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E11: Steve McClure's personal view on the hardest traditional route in Britain
"The first. The only. The hardest. The biggest challenge in Britain. Led by Dave MacLeod back in 2006, Rhapsody marked a step forward in standards. The route was famous even before the first ascent, often the way when a top climber is pushing it out. Everyone was willing him on and everyone knew it would be hard. The film E11 quickly followed. It confirmed our thoughts; desperate! Dedication beyond madness was essential, as well as fitness, strength, tenacity and skill found only in a top level athlete. I showed the film to friends as an example of how climbers can get 'hooked', how a route can take hold of your life, everything else tumbling by the wayside till it's done. It inspired me to climb hard.
Rhapsody exploded in a mass of publicity, more so than any other grade jump. Perhaps it was the internet and the ease and speed of information hitting the public. Dave gave the world a step-by-step account of progress; people were gagging for it. But even this was surpassed by the second ascent: never can I remember a second ascent being so coveted. "
Les Droites by Nick Bullock
"A wind funnelling through the jagged v-notch in the summit ridge of the Droites stripped the warmth from my face. This was the first time I had stood in the Brèche des Droites, but looking around I recognised a ledge above me. Fixed, staring at the ledge for a minute, although it felt a lot longer, I dragged my eyes away and turned once again to face into the bright sun. The dark and brooding Grandes Jorasses north face, the Géant icefall, tumbling and erratic and the Valley Blanche were all visible. I felt close to these familiar places, they were like old friends.
I closed my eyes – immediately I returned to that winter evening nine years ago. I remembered leaving the warmth of the climbing wall and the yellow sulphurous glow while driving through Leicester's cold city centre. I remembered passing abandoned, graffiti-daubed hosiery factories, kebab houses, papers blowing in the gutter and the high walls of the prison. I remembered the dark, deserted park. "
Nick Dixon's – Stomping Grounds - Nesscliffe
Gear – Rock Shoes
"If you live in the southern part of Britain, you probably won't believe this, but in the early 1970s when I was (even) younger and lived in NW London, my brother (three years older) and I could sometimes persuade our dad to lend us his car (a green Ford Cortina estate as it happens), and with a couple of mates we would drive straight through London to Harrisons Rocks and the other sandstone outcrops in Kent, have a day's climbing and get back home again before pub closing time (and they used to shut earlier then too).
I don't mention this just out of pre-M25 /Sunday shopping nostalgia, but because amongst my earliest memories of those trips, as well as the trashed hands and forearms at school on Monday, was watching one of the great characters of Southern Sandstone at the time, a man called Trevor Panther, in action. He used to climb bare foot, and he was pretty good too. His feet must have been super tough. I couldn't even walk along the bottom of the crag bare foot, let alone climb anything. Come to that, I couldn't climb many of his routes wearing rock boots either! Impressive though he was, I doubt whether his technique was transferable to many other places – imagine trying the same thing on Cloggy, Gimmer Crag or on the Ben!"
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