INTERVIEW: Ben Bransby on Baron Greenback, E9, 2nd Ascentby Duncan Campbell - UKC Mar/2014
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Pete made the first ascent back in May 2013, but skirted around Miles Gibson's original start for the route to create a brilliant test piece that climbs very unlike most grit routes being more positive and sustained rather than technical and tenuous.
In an interview with Graham Hoey for Peak Rock before Pete climbed it, Miles said the following about the route:
"It would be the best route on grit. It’s amazing. It could be an amazing E10 with good gear in the middle (removing the old bolts and using a camming nut). It’s brilliant because it’s stamina climbing on grit.
It makes Parthian just look like a boring slab. Appointment skirts round the real challenge, the real challenge is that line."
On the day of Ben's ascent, Pete Whittaker was at the crag as he has been trying Miles' direct start to the route which could make a hard route even harder, so watch out for a potential direct start there.
Ben climbed Baron Greenback in just a few visits, utilising the bamboo clipstick as Pete did but also using a large piece of wood to protect the bold start. Ben managed to climb the route successfully without resorting to testing the dodgy, old aid bolts.
UKClimbing.com got in contact with Ben to find out more about his ascent:
Had you always had it in your mind to try what became Baron Greenback or did Pete's FA motivate you?
Ben: Pete's ascent was the inspiration. I guess I had looked at the line over the years but always been put off by the reputation/laziness/how hard it looked. Pete doesn't seem to suffer from any of these problems. When I saw the video of him doing Baron it looked so good I was keen to give it a go – it is just the sort of climbing I like and he did us all a favour by testing the bolts!
How long did it take you from first trying the route to leading it? Did you do anything differently to Pete?
Ben: It only took me a few visits – the benefit of having a video sequence to follow and maybe being a little fitter than Pete was when he did it. I abbed down it in the winter but didn't really try it much that day – it was pretty wet and cold.
I came back twice with my mum to top rope it – managed it in a oner the first day. A lot of the second day was sorting out how to clip the bolts, just like Pete I used a short bamboo clip stick to reach the 3rd bolt and then down climbed. Unlike Pete I was a bit more gripped about getting to the bolts – probably E7 in its own right – so I carried up a 9ft fence post which I wedged diagonally across the starting gully and clipped a sling in the top end – at about the same point as the starting holds. It sounds a bit odd but it protected the start really well and I did place it on lead!!
Pete was there both the second top rope day and the day I lead it and he found the fence post pretty funny, I guess the whole gear thing (fence post, bolts on grit, bamboo clip stick) is a little odd in an ethical sense but it kind of makes sense when you are there...
How did your ascent go, did you test the dodgy aid bolts?
Ben: The ascent when really well. Ray Wood was filming and the last thing he had filmed me on was Parthian where things went a little pear shaped – I showed him how to do a proper headpoint this time. I felt strong on the lead and every move felt really solid, I was keen not to test out the old bolts – going travelling/skiing for a year with my family and kept thinking if I decked out it would ruin my trip!
Pete was unsure of the grade and you were unsure of the grade of Parthian when you re-climbed it, how do they compare?
Ben: Baron is a tricky one to grade – in a way a sport grade is best, probably hard F8a+, but scary! The E grade is dependent on the bolts staying in or coming out. If the bolts were good it would be E8, if the bolts rip out it is E10+ so I think E9 is a good balance.
I found Parthian harder both physically and mentally, this was partly as it was so cold the day I did it but also the gear feels dodgy – that said it all held when I fell off! I think they are similar French grade with Parthian being a little more nacky/conditions dependant whilst Baron is steeper and more physical and they are both scary. I def enjoyed Baron more, it was a fun day with Pete W there trying the direct and Pete Robins there top roping the original (watch this space: sure there will be more news to come...) it was really nice to repeat Baron with Pete watching.
It is one of the best lines on grit, does the climbing mirror this?
Ben: The line is obviously superb, probably the most out there grit route I have done and the climbing is great as well, it climbs more like a sport route than a normal grit climb – most of the holds are quite positive and it is steep and sustained whilst hard grit can so often be really technical and funky – I like both styles. I would say it is one of the very best routes I have done on grit, hats off to Pete doing the first ascent and I hope it sees plenty of (gentle with the bolts) attention (maybe we could replace the 3 aid bolts with one Czech style ring bolt... only kidding)
What's next for you?
Ben: Work! It is 5½ months till we go away and we need to save some more, if anyone wants some quality route setting or to rent a lovely 3 bed house in Hathersage for a year then get in touch!
Ray Wood was on hand the day of Ben's ascent so watch out for a video