Lucinda Whittaker - Gritstone E8

by Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC Nov/2010
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+Lucinda Whittaker bouldering in Northumberland on 'Purely Belter'., 185 kbLucinda Whittaker bouldering in Northumberland on 'Purely Belter'.
© Sam Whittaker

Lucinda Whittaker has climbed the classic arete test-piece of End of the Affair (E8) at Curbar in the Peak District.

Lucinda (Lucinda Hughes prior to her marriage) is no gritstone beginner having previously climbed a couple of bold E7s and many hard boulder problems such as Brad Pit (Font 7c+) at Stanage.

She climbed End of the Affair after top-rope practice last Sunday (31/10/2010) and was belayed by her husband and well known hard grit aficionado Sam Whittaker.

Lucinda, who was British Indoor Climbing Champion in 2002 and British Bouldering Champion in 2002/3, is now one of very few women to have climbed E8. Others include Mary Jenner and Karin Magog with their ascents of Bleed in Hell in Borrowdale and visiting US climber Lisa Rands - who climbed Gaia and End of the Affair on Peak grit.

INTERVIEW: Lucinda Whittaker - Grit E8

Jack: What motivated you to climb End of the Affair specifically?

End of the Affair is such a famous route, probably the most famous for me. I grew up with the movie Hard Grit (and moved to Sheffield after watching that and The Real Thing!) I always remember the clip of Leo doing it and thinking how audacious the route was. It always defined hard grit for me, so to do it was really important for me. And of course it's a Johnny Dawes route - one of my heros!

Jack: And Sam, your husband, had done it previously?

Sam and our Aussie best mate Simon Weill did the route a couple of seasons ago. As they were off to do it, I tagged along and had a quick top rope in between their goes. I remember it felling hard, but do-able. I didn't think I would ever lead it, but the seed was planted non the less. I think I might have had a couple of afternoons on it that year but never felt in a position to lead. Then last season with all the snow I didn't get out to it. 

So this year as the temps have cooled it was at the back of my mind. I have been climbing loads this year and getting ready for a trip to the states next weekend. I have been mainly sport climbing and bouldering which was all perfect practice for Hueco Tanks, but at the back of my mind I knew I wanted to try and get End of the Affair done before I left as when I got back the Peak could be covered in snow again and I would have to wait.

And if I'm really honest, I'm going to have to think about having kids in a couple of years and I don't think I would want to risk serious injury with a baby to look after! I didn't want any regrets about not quite having End of the Affair on my tick list! So now was the time!

Jack: So you bagged it last weekend?

We went up last Thursday for a look, it was a bit damp but it felt loads better than it did previously. So I checked the weather and saw that Saturday/Sunday morning looked good. We had the builders in on Saturday and they didn't finish till late, so I decided to rest and then we went out on Sunday morning. It was really misty, but to our surprise the rock was bone dry. So I had a top rope - warmed up on the moves and cleaned it. Then I top roped it clean, then pulled the ropes and did it!

Jack: You climbed the route headpoint style - but did it feel different on the lead than when you had been toproping it?

To be honest the route felt the same. End of the Affair is an amazing route that never feels very secure (I guess hence its grade!). When I top roped it, it never really felt 'secure', at no point do you ever think "right I've got the good hold now" - until you pull over the top!

But having the added advantage of Sam having done it a couple of years ago - he kept telling me that it never feels secure, "that's just the nature of the route" - really helped. So I was like, well ok, so as long as I don't fall off, it should all be all right ;-

+Pete Robins flashing End of the Affair, 124 kbPete Robins flashing End of the Affair
Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC, Jan 2009
© James McHaffie
Jack: Can you describe the route - the moves?

It's just stunning - the line is amazing in such a great exposed position. The moves are tenuous - lay backing up an arete with no real holds and having to balance and fight wobbling around the corner and falling off. Then as you finish with the arete it has a sting in the tail. A big move off a slopey foothold, which not placed correctly will spit you off and chuck you downwards - only your belayers running and jumping off the ledge will stop you hitting the ground! 

All that said - when everything sticks, your boots smear in just the right place, the hand holds start to feel good and it starts to feel like you are moving with the arete and as you relax into it, it starts to flow. You don't even realise you have climbed it until you find yourself committing to the last big move, at which point there's no going back. I think moving well on rock is the key to this route, End of the Affair has a feel to it, you have to feel all the positions - it makes sense that it's a Johnny Dawes route.

Jack: Did Sam belay you and was he shitting his pants?

Yes Sam belayed!! I don't think he was too bad. Over the years he has supported me in all my hard grit routes and he knows I would never go to lead something unless I was totally convinced I wasn't going to fall off. He understands the compulsion to climb these dangerous lines, but I know he would tell me if he thought it was a bad idea. I guess the day was just right. My warm up go went brilliantly, so I think he was happy for me to go for it. I did check the mobiles were working though and we'd decided if I got to the last hold on the arete and the foot change hadn't gone well, I would bail - I think from that point it would hurt but no serious damage would be done. Unlike falling from the last move - wouldn't like to take that fall!

Jack: Thanks Lucinda and good effort! Good luck on your trip to the States, hope it goes well.


Lucinda would like to thank Metolius and Beyond Hope for their support.

Lucinda works at the Climbing Works in Sheffield and is available for climbing coaching.

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