Monday, May 22, 2017

10 Best Boulder Problems in Dartmoor: 7a and up

Considering the amount of rock and natural beauty of Dartmoor National Park the bouldering here has a less than shining reputation and I find myself often defending the place I've grown to love.  To be totally fair to the haters, the large grained granite of the Moor is pretty sharp and doesn't tend to make for the best lines but you have to remember that Dartmoor is massive and can't be judged by only visiting a couple areas.  I imagine most of the naysayers only checked out a few standard crags (Bonehill?) and left with their judgement clouded by smashed egos and bleeding tips.  Dartmoor is so much more than just Bonehill and if you actually know where to look there are plenty of offerings that will appease even the most discerning boulderers.

If you're  coming to Dartmoor for a quick visit then sifting through the chaff can be the crux of the trip as going to the "wrong" place can squander most of a day.  It is with this in mind that I decided to put together list of Dartmoor's best problems above 7a so a visiting climber can tick/try the gems without the painstaking commitment of exploring themselves.

I've put lots of consideration into this list and while I consulted other locals to ensure I didn't overlook something I ultimately draw from my own "expertise" to determine which problems make the cut.  So why should you listen to a yankee that only moved to England two years ago regarding Dartmoor's best problems?  Well, I reckon I may be the person that has seen and done more 7th grade problems in Dartmoor than anyone else (I really do think this is the case, especially at the higher end).  This is due to having the ridiculous luxury of being a stay-at-home dad (thanks to my wonderful wife Lina for making this possible) and my obsession with seeing everything firsthand.  In my short time here I have put in lots of legwork so if there is a tor on a map, rock visible from satellite photos, or an area listed on UKclimbing chances are I've been there and climbed on the most notable problems (yes, there are still a few places I haven't seen/climbed but I've still got time).  My explorations have also led me to "discover" plenty of new areas and cherry pick the best lines (at this point I've establish over 40 problems around Dartmoor with the majority likely being in the 7th grade).  I also fancy myself a discerning boulderer and feel my extensive travels and 15 years experience make me a good candidate for judging boulder problem quality.  That said, climbing is pretty subjective and ego driven and I reckon some folks will totally disagree with this list.  Anyways, I'll stop stroking my own ego and give you the list.  Without further ado here are the best problems in Dartmoor (7a and up)...........

Devon Sent, Bovey Woods:  I think this is hands down the best boulder problem in Dartmoor and the only problem here I feel comfortable calling "world-class".  It comes close to ticking all the boxes as it's a great line that follows awesome "veins" up a gently overhanging face.  It's the perfect height (not quite highball but tall enough to make you think) with pleasing technical movement that gets progressively harder.  The setting isn't necessarily anything special but an individual line up the middle of a boulder in an open forest isn't anything to scoff at either.  If you are visiting the area and have to choose one boulder problem I'd recommend this one.  I will say that you should be prepared to lose some skin as the crimps on Devon Sent are sharp, but that is pretty much par for the course with Dartmoor granite.
Me on the Southwest's best problem

Tropic Thunder, Red Dragon Ridge:  Dartmoor isn't known for its steep climbing but if you like getting horizontal Tropic Thunder is the problem for you.  An independent  line that tackles the prow of an overhanging visor has awesome moves on good rock. Tropic Thunder also makes use of a couple of the rare xenoliths that occasionally appear in Dartmoor granite and is perhaps my finest addition to Dartmoor bouldering.  Initiall I was wary about including my own first-ascents on the list but there are a few that seem to clearly belong.  I also don't think this rig has yet to see a second ascent.
Holding the massive swing (crux) on Tropic Thunder

Yankee Doodle Dandy, Lustleigh:  Apparently this line has been know about for many years and was referred to as "the project boulder".  Certainly one of the cleaner lines around, Yankee Doodle Dandy had just enough holds to make it possible and ends in the most gratifying way ever, with a spicy double dyno to the lip. When I first stumbled across this thing I was told it was a much sot after project but I can't imagine many climbers had actually put much effort in as it didn't end up being overly difficult.  This is another of my first-ascents that seemed to clearly deserve to be on the list.
Yankee Doodle Dandy

