UKC

Has E9 been climbed on sight?

Please Register as a New User in order to reply to this topic.
 Darkinbad 23 Nov 2021

Repeats and first ascents. Safe routes and bold routes. Perhaps throw in flash or ground-up ascents.

The grade has been around long enough that I feel the answer should be yes, but I can't put my finger on an example (granted, I haven't tried very hard).

Whereas I feel sure there have been more than a few E8 onsights and that E7 would be round about the grade at which onsight would be the norm (for safeish routes, if perhaps not for bold ones).

This question was prompted by some of the discussion on the headpointing thread to the effect that the stylistic acceptability of headpointing (for those who care) is closely related to whatever is the norm for a given grade.

 Wil Treasure 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Darkinbad:

Caff did The Big Issue (E9 6c) ground up I think, although it was a team effort with gear left in place for a week I think, so it might depend on your purity threshold as maybe he didn't place all of the gear himself. A really impressive ascent either way, and an interesting way to attempt a route.

 Wil Treasure 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Wil Treasure:

Also in Pembroke James Pearson did 'Muy Caliente!' (E10 6c) ground up. I think he'd studied videos pretty closely to know the moves and gear in detail.

Post edited at 11:41
 Darkinbad 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Wil Treasure:

When it comes to E9s that have been around for a while, The Big Issue is right up there. And Caff would be one of the top candidates for such a feat (see also Master's Wall)

 AlanLittle 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Darkinbad:

Looks like nearly but not quite.

Something's Burning flashed by James Pearson in 2014 

https://www.planetmountain.com/en/news/climbing/british-trad-great-pembroke-climbs-by-caroline-ciavaldini-yuji-hirayama-and-james-pearson.html

Ben Bransby: Carmen Picasso onsight in 2000 but it now appears to be considered "only" E8:

http://www.climbing.de/news/bransby-onsights-e9-43246.html

 Andy Moles 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Darkinbad:

Not that many E8s have been climbed on-sight (as opposed to flashed), never mind E9.

I'm not sure people who just look at the numbers and think "but E9 was climbed in 1986" etc appreciate just how impressive a proper unchalked on-sight of an E9 would be. Even a few key bits of beta often make a huge difference.

I guess those at the safe and sporty end of the spectrum, like Big Issue, Divided Years, Mission Impossible, are those most likely to be on-sighted, but there aren't loads of routes like that in the UK.

Post edited at 11:54
 remus 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Darkinbad:

As has been mentioned there's been a few flashes but no onsights.

James Pearson has the best record when it comes to flashing harders tuff https://climbing-history.org/climber/153/james-pearson

Ryan Pasquill has flashed Knockin on Heaven's Door along with a load of E8s https://climbing-history.org/climber/137/ryan-pasquill

 andyinglis 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Darkinbad:

Alex Megos, The Path, 5.14a flash. Not onsight but still an E9/10 flash (and without abb'ing the line).

 Darkinbad 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Andy Moles:

There's an interesting and sort-of exponential progession here.

The first (what-would-become) E3s started appearing in the 60s. Many if not most of these would have had an onsight (or at least, flash) first ascent and that would certainly have been the expected style for repeat ascents.

The first E6s started appearing in the 70s. Few of these would have been onsight first ascents and onsight repeats would not be commonplace until the late 80s.

The first E9s appeared in the late 80s and early 90s, all with extensive pre-practice on the first and pretty much all subsequent ascents.

Leaving aside the fact that an arithmetic progression should have put us at around E15 by now, the the time taken for onsighting to become the norm has grown exponentially.

I'm not sure what, if anything, this says about the human limits of climbing in this style, and our asymptotic approach to those limits. Sport climbing certainly seems to be ratcheting steadily forward and the gap between redpoint and onsight limits seems fairly steady.

 Andy Moles 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Darkinbad:

I don't think it's too surprising that progression in climbing generally hasn't been linear. I'm guessing there would be a similar performance curve in a lot of sports, where innovations in equipment and training bring about significant jumps in standards but at some point improvements become more incremental.

With trad on-sighting in particular though, there is such a complex of factors, other than just the obvious ones of physical difficulty and length of run-out. For example, the harder routes get, the narrower options often become - more likely that one inobvious sequence, or very specific gear placement, will make the difference between success and failure. The headgame aspect is also massive - to be really good at trad on-sighting, especially in the very varied and often wiggy styles of the UK, you have to be doing lots of trad on-sighting, and I imagine it's pretty hard to do that while also maintaining your 9th grade sport performance peak.

Add to this, of course, the fact that trad on-sighting is not really the default mode for most elite climbers these days. It's not so much the bullseye of climbing aspiration that it once was.

Post edited at 13:22
 Arms Cliff 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Andy Moles:

>

> Add to this, of course, the fact that trad on-sighting is not really the default mode for most elite climbers these days. It's not so much the bullseye of climbing aspiration that it once was.

I don’t think this aspect of it can be overstated. When you look at the UK (and world) elite these days, there’s only a handful who you’d consider trad climbers first and foremost, which, as you say is what you need to be if pushing onsight limits. People like to talk about the strong comp kids getting into it and seeing what they could do, but I just don’t see a path back in that direction from where elite climbing is now. Quick headpoints of hard routes, yes, onsight no. 

