INTERVIEW: Lee and Grounsell on Rare Lichen, E9

by Duncan Campbell Apr/2014
This article has been read 7,165 times

+Clogwyn y Tarw (Gribin Facet) showing the line of Rare Lichen - E9, 197 kbClogwyn y Tarw (Gribin Facet) showing the line of Rare Lichen - E9
© Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor, Mar 2011

On the 4th of April, Nathan Lee and Oli Grounsell made impressively quick repeats of Leo Houlding's bold Ogwen arete testpiece, Rare Lichen, E9 6c (UKC News Report).

Nathan Lee, based in Sheffield, is no stranger to hard, bold headpoints having successfully climbed a number of hard routes such as; 

  • Meshuga, E9 6c, Black Rocks
  • Unknown Stones, E9 6c, Wimberry - First ascent (UKC News Item)
  • The Zone. E9 6c, Curbar (Video)
  • Appointment With Death, E9 6c, Wimberry - 3rd ascent (Video)
  • Knockin' On Heaven's Door, E8/9 6c, Curbar (Video)

To see Nathan's impressive ticklist, click here.

Oli Grounsell, who is based in North Wales, is also no stranger to hard, bold routes having climbed the Curbar testpiece The Zone, E9 6c, (UKC News Item). More recently, Oli made the 2nd ascent of Stevie Haston's Night Stalker, E8, at Craig Doris on the Lleyn Peninsula, showing an ability to perform even when the rock is loose (UKC News Item).

Rare Lichen was first climbed by Leo Houlding in 1997, and has had four repeats before Nathan and Oli's ascents, from Nick Dixon, Calum Muskett (UKC News Report), James McHaffie and Emma Twyford (Interview). The climbing is agreed to be around 7c to top-rope, but is a bold lead, with protection mainly being provided by small RPs. Nathan broke the route down into three sections:

- Steady ledge climbing leads to bomber cams, then a little sketchy section to place an awkward RP2 in a blind slot.

- Tricky section moving around the arete, don't fall!

- Hard crux section on the top arête after placing a few RP runners."

UKClimbing.com got in contact with Oli and Nathan to ask them a few questions about their ascents:

+Nathan Lee, 31 kbNathan Lee
© Boreal

Nathan, you did the route very quickly, with just one short session on the route before the lead. How does it compare to some of the Hard Grit routes you've done?

Nathan: It's pretty contrasting in style to routes like Meshuga [a bold and slappy E9 at Black Rocks - UKC Logbooksand Unknown Stones [Nathan's own pebble-pulling nightmare at Wimberry - UKC News Item]. As serious as they are they're more like extended boulder problems, the lead generally being over in under a minute. I was on the lead on Rare Lichen for about 5 minutes or more, placing the fiddly gear and resting. This gives you time to think, not necessarily negative thoughts or doubts, but more time to enjoy where you are. I don't find I get that on grit headpoints very often as you tend to go all guns blazing.

Oli, both you and Nathan did the route very quickly, how did it feel for the E9 grade, in your opinion?

Oli: As I've said to anyone that's asked, both myself and Nathan were lucky with the route, hence we were able to do it quickly, so I don't think that reflects on the grade too much.

Grades are subjective, maybe it's E8, maybe E9. It's hard to tell, especially when everything goes too plan.

Nathan, did you feel under pressure to lead the route when you returned, or were you prepared to not go for the lead?

Nathan: I think we both knew if the weather held we would do it. So I was more worried about the forecast letting us down. As soon as it didn't we were in the clear, though it did rain about half an hour after Oli led it!

+Oli Grounsell, 103 kbOli Grounsell
© Benno Wagner

Oli, what attracted you to Rare Lichen?

Oli: It's just such a good line in such a good location, with great climbing too. Everything you want from a route.

What is next for you both?

Nathan: Pembroke! But after that perhaps another headpoint. We'll see what the weather allows, I would be keen for a return to the Gribbin.

Oli: There is so much I want to do in Wales, I don't know where to start. I think after Easter I would like to concentrate on my sport climbing for a bit as I had a good winter bouldering so need to put it too some use, but then again Gogarth or the mountains might be equally as tempting.


Nathan Lee is sponsored by: Boreal and Mammut

Oli Grounsell is sponsored by: Evolv, Indy Climbing Wall, Mammut and V12

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