Coastal Crushing – SW Boulder Roundup Pt. 2


As the warming spring climate directs all but the keenest of moorland devotees to the coast, reports flood in of a wave in coastal crushing. In search of cool-breeze and ‘primo’ conditions (temperature and humidity such that friction does not hinder the climber) those looking to relax and combine climbing with that holiday-feel head to the exposed coastal areas.

Back in 2014 a stern winter storm brought significant boulder re-shuffling to several coastal bouldering venues. With few minor areas having its problems devastated by the storms, Tintagel North saw a one key boulder moved to make way for a range of possibilities in exchange of one previous classic, Kids [7B+]. Tom Newberry, one of the original developers of Tintagel North, swept up the newly available starts to bring the classic ‘AWOL Apprentice’ and other problems.

It was rather surprisingly discovered by local climbers that once again Tintagel North had succumb to the mercy of winter storms. Early in 2016 the large left supporting boulder of the main wall had been washed away, luckily without any damage, paving way for new developments. Local and visiting climbers soon made light work adding of new problems, exits and link-ups across the expanse rock.

ARTHUR [8A+] REPEAT

As is evident on social media, this year has marked a new peak in popularity for Tintagel North including a successful trip from Eliot Stephens and a posse of Southern Welsh climbers. Following swift ascents of AWOL Apprentice [7C], it’s variations [~7C+] and Colorado Dreaming [7C+], Eliot switched his attention to the legendary undercut project, ‘Arthur’ 8A+.

I NEARLY DID IT IN A FEW GOES BUT THEN THE TIDE FLOODED THE LANDING. WE WAITED A FEW HOURS THEN DROPPED THE SWORD LIKE KING ART HIMSELFE.STEPHENS

Having waited for the tide to drop back away from the boulder Eliot dispatched the problem, commenting, “[The problem is] straight forward, bunchy climbing” and that it may be a touch soft for the grade. As any climber knows, it’s not solely about the rock climbing but enjoying the surroundings and setting too.

Eliot said, “The atmosphere is really relaxed and the spot has some lovely places to sit and enjoy the view. There are a lot of problems on one single boulder, and the landing is perfect (often a rare thing on any coastal boulder). I thought the rock quality was very good, high friction rock with lots of holds and options”.

MERLIN’S BEARD [8B] REPEAT

Cornwall’s hardest boulder problem, ‘Merlin’s Beard’ from Alex Waterhouse, has also seen a repeat at the hands of keen holiday maker Dan Turner. In an incredible display of good form, Dan climbed the problem on his first go from the start. (It’s such a shame he can’t pronounce Tintagel though!)

Commenting that he thought the problem a touch soft, Dan said,” [it] could be 8A+” on his 8a.nu account. It should be noted that due to a wider-confusion on the line (more information below) of ‘AWOL Apprentice Right Hand’, Dan topped out the problem earlier than Alex on the first ascent – possibly reducing the grade.

We asked Dan what he thought on the matter and he said,” I don’t think there’s a big difference on the exact finish – it is great climbing regardless. I think the grade is the same as a problem I just did ‘Ropes of Maui’ [8B] in North Wales. Very similar in style [to Merlin’s Beard] a bit soft but everyone seems to take 8B, so who knows.”

ALEX MAY WELL BE LOUDER AND SCREAMIER THAN ME, BUT I BET I COULD CHUCK MY BOOTS WAY FURTHER THAN HIM!D.TURNER

EXCALIBUR [8A] REPEATS

Adding a sitting start to Dan Turner’s tight line of ‘Path of Daggers’, Mikey Cleverdon’s ‘Excalibur’ [8A] has seen repeats from Jonny Kydd, James Squire and Rory Bascombe.

THE AWOL APPRENTICE CONFUSION

In our modern age of social media moguls, Youtube videos and personality VLOGS, climbers – in particular boulderers – have become ever more savvy in sourcing information about problems they aspire to climb. Scouring videos for “the beta” is an increasingly common method of learning the moves before even getting to the crag. However, this seems to be the catalyst leading to confusion at Tintagel of which line goes where, despite fairly defining UKC descriptions.

As it stands, only Alex Waterhouse (first ascent) and Mikey Cleverdon have climbed the line of ‘AWOL Apprentice Right Hand’ (as was climbed on the FA), with all other ascents actually having climbed, what is now dubbed, ‘AWOL Central’ (Essentially a link between ‘AWOL…’ and ‘Arthur’).

