Chudleigh Rocks (South Side) – Devon Climbing Review

Exeter store manager and climbing buyer, Nick Baron, takes a trip to Chudleigh Rocks and discovers one the best crags in Devon.

You may or may not have heard of Chudleigh rocks in Devon. If you have but haven’t been to take a look then you are definitely missing out on one of the best crags in Devon.

Surrounded by trees the crag is well sheltered so if the weather is looking grim up on the moor it can be a good venue to visit. It also dries fairly quickly after rain only suffering seepage on a few of the lines.

Chudleigh Rocks, Devon - Loot Hvs 5a

Crispin on the squeeze chimney of Loot Hvs 5a

If you are based near Exeter then it is only a stone’s throw away and with over a hundred routes to go at there is a good selection of routes right across the grade spectrum.

Chudleigh Rocks, Devon - Penny Lane E3 6b

Justin on the crux of Penny Lane E3 6b. This lovely sheet of rock is home to other routes such as Machete wall E2 5b and Mortality crisis E4 6a

Currently there is no definitive guide in print, the old south Devon and Dartmoor guide by Nick White is the closest thing but they are hard to find. The Rockfax West country climbs has a small number of the routes, Dave Henderson’s Javu has a selected guide  and the South Devon Mountaineering Club have an online guide which is pretty good too.

Made up of compact limestone, Chudleigh is exclusively a Trad climbing venue, so you won’t find any bolted routes. However, the routes are generally well protected so it’s a great place to learn to Trad climb. I did many of my first Trad leads here and still go and repeat the crag classics nearly every year.

The crag has a reputation for being badly polished, this might be true for some of the more popular low grade routes which have had a lot of traffic over the last 60 years. Generally I have not found it a problem and if you pride yourself on your footwork/good technique then you will do fine even on the most polished routes (Barn Owl crack and Wogs come to mind)

Chudleigh Rocks, Devon - Air E3 6b

Russ sending Charlie Chaplin Walks on Air E3 6b. The squeeze chimney of loot is on the left of the shot and the two grooves on the right are the technical and puzzling Smoke gets in your eyes

You might also find a little bit of gardening is required on the less traveled routes, but again I don’t think it detracts from the experience.

Chudleigh Rocks, Devon - Gagool Direct E2 5C

The author climbing Gagool direct E2 5c.The left arete is Combined ops E2 5b and on the right is a neat little E1 5b called Logic

There is a good mix of angles to climb on. Slabs, aretes, vertical wall climbing and thuggy overhangs are all on the menu.

There are also many styles of route to climb so if you like crimping, jamming, chimneying, bridging, pocket pulling or even pinching the odd tufa (it’s no Rodellar) then there is definitely a route for you.

There is also a limited amount of bouldering available in two main areas. Pixies hole and below the Space buttress. While there is no guide to these if you catch a local bouldering there they will soon fill you in on the established lines or you can make them up your self.

Chudleigh Rocks, Devon - Chudleigh Overhang Vs 4c

Pixies hole bouldering with the obvious challenge of Chudleigh overhang Vs 4c on the left of the shot.The impressive Big Bird E5 6b goes throught the roffs at the top of the shot

Top roping is possible on many of the buttresses but you generally need to have long slings or an independent set up rope as the most secure set ups are off the trees that inhabit the top of the crag. A 15 metre length of static rope is useful and more versatile than slings.

So on to the routes.

As there are so many to choose from I am just going to select a few of my favourites.

These are all rights of passage and as such, if you tick them all, you will have passed the initiation test and be a fully paid up member of the Chudleigh appreciation society.

Most of these routes would barely merit the lowly grade of 6c if they were bolted, but they’re not… you could say that they all have character and will provide a suitable challenge at their individual grade!

Chudleigh Rocks, Devon – Routes

Chudleigh Rocks, Devon - Combined Ops E2 5b

Cherry climbing the awesome arete of Combined Ops E2 5b. Combat wall is hidden round to its left

  • Wogs Vdiff 4a – polished to a high sheen but good climbing none the less, can be led in one pitch but also useful as an introduction into multi pitch as you could probably set up a belay in at least 4 logical places.
  • Chudleigh overhang VS 4c – Legendary , a tough and technical overhang which will leave you elated when you finally commit to and pull the hard moves through the roof crack. Big gear is handy. Peg belay
  • Sarcophagus VS 4c – The big corner crack/chimney, is best tackled with a sense of humour. It has 3D climbing with a few exciting and exposed moments. Can be led in one pitch but two is more fun and offers much reduced rope drag. Tree belay
  • Loot Hvs 5a – A route that will test your levels of determination and chimneying skills to the maximum.
  • Chudleigh Rocks, Devon - Loot HVS 5a

    Crispin tackling the the tough finish to Loot Hvs 5a

    Oesophagus E1 5a/b – Prepare for a battle. The strenuous jamming crack is well protected if you can hang on and place the gear. Reaching the niche at the top of the crack you are rewarded with a nice rest which you will be glad of. The traverse out right is airy and exciting. Peg belay

  • The Spider E1 5b – Probably the best route at the crag. A bold first pitch which requires nerve and a second pitch that has a steeper and more strenuous nature. A must do route
  • Combined Ops E2 5b – A lovely line up the right side of the arete  which is justifiably popular and a good first E2. Small wires essential
  • Combat E3 5c – Steep and committing from the start , if you are fit you will find it ok and the top wall after the niche is really good.
  • Smoke gets in your eyes E3 6a – A fiendishly technical route which follows the two open grooves to a fingery finish above.

– Nick B,

Exeter Store Manager

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