Last Thursday Dave Birkett made the second ascent of Dave MacLeod's 2002 route Holdfast E9 7a in Glen Nevis, Scotland. Holdfast takes the blank wall left of Femme Fatale on Whale Rock. Most of the route has no protection.
Birkett used side runners at the start which meant that a fall from the crux would see you bouncing near the floor. Birkett said that you could also pad out the landing. Falling just after the crux above 18ft is not an option and this is the E9 bit. Macleod said in his description that "From here sustained wobbling leads to a sting in the tail finishing rockover which gains a line of good edges leading into Run For Home (the adjacent E5)." Birkett snapped a hold on his first lead attempt. He then set the top rope up again to try and work out how to do the move with the smaller hold making the crux slightly harder and sustaining a nasty finger cut. He thought the route E9 and the crux move "brilliant and absorbing." Dave Macleod was pleased to hear of Dave's repeat and said, "I thought it was an awesome line so it's nice to see other folk interested in my climbs."
Birkett fresh from climbing the first ascent of Return of the King E9 6c on Scafell is also author of several E9's , they include Impact Day (Pavey Ark), If 6 Was 9 (Iron Crag) and his triptych at Scafell; Talbot Horizon, Welcome to the Cruel World and the recent Return of the King.
Both Daves have repeated Divided Years and Breathless, the two John Dunne E10's and found them both easier than the claimed grade, Birkett saying that they weren't as serious or as hard as his E9's and MacLeod coming straight out and saying they were both E8. Divided Years was proclaimed as the first E10 this honour now being taken by Neil Bentley's Equilibrium at Burbage. Such is the fluid nature of grades at the cutting edge.
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