Choronzon E10 8b+ became the hardest route ever climbed at Pembroke. The first ever female ascent of Ron Fawcett's famous E7, Strawberries. The first ever flash of an E9. And many more besides. So far it's been an autumn of impressive, hard trad ascents from the Peak to Skye, Cornwall to Wales. Sarah Stirling brings us a round up.
The autumn of hard trad was kicked off by those lovers of crazy epics, Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker, who climbed all the Brown and Whillans routes in East and Western Grit in a day. Over 130 pitches of climbing up to E6 6c, 23.6 miles of off-road running between 17 crags and 22hrs 36mins of sweating. Pete's face and hands sum up what that feels like.
READ the BMC interview: Randall and Whittaker's monster day out
Tom Randall tweeted:
Meanwhile, James Pearson, his French wife Caroline Ciavaldini, and legendary Japanese climber Yuji Hirayama were on a mini Welsh road-trip, claiming some impressive climbing 'firsts' on the way. First up is James' flash of Charlie Woodburn's route, Something's Burning E9 7a in Stennis Ford at Pembroke. It was (as far as we know) the first ever flash of an E9.
And over in North Wales, Alex Mason headed to Red Wall Promontory at Gogarth South Stack to hold the ropes for James McHaffie, who had his eyes on a new route. Caff wasn't feeling it, so encouraged Alex, a freelance route-setter, to try. Alex took a big fall after ripping a block off the wall while lay-backing, but had another go and managed to successfully climb the line.
Alex commented: "Thanks to Caff for sharing the sharp end. I've wanted to do a new route at Gogarth for a long time."
There are no photos of his ascent, because Caff dropped his phone in the sea. Sorry.
Japanese legend Yuji Hirayama is an incredible all-rouder (first ever 8c onsight, 9a+ first ascents, speed ascents on the Nose, World Champ...) but until recently he hadn't tried UK trad. Then he watched a Hard Grit DVD, got psyched, and decided to take on The Big Issue E9 at Pembroke, no less.
Before Yuji's attempt, only John Dunne, Steve McClure, Gaz Parry and Adrian Berry had led this controversial trad route, with varying amounts of in-situ gear. Yuji clipped one peg and one thread on the way. It could be the best style the route has ever been climbed in, but we'll not start that one...
Yuji commented: "I thought that UK trad climbing was real climbing. You have to find the balance between being brave and not being kamikaze."
READ the BMC interview: Big Issue was just a prologue, UK trad is real climbing
Not ready for a rest-day quite yet: Team Yuji, Caroline and James headed to Nesscliffe, where they bagged an impressive haul of E8s. Yuji headpointed the classic, My Piano; Caroline made the first female ascent of Une Jeune Fille Quatre Vingt Dix Ans; and James climbed a new E8 and then flashed Une Jeune Fille.
Following all the excitement in Wales, Tom Bunn drew attention down south, making the first ascent of an amazing-looking E7 at Tintagel Head in Cornwall: Hunter's Moon E7 6b/c. Tom took the photo below himself while climbing, using an intervelometer. It plugs into the camera, and you can set how often, how many and what delay the pictures are taken at automatically. Clever!
Tom commented: "What a BEAUTY of a line! On Friday I made the first ascent of 'Hunter's Moon' - E7 6b/c Alex Moore made a swift second ascent shortly after, and look what the camera captured..."
Inspired to search out more new routes after his first ascent at Gogarth, Alex Mason headed to Anglesey, and climbed a line to the right of Dreams and Screams: Gimble in the Wabe E7 6b. Oli Groundsell made the second ascent afterwards, and flashed the route.
A week later, Neil Mawson headed to Stack Rocks and climbed a new route on a 30-degree, 30m overhanging wall. It's the hardest route ever climbed in Pembroke, with a sport grade of 8b+ just to top-rope it. Neil called it Choronzon, and thinks it's E10 8b+ but says only repeat ascents can confirm the grade. He's been trying to climb it for several years.
If you fancy trying the route, Neil says it breaks down into a bold, cruxy 7c+/8a then a shake-out and a cluster of gear. Then it's a 9-move Font 7b+ section to a pumpy gear placement. A few more tricky moves lead to a no-hands rest in a small cave. After that it's around E4/5 to the top. Good luck.
Neil commented: "I'm so psyched to have done the first ascent of such a great line down in Pembroke. It was great to have my Dad belay me on my first ascent as he introduced me to climbing at the age of 14. My aim when I went looking for this route in 2011 was to find a difficult challenge on traditional gear and I certainly got that!"
WATCH: Neil Mawson on Choronzon (E10) on BMC TV
Some Scottish action, too: Charlie Woodburn managed to complete a long-term project as well. He repeated Dave Birkett's Skye Wall E7/8 6b on Coir' Uisg Buttress after a continuing battle with bad weather over the last few years. An inflatable dingy, an obstinate attitude and an accurate forecast finally ensured success.
Charlie commented: "So after four trips over three years, what seems like endless driving, boating, walking, forecast checking and forecast lying, the rain finally stayed away and loch Coruisk produced one of the best weekends I've had. Skye Wall ranks as one of the most beautiful routes I've done, but to do it with old mate Sandy Ogilvie and accompanied by the young sweetheart Gilly McArthur, with the sun shining and cruising up the loch on the wee inflatable, it doesn't really get much better.
WATCH: Charlie Woodburn climbing Skye Wall (E8 6b) on BMC TV
It turned out that James Pearson had also snuck up to Scotland. He made the fourth ascent of Rhapsody E11 7a at Dumbarton Rock near Glasgow. It's a route that has been on his mind for a few years. Back in 2008 he failed to climb it, but questioned its difficulty compared to Walk of Life in Devon, the route that he graded E12 7a, but was subsequently downgraded to E9 6c. His opinions caused controversy in the UK climbing community. James wanted to put things right, and wrote a very honest blog after finally climbing the route. Well worth a read.
Meanwhile James' wife Caroline ticked off Requiem E8 6b, also at Dumbarton Rock. Originally a sport climber, Caroline has been getting into UK trad over the past few years. She adds this route to a growing and impressive ticklist: including her E8 6c at Nesscliffe earlier in the month, she's also climbed Chupacabra E8 6c and Chicama E9 6c.
And finally, Emma Twyford successfully head-pointed Strawberries E7 6b at Tremadog. She's the first woman to climb the route, which was first put up by Ron Fawcett in 1980. The sustained line has only seen one British onsight by Steve McClure (in June this year). Emma also recently climbed Unjustified 8b/c at Malham and flashed Bucket Dynasty at Dovedale E7 6b.
After climbing Strawberries Emma commented: “I took a few lobs on previous attempts! Hard to onsight!”