Last summer, Physics student Pete Dawson climbed his first 9a: Rainshadow at Malham Cove. He's just ticked his second: the world-famous Hubble at Raven Tor. When it was first climbed by Ben Moon in 1990, this route was considered the world's first 8c+. It is now agreed to be even harder - making it the world's first 9a. Who is Pete Dawson, how did he get so strong and does he have any tips for us?
When Pete first tried Hubble last November, he managed to do all the moves and thought he'd be able to link them quite quickly. This got him hooked, but he was soon proved wrong: it was way beyond anything he'd climbed so far. After working on it through spring and early summer, he managed to get the route dialled up to the final slap of the crux... then, a week ago, it all came together. Pete tells the story below.
Pete: I wanted to do Hubble because it was famous for being the hardest route in the world when it was first done. I also thought the moves looked incredible on it. They did turn out to be really cool so I stayed psyched and kept going on it.
I started climbing with my dad and brother when I was about 10 in Devon. Through my secondary school years I had really psyched people around me (James and Ed Mabon, Mike Adams) and we climbed on the board, a lot.
Moving to Manchester for university allowed my ability to jump from 8c to 9a. I had access to the best training facilities at the Depot and the best rock in the country. I'm doing a four year course, studying physics. I climb 4/5 days a week either at the Depot or outdoors. When I go outdoors I normally either boulder or sport climb and I'm not picky about rock type. I generally go where the conditions are good.
I kept going back to Hubble partly because I don't have a car and Raven Tor is quite easy to reach by train! I like the location of the crag and it stays really dry. All these things kept me going back. Also Matt Wright was trying Evolution, so was super psyched and this helped massively as we were both pushing our levels together and that made it super fun.
How hard is Hubble really? It was a step forward in terms of difficulty for me. The route starts from a big flake. Most people reach straight for a huge pinch. I was too short for this so I held an intermediate and a foothold to get the pinch. From the pinch you reach right to an undercut and move your feet above a lip and bring your left hand into a two-finger pocket undercut. This is the hardest move. Then you slap right for a slopey crimp, then there's a big pinch, then an undercut crimp. Then I bring my feet above another lip and slap for a rough crimp. This is the redpoint crux. From there to the top it's 7c.
To be honest, I don't get into 'flow' on a route. If I am poor with my feet I just think it needs more practise. I think the stronger the arms the more you can flow. Although when you are really dialled into a route and go at it super rested and all out that's the best feeling ever!
I enjoy working a sport route because I want to climb routes that require me to become better and stronger. Even doing an extra hand or foot move is then extremely rewarding. I enjoy the nerves, too, when you get close, that's the most exciting part!
I trained for Hubble via fingerboard and campus board but my preferred way of doing the specifics is just by trying the route lots. Something I learnt from Hubble was that trying other climbs wasn't beneficial. I climbed purely on Hubble last week and this made the difference between sending and not.
Raven Tor is great. There is lots of complaining about conditions and trying hard routes! It's so compact that you can have people climb 8B boulders and 8c sport, so it's busy and entertaining.
I'm going to try Mutation next: it'll be my third 9a if I get it. I'll put some decent effort into it. It suits me more than Hubble I think, so I'm hopeful.
WATCH: Steve McClure climb Hubble:
WATCH: Adam Ondra tries Rainman 9b, Britain's hardest climb:
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