Sharpnose: Winter Coast

Partnering up with ColdHouse and Pertex, we took a trip to one of the UK’s true hidden climbing gems; Lower Sharpnose. For many, a trip to the South West usually involves granite sea cliffs and maybe a spot of surfing. However, there is another reason to fill your tanks and make the drive down…

Words: Montane Ambassador Tom Newberry
Pictures: Coldhouse & Pertex

The north coast provides one of the most spectacular rock formations in the country, Lower Sharpnose. Hidden away below the watchful eyes of GCHQ Bude, many South West Coast Path walkers will miss the staggering sight of the improbable fins that jut into the ocean. So thin, they barely look sturdy enough to withstand a taunting breeze, never mind the relentless pounding of the Atlantic swells.

Situated on the border of Devon and Cornwall, custody rights are often fought over by both sides, ‘The Fins’ possibly host the best Trad climbing in the South of England. The climbing is mostly hard, HVS/E1 is an entry level really, but for a generation brought up at indoor walls, there are enough classic test-pieces here to more than fill the hours between high tides. Such an abundance of genuinely high quality E routes is rare. Routes that are regarded as classics not only in the region, but appreciated and sought after from much further afield. The topography of the fins is startling, and in the right conditions can be otherworldly. But it is cherished by climbers for the rock, and as one local puts it “a sweet-spot ability to provide a gorgeous mixture of holds, moves and flowing sequences, texture, enthralment and exposure in one intoxicating crag.”

But it’s not just the climbing that makes this seaside venue an exceptional place, the atmosphere is unique. You’ve tried hard, got pumped silly and are now straddling the top of a 35m fin, it is then it sinks in, just how stunning this place is: the thunderous sound of the waves crashing below a majestic skyline, the sun kissing the horizon highlighting the rugged coastal features. All that’s needed to complete the experience is a well-earned Cream Tea at the nearby Rectory Tearooms; just make sure you put the jam on first.  

So it’s time to warm-up, but how do you avoid the dreaded flash pump at a crag so steep and apparently hardcore? Well, for many their first port of call is Lunakod HVS followed by the classic Smile E1 5b, packed with class,the route follows the rising break across the entire wall. Alternatively, despite receiving much less attention Mascon E1 5b is a great route.

Now sufficiently warm, it’s time for Out of the Blue E2,  a route that should be on everyone’s tick list; well equipped with good crimps and mini jugs, it’s best to take it at pace. If these go down quickly then similarly, Diamond smiles E3 is another South West classic and Sea Green E4, ticks all the boxes.

Swiftly moving through the grades, we find ourselves on the southern fin and a trio of routes that entices most people to the southern end of the M5; steep, crimpy and unrelenting. Working rightwards, Break on through E3 5c allows you to adjust to the style before the intensity ramps up sharply. Fay E4 6a has fanciful, flowing endurance moves leading to a heart-breaking finale; a credible contender for the best of its grade in the South West. 

The favoured hard-man’s test-piece, Pacemaker E5 6a, is next. Three cruxes separated by some quality climbing, be prepared to bust some shapes on this one. Finally, Coranory Country E6 6b takes the highest, blankest wall requiring a calm approach and the employment of a steely set of fingers.  Back on the middle fin and Wraith E5 is also worthwhile with a crux that could be the hardest move on the wall if especially for the short. The strong may opt for a newer direct finish and as such will be rewarded with an E6 tick. 

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