 4a) and Capstans Arete (VS 5a) were all ticked in quick succession and this time we made it to the pub before last orders!

Lesson Four - Visiting the the Tavern is as integral as climbing 

The thrutchy first pitch of Diamond Solitaire VS 4c

Flying Buttress is calling. Lundy's iconic huge overhanging sea arch has some of the islands most famous routes from the super hard Flying Dutchmen (E8 6c) to the ubber classic Double Diamond (HVS 5b). This huge sea arch looks more like a stack that has toppled sideways against the cliff opposed to just forming naturally due to the strata of the rock. As it was a bit dank we opted to go for the highly rated Double Diamond (VS 4c). After a quick abseil down the front of the arch we reached the base and geared up for the siege. Me, Emma and Fred led off up first followed by Dave, Jonny and Ed.

Ed leading the wonderfully positioned second pitch of Diamond Solitaire VS 4c

The route is split between two majorly contrasting pitches, the first being a large overhanging corner running adjacent to the slab, the second being an airy technical traverse across the edge of the slab to the inside of the arch then steeply up its top. A truly great climb and one that will be hard to forget! The first pitch is a bit meaty for VS but if you're confidant at the grade you'll be fine and there is more gear than you can shake a stick at. And that exposed second pitch is thankfully blessed with massive holds and only has one section of 4b slightly higher up but is again well protected.

 Lesson Five - Everything is hard for the grade on Lundy

After no shortage of grunting we conquered the climb and took the rest of the day off to drink beer and do general dirt-bagging duties.

The next day with psyche running high the plan was Headline Promontory however missing the tide meant we opted for a return to the Devil's Slide (much to the delight of the new members to the group who were here for only a day). Satan's Slip (E1 5a) and Albion (VS 4c) were high on the list of the days endeavours and again these routes did not disappoint!

Dave leading the second pitch of Albion VS 4c

Both routes climb the superb lower slab to various stances below the final headwall. Albion takes the strenuous clean corner though a few minor overlaps while Satan's Slip climbs delicately up the blank slab to join the corner further up. These greatly contrasting routes, one burly and safe and the other, bold and serious are both outstanding and are a must do.

Emma seconding the superb main corner of Albion VS 4c

The extremely bold and serious second pitch of Satan's Slip E1 5a

Probably time for a rest day. After a feeble attempt at letter-boxing we instead ended up putting up some new buildering routes up the side of Felix Hut (in deck shoes no less!).

Freds new route climbs the soaring left arete;
Ape Index F6b+

We opted not to put those in the new routes log in the pub though. True to form before long, the call of the cliffs drew myself and Ed over to Picnic Bay for a few cheeky single pitch VS routes. For those that are interested this is probably the most accessible and friendly location we climbed at on Lundy. The routes are mostly VDiff to VS with an E3 at the right hand end. Getting there only requires a small abseil and its all mostly non-tidal. Perfect for the stormy afternoon we had!

Tide times meant we needed an early start. Bleary eyed we made our way down to Jenny's Cove, so named because of the boat that sank there called 'The Jenny' laden with ivory and gold dust. The ivory was recovered but the gold dust still remains mixed amongst the sediments. We had a brief look but couldn't find any!

Immaculate Slabs in the morning light. The white stuff is not chalk!!!

Lesson Six - Just because its got 3 stars doesn't mean it won't be covered in Guano

The 60m abseil meant that we had to abseil past a knot in the rope. Even though we had practised this earlier in the week on fence posts in the campsite, doing it high above the swirling ocean was quite intimidating!

Moving along the ledge to the start of Immaculate Slab HVS 5a
The route we opted for was Immaculate Slab (HVS 5a) which climbs the steep groove up onto the slab and finishes in a wonderful position pulling through the final overhangs. Shouting at birds to make them move off the holds as you climb up was quite an experience and for some beta, the white mountains on the jugs is not chalk!

Ed climbing past the steep first section of immaculate slab onto the 'slabby' bit before the overhang
Jummaring up the rubble above Immaculate Slab to freedom!
After we were joined by Dave and Emma two further routes were sent down at Threequater Buttress; Ligamentum Flaven (S) and Quadratus Lumborum (S) both climbing through impressive terrain in glorious sunshine. We were even visited by a pair of seals who must have thought we were mad! Over on the east coast of the Island the remainder of the team spent the day climbing fury, overhanging chimneys. Defiantly an acquired taste.

Dave and Ed climbing the first slabby pitch of the wonderful Ligamentum Flaven (S) 
Dave climbing on the upper pitches

The barrel of ambition was being scrapped out good and proper for this one. Last minute drunken pub ideas meant somehow we had opted to climb the easiest route up England's largest sea stack.. The Devil's Chimney HVS 5b. The route first climbed in the 60s' seems to have a different route description depending on what guide book you refer too. Nice and reassuring.

  Lesson Seven - The last day is not for taking it easy.

The mighty stack of The Devils Chimney HVS 5b

Climbing the steep second pitch of The Devils Chimney (HVS 5b)

Getting to the climb is an undertaking itself! A 70m abseil must be made down an rotting slope ridden with angry vomiting sea birds to the base of Jenny's Cove. This boulder strewn cove surrounded by towering cliffs on all sides has to be one of the most inaccessible and least visited places in the UK. The tower itself is shaped like a huge letter 'A' with the central section being completely split apart by an enormous 'chimney'.

No trip is complete without some seriously exceptional climbing attire!

The first and crux pitch was made easier by the movement of boulders at the base of the route meaning the 5b start was no more than a cheeky boulder problem. Following that a steep pitch up the overhanging chimney lands you on a spacious mossy ledge below the final headwall. The last pitch though the overhang and up the steep slab sees you on the airy summit. Unfortunately getting to the top is only the easy part, now a 50m abseil must be made back to the boulders below and then you have to climb up and out of that cliff!

Fred seconding the very 'fury' top pitch
If you're thinking of doing this route its worth noting at the top of the cliff above the decent, 3 metal stakes have been banged in which according to the log book in the Tavern when combined with a 100m rope will see you on the cove floor. We actually traversed in onto the top of the descent slope and used a rock thread and good nut belay. Although we have a 50m and 25m rope tied together, a 60m rope from the points we used would probably be enough to see you on the cove floor.

Main Lessons of Lundy Climbing

Lundy is a unique climbing location. Its climbs are not obvious and can sometimes be really hard to find, but every time we tried they were well worth seeking out. It doesn't take masses of forward planning and its not overly expensive to have a trip there either. We spent a week climbing and didn't spend a single minute in cars or in gear shops (admittedly a lot of time in the pub though!).   
  1. The first day is for taking it easy
  2. The pub is central to any days activities
  3. If the tide is low early, then you need to be up early too!
  4. The Climate on Lundy is totally different from any forecast available
  5. Take a 70m abseil rope that isn't stiffer than a toilet brush
  6. Everything is hard, but ambition and psyche will not be deterred!!!
  7. 'For fuck sake Dave'
Thanks to Emma, Dave, Jonny, Ed, Fred, Liz, Chris and Josh for an epic trip. Same time again next year I think!

A true island paradise, and for that reason we'll see you next year Lundy!

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