Easdon Arete, Easdon:  The Easdon area is very small with only a few problems but Easdon Arete makes this area worth a visit.  A clean line (got to love aretes) with several sequences to get to the top depending on your height and strength.  I'd also highly recommend Easdon Crack on the same boulder that will likely make the list for best under 7a.
Paul on Easdon Arete

Pe'ahi, Bonehill:  Pe'ahi is located on the Wave Wall at Bonehill and climbs straight out the middle of the feature that aptly gives the wall its name.  I was initially reluctant to include anything from this wall because while it is an impressive feature (and ground zero for hard Dartmoor bouldering) it suffers from an overabundance of variations.  If one was to draw all the established starts/exits/traverses on a topo of the wall it would look more like my 2 year old was left unattended with a sharpie then any kind of coherent climbing information.  That said, I shouldn't let my personal aversion to variations/clutter take away from one of Dartmoor's premier walls and I should say that most of the variations are "obvious" in that they follow clear features and don't eliminate anything.  So if there is one line to do on the Wave Wall it is the one that navigates straight up the middle of the wave from sitting and that is Pe'ahi.  The climbing is pretty straight forward and enjoyable but I found it particularly sharp and condition dependent.  Fortunately it is located a stone's throw from the parking and surrounded by plenty of other climbing.  Pe'ahi is also the hardest problem on this list but without any stopper moves it's a very accessible power-endurance problem.
Cailean on Pe'ahi

Creamtime, Lustleigh:  This sweet bulge has awesome holds and great moves on some of the better rock in Dartmoor.  Great problem.
Mikey on Creamtime

Schmogon, Holwell Tor:  This one doesn't get much traffic as Holwell Tor is a little off the standard circuit which is a shame because it's a good one.  Schmogon follow an arete from sitting and while the crux is low the technical upper section might have some pucker factor.

Javu, Lustleigh: The only problem on the list I haven't done (or even tried) but I've stood underneath and can attest to the impressiveness of the line.  I guess this technically is a route since it gets an E-grad but could easily be bouldered with enough pads.  There isn't actually any protection so I guess you could say it has always been bouldered anyways.  It's at Lustleigh and if anyone is keen I'd love to get on it but don't fancy doing it solo.

Nether Edge, Bovey Woods:  It's easy to see the appeal of Nether Edge as it is an impressive line.  This tall, blunt arete has progressively harder moves and is notorious for spitting off capable climbers.  It is a bit sharp even by Dartmoor standards but the line supersedes the pain factor and Nether Edge makes the list.  It is also conveniently located next to Devon Sent if you want to tick two of the best in a session.
Ian on Nether Edge

Cowboy Butcher/Butcher Baker, Lustleigh:  This problem barely makes the 7a threshold but is a worthy tick regardless of which side of the grade you think it falls on.  A steep face with big moves and two exits (I prefer the direct). 
Josh on Butcher Baker (direct finish)

So there is my top ten.  A few of the problems should easily make everyone's list but it became increasing difficult towards the end to decide which problems to leave off.  Because of that difficulty I figured I'd give some honorable mentions that very easily could have made the list.  So maybe this is a top 20ish list.......   

All the Wray Jose, Wray Cleave
Arkem, Bonehill
Slotted Wall, Bovey Woods
Hung Like a Chimp, Lustleigh
Dancing Queen/Super Trooper, Saddle Tor
Jay-Z, East Side Boulders
Jungle VIP, Lakeside Boulders
Famous Grouse, Bell Tor
Allan Smith, Hound Tor
Flying Visit, Honey Bag Tor
Jungle Book, Bovey Woods
Over the Rainbow, Bovey Woods

There are also a few problems that should have been included but didn't because they are access sensitive.  Also, if there is a problem I overlooked or something that doesn't belong make a case and maybe I'll edit the post (Javu stays on the list....).

Get out there and enjoy Dartmoor.

1 comment:

Pete Edwards said...

Awesome post, dude, inspiring! So keen to get back down to Dartmoor, i've been once before and hit the obvious crags but it was mid-winter and everywhere was frozen. Couple that with being alone and it wasn't the best impression. Super psyched to get down and check out some on the list for sure!