/ So what was the hardest trad route in 1970?
The Crow at Cheddar possibly?
Bluebell Grooves is quite an old route. Johnny Cunningham chop route at E4 6a.
Think it might have had 1pa though.....
Our Father must be up there.
The Crow is nowhere near. Our Father would certainly be the traditional suggestion.
> Our Father must be up there.
Yep, my vote as one who was there (like you Bill) would be for Our Father didn't The Crow have a few points of aid in those days?
The Beatnik maybe?
Certainly a good 6a with no pro, who was it who reputedly did the f/a, I forget now.
Al Rouse, surely?
Someone's going to come along in a minute and say something on Merseyside sandstone had been soloed in motorcycle boots by then....
Yes, sorry, I meant that Al Rouse was the first to solo it. Which is the same thing as leading, right - there's no gear? I don't know who first top-roped it.
Derek Walker agrees with Frank and me respectively
(also a few other Google sources).
Not to mention photographic evidence on this very site...
A number of people seem to think this is E6. Wonder why it's not well known as Britain's first E5? I think we normally come up with one of Proctor's (or McHardy's?) Millstone routes when we have these 'first route at grade' threads, that is if you don't count Goliath.
Beatnik is one of those routes which is difficult to grade since the introduction of pads. Without, it's probably solid E5, with a weird balancy crux pop at half height to a good edge about two feet above Jim's hands in that photo. But with a few pads, a forest of bracken, and a couple of burly spotters it feels more like a highball V4 with an E2 top-out.
What about outside the UK? John Gill's Thimble was early 60s at 5.12a (E5ish); his highball boulder problem Red Cross Overhang was V9 (mid-E grade in modern money?); Macabre Roof was late 60's, Greg Lowe 5.12b/c (E6ish).
Some non-UK lists:
>his highball boulder problem Red Cross Overhang was V9 (mid-E grade in modern money?);
Blimey - are you sure? Font 7c at height sounds more than mid-grade to me, unless you're taking a pretty hard line on what 'mid' means. E7?
I think it was an ellimimate start to a V6.
OK, so the 7c bit not high up. Still...
According to this chap it sounds as though V9 only applies without certain holds. Or something. Presumably Frank Price is better informed!
I never remember the exact deal with this. Is it that there used to be a back-breaking sign underneath it and then the authorities took it away, or was there a reasonable landing when Gill did it and the authorities have subsequently installed a back-breaking sign with the result no-one has been able to do it for the last 30 years or whatever?
It's the way he did it and subsequently a much easier way was discovered using different holds, its an eliminate but it is confirmed V9. He supposedly did some other ellimintes that were V9 or even possibly V10 in the years around 1960.
Much more John Gill stuff here if you are interested:
Liking his Joe Brown chat, though I've read it before.
Does anyone know of any video of Joe in action on the internet? From his younger days, I mean - I know there's some TV stuff of him. But say, him doing Tensor with Julie Collins - does that still exist, even? I remember Jim Perrin talking somewhere about seeing some amazing black-and-white footage of JB as a youth soloing something at Ilkley (Walewska, possibly?)
Wonder if it's one of those deals where Gill did or didn't use the arÍte until this or that height - looks like potential for it.
No sign there AFAICS. Maybe I made it up.
You were sort of right...a guard rail?:
This chap seems to reckon it used to be there but isn't now. Surprised if so that more people don't do this route. Maybe it's because it's in a parking lot in North Dakota nowhere near where anyone actually climbs.
Here's the exact deal: The face is over a parking turn-off on the Needles Highway. When Gill did the route, there was a wooden guard-rail a few feet out from the base of the face that made anything other than a very carefully controlled jump a likely back-breaker. Eventually, the guardrail was removed and replaced by one that runs behind the Thimble---you can see this new guard rail (and the Thimble route in profile) in http://www.supertopo.com/photos/9/63/217785_11365_L.jpg . Actually, the first thing that happened was that the portion of the rail directly underneath the Thimble was removed, probably because of a parking accident. See http://www.montanha.bio.br/thimble_p.jpg . It is now possible to blanket the landing zone with bouldering pads, making the undertaking less committing than it was originally.
Thanks. Please tell me the Thimble is the smaller one of those two obelisks and not the one that looks about twice the height of Stanage?!
Mind you, if so it also looks a bit steeper in that photo than one usually gets the impression.
Yes, the Thimble is the "small obelisk." The pinnacle behind on the right is the Needle's Eye, which coincidentally, I made the "first" ascent of in 1964. (See http://www.supertopo.com/tr/The-First-Ascent-of-the-Needles-Eye/t222n.html ) The larger mass on the left is the Bell Tower.
Brilliant - thank you.
I thought it was Vector, not Tensor. Or was there more than one Tremadoc OB?
Wall of Horrors?
