/ NEWS/ARTICLE: Strawberries - A British On Sight

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Strawberries (E6 6b) is a fierce crack-line taking the challenge of the overhanging headwall at the top of the Vector Buttress on the famous Craig Bwlch y Moch area of Tremadog. Legend has it that the route has never had a true on sight ascent.

Whilst researching the history of the route for a UKC article, I came across some interesting facts... including an ascent that was thought to be the first British On Sight Ascent but unfortunately wasn't, as I was informed after the article went live!

In the article I also speak to German super-star Stefan Glowacz, both over the telephone and face to face in Germany. I find out once and for all the exact style in which he climbed the route...

News Item: http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/older.html?month=09&year=2008#n45327

Full UKC Article: http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=1117
john howard 1 - on 19 Sep 2008
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC: Really interesting article Jack, cheers
Al Evans on 19 Sep 2008
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC: Good article, and OK he's a mate, but I think the one downside of the article is that it disparages Ron's genius at the time of the first ascent, both in conceiving the line and assuming it was possible (and proving he was correct).
Michael Ryan - on 19 Sep 2008
In reply to Al Evans:
> (In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC) Good article, and OK he's a mate, but I think the one downside of the article is that it disparages Ron's genius at the time of the first ascent, both in conceiving the line and assuming it was possible (and proving he was correct).

Seems there was a competition for the first ascent between two climbers, with different approaches in style.

"It's March 1980, Tremadog is very much 'in vogue'. Think Adidas tracksuits, 3/4 length tights, EB's and huge chalk bags. If you've got an orange vest to wear over your T-shirt, all the better. The race for the first ascent of Strawberries is on and Ron Fawcett is in the lead. He eventually climbs the route after several falls over a period of two weekends, reaching the top in the yo-yo style - with his ropes pre-clipped in runners from a previous high-point, his gear pre-placed on abseil, meaning no energy wasted on his actual ascent attempt.

Dodgy tactics? Absolutely! But who cares, Strawberries is climbed and Ron secures his place at the top of the pack. Close behind is John Redhead, who was also in the running for the first ascent, but didn't quite get there in time:

"John would have done it months before if he had used the same tactics" Keith Robertson is quoted as saying in the CC guidebook history section.

Sometimes a bit of 'cheating' is the only way to win! A few years on and the crown of Britain's rock prince became up for grabs. Firing on to the scene was a very ambitious Jerry Moffatt who had designs on unseating Fawcett and becoming the reigning champion himself. A few years later and Jerry had proved himself to have taken climbing to a new level, but not on Strawberries. It took him four falls and two days, finally resorting to the yo-yo tactics of his predecessor to secure success."

a lakeland climber on 19 Sep 2008
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC:

Having seen that shot of Stefan before, I'm still surprised at the length of the (self-imposed) run-out, you'd go miles if you fluffed a move!! Just how hard is it at that point?

7c/7c+?? Given that E7 used to be reckoned equivalent to F8a, (*) it (Strawberries) could well be top end E6. Given that it is a different style of climbing to that of most routes on-sighted at this sort of level maybe it isn't surprising that it doesn't get cruised very often.

* If someone has a copy of the Yorkshire Limestone supplement to hand that first had the routes on the Catwalk then I think that Raindogs got E7.

ALC
Al Evans on 19 Sep 2008
In reply to Mick Ryan - UKClimbing.com: Good answer Mick.
SCrossley on 19 Sep 2008
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC:
"I remember that it wasn't a scary route. When Mike topped out he decided to just take the lob from the top, so he stepped back down and jumped off on to the gear!

Yes, right. Is this a common practice, I suppose it beats walking down.
Stuart S - on 19 Sep 2008
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC:

The ironic thing, of course, is that anyone reading the article and watching the video clip (or the On Sight DVD, once released) will now no longer be able to truly on sight Strawberries!

All miles above my grade though, so I'm happily looking forward to the DVD's release.

Good article too - nice bit of research.
Niall Grimes - on 19 Sep 2008
Great article jack, high standard research there, enjoyed that,

niall
In reply to Everyone: Just getting some info in via email that there may be some confusion with the Al Murray and Mike Owen on-sight.

I'll be looking in to it further - could be a case of changing terminology, or they could still have done it, nothing conclusive yet. The article will be updated if there is a change in the story.

Jack
AJM - on 19 Sep 2008
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC:

It gets convoluted, clearly :)

However, I've high hopes that it may be able to, once and for all, prove some or none of the below:

  • that all those people who say they've got a mate who climbs E7 but just isn't interested in publicity might be just right after all
  • that they may have been right 20 years ago but not now in the age of mass media
  • that climbers were better then
  • that climbers were stronger then but bolder now
  • nothing at all


;)

AJM
Pedro50 - on 19 Sep 2008
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC:

Great article, does raise some questions however. Could Mike and Al both have genuinely onsighted it? (Think about it.)
And if Mike jumped off, he would have to go round to the top to retrieve his gear, unless of course Al then did it with the gear in place. Look forward to any update.
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC: Right - a case of terminology failure and communication breakdown.

However, the history of Strawberries is now documented, and the first British on sight is still up for grabs.

The article has now been updated, you may need to force refresh your browser to see the change.

Jack
andy farnell - on 19 Sep 2008
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC: Still, a fantastic from both Al and Mike (one of the unsung all time greats of UK climbing. How may others have redpointed 8b+ at age 50?).

Andy F
alicia - on 19 Sep 2008
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC:

What is 'force refresh'? I hit the usual refresh button on my browser but I still get the same article. Is 'force refresh' something different?

