cick to enlarge Earlier this month, 17-year-old Tony Musselbrook made a swift and stylish ascent of Chimaera at High Rocks on the East Sussex/Kent border.
See photo-sequence here
Whilst 'local' to the rocks (Tony lives in Margate) and having climbed in the area since he was eleven, this was only his second assault on the climb. His first handful of attempts were in July 2006 when the spectacular open groove crux proved too strenuous.
Tony returned this summer fresh from the national and international competition circuit. It took him just two attempts before completing the route from the ground up on a toprope. As with so many repeats of routes at the high-end of difficulty, Tony made the groove look easy.
Chimaera was the first route on Southern Sandstone to warrant the 7a grade and remained the only one to appear in the 1995 Climbers' Club guide. Since Dave Turner's first ascent in the dry summer of 1990, only James Pearson had succeeded on the route. Tony said of the conditions: The rock was a bit damp, but in a sticky kind of way, anyone who climbs on Limestone will understand. I was constantly surprised at how I managed to just stick to the rock, a lot of the time I was on just smears but felt really stable. The top of the route was another story all together, I was either standing on rock covered in a thick paste of slime or pulling on clumps of dirt and small plants.
Tony is a member of the Junior British Climbing Team, The Senior British Leading Team and the British Bouldering Team so he focuses a great deal of his training on competitions. When asked if this helped on Chimaera he said: I dont really think competitions came into it much, the style was so different. For example, there are usually holds on a comp route! I believe its actually the sandstone that has helped me in competitions. Route-reading outdoors is nails compared to inside.
Living where he does (20 miles east of Dover) Tony has become increasingly frustrated by his distance from real rock. With some relief he has finished A-levels and will soon move on. He said: I am moving to Sheffield in October and I have a massive ticklist! I've still got comps on my to-do list as well. Basically i just want to go climbing, next year, and the next, and the one after that for ever and ever!
Tony's training blog: www.indoorsout.co.uk
Tony is sponsored by Five Ten.