Indian Face Solo .... without ropes!

by Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC May/2010
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We get a lot of emails here at UKClimbing.com. Hundreds of emails a week. Many people ask us for advice on climbing, equipment, where to start, instruction and all sorts of climbing topics. We also get many emails with reports of hard ascents, which are really helpful in our news reporting.

Last week I had an email exchange that was quite remarkable and I thought I would share it.

At first I assumed it was Franco Cookson, or somebody like that, emailing me a joke message, of which we get quite a few, and if I get time I enjoy replying to them. But, after a little Google and Facebook investigation it became apparent that the couple involved are indeed real people and this is not a wind up (or if it is, it is a very good one). I have changed their names to protect the identity of someone who is, perhaps, Britain's best 'Local hero'. However, if Joseph has actually just told some 'porky pies' to his girlfriend to impress her, I would suggest in future he choose an easier route!

I bring you 'Joseph Smith' and The Indian Face:

Based on the information received, the UKC news WOULD HAVE BEEN:

UKC NEWS - Joseph Smith Ground-Up Solos The Indian Face - E9 6c - Clogwyn D'ur 'Arddu, North Wales

In what is clearly the boldest climbing feat ever seen on British soil, forty one year old 'Joseph Smith' (not his real name) has grabbed perhaps the most coveted trad lead in the World - an ascent of The Indian Face, ground up.

Smith is a committed and self taught free climber and made his ascent on the third of May this year.

"The conditions couldn't have been better, It was a nice day and the rock was bone dry & really grippy." commented Smith, speaking by email to UKClimbing.com.

The route, a 50m virtually protectionless slab, is on Clogwyn D'ur Arddu, one of Wales' highest and most inhospitable crags. There are still snow patches on high ground in North Wales, left after the harsh and cold winter, making Smith's early season ascent all the more remarkable.

The Indian Face was first climbed by Johnny Dawes back in the late eighties and has seen only two repeat ascents in the last two decades, both of which relied on extensive top-rope practice.

Joseph Smith doesn't use ropes:

"I'm a free climber, I've never used ropes. It was a bit embarrassing when I joined an indoor climbing club because I didn't know how to belay, use ropes or tie knots and I still don't, I just go on the bouldering walls." he said.

The route is reportedly around F7b+/7c to top-rope, but has many blind and committing moves on sometimes suspect rock. The slabby and technical nature of the face means that extra stamina gained through training is of little help, only technique and nerve will get you up this route.

Smith's previous hardest ascent was Tryfan and with his solo of The Indian Face he has rocketed through the grades.

The climb has some micro wire protection low down, but essentially all the top half of the route, which has the hardest climbing, is unprotected. A fall from there would end only on the ground. This didn't stop Joseph Smith, who took multiple ground falls on his attempts to climb the route in the purest style. Remarkably he came away unscathed and went on to complete the route.

For Full Details Follow The Email Conversation Below:


subject => INDIAN FACE - CLOGGIE

Hi, I am new to the climbing world as i mostly stick to hiking but my boyfriend has been climbing for many years.

Last week he †freeclimbed the Indian Face,Clogwyn,ive heard it is a hard one but he was pretty modest about it and said that nobody would believe me if i told them anyway too. †I feel that it is worth a mention,should i get in touch with anybody on his behalf??,he is a regular bloke and not a pro but seeing as I †nearly lost a boyfriend I thought id try and get in touch with somebody about it!

Any advice would be appreciated,

sincerely
Mary


Hi Mary,

Thanks for letting us know about this, it sounds like your boyfriend has made a remarkable ascent.

Could you let us know a few more details?

Could you let us know your boyfriend's name? And maybe some contact details?

I'm presuming it was on Saturday, but did he spend some days prior to that practising the climb?

Thanks,

Jack


Hi Jack,

Yes Joseph did spend a lot of time training† inside and out,stamina training etc prior to this, chin ups and various fingered grips and other things, he also dropped his bodyweight quite considerably, he's quite skinny at the min!.†† His name is Joseph Smith and he is 41, been freeclimbing climbing for over 20 years, although we have been together only a few months, id probably be grey otherwise by now!

He made the climb on the 3rd may, just checked my phone as he texted me from Pete Eats to let me know he was ok and for some scran!† I know it must have been a hard one because he told me it would be his last free climb and he was sorry for making me worry, that it was a forbidding place and you felt almost as if you shouldnt be there.† I know he took a camera which he clipped onto the back of his pants, I don't know what he photographed though.† I will gently let him know you got in touch, maybe he will fill you in on the rest?

Mary


Jack,

Joseph s no is 077********, he s not answering right now so he s probably still at work or at the climbing club.† I hope this is helpful, and thanks for listening.

sincerely,

Mary


Hi Mary,

Thanks again for the information.

If Joseph is 100% sure he climbed the Indian Face on that day it would be great if he could drop UKClimbing.com a message.

Thanks,

Jack


Ok thanks Jack, I will let him know!

sincerely
Mary


subject => indian face clogwyn

yes, I climbed it. My girlfriend seems to think its important that i email you.

Joseph


Hi Joseph,

Congratulations.

Would you be willing to give us a few more details?

How long did it take you, what style did you climb it in? What are your previous hardest routes, that sort of thing.

Do you have any photos of the day?

Jack


Hi,

To be honest i cant understand why you would be so intrested, Im no big name & to be honest im not that great of a climber's. I'll try to answer some of your questions because i promised Mary i would even though i told her not to say anything because i knew this would happen. Im not to happy about this but i promised her.

It was the bank holiday monday, The conditions could'nt have been better, It was a nice day & the rock was bone dry & really grippy. I couldnt really say how long it took to climb because†i fell off on my first few attempts so i took off my old sticky's which are pretty knackered & put my new ones on. There great, they have a hollowed out front section on the sole so they grip the slightest thing on the rock.

Im a free climber, I've never used ropes. It was a bit embarrassing when i joined an indoor climbing club because i†did'nt know how to belay, use ropes or tie knots & still don't,†I just go on the bouldering walls. Its handy for in the week in winter when its dark. As for my climbing style. I could only describe it as a bricklayer wearing waterski's doing ballet. Im self taught.

I could'nt really say what my hardest routes have been because they all are different. I have to say the hardest day out i've had was on tryfan, me & my friend andy did it in 65 to 70mph††winds & absolutely throwing it down. For something so simple it was the hardest battering i have ever had. It was a good day though. In the 20yrs I've been climbing i could'nt really say what have been the hardest because it all depends on the weather. I'm out every weekend no matter what the conditions are. I just pick a route thats possible for the weather conditions.

I've got some photo's but there not very good. its hard trying to photograph yourself & not fall off at the same time.

If its not raining this weekend i'll go down & get some better one's of me climbing it. Theres a couple of good grips where i could lean out to get a good photo if thats alright.

If you could do me a favour & email Mary & tell her i've emailed you, it would be appreciated. I know its not worth an article on your website so she will think i have'nt emailed you back when i told her i will.

Thanks

Joseph



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