Pete Whittaker amazing new route on 'the best grit day ever'...
Wimberry Prow aka Baron Greenback
So Saturday, an incredible Gritstone day.
It’s May, it’s warm, Limestone season is upon us. But for those keen gritstoners, Limestone isn’t here, the Moorland grit is calling. More specifically Wimberry. Tom, Nathan and I were up there on Saturday. Projects all or nearly worked and we were psyched. But for everyone to succeed on there chosen subject was a near impossibility, so how it actually happened I’m not entirely sure! All I can say is it was one of the most satisfying days of grit climbing I’ve had, not just because I succeeded in what I wanted to do but to see my mates pull off some outrageous ascents. First up was Tom, his assignment for the day was Sam’s Appointment with Death. After a greasy slightly shaky start, all went smoothly in the ‘no fall zone’ and Tom pulled off what must be one of the most significant and sought after gritstone repeats. Tom has done a nice two part series to his ascent which you can see here…http://bit.ly/10r0WKo
Next up was Nathan on Order of the Phoenix an E8 (originally E9?). I’ve never climbed with Nathan before so it was really interesting to see how he worked on these gritstone horrors. Watching Nathan solo the route was well impressive, no messing, no dithering, just business, and he was up there before I could even think what had happened.
Then finally it was up to me to try and do my project. My project was the direct start to Appointment With Fear. I remember when I did Appointment With Fear coming back down to the bottom and looking up at the unclimbed prow and thinking, ‘that’s got to be one of the best lines on Gritstone, I want to climb it.’ The protection though? No cracks, pockets or edges will take any sort of gear. Three old aid bolts right in the centre of the route are what entice you and make you think…’maybe, just maybe’ However I heard people talking about how Miles had been trying it. Rumours that he was crimping so hard it looked like his fingers were going to snap, rumours of a Font 8B crux and rumours that it was so brick hard it was near impossibility to stop and clip the bolts. Well it must be all these things right? Only now are we starting to see Miles’ old E8’s being repeated and he did those years ago. After hearing these tales the prow went to the back of my mind and was slightly written off. I’m no Font 8B climber, plus I can’t see any holds on it and thinking about it I’ve never seen any holds on Miles’ other routes and this thing is way steeper then those.
Fast forward a year or two, I’m frustrated that everyone else has cool looking projects and I’m not stuck into anything. I’m tired of searching and scratching out the new lines on my local crags… I want something that’s hard, that’s going to be a real project for me, not just something I can nip up in a session or two, something on grit… yes, I like grit. I do know of one. Nahhhh, that’s way to hard for you… I thought you wanted something hard? Well I do… Well push on then, and go and check it out…When I abbed down the line for the first time I was shocked to see actual holds. Quarter pad, positive, crimpy holds and they all seemed to be in perfect places. If one wasn’t there it wouldn’t have worked, but it all seemed obvious. It was snowing, windy and freezing but I still got my boots on and had a go at the individual moves. After an hour or so of freezing to death and swinging about in mid air trying to jug about and make rope directional’s, I’d actually managed to do all the individual moves, I couldn’t believe it. This thing was on! Rumours of Font 8B had been obviously been Chinese Whispers and f8b seemed like what it might be.
Over the next few months I made 5 or 6 more trips up there working moves, testing the bolts and working out gear knowledge. I then managed to toprope the line once in a oner and that was it, it was time for some leading action. I reasoned that the bolts were good collectively and with a nice soft comp style belay I should be fine if I fell onto them. My plan was, to climb the bold section to the bolts, clip all three of them (they can only be clipped from one position on the route), then down climb to the floor for a rest, then blast to the top in one.
The climbing on the bold section went quickly and smoothly, bolts one and two were clipped smoothly. The third is a little more awkward as it is out of reach, so I hatched a plan to use a bamboo cane as an extendable quickdraw/clipstick on route. As well as the great climbing on grit, I think the quirkiness that each route holds is what brings it to life. Where else would you use a bamboo cane to clip an out of reach bolt on route? Some people might think this is daft, stupid, unethical, but at the end of the day I think its these little things that bring routes to life. After a pumpy down climb and rest, it was on. My first attempt landed me outrageously pumped about three moves from the jug and I was off. Aid bolts held, excellent, round two…
Enter the crux, good crimp, rock round the arête, terrible sloping edge, heel smear, long move to positive edge…breathe…hold the cut loose, get those heels really high by the head, slap slap slap, biscuit, jug, no hands rest, its in the bag. Overall it has to be one of the most satisfying grit ascents that I’ve done. The quality of line, climbing, position, holds, danger and safety are all perfect, you couldn’t have asked it to be better in any other way.
Everyone always asks about grades, I don’t think people should get too hung up about the grade of this one, because it’s the quality that really matters, but if you have to then I reckoned it was tough f8b to toprope. If the bolts hold, it’s safe and hard. If they rip its massively bad news. Just be careful basically, we don’t want another Parthian Shot.
Also should be noted the first 5 moves Miles’ and I started differently. I started round the left side of the prow and Miles was coming from straight underneath. Miles’ way is definitely harder and bolder which is why maybe he never did it (or maybe it was the fact that when I told him I’d fallen onto the bolts he thought I was a nutter, but everyone has different opinions and ratings they put on gear so it’s all subjective). However, either way you look at it both ways are superb and there is no getting away from that.
I have called it ‘Baron Greenback,’ which is a name Miles had when he was working it, and he was the one who really got this route going, so cheers.
Look out for the film of Baron Greenback coming in the next few weeks filmed by HotAches Productions
And just how steep is Baron Greenback...