Ethan Walker Climbs Mecca Extensionby Duncan Campbell - UKC Nov/2013
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Ethan Walker has had a very good summer season on the limestone this year, climbing 47 routes in the 8th grade. This all culminated in an ascent of Ethan's first 8c, Mecca Extension in October.
Rather than jet off to sunnier climates to sample European limestone, this year, Ethan decided to stay in the UK and climb as much as possible on the crags local to him, and in doing so picked one of the best summers that the UK has seen in some time. Ethan climbed Mecca back in June (UKC News Report) and since then had been eyeing up the extension, first climbed by Steve McClure in 1998. Commenting on the mental aspect of trying the route Ethan said:
"I've belayed friends on this in the past and would often try to put myself in their shoes and state of mind as they set off up Mecca on each redpoint. How does it feel knowing you have to repeat an iconic 8b+ before you can even think of carrying on up the technical wall above?
I've watched many people attempt it, all extremely talented and fully capable climbers, each cruising on up the bottom section only to drop it from the last few moves countless times. How do you prepare yourself for something like this? All these questions kept going through my mind over the summer."
Come September, with temperatures dropping, Ethan decided to go and have a look at the route and decide whether he thought he could do it and whether he wanted to go through the pressure of redpointing the route. First session, Ethan wasn't sure if he could physically do the route, but after a couple more sessions decided to invest some time in the route. Talking about his motivation to try the route, Ethan said:
"The first time up I just thought I wasn't physically tall enough to make any of the moves and felt as if I needed to be strung out on a medieval stretch rack to give me the height and reach to shift my body between the marginal holds. However I quickly found out I could just about do all the individual moves and all that was needed was for my body to adjust to the different positions and let muscle memory do the rest!
After that first session I was hooked and could not wait to get back. My first proper redpoint on the route I made it to within 8 moves of the finish, which really opened my eyes and turned the whole thing and idea of climbing this route into something that was actually possible."
Ethan then began trying to redpoint the route, making more progress every session until he began falling off the last hard move, for a few sessions. After being urged to go back up and check his sequence, Ethan made a minor adjustment to use a different foothold, and redpointed the route on his second go of the next session. Ethan described the redpoint:
"I set off for another burn and sure enough arrived at the belay with much warmer digits and feeling a million times better all around. I kept it together all the way up to my highpoint, heard the shouts of encouragement from friends on the ground, telling me to just breathe and relax. I took a breath, placed my left boot on the new found foothold, pulled on up into the final two gastons and cranked on through to the jug! It was shear joy, a crazy mix of emotions and like a total dream. The battle was over. It was won. The mental pressure of climbing something like this, and something at your personal limit is crazy and if you're not careful it can blow you away and seriously start to effect your performance. I tried to limit myself to two big efforts a session to keep this pressure at bay and maintain motivation and it seemed to work. I did my best to maintain focus and concentrated on enjoying every moment of it all, and not get sucked into the ticking pressure cooker that I've witnessed others get dragged into."
You can follow Ethan's climbing on his Blog