Rock climbing on Lundy remains one of this country’s last great adventures, it is not a place for the faint-hearted. A trip requires careful planning, a certain commitment and the climber is guaranteed to be rewarded with some glorious and long lasting memories. Be warned that this could become a life long commitment, returning year after year for your Lundy fix.
Lundy is a gem of finest granite sat in the Bristol channel 12 miles from the nearest landfall at Hartland Point. The island is 3 miles north to south and 1 mile east to west with the majority of the best climbing situated on the 100-metre-high west facing coast. Three walls; Quarter Wall, Halfway Wall and Three-quarter Wall serve as important landmarks. The latest (2008) Climbers Club Guidebook to Lundy includes an excellent separate 1:15,000 scale map which details all the important crags. Many crags are banned from 1st April until 31st July so the best time to climb here is August and September.
Weather and Tides
So goes the rhyme: Lundy high fine and dry, Lundy low, rain and blow. The tidal range is a phenomenal 15 metres so pay attention to the tide times and always belay yourself to the base of the cliff in case of freak waves.
Lundy Island is internationally famous amongst birdwatchers, indeed the name is Norse for Puffin Island. Up to 35 species have been recorded nesting on the island including of course the Puffin and over 140 different migrant species visiting every year.
While it may be years before you can get a booking for The Barn or some of the 24 other more salubrious properties, the campsite can often be booked at the very last minute. For details regarding booking, camping or accommodation and sailing times of the ferry, contact; The Landmark Trust, Shottesbrooke, Maidenhead, Berks SL6 3SW or call 01628 825 925
The Marisco Tavern is the hub of island life offering meals and coffees all day and one of the highlights; their own unique ales; Lundy Experience 3.9% and The Old Light 4.2%. Be aware that they strictly enforce a ban on the use of electronic devices so you may well have to rely on the ancient art of conversation. It’s also worth knowing that you can run a tab at the tavern and pay by credit card at the end of your stay.
The island shop is well stocked with all the basics but be sure to bring as much crag food as you can manage with you (within your 20kg baggage limit).
Getting on to the island on the MS Oldenburg is just the start of your adventure. Take all your climbing gear in your hand luggage so that you can go climbing as soon as you arrive on the island. The rest of your baggage will be delivered to your accommodation but it can take quite a while for it to arrive.
While there are almost 1000 climbs on these well weathered granite crags to choose from most first time visitors have a similar tick list. There are routes of every grade from Difficult to E9 including the superb Devil’s Slide HS to the steep and spectacular Flying Dutchman E7 the majority of the best climbing is VS and above.
Golden Gate E4 is a terrific pitch tackling the arête of Focal Buttress at the very southern tip of Lundy. The superb crackline of The Great Divide E3 and the fantastic sweeping Olympica E5 combine to make a memorable day out.
A few hundred metres north of The Old Light is the non tidal Wolfman Jack Wall. The well protected central crackline is followed by the popular Wolfman Jack E3. Venus Flytrap E2 is a brilliant pitch finding the easiest line up the right-hand side of the wall.
Landing Craft Bay is a popular area with easy access. This is home to the steep and well protected The Indy 500 E1, the superb jamming crack of Destiny E2, the powerful and exciting Rampart E3 and the very popular Shamrock VS which is quite steep but has good holds and is well protected. Supercharged E5 is an excellent technical route that follows a superb slender groove.
The Flying Buttress is the huge granite arch which lies directly below The Battery an old gun emplacement.Double Diamond HVS is a high quality and more sustained version of the popular Diamond Solitaire VS, The Cullinan E5 and it’s excellent variation Flying the Colours also E5 are both bold and compelling, while the Flying Dutchman E7 is one of the finest hard routes on Lundy and indeed in the South West.
The miniature sea stack of Needle Rock provides a selection of routes on superb rock. Intergrity HS stands out as an impeccable climb in fine positions. A short way along the beach is The Punchbowl Cliff where there are a selection of popular single pitch routes including the delightful and well protected Promises E1.
