Earlier this year Dave Birkett made the third ascent of James Pearson's route The Walk of Life, an E9 6c situated on Dyer's Lookout, a big sea cliff on the north coast of Devon (see UKC News Report May/2010 : Birkett Repeats The Walk of Life - Full Story).
Like anyone who has visited this impressive cliff, it is hard to fail to notice the unclimbed line left of The Walk of Life, a beautiful rippled wall that leads to a distinctive left-to-right runnel feature that runs to the top of the cliff. It was known as one of the areas' best unclimbed lines.
After Dave had repeated The Walk of Life he found himself drawn to climb in this beautiful part of the UK, a long six hour drive from his small slate cottage in Little Langdale in the Lake District. This summer he made several climbing visits to Devon and Cornwall with his wife and talented climber, Mary Jenner.
For a short while another route south of the Lakes caught his eye, Tim Emmett's Muy Caliente! (E10 6c) in Stennis Ford, Pembroke. Birkett had a play on this route but with the winter drawing near he decided to put his efforts into climbing a new route rather than repeat someone elses, especially considering the long drive.
His gaze was then refocused on Dyer's Lookout and in September he drove south on his Triumph Tiger to have a look.
Dave placed four pegs on the route, essentially two protection points as the pegs were placed in twos next to each other, as much to pull the rope in line to make top roping easier, as for actual protection. He did some cleaning and set to work.
Initially he didn't think that the route would go direct straight up to the runnel feature, but would have to start from the top of a pinnacle then launch up the wall; a disappointment and something he wasn't happy about. But on his next visit he top roped the blank looking initial wall right of the pinnacle, the true line, and found that he could link a tenuous line of holds to the runnel and the route was on.
Last Wednesday, after work, Dave and Andy Mitchell got on their bikes and raced south to Devon from the Lakes. On Thursday after another top rope Dave went for the lead and got it first try.
I caught up with Dave yesterday at Baysbrown Farm in Langdale and asked him a few questions about the route.
It looks quite a line Dave?
It is. Thanks to Andy Long for the initial tip off and help with one of the sequences.
How long did it take to do?
I initially went down by myself and shunted it. It took a fair bit of cleaning. It's a bit more friable than Walk of Life. I had to remove quite a bit of loose rock. I probably had five sessions on it before I went for the lead.
That top runnel is quite an amazing feature.
It's beautiful to climb too. When West Country Climbs came out this summer that runnel stuck out, it really is very distinctive in the topo. I thought I'd better get down there before someone else climbed it.
Is the runnel the crux?
No, the crux is below the runnel, some very tenuous moves, side pulls and smeary foot holds.
What's the gear like?
I placed a few pegs low down, as much to help me work the route. The meat of the gear is tiny wires and cams, quite a lot of them, but spread out. You have to go for it and it is always in the back of your mind if the piece below blew you'd go a long way.
What was the lead like?
A bit of a fight. You've got to stay positive as you are climbing for a while. I had to make a lot of the moves up. It was on-off a lot of the time. It was quite a fight up there, what with the rope drag. It's a big pitch.
Do you have a name?
One Upon a Time in the Southwest.
Similar to Walk of Life, maybe the crux is harder. If you want a number E9 6c will do. It provided some late summer entertainment.
Thanks to Alex Eve for the photographs.