Katy Whittaker rocking into the final hard section on Knockin' On Heaven's Door
UKC News, Nov 2013
© Nathan Lee
Katy Whittaker has recently climbed Knockin' On Heaven's Door, E8 6c, at Curbar. Katy headpointed the route over a few sessions, climbing the route on her first lead attempt, without the hand placed peg, but with the bomber cam on Born Slippy.
Knockin' On Heaven's Door was first climbed in 1988 by Andy Pollit, who lead it with a pre-clipped peg that was later found out to have been placed using a hammer. Pollit graded the route E9, then in 1996 Ritchie Patterson made the first ascent of Born Slippy, this climbs direct into Knockin' passing a bomber cam placement, grading it E8. In 1998 Ben Tetler soloed Knockin', and impressively, Ryan Pasquill flashed the route in 2010, using both the cam on Born Slippy and the handplaced peg (See UKC News Report).
Katy recently climbed Gaia, E8 6c at Black Rocks, capitalising on this spell of form, Katy began trying Knockin' on a blustery day with Nathan Lee, (who also recently climbed the route)
UKC got in touch with Katy to find out a bit more about her ascent of Knockin' on Heaven's Door, and what motivates her to climb these hard, bold routes.
How much did you practice Knockin' before going for the lead?
Katy: Nathan Lee and I ended up chucking a rope down it one ridiculously windy day when we thought nothing else was climbable. I top roped it clean second go, had one other session on it and then obviously the time when I lead it. I spent the week leading up to it pretending to myself I wasn't bothered about doing it because it was to scary to think about, every time Nathan asked me if it wanted to go to Curbar I would suggest somewhere else.
How did the actual day of your ascent go?
Katy: The actual day was similar to Gaia weather wise, I set my alarm for 8am but it was chucking it down outside, set it for 9am and it still looked grim so I was actually going to go Christmas shopping! Then Nathan text me at about 10am saying the sun is out, lets go - so we did.
It was beautiful when we arrived for an hour or two then some ridiculously black looking clouds started looming over Buxton/Tideswell and coming towards Curbar. I guessed I had about 45min before we were going to get drenched. It had already started spitting a little bit on and off when we were stood at the bottom, I sort of talked myself into it by just saying 'ahh I will just climb up and place the gear incase I fancy a go', then 'I will put my shoes on just incase' and then 'I will climb the first half and stand on the good foot holds beneath the slab and make my mind up, see what the weather is doing'. I almost backed off at this point, I wasn't feeling it but I didn't want to go through this whole process again another day, so thought I should push on!
I did it (phew!), we speedily packed up, got back to the car and it threw it down!
How did it compare to Gaia? Did it feel like E8 or E9 to you?
Katy: It felt a lot harder to me, on all aspects of the route. The climbing is more technical and tenuous, there seems to be a lot to remember. A lot of foot movements and for me if I put my foot on the hold slightly wrong it made the next move feel nails I would be almost off. The way I climbed it is E8 for sure, I have spoken to a few people and they agree, it is maybe just a hard one. I used the low cam placements but didn't bother with the hand placed peg higher up as I thought it would to distracting to place, as you have to make a big stretch and go slightly off the line to get to it. Luckily I had 'The Inspector' belaying me, I think he would have been speedy enough to keep me off the deck for most of the route.
What motivates you to climb these hard, bold lines?
Katy: For me it is always the history and background story I have with these routes. I grew up climbing in the Peak with my family, my brother and I looked up and read about people climbing these bold lines for so many years. It is the story behind them that makes them so special to me, it wouldn't mean half of what it does if I went and climbed an E8 in another part of the country. Pete and I have had so many conversations about 'knockin' when we were younger, I remember one day when we were down in the boulders (probably trying Gorilla Warfare) looking up at the crag and I said if there is one route you or me should never ever do it would knockin, because it looks like death and has such a terrifying name! Why would anyone try a route like that! It is funny how your perspectives change so much and for me that shows how far I have come with my climbing. I am proud of that and it gets me even more psyched.