British Expat Climbs 500th New Route on Utah Sandstone, USA
Paul Ross started climbing back in 1953, soloing easier climbs on his then local cliff of Shepherds Crag, Borrowdale in the Lake District. A year later Paul led his first new route with an ascent of Troutdale Pinnacle Superdirect (HVS) on Black Crag, Borrowdale.
He recently made the first ascent of Team 500, a three pitch 5.11- trad route in the Three Finger Canyon area, Utah. This is his 500th new route, and the 73 year old Englishman has more to come:
"I have lots of projects in sight ...I hope the body holds up a few more months!"
Paul made a total of 138 first ascents in the UK, including the very difficult Post Mortem (E3 5c) on Eagle Crag in Borrowdale back in 1956. It is thought that this route was the first of that grade in the Lake District and it is no push over even today.
A quick glance through the UKC Logbooks shows that UKC users Franco Cookson and Dave Warburton (E8 and E7 first ascensionists on their home turf of the North York Moors...!) were unable to complete the route when they attempted it back in 2008. Franco commented:
"I led on scared and knackered - made my own fist jam out of a pile of chockstones and led up the green crux. I was slipping and the holds were buried. I eventually had to down climb the whole route - it was too steep to ab for the gear. A failure, but an experience..."
Paul left the UK in 1968 and landed in the US, working for Outward Bound. For the next twenty years he put up first ascents in several different places in the US, specialising in huge girdle traverses, up to 2000m in length.
In 1988 he was back in the Lake District, where he climbed another 60 first ascents. Of these, he is most pleased with his two routes on Honister Crag (both E3 5c) and Swan Song (E2 5c) on Scafell.
Paul explained: "I never had too much interest in established rock climbs. I always felt that ground up / on sight FA's are the purest form of climbing."
Around that time Paul also managed twenty first ascents in Morocco, climbing with "the old chap Joe Brown - a great lad."
Paul then moved back to the USA in 1998, eventually settling in a small town in Colorado close to the Utah border in the Moab area.
Paul gave UKC the lowdown on his recent new routes in the Utah desert:
"Here one can do pure adventure climbs on sight up 400' towers and up to 2000' slabs. In the last 8 years most were done carrying a Bosch Drill on one's back, as hand drilling in most sandstone leaves the hole too big for the bolts and usually small angle pitons have to be used.
We have climbed about 39 previously unclimbed towers and some new routes on established towers. Two FA's I liked were our 900' girdle around the Famous Castleton Tower near Moab,and the FA of the 800' Texas Tower. Many of these FA's on Towers involved aid . We rarely if ever use pitons for aid, all are done using clean gear and bolts on blank sections. Over the last eight years we have done about 150 FA's in the Eastern Reef area of the San Rafael Swell ,Utah - both slab and wall climbs up to 6a (and of course another girdle a mile and a quarter long at 5b!)."
You can check out more details of some of Paul's ascents on the Mountain Project Site on the following links:
Paul Ross on his first ever day on rock - soloing Little Chamonix in 1953 - We were actually looking for Jackdaw nests...
UKC News, Oct 2010
© Paul Ross Collection