On November 17th, Buster Martin became the second Brit to climb a confirmed 9a+. The route was the 15m First Ley in Margalef, Catalonia, a Chris Sharma route. We find out more about him, and what's next.
Buster Martin first really caught the attention of the climbing community when he was 16. The year was 2013 and he'd just ticked Bat Route at Malham, and become the youngest Brit to climb 8c. Back then he was on the BMC GB Junior Lead Climbing Team, alongside the likes of Molly Thompson-Smith and Jim Pope.
After a few year's break from climbing, last year Buster shot back into the headlines with an ascent of Rainshadow 9a, also at Malham Cove. A year later, he headed out to Spain, hoping to find drier conditions - Rainshadow had been a bit of a battle against conditions - and messed around on a few 9a+s in Oliana and Siurana.
However, having grown up in the Peak, Buster had learnt to love shorter, harder battles, rather than long endurance fests. On a day trip to Margalef, his eye was drawn to the iconic wall featuring routes like First Round, First Minute 9b and First Ley 9a+, two Chris Sharma routes, which share the same start. He'd found 'the one'...
Note: Buster is the second to climb a confirmed 9a+. John Gaskins climbed Violent New Breed (9a+) in 2004, but the grade hasn't been confirmed as it's yet to see a repeat.
Buster on First Ley. Photo: Henry Kinman
Buster's heroes take their hats off to him
The legends of British sport climbing - Steve, Ben and Jerry - have long been Buster's heroes and, more recently, Steve and Ben in particular have become his mentors. After his 9a+, they both took their hats off to him:
Steve McClure commented on Instagram: "Huge tick! Looked at this, from the deck, knew no point even trying!! Looked outrageously hard. Extremely impressed!"
And Ben Moon wrote: "Fine effort Buster. I’ve been telling the story of our encounter outside the School Room just before you headed out to Spain. I asked you how you were feeling and you replied with beaming eyes “Amazing!” I think I replied “Amazing eh?” but thought to myself “He must be feeling very good”. Then later that evening you sent me the video clip of that School Room session which showed back to back reps on 2 8as and an 8a+. Impressive strength endurance! Just goes to show where hard work and motivation can get you. Well done."
Buster has now set his sights on 9b and we look forward to following his rise.
WATCH Buster on his succesful ascent of First Ley 9a+
Interview with Buster Martin:
BM: I'd seen footage of Chris Sharma on First Round, First Minute 9b, [First Ley 9a+ shares a start with this route] but never thought I'd get on it. It looked like the hardest thing ever! It's a beautiful piece of rock, ridiculously steep with a stunning line of tufas running up it. When I saw it I couldn't help but have a play.
I first tried First Ley in January and have had a few trips out there. I probably spent 15-20 days on the route in total.
The closer you get the harder it becomes, mentally. Within a few sessions I was doing good links and knew I could do it. For me the hardest part was staying chilled and finishing it off. I got though the crux and onto the final moves maybe 25 times.
The crux revolves around some sloping pinches: really subtle and powerful movement. The conditions had to be perfect for me to stand a chance on these minimal features.
Buster and some GB team mates in 2013. Buster is second from the right
To put it simply, to me climbing is about the people, places and the movement. I could go on forever about what I like about climbing.
I was first inspired to try climbing when I was a kid on a walking holiday with my family in the Lakes. I then joined a kid's club at the University of Hertfordshire Wall.
I mostly boulder and sport climb. I love the simple pleasure of going out bouldering and messing around with friends, but I take sport climbing more seriously. It demands so much more of me, physically and mentally, but as a result I find it to be a more rewarding journey.
I enjoy being outside and trying really hard. You learn a lot about yourself and it's a great journey, working hard and overcoming all the obstacles. The final ascent is great fun as well, a build up of all the time spent on the route and training over the years. There are some really intense emotions.
I currently train at the Moon School Room in Sheffield. Mostly just a lot of bouldering and some short circuits or triples on boulders on the board. I try to climb as much as possible to work on the technical skills required.
WATCH: Buster demonstrating some footwork drills at the Moon School Room
There were two or three years where I didn't climb at all. Then I did a few trips but wasn't really climbing regularly. I just wasn't psyched to climb but knew I'd come back to it. I hope to be climbing the rest of my life, so a few years out is nothing and I'm sure it won't be the last time climbing takes a back seat.
I enjoy spending time outside in general and find doing things outside of climbing and socialising with different people to be really refreshing. Taking some time out of climbing showed me I'm more inspired when there's other things going on in my life. I'm studying Sports Therapy at University so I can structure my studies around my training and climbing.
I love climbing but there's much more to life! In a way this time off was really refreshing, gave me a more chilled perspective on climbing and ultimately made me a better climber.
The OGs of British sport climbing - Steve, Ben and Jerry - have always been big heroes of mine. I get inspired by all sorts of people and climbers, basically anyone getting out there doing their thing and trying hard.
First Round, First Minute 9b has always been my dream climb. Hubble 9a at Raven's Tor and Northern Lights, a Kilnsey 9a, stand out as a couple of British classics I'd love to climb.
WATCH Steve McClure climb Rainman 9b, Britain's hardest route:
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