A QUESTION OF QUALITY?

Further along the coast at Hartland Quay, although not packing the density of 8th grade problems as Tintagel, the quality of hard problems spread across sectors are highly reputed as some of the County’s best. Between the two venues it seems that opinion differ widely on the quality of the rock.

THE ROCK ON THE CARNAGE WALL IS SOME OF MY FAVOURITE IN THE COUNTRY – SOFT, BUTTERY SLOPERS AND LOTS OF UNDERCUTS!D.MASON

Visiting northern-wad, David Mason, spending some time of his trip ticking problems at Tintagel, commented that he was not all that impressed with the venue’s lines or rock quality – finding it hard to distinguish between problems and the rock being sharp and uncomfortable. In contrast he favoured Hartland Quay for it’s ‘Soft, buttery slopers’ and ‘powerful and tensiony’ climbing style.

IN MY OPINOIN, IF THAT [TINTAGEL] IS BAD ROCK THEN PEAK GRITSONE IS COMPLETE CHOSS!E.STEPHENS

HARD HARTLAND QUAY HAPPENINGS – [8A] & [8A+]

Dave’s main focus was to try two problems on the Speke’s Mill roof, south of Hartland Quay. With limited time during a late evening session, Dave managed to make a ‘lucky flash’ of ‘The End if Nigh’ [8A]. Dave commented, “As it turned dark I started trying ‘The Revolution is Coming’. I managed to do it in two sections really quickly but couldn’t get the awkward finger jam to stay when coming from the start. After getting frustrated for a while, I called it a day.”

Returning the next day, Dave focussed his efforts back on ‘The Revolution is Coming’ [8A]. After a slight tweak in beta for the finger Jam, Dave ticked the problem with one minor issue – “Unfortunately I dabbed on the mats slightly and had to climb again – all good training I guess!

Tom Newberry’s stiff-graded classic of ‘Supersede’ [8A] was next on Dave’s list. With the problem having received a hold breakage on the final move, ‘Supersede’ had not since seen a repeat. Dave investigated closely with use of a ladder to figure out some options for the last few moves.

Now third day in, Dave was starting to feel tired from the previous days bouldering, “The next morning I felt like I had been hit by a bus and I didn’t know if I would even try Supersede but after warming up, I felt good and headed over to give it a shot.”

“I re-worked the bottom and got the moves sorted in my head before getting to work on what to do at the top. The crux of this problem is still latching the campus rung edge with the right hand at about 3/4 height but the top is probably a fair bit scarier now than it was.

“Luckily, second time of latching the campus rung, I managed to commit to move to the tiny left hand crimp and eventually slap for the top. I was full of relief that I hadn’t taken a nasty fall and elation that I had climbed this stunning problem which just felt a bit too hard 6 years ago. “

Dave now considers ‘Supersede’ to warrant [8A+] commenting, “Although I don’t think it’s much harder than it used to be, I think consensus was that the grade was pretty stern before and it definitely seems harder than both roofs.”

THE ‘FLOODGATE’ IS OPEN – [8B] FIRST ASCENT

On the other side of Hartland Quay, in the Acheball Cave, James Squire has climbed a new line right of the Simon Young classic, ‘Ache Ball’. Having tried the line a couple of times in September 2016, James returned this May following a minor back injury to complete the line – ‘Floodgate’ [8B].

James said, “Floodgate climbs out of the roof right of ‘Ache Ball’ to finish on the same jug rail. The climbing is super weird! It’s beta-intensive with undercuts, drop knees and a guppy – not basic pulling by any means.”

We asked James how we came to his conclusion on the grade, with the problem being graded as one of the hardest in Devon. James said, “It’s an odd one! It felt harder than a few 8B’s I’ve ticked abroad over the past year and it has taken longer to complete than almost all of those.”

“With the right beta and body dimensions it could possibly be 8A+. I guess it will need a repeat. There are definitely enough strong people in the South West capable of doing so now, so what you all waiting for? 😉 “

With the North Cornwall and Devon coastline boasting a range of 8th grade problems up to 8B, perhaps the region’s tranquil crags and holiday-feel will attract even more strong climbers from further afield.