The Favourite Human and I have been keen to transition from indoor to outdoor bouldering for a while now. Living so close to Dartmoor means we have so many great spots right on our doorstep. We purchased The Climbers’ Club Guide to Dartmoor | AFFILIATE LINK and we’ve been itching to explore. A lot of the locations in the guidebook are for climbers of higher grades, however I’m definitely a complete beginner. Even more so when it comes to bouldering outdoors! However I’d heard through the grapevine (and subsequently the guidebook!) that Bonehill Rocks near Haytor, had plenty of problems to offer. So we excitedly packed up for the day and headed over for some beginners bouldering at Bonehill Rocks!
Bonehill Rocks is situated between Postbridge and Bovey Tracey in east Dartmoor. The guidebook describes the area as ‘the spiritual home of Dartmoor bouldering.’ In fact, a large proportion of the pages are dedicated to Bonehill Rocks and the wider Bonehill area. There are over 100 bouldering problems in the area, ranging from V0 to V13 (f3+ to f8+.) There is parking available in a few lay-bys with a short walk up to the rocks. However there are limited spaces in each car park, with enough space for about half a dozen cars if everyone parks sensibly! There are no facilities nearby, so you’ll need to make sure you bring everything with you and leave no trace when you leave.
In a climbing centre, I typically climb around V2/3 with the occasional miraculous V4 route once in a blue moon. Understandably climbing outside is a completely different ball game and I definitely need to work on my technique, particularly when it comes to reading routes! We started our session on The Cube. The Favourite Human successfully sent a couple of the routes, however I struggled on ‘The Easy Crack’ (f3/V0.) The name itself is a little condescending and I did get very frustrated at my inability to complete this route. I panicked about not being able to ‘see’ where to put my limbs as a climbed. Understandably it’s not as clear as when you’re following a set colour on a climbing wall. The exposed nature of The Cube didn’t help either, as the wind picked up and made my hands numb. Not ideal when you’re trying to climb!
I left The Easy Crack behind and indulged in a mild tantrum with the dogs. After a spot of lunch we wandered round to the back side of The Undercut Boulder, slightly further round from route 75 (f5+/V2.) We decided to ignore the guidebook at this point, as it was just making me frustrated by my ‘inability’ to send the routes. This it turns out was the best tactic, as it instantly took the off the pressure to be ‘good’ at each problem. Instead it helped me focus on my panic and reluctance to fall off the rocks.
After an hour or two my confidence had definitely improved. In hindsight starting on the taller ‘Easy’ Crack on The Cube definitely wasn’t the way to go. There are plenty of smaller boulders to start on, despite what the guidebook says. I even managed to send the route before The Favourite Human thanks to a cheeky toe jam. You can see the route we were working on in more detail in my video of our trip. After so much frustration on the first route I tried at Bonehill Rocks, I was delighted to have found something that was more within my experience level. I left feeling accomplished, energised and eager to return again to find more routes.
If you’re planning to visit Bonehill Rocks I highly recommend bringing plenty of layers. It’s very exposed up there and I was definitely grateful for my down jacket! We visited on a fine day in April but a lot of the boulders had very limited shelter surrounding them. I also brought some Barker and Browns fleeces for the dogs to wear. Crag days aren’t the most active for the dogs and they can easily get cold. Both Woody and Hen were shivering but soon stopped once we’d put their fleeces on.
DOGSCLOSURE: Barker and Browns are one of my freelance marketing clients.
I love that Bonehill Rocks truly has so many routes to offer, for all abilities. A lot of the friends we go climbing with are very experienced (I work in a climbing centre, so understandably my colleagues are all pretty good at climbing!) so it’s great to have somewhere that suit and challenge everyone. It’s the perfect place to visit responsibly in groups, as there’s plenty of space.
I’m also looking forward to using Bonehill Rocks as a way of tracking my climbing progress longer term. It’ll be great to see myself climbing trickier routes in years to come surrounded by the very routes I started out on!
Where’s your favourite place to climb on Dartmoor? Do you struggle to find routes that are suitable for beginners too?
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