The Devil's Chimney, Lundy

So after accidentally climbing Needle Rock instead of the Devil's Chimney it was only right that we should double our efforts to climb the Devil's Chimney. Particularly since we were now confident about its location through a process of elimination. Bad weather looked possible tomorrow so we needed to get on with it.

The Devil's Chimney (left) & Needle Rock (right)
Anna set off down the 70m ab rope. It looked to be a full length to the bottom of the cliff from where a short hop across bounders would land us beneath our sea stack.

But something was wrong... She was taking for ages to unweight the rope. Anna was out of sight and all I could hear were the waves brushing the shore. I started to worry about the length of the abseil. The summit of the Devil's Chimney was a long way below. Did she have enough rope? I prusik'ed down the steep grassy slope to where the cliff dropped away more rapidly. Anna was a distant figure hanging on the end of the rope far below. 'Lower the nuts' she shouted up. We had made a schoolboy error in that I was wearing the rack at the top of the cliff whilst Anna had nothing below. What's more she had one of the 60m ropes on her back so I couldn't even ab down towards her on the halves.

The Devil's Chimney from the cliff top
I tied the nuts to the end of the rope and lowered them down. It took me about three goes for the end of the rope to finish in Anna's hands. Patiently she rigged anchors for her half rope to thread through. Then finally she made it the last 20m to the bottom. The whole episode had seemed to take ages. A couple of nuts, a sling and a crab left at the intermediate anchor were not such a great loss. And that's the price you pay for visiting Lundy without a 100m ab rope I guess.

At the intermittent lower-off
Photo by Anna Kennedy
Anna's intermediate lower-off
The guidebook description made no sense in relation to what we were seeing. It talked about starting up an awkward shallow groove, which we knew to be the crux but there was nothing on display. I was pretty confident that we were looking at the right aspect of the stack. There looked to be an obvious weakness up a V-shaped groove bounded on its right by a prominent slim column. Surely any route description for this line would mention the obvious column? In the end I opted to shut the guidebook and work it out for myself. The column seemed the obvious line...

We climbed the obvious groove to the left of the column in the centre of the photo
The first pitch was easier than expected. Not 5b. Maybe 4c. And with good cam placements under the column. I branched right at its top. The guidebook mentioned a large platform (nowhere to be seen) followed by twin cracks. It was supposed to be easier to climb the right-hand one but the left one looked more appealing. One thing that certainly did match the guidebook description was the large boulder strewn ledge, which I had clearly arrived at. The summit looked close at hand. We had this in the bag.

The top pitch now matched the CC description. Anna made fine work of the steep slab leading up to the small overhang and into the cracked wall above. Probably the best pitch of the route. Then it was my turn and soon we were both on the summit full of smiles. The original plan had been for me to lead the harder first and third pitches but having linked the first two pitches I was really happy that we had been able to split the difficulties and interest more fairly. Overall the route felt more like VS, 4c than HVS, 5b. Presumably the first pitch fell down at some point.

The steep slab
The small roof
The upper wall
My only Puffin sighting was on the summit of the Devil's Chimney
But getting to the top was of course only half the battle. We still needed to descend and then exit the beach via a route leading back up the main cliffs. Ambitions dropped a level. We had achieved our main objective and had lost a lot of time trying to reach it. Now it was time to leave without further dramas.

Anna abseiling from the summit
Boulder hopping
We chose a nice looking single pitch VS, 4c called Pretender, which climbed a steep cracked wall on perfect rock with a good variety of moves. And with the usual bags of atmosphere as is staple on Lundy. Then throw in an army of silver fish at the crux. Some stiff moves towards the top above a square cut-away were surely worth 5a?

Between sea grass and boulders
Pretender (VS, 4c)

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