Tim Dennell, author of the new Dewerstone guide, writes a few bits...
"I was, at best, an intermediate grade climber. Even though I've led E3s, I always described myself as a VS climber: 'cos I knew that when I was climbing regularly I could get up just about anything graded VS; no matter what the type of climb, how bad the weather, how little pro, how loose the rock etc; but certainly couldn't say the same of E3s. I've always thought a climber is defined by the grade at which they're established at, not the grade of their hardest ever lead. I'm basically a trad' climber, who thinks the climbing world should be big enough to accommodate differences.
When climbing, like everyone, I've been through the 'grade is all' phase, the 'competition with whom I'm climbing with' phase. But mainly I remember having fun, being with good people, meeting interesting people, learning about myself, enjoying being out of doors, seeing wonderful places, getting away from worries (and climbing makes you forget about day to day stuff) and having a laugh.
Now and again, I seconded up to E6, mainly to get the gear out. (Occasionally without falling off!)
I came to climbing late in my mid 20s, (apart from some early, stupid, ascents of church steeples whilst at college. All at night and usually around 3am in the morning - post clubbing!) when my older (Sheffield based) brother decided he needed a second for a new year, SW, trip back in '83.
My first routes were at the Dewerstone, followed by ascents at Bosigran and Chair Ladder during snowstorms. I was gripped by the wildness of it.
Co-incidentally, a year or so later, I moved to Sheffield and there spent a couple of years mainly partying and climbing. A good gritstone apprenticeship you could say.
Then I moved back to Plymouth to take up a job. From then on I spent around ten years being a SW enthusiast. The Dewerstone was my local crag, and I got to know it better than most. Being the local crag it was where I ended up most days off, when it was wet; and many summer evenings after work.
I really got to know it well one summer, when a friend and I decided to get out climbing every fine evening. It seemed simplest to start at one end and work our way round, climbing every route in the guidebook (within our grade: E1/2ish at the time) along the way. It took us away from the trade routes.
In the early 1990s, the S. Devon guide went out of print. It was obvious this would remain out of print for a few years, so I wrote an interim guide to the Dewerstone that was published by a local outdoor pursuit's shop. This went to four editions.
I've trained, and worked, as a teacher; and among other things also worked as an NUS sabbatical, a regional CND press officer, in shops, as an outdoor leader for Devon County Council, an Instructor with the International School of Rock Climbing, as an administrator for ChildLine, before moving into IT training. I also am a qualified counsellor. I've also written for various climbing mags, and Rowland and I produced Cornish Rock.
I'm currently back in Sheffield (the lure of grit!), working for the council, but attached to an IT project with the BBC. Have a S7 postcode, but more because I like Netheredge than a desire to have a trendy address.
Middle age is setting in, and I don't climb as much as I'd like (when at all) because career unfortunately gets in the way. Comes of having to catch up after having a misspent youth. My excuse!
Memorable routes in the SW:
At the Dewerstone Inkspots Hangover, Central Groove, Scimitar and Scimitar Direct, the three Climber's Club routes, Vala, Gideon, Yogi, Fly on the Wall, Black Widow, Spider's Web and Bolshevik all stand out as being memorable the first time.
Leviathan is spoilt by not having good continuation pitches. But a good first pitch.
Of my routes I think Gnasher, Bewilderness and Search For The Ultimate Jacuzzi are quite good.
I wouldn't have got up Rufty Tufty without the experience I'd gained on gritstone cracks, and skinning the back of both hands fist stacking. (Be interested to see what others think?) I did the third ascent of Pete Kaye's Return From the Kurds (I also seconded him on the second and added the finish) and think though eliminate, it's underrated. Some good climbing, if you follow the line. A route crying out for more ascents is Paul T's Wrath of Grapes.
Of other routes in the Devon and Cornwall: Aviation is one great route along with Interrogation at Low Man.
I have a fondness for routes by Patey and O'Sullivan - Outward Bound at Low Man and The Eyrie at Luckey Tor to give an example from each. O'Sullivan's Feasibility Study at Vixen Tor is superb. Also worth doing there is Plektron and Crunchy Toad. Hostile Witness at Bench Tor is a brilliant route.
In Penwith Doorpost, Nameless, Little Brown Jug, Anvil Chorus, Suicide Wall and Bow Wall all at Bosigran all stand out as leads, when I was pushing that grade. Great Zawn has just such fantastic atmosphere. Dream is superb, as is Desolation Row. Right Angle, Behemoth and Shark at Gurnard's Head.
Astral Stroll at Carn Gloose. Rich Pickings (The E2 variation) at Carn Vellan. Kenidjack is intimidating, but such good climbing when you get your head into it. Sennen is just the tops. I've climbed so many times there; but the best ascent was when I talked a girlfriend into seconding Demo Route during a storm, when waves were breaking over the top of the route. Incredibly, we both stayed dry until she got to the very top, whereupon she was totally drenched by a wave. It was worth it for the expressions on her face, both when I tied her into a belay at the base, and a wave sent a wall of white high into the air behind us; and when she got the later soaking on top. Otherwise, Delilah and Norge Corner are both lovely. Zig Zag would get 3 stars if it were at Curbar. Genge's Groove and Marionette were both bare-knuckle fights. Africa Route, Gillian and Golva are all delightful. Dolphin Cracks is underrated.
There's some really good stuff at Land's End, World's End for example. (My pub bore gambit is "Yankee Doodle, Rob Smart and I climbed it before it fell down." YAWN.) There's so much good climbing in Penwith. Sensible Shoes, Mastodon, Bishop's Rib, Diocese, Flannel Avenue, Midnight Runner, Private Performance, Pegasus, American Dream, Excalibur, Chlorophyll Cluster, Martell Slab, Glass Arete etc. etc. And a lot of routes are still waiting to become well known, or even be repeated down there. Look for O'Sullivan routes; those by Rowland, he's got a very good nose for a good line. The unsung gems in Penwith include routes at Pendeen. Yet to meet anyone who's climbed there. (Mark's major routes are out of my league.) Sam Salmon also can find a good route e.g. Kernack at Cribba.
On the north coast, like most people I went through a love affair with Sharpnose. Clawtrack and Lunakhod are both good routes to lead; if your leading HVS really well, and aren't too bothered about gear. Mascon's just great.
Baggy is the just the mutt's nuts. Peeping Tom's good, but little climbed. Heart of the Sun is overrated, but worth doing once. Just about every thing on the Promontory and Long Rock is worth doing.
Mercury, at Carn Gowla, gave Jim Adamson, and myself, an epic, in the rain, on the second pitch. Good job we had Mr Palmer with us that day! (Cheesy grins - "Would you like to lead this pitch Ken?") Gull Rock, midweek, in a heatwave was memorable. Trade off between good climbing and dehydration. Dehydration won.
Others good for a tick: Crimtyphon, Tydomin, Snapping Bubblies and Caravanserai at Compass Point. Eroica at Pentire, Sacre Coeur at Blackchurch and Pressure Drop at Speke's Mill Mouth.
I could go on.
Seriously, the SW is really one of the great climbing areas of the country, and I haven't even touched on the limestone (e.g. Moonraker) or Lundy (e.g. Controlled Burning - one of my leading highlights).
I think the rest of the UK still hasn't really caught on to how much quality there is in the region."
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