A visit to Jenny’s Cove requires careful judgement of the fast approaching tides if you intend to tackle the unique Devil’s Chimney HS which is Lundy’s answer to Napes Needle. The Fifth Appendage E1 provides delicate climbing in an impressive situation while the brilliant and varied Promised Land E3 is one of the the islands major undertakings. An complex and improbable line. On a failed attempt to climb Promised Land we approached by a slippery and frankly dangerous boulder hop across far too many greasy boulders only to find the start just too damp. A better approach is by abseil a 100m static from the boulders above as mentioned in Paul Harrison’s definitive guide on page168.
The harrowing sounds of adventure echo around the huge Deep Zawn. The Serpent E1 offers a gentle introduction to the zawn, Quartermass E2 is the most popular climb tackling the prominent twin crack system. The excellent Supernova E5 climbs the perfect thin crack splitting the ochre tinged headwall, while Antiworlds E5 is an outstanding challenge, sustained climbing on excellent rock with good protection throughout.
Directly below the Halfway wall and The Cheeses are the gold and black streaked Egyption Slabs where you will find the delightful and popular Immaculate Slab HVS which tackles the left side of this sweep of perfect granite
Grand Falls Zawn is home to the atmospheric American Beauty HVS and stunning steep wall of Mal de Mar E4. The brilliant Cithaeron E4 is a great introduction to The Parthenos where only the strongest climbers will seek the explosive Ex-Cathedra E6, the uncompromising Too Precious E6 and the exhilarating Earthsea Trilogy (part 2) E6
Further north is the unmistakeable 120 metre Devil’s Slide which is by far Lundy’s most famous cliff. The Devil’s Slide HS needs little introduction as it is by far the most popular route on Lundy. The magnificent Albion VS takes the corner formed by the left side of slide while the extremely bold Satan’s Slip E1 can be protected by many small and micro wires. Although Redspeed E2 is hard for the grade it is worth seeking out around the Back of the Slide as the gear and rock are exemplary.
The Diamond is a superb steep blank looking face sparkling with classic’s. Widespread Ocean of Fear E5 is a much sought after natural line up the face, Watching the Ocean E6 is a very bold and sustained slab climb however the continuous crackline of Diamond Life E4 is probably the most popular route on this excellent face.
When I climbed the classic Controlled Burning E3 on the steep and complex Torrey Canyon Cliff I found it unpleasant, rather gritty and altogether disappointing, however it fell down a few weeks later so that explains why! It has since been reclimbed and now makes a slightly harder but still stunning crack climb at E4. Wall of Attrition E5 is a steep and dramatic crack climb while The Ocean Dosen’t Want Me Today E4 follows a tenuous line up the overhanging capped corner.
The Headline Promontory of Arch Zawn is over half a kilometre north of The Devil’s Slide. It has a collection of fine routes with the highlight being the intricate Headline E1 which makes the long walk worthwhile. Access to most of the sea cliffs is usually down steep grassy slopes then often by abseil so a 100m static rope and many rope protectors are recommended.
There are three popular guidebooks that cover climbing on Lundy, one excellent definitive guide and two very selective books. West Country Climbs by Mark Glaister (Rockfax 2010) includes little more than a graded tick list with no topos, it would be impossible to find any of the routes with this guidebook. South West Climbs volume 2 by Pat Littlejohn (Climbers Club 2014) includes about the same number of routes, this time 45, but there are also good photo diagrams and supporting information enough for a weekend visit. The only realistic guide for a longer trip is the excellent definitive Lundy by Paul Harrison (Climbers Club 2008) which we have reviewed here.
Lundy Classic Climbs
E7 Flying Dutchman
E6 Watching the Ocean, Ex-Cathedra
E5 Olympica, Antiworlds, A Widespread Ocean of Fear
E4 Diamond Life, Cithaeron, Mal de Mer, Controlled Burning
E3 Rampart, Wolfman Jack, The Promised Land
E2 Redspeed, Venus Flytrap, Destiny, Quartermaster
E1 Satan’s Slip, The Indy 500, Fifth Appendage, Headline
HVS Double Diamond, American Beauty, Immaculate Slab
VS Albion, Diamond Solitaire, Shamrock
HS The Devil’s Slide, Horseman’s Route, Integrity
The Landmark Trust own and manage the island of Lundy
Lundy by javu.co.uk by Dave Henderson
Lundy – UK Climbing Destination Guide by Rob Greenwood
The Ultimate Tick List is an exhaustive list of all the very best rock climbs on Lundy.