The Wave Sends – SW Boulder Roundup Pt. 1

The Wave – the iconic feature of bouldering on Dartmoor, and indeed that of bouldering in Devon – has consistently received attention from local and visiting climbers alike over the decades. From humble beginnings of the early 90’s climbers using a ‘cheat stone’ to get established on the problem, to subsequent ground-starting ascents in later years from the likes of Chris Nicholson, Dave Henderson et al, The Wave could certainly be considered one of the starting points of modern moorland bouldering.

In more recent years the potential for new problems and link-ups on the eye catching bloc have attracted the attention of local boulderers seeking to climb the unclimbed and push the cutting-edge of the area’s standards.

Following a string of impressive first ascent by Mikey Cleverdon, this past boulder season may well have seen The Wave’s highest quantity of its hard lines repeated from resident local strong boulderers, with multiple Font 8 ascents being climbed. This perhaps compared to that of other, well established, areas would not necessarily be much of note – however, for the South West area scene these ascents represent a local cutting edge in hard first ascents and repeats. This could potentially be the indication of rising standards for the local area.

This thing doesn’t feel like a link up at all, taking an obvious line straight up from the bottom to the top of the boulder.H.POTOKAR

The rather cynical may remark that due to The Wave’s link-up nature, these ascents are nothing short of additional moves added to well-rehearsed training laps. However, those with the knowledge of these problems will concede that although spread along the same wall, the quality of each line is high.

Autumn/Spring 2016-2017 has so far seen the following ascents on The Wave:

[8B] – The Waterman – FA M.Cleverdon 2016
James Squire

[8A+]Pe’ahi – FA M.Cleverdon 2015
James Squire
Hamish Potokar
Cailean Harker
Walker Kearney

[8A 7C+] – Catching the Wave – FA J.Squire 2014
Hamish Potokar
Cailean Harker
Ben West
(Further repeats of Catching the Wave, previous to those listed, in earlier seasons)

A post shared by Cailean Harker (@caileanharker) on

As with every hard ascent, the intriguing interpretations of each ascentionist gives way to tales and insights that often go untold. Having spoken to The Wave devotees it is apparent that high quality climbing, fickle conditions and skin dependence are a recurring theme across the board.

James squire on The Waterman [8B] and Pe’ahi [8A+]

Quality: “I’ve had far too many sessions on the wave but always enjoy going back to the harsh rock and big views. It was great to have climbed ‘Pe’ahi’ and ‘The Waterman’ this winter, ‘Pe’ahi’ being probably the best line on the wave and The Waterman being the hardest.”

Difficulty: “Having some new beta for the sit start and come cold conditions defiantly made the difference this season!”

Big respect to Mikey and everyone in the south west scene for putting up great problems and developing new areas – I’ve got a lot left on the wishlist!

Hamish Potokar on Pe’ahi [8A+]

Timeframe: “Have climbed quite a lot on the wave in the past so difficult to work out exactly how long it took; climbed Tsunami a while back (which shares a move) and did the top section ‘Something or nothing’ a couple of years back. I guess its one of those walls where things gradually come together as you get more and more familiar with the moves and holds”

“In terms of trying the line itself, it took a couple of sessions to get it all sorted and battle my way to the top. The vicious crystal slots don’t permit you that many goes and came away with a fair few flesh wounds!”

Quality: “It seems that there is an almost infinite number of links to be done on this block, making it a good resource for locals looking to push themselves. Saying that this thing doesn’t feel like a link up at all, taking an obvious line straight up from the bottom to the top of the boulder. Its refreshing to have something hard like this on the moor which doesn’t involve going sideways.”

“Big ups Mikey on the FA, great to have hard things like this going up in the South West and i’m sure theres more out there to be done still.“

Grade: “Being a bit taller I was able to keep my feet low after the big move which i think makes things a little easier (I’ve seen Alex’s [Waterhouse] crazy cut loose beta) but 8A+ still feels fair game to me.”

