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Climbing with Moor Care and Less Wear

photo of people climbing

Dartmoor British Mountain Map

Would all climbers please note that the inclusion of a crag on the new Dartmoor British Mountain Map in no way indicates public access to it.

The access situation should always be checked before visiting.  Further information on specific crags can be found in the British Mountaineering Council’s Regional Access Database (external site, opens new window)

If you intend to visit crags within the Range Danger Areas always check the firing times first (external site, opens new window)

The Dartmoor British Mountain Map is produced by Harvey Map Services in association with the British Mountaineering Council and the British Geological Survey.

Dartmoor is a wonderful place for both groups and individuals to climb. Many of the granite tors for which the National Park is famous offer both challenging routes and exciting bouldering opportunities amongst some of the wildest country in the south west. If you are bringing a group to climb please click on the link below to see additional information for groups.

You can download the leaflet Climbing on Dartmoor

Dartmoor Code of Conduct

Climbing with Groups

Information on main climbing areas on Dartmoor

Where You Can Climb

The public has legal open access to approximately 47,000 hectares of Dartmoor. Of this total, public access on foot (and horseback) to the Dartmoor commons extending for some 35,200 hectares, was secured under the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985. New walking and climbing opportunities on Dartmoor specifically arising from the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, extend to approximately 7,000 hectares.

Generally accessing Dartmoor’s open country is relatively straightforward. However, because of the Dartmoor Commons Act, the open access situation on Dartmoor is different from that for the rest of the country. Understanding your rights and responsibilities associated with the different types of open access on Dartmoor is important for your enjoyment, for land and livestock management reasons and for wildlife conservation. For more detailed information on the different types of access land please pick up a copy of Walking on Dartmoor.

A number of the most popular crags with single or multiple pitch routes are highlighted here. There are many other sites where you can climb but please ensure that access is permitted before you visit. Where booking is requested please do so; it is in everyone’s interest to reduce the problems of overcrowding and help to minimise ground erosion along the base of the cliffs.

Can Climbing Cause Any Problems on Dartmoor?

Climbing is a popular activity which through its very nature is concentrated in a few special areas which are often important landscape features and wildlife habitats. To conserve the unique qualities of these sites it is important that all climbers adopt the code of conduct outlined below. By doing so you will maximise your own enjoyment (and that of others) and ensure that climbers continue to be welcome within the National Park.

Code of Conduct

Care of the Environment

Always aim to leave the crag in a better state than when you found it:-

  • be aware of your impact on the fragile natural environment and avoid ‘gardening’ plants and lichens from the rock face;
  • tread carefully and seek to minimise erosion;
  • learn to recognise archaeological features and do not move any stones or climb on the remains of old buildings;
  • as well as making use of the cliff and crags take some practical steps to conserve them. Never leave any rubbish, and please pick up and take home any litter you find;
  • noise and behaviour both have an impact; remember that on a still day your voice can carry a long way disturbing wildlife, and other visitors - ensure that your climbing partner can hear you but not every other visitor in the area;
  • take care to avoid disturbing livestock when approaching or leaving crags and keep dogs under close control at all times;
  • ensure that access is permitted to the site - if in doubt ask at a local Information Centre.

Belays

The problems of erosion, particularly soil erosion, on the top of crags can be minimised by careful rigging of belays; please:-

  • minimise rope wear on fragile areas by the use of padding, static ropes and long slings;
  • use long slings and avoid top roping with ropes running directly around trees to minimise root and bark damage;
  • do not leave ropes hanging over routes when not in use.

Anchors

Choice of anchors is another area where climbers can limit their impact on the crag environment. Trees can make good belays but thoughtless use can kill them. Whenever possible use traditional removable protection (ie nuts and friends) for belays. However, if there is no alternative anchor point please consider the following:-

  • ropes tied around tree trunks will damage the bark - pad out the ropes, use wide webbing or wrap the rope round several times to spread the load;
  • reduce the leverage on the tree by securing slings at ground level on the trunk;
  • minimise trampling on the roots and surrounding top soil.

Abseiling

Consider whether you need to include abseiling in your climbing activities at the crag. If you do, try to avoid all named climbs if at all possible.

