Latching the mono on Gathering Sun, Nesscliffe
© Laura Perry, Sep 2010
North Wales based route setter, Alex Mason, has just added a hard new route to the Red Wall Promontory at South Stack. Smear Campaign, E7/8 6b/c, takes a line to the left of James McHaffie's E8 Satan's Scream (UKC News Report).
Alex headed down to belay James McHaffie (Caff) on the line, but after getting down to work the route, Caff began to feel under the weather urging Alex to work the route and go for the lead. Having had a play on the route, Alex racked and went for a lead attempt. After placing the gear and reversing for a rest, Alex headed back up and committed to the first 6b/c section. Whilst lay-backing a block to put some gear in, the block ripped off sending Alex on a big swinging fall, leaving him close to the deck.
The pair went back up again on top-rope, just managing to place the next crucial pieces of gear from a slopey pinch, and the ascent was back on. Alex headed back up, this time successfully climbing through the sustained and strenuous nature of the climbing. Alex described the successful ascent:
"I got to my high point and fumbled the gear in, getting pumped on the slopey pinch. I burled out right to the crucial cam and got disco leg placing it on the smear (I think I was lucky because Caff fell off here on second), feeling knackered I pulled over the overlap quickly. You can get more weight on your feet here, so I managed to get a bit back, but then you make some long, tenuous moves on smears and spooky flake holds to a jug in the bulge. Reaching this was a massive relief, the 6b climbing is over and you can finally get another runner in."
Alex commented on the difficulty of the route:
"I thought maybe top end E7 but the nature of the climbing would make it desperately hard to onsight: very smeary, committing and blind. The difficulties are around 7c and I think it's safe, although there is a crucial cam (red dragon) in an undercut, the edge of which is fractured, and you can't see the placement, so you don't get the peace of mind you should."