Cailean Harker on Pe’ahi [8A+]

Timeframe & Conditions: After 5 years of avoiding the The Wave I visited again last November. I’d wanted to do Tsunami ever since I first saw it about 10 years ago (I think my motivation was born from thinking how impossibly difficult it looked when I first climbed ‘The Wave’). I managed to tick Tsunami pretty quick and ‘Catching The Wave’ in a few goes. I had wanted to try ‘Pe’ahi’ but by this time my skin was pretty trashed. Despite this I had a few good burns dropping the top out. I ran away with screaming skin but had caught a bug for the place and couldn’t wait for my next trip.

“Conditions seem to be vital for hard climbing on Dartmoor, so on the next cold day I headed back down. It was freezing. Despite the temperature being prime sun was on the wall and I could hardly hold any of the holds. Before long I had splits in 3 fingers and headed home empty handed. Temperature wasn’t the only condition to look out for. It also needed to be cloudy with some wind. The perfect solution was a night session. Ben West and I were working in Exeter to we popped out after work with the lamps.

I dropped the top out of ‘Pe’ahi’ three times from the last move!

“Finally, I climbed ‘Pe’ahi’! It went smoothly, I could do every move static – a massive difference from a few weeks before when I couldn’t even hold the holds. Conditions were paramount.”

Walker Kearney on Pe’ahi [8A+]

Quality: “The Wave at Bonehill is a rather impressive feature that unfortunately suffers from an overabundance of variations. There are so many alternative starts, exits, traverses that a topo of the wall looks more like my 2 year old was left unattended with a sharpie than any kind of coherent climbing information. While the lack of totally independent lines has been a turnoff of for me it’s hard to deny the quality of the feature and there is one problem in particular that actually had instant appeal to me. Pe’ahi climbs straight out the sweeping wave from sitting and in my mind is the line to do.”

Grade & Conditions: “Peahi doesn’t have a single move that is harder than 7b+ but there are several of those moves that are easy to punt on. The problem is also relatively condition dependent and pretty damn sharp, which limits how many solid burns you can get in a session. I don’t think that makes it harder, in the sense of difficulty but just trickier to do on a warm day or with bad skin. If the grade of 8A+ for Pe’ahi stems from Catching the Wave’s initial proposed 8A grade, I would suggest that although adding those 3 moves [for the sit] does add difficulty, it doesn’t bring the grade to 8A+ as Catching the Wave is at most 7C+.”

Even though it took me a silly amount of time to add those three moves the sit doesn’t add that much difficulty. If I was trying to be accurate I suggest Peahi should likely be reduced, but I’ll leave others to decide by how much.

Ben West on Catching the Wave [7C+ / 8A]

Timeframe: “I started with ‘Something and Nothing’ [the upper moves] before moving onto ‘Catching the Wave’. I’m not sure if it was just me, or the combination of it being dark and bloody freezing but it felt hard for the grade. Even with the amazing conditions I still found myself having to slap quite wildly for the top sloper. Once the top was familiar I pulled on where “Catching the wave” starts. I found the first move hard, I had a lot of trailing leg that I wasn’t sure what to do with. A few goes later I stuck the move and did the bloc.”

Quality & Grade: “I thought the quality of the moves and the problem were first class. It was also the first time I’ve been to Dartmoor where I’ve come away without splitting a tip. In regards to the grade I would say it’s on the friendly side of 8a maybe more like 7c+/8a.”

Well worth a trip, regardless of grade!

After each problem having received a significant number of ascents relative to their grades, their grades seem to have  mostly settled. Whilst ‘The Waterman’ [8B] has been confirmed by James Squire, ‘Pe’ahi’ [8A+] recieves grade confirmation in the most part. Following a number of ascents this season and earlier ascents in previous seasons, ‘Catching the Wave’ seems to have been downgraded from [8A] to [7C+] by most.

With Dartmoor now boasting a plethora of 8th grade problems, you can be sure to see news of hard repeats in the near future. We certainly look forward to seeing what the future of Dartmoor bouldering holds.