Fixed Equipment

There is a very limited amount of fixed equipment on Dartmoor. It should always be treated with caution and never relied upon. Due to the sensitivity of the whole area, the Dartmoor National Park Authority does not permit the bolting of any new or existing routes and, if found, any new fixed protection will be removed.

Transport

When travelling to any crag keep car usage down by car sharing with friends or family or using public transport. Many of the more popular Dartmoor tors can be accessed by bus - for local bus services call Traveline (see Further Information).

If you do travel by car please:-

  • keep to a sensible speed throughout the National Park but, in particular, keep within the 40 mph limit in high moorland areas;
  • show consideration for the local community and other National Park users when parking. Park in designated areas to avoid eroding the moor edge and do not obstruct gates or tracks;
  • consider whether the nearest parking to the crag is the best for all concerned. A longer walk in may enable other aspects of the National Park to be enjoyed and act as a warm up for the day’s activities;
  • discourage break-ins by ensuring that no valuable kit is left in vehicles.

Group Management

In addition to the above points, group leaders are asked to take extra care and consider the following when climbing within the National Park:-

When choosing a route please:-

  • take into account the current access situation. Is group use acceptable on that crag at that time? Is it sensitive?  
  • consider which day of the week it would be best to visit - weekends, Bank Holidays and evenings are usually best avoided;
  • liaise with other users to prevent overcrowding;
  • take into account the number of suitable climbs, bearing in mind the size of your group and the site’s popularity with individual climbers or the general public.

Environmental Education

Explain the sensitive nature of many climbing areas to your group. Novice climbers are heavily influenced by their first experience of climbing. Make sure they get off to a good start by making them aware of their responsibilities.

Base Camp

Establish a base camp area for your group. This should be a hardwearing site (eg a cluster of rocks) which does not interfere with other users and is safe from falling objects.

Choice of Routes

  • respect the needs of other climbers who may be climbing alongside you. A system of rotating around different routes (rather than staying on one route all day) could add variety to your day and help to reduce conflicts with other climbers;
  • consider whether you need a starred climb for your instruction - it may be more appropriate to use an area of the crag which has no recorded climbs but check that the area has not been left because of its conservation importance. (For further information please contact the Ecology Section of Dartmoor National Park Authority.)

Numbers in your Group

No one group should dominate a site. If you have a large group then consider dividing them up or visiting another venue. Two groups of 10-15 people can be much less intrusive than one group of 20-30.

Numbers of Groups at a Site

Every area has a carrying capacity and this may be as little as one group. Get in the habit of liaising with other potential users. If a crag is crowded when you arrive, consider moving to another venue.

For your own safety and the safety of others, please:

  • if you intend to climb on the northern moor check whether firing is scheduled within the Merrivale, Okehampton or Willsworthy Training areas. Information is available in local papers or at any of the Dartmoor National Park Information Centres. When firing is taking place, Range warning signals (red flags or lights) are displayed prominently. Never touch anything which might be military debris
  • avoid dislodging any loose rocks whilst climbing and do not throw stones over the cliff edge.

Crag Information

At the time of writing there is no public access to, and no climbing allowed on, Vixen Tor.  Please check back for updates.

Site Public transport available Parking Landowner Contact with landowner required
The Dewerstone Yes Yes National Trust 01752 341377 (groups of 6+)
Haytor Yes Yes Dartmoor National Park Authority 01626 832093 (groups of 6+)
Hound Tor No Yes Private 01647 221254
Leigh Tor Yes Limited Private No
Foggintor Quarry Yes Princetown Maristow Estate 01752 695945

Further Information

Email: recreation@dartmoor-npa.gov.uk

The National Trust
Dartmoor Office
Home Farm
Parke
Bovey Tracey
Newton Abbot
Devon
TQ13 9JQ
01626 834748  

British Mountaineering Council
177 Burton Road
West Didsbury
Manchester
M20 2BB
0161 4454747
office@thebmc.co.uk

Publications
South Devon and Dartmoor: A Climber's Guide by Nick White - Cordee

Page last updated: 15 Nov 2005