Dancing with the Devil’s Slide on Summer Solstice, 21 June 2015 – Nic Cosmos

I got an invitation from some old friends to join them on a trip to Lundy Island and I said yes, I hadn’t seen them for a while and a weekend away from the usual work stresses seemed like a good idea at the time.

As it turns out – easier said than done and the logistics of actually getting over to the Island, climbing the “Devil’s Slide” by one route or another and getting back to Kent in a single weekend are rather more difficult than you would expect.

However, my friend Martin is clearly made of sterner stuff and managed to sort out digs in Barnstaple for 2 nights and a private charter of a fishing boat to take us all over to the island. He had calculated the dates for the best tides to give us a chance of getting there, climbing the aforementioned slab of Granite and for us to get back off the Island before the tides precluded a return into Appledore harbour, and all in the same day – no mean feat, but it did mean we were on a very tight time limit on the Island. All we needed was good weather………..

I managed to arrange some work on the south coast of Devon, so on arrival at the north coast, five of us managed to bag a couple of warm up routes at Baggy Point on Friday evening, and off the pub in Croyd for nosh and local cider. Great.

I can recommend the fresh fish in the Thatch Barn Inn, oh and did I mention the cider……most definitely.

Saturday dawned wet, windy and a thick overcast sky, but the boat was booked, so at 7.30 we caught the tide and we were to be on the swell for the next 2 hours or so.

I had obviously had too much cider the night before, so had a top up 40 winks kip sitting at the stern. On arrival I woke up to find everyone inside and I had been sitting in seawater for some time. Euurggh, not a good start, but we keenly jumped off onto the quay and we started our yomp up the long track up the cliffs to the flat barren fields above.

The Island is compact, but on the 2-3 miles or so walk to the Devil’s Slide we saw Deer, Lundy Ponies and feral goats alongside the Highland cows, sheep and even pigs at the farm itself. Lundy island is also home to Guillemots, Fulmars and Puffins. There is an extensive bird ban for climbing until the end of June, but the Devils Slide remains accessible and we saw no birds nesting on the Slide itself.

A bit of map reading in the mist brought us to the top of what we thought was the slide, but we were wrong, and after dropping down into a gully we had to climb up over the crest into the next one along.

There was a fair breeze and sea mist blowing up the cliff, but the rocks were mainly dry(ish) although a there were a few patches of running water. The wind certainly helped to keep the rock reasonably climbable for our swift visit.

To gain the start of the routes on the Devil’s slide, there is an obvious abseil block at a point some way down the slide proper and a full rope abseil to a sea washed ledge puts you down at sea level.

There were 8 of us, so we did varied routes up the Devil’s slide with the most experienced of us taking the leads on the harder upper pitches. The lower sections are all at around the same grades at grade 4ish to 5a, but in some places very run out indeed and with only a few small nuts or wires as protection.

The hardest section on the Slide is right at the top as an E1 5b direct finish up an offwidth crack in the overhanging headwall. When I got there, it looked eminently doable and I had placed a small hex high up in a hole just below a granite bulge and the offwidth crack itself. I had however run through on part of the 3rd pitch with the 4th past another pair of the chaps and the rope drag was getting a bit much. That said, the offwidth did still look quite stiff.

In any event I finished up the traditional headwall blocks to the left, but had to pull through lots of rope just to do the final pull up over up the blocky wall. Once secure, two handed hauling was needed to overcome the rope drag, so in hindsight my exit stage left was probably the best decision.

Later on, my second Dave told me that my last bit of encouragement at the top “Come on Dave, just a bit of nifty footwork left” – “wasn’t entirely accurate”……..Oh dear.

Everyone seconding found the final traverse “extremely exposed” and it was rather stiff for the seconds with the rope run out horizontally above the long drop before following the seagull basher hex bomber protection up final wall. (Yes, I carried some all the way up and having lugged them around all day, I WAS going to use them!)

In reality, the top traverse was actually fairly straightforward – just don’t slip off!

The weather held off just long enough for all of us to top out and after an hour or so walk back, we were in the Marisco Tavern sampling a couple of swift pints of the Lundy Ale before legging it back to a nervous skipper to catch the tide and beat the force 4 wind that was forecast. As it happens, it was not as lumpy on the return as expected and we were still back in time for a slap up celebration dinner at the hotel pub.

A swift couple of climbs on Sunday morning at Baggy and then the long drive home to Kent.

So Lundy can be done on a day trip from the mainland, but organisation is everything. Good company and a good time, so all in all, a great weekend was had by all.

Nic Cosmos June 2015


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