/ So what was the hardest trad route in 1970?

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Steve Woollard on 19 Aug 2013
What was the hardest UK trad route climbed in 1970 or before?

The Crow at Cheddar possibly?
Hay - on 19 Aug 2013
In reply to Steve Woollard:
Bluebell Grooves is quite an old route. Johnny Cunningham chop route at E4 6a.
Think it might have had 1pa though.....
bill briggs1 - on 19 Aug 2013
In reply to Steve Woollard:

Our Father must be up there.
johncoxmysteriously - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Steve Woollard:

The Crow is nowhere near. Our Father would certainly be the traditional suggestion.

jcm
Michael Gordon - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Steve Woollard:

Longhope Route?
Al Evans on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to bill briggs1:
> (In reply to Steve Woollard)
>
> 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?
old skool on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Steve Woollard:

The Beatnik maybe?
Al Evans on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to old skool: A peculiar choice, had it been led then? I remember top roping it in the late 60's with Jack Street. Even Jack wouldn't lead it, the first lead I can be sure of was by Al Rouse a couple of years later. Very much a specialist sandstone climbers route, Boysen might have been a candidate.
Certainly a good 6a with no pro, who was it who reputedly did the f/a, I forget now.
johncoxmysteriously - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Al Evans:

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....

jcm
frank price - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Al Evans: Jim O'Neil? I remember a day in 71(?) when he , Al and Rab were trawling along and doing every route in turn (well Al and Rab were anyway). They didn't do Beatnik that day but I think Jim claimed to have top roped it first.
Al Evans on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously: Well it was certainly well known, and named by the time me and Jack visited Frodsham which was pre Al's time, it's a name you'll know, I just can't bring it to mind, whether it had been led or just top roped is another question?
johncoxmysteriously - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Al Evans:

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.

jcm
johncoxmysteriously - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

Derek Walker agrees with Frank and me respectively

http://www.climbers-club.co.uk/journal/original/1995%20Journal-p64-66.pdf

(also a few other Google sources).

jcm
Al Evans on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously: A bit of research confirms that John O'Neil top roped it in the early 60's, so it was unled when we top roped it, I can't find a lead earlier than Al Rouse's in 1971.
johncoxmysteriously - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

Not to mention photographic evidence on this very site...

http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=5623

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.

jcm
Alex Winter - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously: Yes, I've always understood that Jim O'Neil made the first top-roped ascent, and Al Rouse the first solo in the early 70s. My Dad knows Jim's brother; I lent him the new guide so he can see the photos of the first TR ascent. Apparently Jim died several years ago sadly.

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.
Offwidth - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Steve Woollard:

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).
Offwidth - on 20 Aug 2013
johncoxmysteriously - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

>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?

jcm
Offwidth - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

I think it was an ellimimate start to a V6.
johncoxmysteriously - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

OK, so the 7c bit not high up. Still...

jcm
frank price - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously: and most of those flakes below the roof had broken off by 1970. They had when I top roped it in '72 anyways (and before you ask I didn't break 'em either)
Al Evans on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Offwidth: I've posted a pic of Gill on The Thimble in the Historical gallery, I'll link to it when the mods approve.
johncoxmysteriously - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

http://www.filipbabicz.com/tematiche-varie/the-hardest-problem-eve/

According to this chap it sounds as though V9 only applies without certain holds. Or something. Presumably Frank Price is better informed!

jcm
Simon Caldwell - on 20 Aug 2013
Al Evans on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Toreador: Note the footwear :-)
johncoxmysteriously - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Toreador:

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?

jcm
Offwidth - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

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:

http://www.johngill.net/
Offwidth - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

...including an old video clip of an ascent of the Thimble.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUi3CuUL9n0
johncoxmysteriously - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

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?)

jcm
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johncoxmysteriously - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

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.

jcm
Offwidth - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

You were sort of right...a guard rail?:

http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/1336236/The-Thimble-John-Gill
johncoxmysteriously - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

http://www.mountainsandwater.com/2011/09/foundation-of-modern-climbing-50th.html

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.

jcm
rgold - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

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.
johncoxmysteriously - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to rgold:

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.

jcm
rgold - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

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.
johncoxmysteriously - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to rgold:

Brilliant - thank you.

jcm
Tom V - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

I thought it was Vector, not Tensor. Or was there more than one Tremadoc OB?
Iain Peters - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Steve Woollard:

Wall of Horrors?
Mick Ward - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Iain Peters:

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.

Mick



Mick Ward - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

> 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?)

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.

Mick
pneame on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to rgold:
That cheered my day. Cheers
Iain Peters - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Mick Ward:

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.
Rob Exile Ward on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Mick Ward: The film of Brown climbing the Gates illustrates that to perfection - squirrel is a great (if not flattering!) simile.

Watching Jonny Woodward on the other hand was like climbing with a four legged spider...
Rob Exile Ward on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously: 'The Crow is nowhere near' Surprised you are so dismissive. A 6a pitch 6a that only started 100' above the car park... Rocksport had an underrated, iconic picture of Littlejohn's lead which was simply terrifying.
Gordon Stainforth - on 20 Aug 2013
In reply to Iain Peters:
> (In reply to Steve Woollard)
>
> 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:

http://www.gordonstainforth.co.uk/images/SyrettWofHNov70.jpg
John Stainforth - on 21 Aug 2013
In reply to Mick Ward:

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.
johncoxmysteriously - on 21 Aug 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

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.

jcm
Mick Ward - on 21 Aug 2013
In reply to John Stainforth:

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.

Mick
Gordon Stainforth - on 21 Aug 2013
In reply to Mick Ward:

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.
Mick Ward - on 21 Aug 2013
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> 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.

Mick

johncoxmysteriously - on 21 Aug 2013
In reply to Mick Ward:

I remember those! It was a great idea indeed. Steve B on Strap was another one, of course.

jcm
John Stainforth - on 21 Aug 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

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.
Offwidth - on 22 Aug 2013
In reply to Iain Peters:

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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