Scrambling and Bouldering @ Dartmoor

Tackling the boulders of Hay Tor on a Saturday morning

The good thing about spending around 6 or 7 hours driving down to Dartmoor on a Friday night is that you don’t struggle for sleep when you arrive at your destination.

We’d booked lodgings in the Plume of Feathers in Princetown, a grand old pub that has sat on the edge of the moor since 1785. Although this building has been renovated and rebuilt extensively, a large part of the place still retains features from the 18th Century. Whilst this might sound all very authentic and historical, there was a small part of me worrying at the stability of roofing timber that had been weathered by nearly 300 years of Dartmoor’s intense micro-climate.

Still, we managed to survive the night in a room that was both and affordable, considering the location.

For those not in the know, Princetown is one of the few points of civilisation that you’ll find within the first expanse of the moor. The village’s main point of interest, besides the excellent pub of course, is it’s prison. Although the operation of the prison itself has been hugely scaled down since it’s heyday, around 600 or so low-risk prisoners are still kept there. As interested as I knew Jacob was to take a closer peek at this rural oddity, the real reason we’d driven all this way was to tackle some of the excellent bouldering problems that we’d heard tell of down the grape vine.

When we left ‘the Plume’, as the locals are apt to call it, it was early in the morning and we were a little surprised at how nippy it was out.

The good news was that it had stayed dry all night, so any rock that we’d tackle was almost guaranteed to be dry. Leaving the pub, we pulled our waterproofs close to us as a brisk wind came rushing in from, what felt like, the heart of the moor. I was glad I’d packed some fur bobble hats for all of us, even if Adam found his hat’s shade of purple a touch too feminine. It always pays to be prepared if you’re heading out into the unknown and there’s very much that feeling when you stride out into Dartmoor for the first time.

We had ambitiously planned to hike to our bouldering site, but when we glanced at our map we realised that the distance would probably take us nearly 6 hours to walk.

Thankfully the car was still an option, so we hopped on the smooth rural roads out to Hay Tor, one of the richest sites of bouldering in the country. It took us around 45 minutes to reach our destination, Adam was a little worried that the best boulders would already be taken by the time that we arrived there – but he was worrying in vain. When we arrived at half nine, to Adam’s relief, there wasn’t a soul in sight. We had the pick of the problems and continued to spend the day racing each other up challenging problems and building up quite the hunger.

By the time we’d returned to the Plume of Feathers, at around 7pm, we were starving and more than ready to take a spot at the fire with a pint of ale. Another weekend well-spent climbing!