Pete Whittaker - UK's Ugliest Climberby Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC Aug/2009
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Pete Whittaker has grabbed the second ascent of Ugly at Shale City on the Lleyn Peninsula, North Wales. The route, originally graded E7 6b/c and first climbed by local legend George Smith, tackles a severely overhanging shale off-width and groove, and was originally protected by around 16 pegs.
After a brief abseil inspection (all in the name of accurate reporting) several weeks ago, I accidentally snapped over half of the pegs with my fingers. Visiting off-width-er Tom Randall then snapped a few more.
The route is now a more dangerous proposition, and relies on dubious cam protection to supplement the rusting peg stubs. The physical difficulties are akin to at least a F8a sport route, and the route features a range of exciting characteristics including extremely loose and crumbly rock, mudstone, full body chimney contortions, exploding flakes, an unrestful slab and, uniquely, a stream. Ugly is now considered a hard E8 6c or XXS (Extremely Extremely Severe!).
George Smith passes on some helpful beta
Pete took several days to complete the route, and left his gear insitu between attempts. A quadruple set of cams is required for the climb, including some very large pieces - up to size 6. The route is single pitch, and though non-tidal, the small zawn is only accessible by abseil at high tide, meaning any retreats have to be made up a hanging abseil rope. The route is around 35 metres in length and overhangs by around 5 metres.
"I got a bit wedged in the top offwidth and couldn't move, but I gradually inched my way up!" said Pete after his ascent.
George Smith's first ascent was documented in On The Edge magazine in an article titled Truly Madly Steeply. If anyone has a copy, we'd love to see it.
Commenting on the recent efforts, George Smith said:
"I'm made up with the level of effort and passion."
The route has repelled all would be repeaters over the years, including some of Wales' top performers such as Nick Dixon, Johnny Dawes, Stevie Haston and Adam Wainwright.
Tom Randall summed up the difficulties:
"I reckon if it was on solid, dry limestone it would be about F7b+, but in its present state it's about F8a considering the terrible friction, breaking holds and stream factor!"
VIDEO: Pete Whittaker on an early attempt at Ugly
(Warning, this video contains a very slow moving climber stuck in a wet chimney and has been called 'The world's worst climbing footage'... One for the connoisseur?)
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