Thursday, 15 July 2010

Giving it away

Back in August 08 I wrote about a project found and bolted at the Cornice . It’s essentially a direct start to Love Among the Butterflies, breaking right from the initial bulge of R’n’P. Unfortunately since that date it got wet almost straight away and remained so for the rest of that year then the whole of the next. So except for a bit of fettling in poor conditions I never gave it a proper go. Along comes summer 2010 and exceptional conditions at the Cornice to find me critically short of the time, power and fitness needed to have a decent hope of getting the thing done. So a dilemma, do I wade into a no doubt protracted siege with low hopes for success, do I sit on it until some future confluence of conditions and fitness, or do I pass it on to a better man then sit back and let them do the hard work? From the way I just phrased this dilemma it’s probably obvious that I opted to call in the big guns. In truth the project was beyond the level of my best sport climbing efforts and would have required a serious step up and I just can’t be arsed with big sieges, never could be. I’m more a middle distance redpointer. One to three days is fun, four to six is just about tolerable if the route is amazing, more than that and it feels like time ill spent. On top of this, had I thrown my eggs into the project basket I would have missed out on a rare opportunity to climb some of the countries best sport routes.
So I told Bransby the project was now open and he gave it a go. He then suggested Caff have a go as he had just done Love Among the Butterflies so already had half the route in the bank. I was fortunate enough to be at the crag some days later when he succeeded on the route. Now this guy’s a well oiled carbon fibre crush machine and the route plays to his strengths, but he still managed to make it look hard, so I think it’s safe to say it was a good idea for me to give the thing up. Subsequent attention from Steve McClure and Jon Clark has confirmed Caff’s suggestion of 8b+.
Being a proper nice guy/machine Caff suggested that as equipper I name the route on his behalf. The name Barney Ragin’ refers to Caffisms which might be familiar to belayers, typically after a ten second shake out before a mind pulping runout - “Sorry guys I’m just being a total ragin’, I’ll be off for a barney in a sec” – proceed to casually dispatch. His on route apologising is legendary.
The only condition for giving away the proj was that whoever did it must go to Thor’s and get on one of my 7c+s. So finally after endless exhortations to all and sundry and an arm made sore from beating the same drum for five years I had finally managed to bribe someone to get on Escape to Valhalla, hoo-fuckin-ray! I was glad to see it didn’t go down without a fight (to be fair he had just climbed Thormen’s and had done Monumental Armblaster the day before, plus the crux has two reachy moves, but nevertheless….), taking a couple of redpoints. What’s even better is that he thought it was “amazing”, “totally bonkers” and “8a”. Going back on it myself I was surprised how hard the crux was and bemused as to why I’d not given it 8a in the first place, I mean everyone knows no one gets out of bed for 7c+s these days, even three star ones, so by undergrading it I’d ensured a lack of repeats. For the tick hungry 8a.noodler 7c+ is just too much like an 8’s worth of effort without the number to show for it. I’m sure it sounds mighty hubristic being so bothered about people repeating my route, but to me it feels more like a wish to share an amazing thing, rather than a chance to trumpet my own merit. The best bit about climbing is surely enthusing about a climb with someone who’s experienced the same and this is especially so when the route in question is treasure you’ve personally unearthed.
As it turned out I got a bit more crag time than expected and the time not spent seiging the project was put to good use reeling in a pair of splendid 8a+s in K3 and R’n’P. Now I’ve gone and got myself embroiled in a potential siege on Monumental, which is surely 8b and feels like a big undertaking for me, but it’s one of those rare mega routes where I don’t mind putting in the extra sessions. At least I think I’ll manage a few more before I get bored. Or maybe it’s just the technical challenge of making the perfect kneepad that’s keeping me interested.

Starting the crux sequence on Escape

Final tricky moves to gain the belfry belay

P.S. Having written that bit about folk being 8 obsessed number whores I thought I’d best check my facts. So I did a search for 7c, 7c+ and 8a ascents in the UK, in the last month, registered on There were 47 ascents at 7c, 23 ascents at 7c+ and 55 ascents of 8a. Factoring in five ascents of Lockless Monster, a book graded 8a which has only just been downgraded to 7c+ due to recent ascents, i.e. the five ascents probably went on it as an 8a; it comes to 60 at 8a and only 18 at 7c+! I rinky-dink rest my case.

P.P.S Big thanks to JC and Chris for all the hard work re-bolting! And hiya to Andy C, good to get the old team back in action again. Hope the shoulder recovers quickly