An interesting one. Given the circumstances of the FA (a solo, when Austin reputedly couldn't hang the break for more than 15 seconds) highly commendable. But didn't he get a leg-up on the start - V4/V5?
Compare with Our Father, really in your face, not something you'd want to come off - but not quite the chop route that Wall of Horrors must have been, pre cams. I'd love to know what was the wire that John Syrett supposedly spent 15 minutes placing. I guess John Stainforth will come on and tell us.
Perhaps Perrin's Censor might get honourable mention as well. Didn't a young John Allen have to get rescued from it? I watched Drummond lead it on a grim day. Slow and deliberate - like trench warfare.
John, there's some footage of Brown soloing various things at Ilkley. If I remember correctly, one of them is S Crack. When I lived up there, it was a favourite; I must have soloed it 50 times. In terms of conventional style, I'd have got 10 out of 10 for smoothness. (Would probably just power up and unashamedly lurch for the jug now!)
But you just couldn't compare Brown. He was running up it like a squirrel, a sort of extra dimension. The only other climber I've seen with such kinaesthetic ability is... well, no surprises, Johnny Dawes. It's as though both had an extra dimension denied to the rest of us. Genius, I guess.
That cheered my day. Cheers
And of course, the 60s were the boom years for crags such as Gogarth, Cloggy and The Pass, not forgetting Dove in the Lakes or Berry Head. If the present day top end 5c or 6a was the benchmark, given the gear available, (the odd peg or two for aid notwithstanding) and the quality of the rock in many cases, then routes such as Rat Race, Dreadnought, The Skull or The Boldest (minus its bolt) must rate very highly, not forgetting the likes of Carnivore and Shibboleth over the border. Grit and limestone may well have been the forcing ground for sheer technicality, but even today with a rack full of every conceivable item of modern protection, peering up the Red Wall at Gogarth makes one realise what bold undertakings they were. Would it be fair to say I wonder whether on sighting the FA of an E3/4 in the 60s equates to a contemporary head point of say an E7?
Might be interesting to post a list of the hardest routes in each decade from 1900 to the present day. Leo Dickinson and I started to put one together for a film project some time ago. I might see if we've still got it somewhere.
Watching Jonny Woodward on the other hand was like climbing with a four legged spider...
> Wall of Horrors?
Worth putting up my brother's picture of John Syrett making the first onsight lead in a howling gale in November 1970:
I think the protection John fixed was two opposing small nuts on wire (Clog 1's?), buried very deep in the horizontal crack. ( I am pretty sure about the two nuts, less sure about the size.) But I wasn't able to get up there to see for myself what they were like.
Is Crow 6a? I thought it was 5c. Anyway, I didn't think it was that hard. Of Littlejohn's routes done by then I'd say Dreadnought was harder. And I'd say Our Father was a lot harder again, but maybe that's a modern view and OF then was so much less serious than other routes of the day because at least it had some reasonable gear. I don't really know.
It's true that it's very difficult to compare the likes of Dinosaur (and for that matter, as someone said, Longhope Route). They may well have had plenty of aid on the FA but I have the impression that often some of it was for gardening.
Also, the route which is rated hardest in the guidebook now may well not have been the hardest with the equipment and attitudes of the time.
I think you've got to listen to people who were there, really. My impression is that OF was considered the top route of the day, but that may be because Peak climbers wrote the magazines.
Thanks John, I always wondered. Amazing tenacity to fiddle around with small, opposing nuts while hanging one-handed! And to trust opposing nuts that you couldn't really see when you went for it and might be pulled askew by the rope...
I'm so glad Gordon put up your photograph above. I remember seeing it in Rocksport and being blown away. Utterly iconic. It seems no less iconic over 40 years later.
I should have used it in that 'Crux' exhibition I was asked to get together for the Kendal Festival a few years ago. I don't know/can't remember why I didn't.
The story of our lives! But it's one of the absolute greats. You'll know to use it next time...
Back when Tom Prentice was editor of Climber, Jim Perrin did a short series of essays around evocative photos from, I think, the 1960s onwards. It was a great idea. There was the old black and white photo of John Cleare's of Crew, five years after the FA, bridging across the little groove on Great Wall. Big Ron, looking uber-focussed on one of the Cave Routes on Gordale. I suggested the 'pieta-like' image of Rachel Farmer reaching for the chain on Raindogs, the ultimate disbelief/belief that drives us on, through so much failure and pain. Is this really going to happen?? Sometimes, as with John Syrett on Wall of Horrors, it does. For which, we are grateful.
I remember those! It was a great idea indeed. Steve B on Strap was another one, of course.
I think Bernard Newman's pic of Steve B on Strap is one of the very best pictures of a rock climber, in which one can see his/her face, I have ever seen.
You can test the commitment by using old gear (although some practice might be required). I suspect your 60's E4 onsight FA was similar to a modern hard E6 onsight and an E8 headpoint
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