Good article, and nice photos!
Ian Carr - on 19 Sep 2008
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC:

What about Dougie Hall's attempt ? A true onsight climber.

He fell off, very high after the crux, pumping out on the very last moves. On a single 9, he landed below me in space, falling the full length of the headwall !

Gutted.
jim robertson - on 20 Sep 2008
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC:

Can a route of the stature of "Strawberries" ever be truly on-sighted? (I choose "Stature" carefully).
Jerry Handren - on 20 Sep 2008
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC:
My understanding is that Moffat dogged it out, Fawcett did a yo-yo ascent.

Could be wrong, but that is a huge difference if its true.

Also you give the impression that Fawcett pre-placed the gear. What he did was rap in and replace the gear that he had placed free and on the lead on his previous ascent. (I think at one point he had left some gear in overnight and it had been ripped off by the time he returned).

Again thats a big difference.

Not that I expect a young lad like yourself to understand the fine points of early 80's frigging.

shark - on 20 Sep 2008
In reply to Jerry Handren: My understanding is that Moffat dogged it out,

My recollection of the write up in the mags or the guidebook is that Moffatt top-roped it then led it in 'good style'. In Extreme Rock Pollitt said that Jerry and he failed to top rope it and 'Jerry led it in a rather untidy manner the following year'

I was in Petes Eats once when Paul Pritchard? was giving the gear and moves beta to George Smith drawing a small topo. 'Big' George was later reported to have stripped the gear ending up hanging by the Vector crux.
Jerry Handren - on 20 Sep 2008
In reply to Simon Lee:
Don't know about write ups, thats just what I heard from a certain bandy legged, shaggy haired individual.
In reply to Jerry Handren:

From the CC history section:

"A subsequent ascent by J Moffatt was made over two days. Moffatt wanted to rename the route as he said he had made an ascent in 'better style'. This still involved four falls and a yo-yo over two days."

From Extreme Rock (Andy Politt): "At that time we (Moffatt and Pollitt) made an unsuccessful attempt to top-rope the pitch. Jerry led it in a rather untidy manner the following year."

Those are my sources for that particular line in the article.

Michael Ryan - on 20 Sep 2008
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC:

So who to believe.

Two strong and big egos there......both vying for Fawcett's crown.

Tis murky, the history of climbing in the UK.
Jerry Handren - on 21 Sep 2008
In reply to Mick Ryan - UKClimbing.com:
Hi Mick
you have to wonder if the history of real world events is as full of lies and BS as the history of climbing.
I expect it is.....probably worse in fact....
Al Evans on 21 Sep 2008
In reply to andy farnell:
> (In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC) Still, a fantastic from both Al and Mike (one of the unsung all time greats of UK climbing. How may others have redpointed 8b+ at age 50?).
>
> Andy F

And at any age done The Groove at Malham :-)
Ben Farley - on 21 Sep 2008
In reply to andy farnell:
> (In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC) Still, a fantastic from both Al and Mike (one of the unsung all time greats of UK climbing. How may others have redpointed 8b+ at age 50?).
>
> Andy F

Good to see Mike getting some credit in the article and in your comments Andy. Just about the strongest, most steady climber I've climbed with and arguably the nicest man in climbing.

Mick Ward - on 21 Sep 2008
In reply to Ben Farley:

> ...and arguably the nicest man in climbing.

Yes, he probably is.

Mick

stp - on 22 Sep 2008
In reply to Ian Carr:

> What about Dougie Hall's attempt ?

Well the top of the route is where the crux is. And to be fair to Dougie it's a long lock off (he's small) and with no chalk on the route it's hard to see where to reach to.

Many much harder routes are onsighted nowadays all the time. It's just that trad climbing is not so popular these days and the best onsights get done in the sport climbing areas.
Enty - on 22 Sep 2008
In reply to stp:
> (In reply to Ian Carr)
>
> [...]
>
>
> Many much harder routes are onsighted nowadays all the time. It's just that trad climbing is not so popular these days and the best onsights get done in the sport climbing areas.

Silly statement?

The Ent

James Oswald - on 22 Sep 2008
In reply to stp:
"Many much harder routes are onsighted nowadays all the time. It's just that trad climbing is not so popular these days and the best onsights get done in the sport climbing areas."

You kidding?!?!
Mark Kemball - on 26 Sep 2008
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC: A good story I heard (from the then Manchester Polly climbers, possibly Craig Smith), was that between Fawcett's attempts, some wag abbed the line and glued on some bolt hangers. I'd be interested if anyone could confirm this tale!
Mark Stevenson - on 26 Sep 2008
In reply to stp:
> Many much harder routes are onsighted nowadays all the time.

Worldwide certainly, but with the obvious exception of strong Steve, I'm not convinced that many routes with 7c+ or harder climbing are getting onsighted in the UK. If UK climbers have onsighted that hard I think you'll find it is more likely to have been on foreign limestone.

For example, Lucy Creamers onsight this year of Body Machine at only 7c was rare enough to be newsworthy. I think you'll find that if people are onsighting that hard, like Lucy they will also have onsighted at E7 trad anyway, pretty much invalidating your argument.

Cue a new thread - how many climbers have onsighted 7c+ in the UK this year...
kevin stephens - on 27 Sep 2008
In reply to Mark Kemball:
> (between Fawcett's attempts, some wag abbed the line and glued on some bolt hangers. I'd be interested if anyone could confirm this tale!

Reputed to be a lad working at PYB, known as JC


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