Following in the footsteps of Giants – Wreckers Slab North Devon Coast

Below the route Wreckers Slab in Cornwall a huge slab steeped in history Below the route Wreckers Slab in Cornwall a huge slab steeped in history

I was offered a day out with a good friend Pete Greening who lives in Cornwall and runs his climbing and surfing business “Kernow (Cornwall) Climbing.   I was down with my stepdaughter and my amazing granddaughter on a family holiday in Cornwall. We had so much fun on the beach and in the sea it was hard to go away for a day and I expected Pete to have an easy day sorted for all my ailments. I had not climbed since my epic in Skye and was expecting a fun day on immaculate granite with easy access. Lose rock was not my plan neither was a steep descent and 45 minute walk in but Pete was the man, he had a plan and was told to sit back and enjoy the ride in Pete’s fun bus.  A camper van bright orange with a warning alarm going every 5 minutes made the hours drive a fun event. It is strange as leaving Lexi and Yvette felt different Lexi waving and very taken by Pete it sometimes make you think about why we go climbing and those we leave behind. Pete charged along the tiny roads and gave me the plan.  It was to be a classic climb on the North Devon Coast a classic adventure at about 450 feet one of the longest, most alluring and serious VS climbs in the West Country, Wrecker’s Slab is nevertheless the most attempted of its genre on the coast. The great thing about this area was that it was so quite and we saw no one all day apart from three walkers on the  Coastal path. It was as Pete said an adventure. The tide was not to be at its lowest so we stopped at the cafe for tea and cake and I read the guide book. The history of this route is immense first climbed by a famous Scottish climber who was with the Marines at the time he was Tom Patey along with another two amazing climbers Zeke Deacon and Admiral Lauder in 1959. What a route for its time and a climb with so much history and adventure it was a must climb for me and I had been wanting to do it for years.  

I hope the old body would hold up? As we were on our second cup of tea a mothers and baby group arrived and we were back in the real world and it was time to go.

The loose gully and Pete sorting out the descent anything goes! The loose gully and Pete sorting out the descent anything goes!
You descend the cliff past brambles and thickets to a wee hut and then down the loose gully. My mind was still full of rocks from my Skye trip last month!

The walk was fine, through a grave yard and then across open fields, the weather was humid  but clear and we were soon walking along the Coastal path and saw our route. It did look impressive. We left the bags put on our gear and helmets and scrambled down the cliff and I was apprehensive as we hit the loose gully. Pete had it all sorted and we were soon on the beach and looking at the great cliffs. It was impressive. He had climbed the route before and was soon off up the climb climbing so well as he is in his element. It is great to climb with someone so talented and who makes it look so easy and he was soon at the end of the first pitch. He was checking each hold and getting in some good gear, how different it must have been in 1959? These were brave men then!

An old peg battered in rock from earlier days. An old peg battered in rock from earlier days. We chatted about how adventurous these climbers were in 1959 and how different things are now.

The belay was solid and there were some old pegs about but modern gear makes them surplus nowadays and it was my turn to climb. Not being a great climber ( rubbish in fact) I found I was enjoying it as Pete brought me up to the ledge on the arete it was lovely climbing delicate and a bit bold for the leader but I was enjoying it on a tight rope! We had a chat on the belay as usual sorted the world out, the state of the nation and why fewer people are climbing outdoors and what they are missing.  There is an article there”belay talk!

First pitch First pitch of Wreckers Slab

Pete was looking after me and was soon off again after the chat and I was really enjoying the situation and the solitude, he worked his way up more delicate slabs and making it look so easy. The sun was up and my jacket came off and what a place to be, You had to be very careful with the rock but what wonderful adventure.

The second pitch a few tricky moves. Phot Pete Greening Kernow Climber. The second pitch a few tricky moves. Photo Pete Greening Kernow Climber.

Pete was climbing so well and it was so much fun, the third pitch and the loose corner groove, that was very loose, Pete dealt with it easily. Then back on to lovely rock again and the final arete. I followed very careful of the loose rocks and glad no one was with us or behind us. I stayed on the belay while while Pete shot off for photos we were just in awe of the situation and those who climbed it in 1959.

Pete top of the big loose block care needed. Pete top of the big loose block care needed.

The last scramble was a joy and soon we were on the top no one about. We had a break a walk back more chat and a drink in the pub and then back just before Lexi went to bed. She was very taken by Pete as I told her he was looking after me all day just like Mum does for her and she enjoyed the pictures we showed her. It took me back to when I had a young family and how hard it can be on them when you go off climbing while poor Mum looks after the kids.


Climbers and lovers of the outdoors are very different from normal people I feel and Lexi could see I am sure the  enjoyment of our day. It was the first time she had met a real climber and was very taken by him. We then had  a great meal thanks to Yvette and then Pete went home the end of a great day.   Thanks Pete the”Kernow Climber” even if you made me carry a rope! What an end to a great week magic!

Final arete Final arete

The  Route description

Wreckers Slab

115m, 3 pitches.  The huge, slim slab rising from the beach on the far right-hand side of the cliff has very little in the way of technical difficulty but should not be underestimated as the rock is poor, protection spaced and the situations very serious. Start at the base of the slab just right of the overhangs. ) 4a, 35m. Make a couple of tricky moves to easier ground and work out leftwards along an easy-angled section of slab to the arete. Climb a loose corner groove just right of the arete to a good peg and then move up and right on more loose rock to a footledge stance and peg belays plus good nut belays 5m above.. 2) 4b, 45m. Climb directly to the overlaps and pull through them onto the slab above. Climb the slab to a belay at a pillar on a grass terrace.. 3) 4a, 45m. Climb up past the pillar loose blocks to the easy-angled upper wall and follow this on its left side to the top of the slab and belay. A short scramble along a ridge is needed to finish. 

An amazing cliff, one of the best adventurous routes in the country. Make it a must to climb, what a fantastic day out. Oh and make sure you don’t throw all the hand holds down to your belayer.


About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Enviroment, Equipment, Family, Friends, History, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Following in the footsteps of Giants – Wreckers Slab North Devon Coast

  1. alpeace89 says:

    Looks like a really cool slab 🙂


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