In reply to Darkinbad:

> Leaving aside the fact that an arithmetic progression should have put us at around E15 by now, the the time taken for onsighting to become the norm has grown exponentially.

> I'm not sure what, if anything, this says about the human limits of climbing in this style, and our asymptotic approach to those limits. Sport climbing certainly seems to be ratcheting steadily forward and the gap between redpoint and onsight limits seems fairly steady.

I would have thought that the gap is basically because somebody like Ondra can repeatedly fling himself at, say, 9a onsight attempts until he "gets lucky" and pull one off, whereas the same approach to onsighting, say, E9 might very probably result in maiming or death (and game over) before "getting lucky" - nobody's going to take that chance. It is possible that the actual ability needed to onsight 9a and E9 are more or less equivalent.

Post edited at 13:53
 wbo2 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Robert Durran: This is worth another look re. hard flash by Ondra https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6OvrRbGU68&t=195s .... note that it takes him 3 go's. so on many E9's that's going to be three potentially big stacks.

The headpointing grade thread is interesting in that it makes you think where headpointing, and the shorter hard trad routes sit in the scheme of things.  A lot of hard grit trad routes now are done over a heap of pads, and in other countries would be highball problems i.e. the aforementioned Carmen Picasso.  Also, a lot of these things are well described as knacky.. rather than endurofests and not getting that little toe hook before the blind slap might be easier said than done...  Somewhere around the english 6B, 6c grade onsighting gets a lot messier

Would you accept a grit E9 onsighted over a 40 cm thick pile of pads?

In reply to wbo2:

> Would you accept a grit E9 onsighted over a 40 cm thick pile of pads?

Obviously not if it is graded for the jagged rocks underneath the pads. 

 Hardonicus 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Darkinbad:

Flash and ground-up are not 'on sight' so why have a discussion about on sight ascents including these?

In reply to Andy Moles:

> I don't think it's too surprising that progression in climbing generally hasn't been linear.

I actually think it is more or less meaningless to talk about even hypothetical linear progression in climbing; grades are not a measurable quantity like time or distance - they are arbitrary cut off points in a supposed graded list. You could even actually define progress as linear in time and adjust grades to make them linear in time.

I'm not even sure that progress in say the 100m sprint could fairly be defined as linear if, say, the WR decreased linearly in time by, say, 0.1 sec per decade, because there are probably just as valid ways to measure progress as the rate at which the WR decreases. 

 Arms Cliff 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I would have thought that the gap is basically because somebody like Ondra can repeatedly fling himself at, say, 9a onsight attempts until he "gets lucky" and pull one off, whereas the same approach to onsighting, say, E9 might very probably result in maiming or death (and game over) before "getting lucky" - nobody's going to take that chance. It is possible that the actual ability needed to onsight 9a and E9 are more or less equivalent.

Only if you choose a dangerous one. It seems likely to me that the ones with a higher adjectival grade but loads of gear will be the ones to get onsighted, the problem is that there aren’t that many E9’s to start with and even fewer safe ones. 

In reply to Arms Cliff:

> Only if you choose a dangerous one. It seems likely to me that the ones with a higher adjectival grade but loads of gear will be the ones to get onsighted, the problem is that there aren’t that many E9’s to start with and even fewer safe ones. 

Yes, I suspect that as you go up the grades the weight of the E grade has trended more towards seriousness rather than physical difficulty, probably explaining why onsighting trad has not kept up with sport. 

 remus 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Arms Cliff:

> Only if you choose a dangerous one. It seems likely to me that the ones with a higher adjectival grade but loads of gear will be the ones to get onsighted, the problem is that there aren’t that many E9’s to start with and even fewer safe ones. 

I think this is very true. You could well imagine someone like Ondra or Megos onsighting The Big Issue if they fancied it. Relatively safe and about 8a+ which is standard fare for the wads.

 Michael Gordon 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Wil Treasure:

> Also in Pembroke James Pearson did 'Muy Caliente!' (E10 6c) ground up. I think he'd studied videos pretty closely to know the moves and gear in detail.

He may well have also had the moves described to him in great detail by his climbing partner who worked it on toprope for that very reason, and then gave a shouted running commentary as he came to every move (if other ascents of his are anything to go by). An impressive achievement if bearing little resemblance to most punter-grade ground-up ascents.

 Wil Treasure 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Yes, I forgot that detail! Impressive, but it is stretching the concept of a flash to breaking point.

 Michael Gordon 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Wil Treasure:

I've made this argument before on here but it seems a shame that Ground-up has become such a grey entity with huge differences in style and therefore difficulty within it. At punter grades ground-up ascents would usually be the result of failed onsight attempts, with the moves and gear being gradually worked out first-hand as height is gained on each attempt.

 PaulJepson 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Darkinbad:

There's got to be such a big difference between a hard trad onsight and a flash like Pearson's as well. His Mrs did all the moves and told him where the holds and gear was. 

Imagine the difference when you're climbing at your absolute limit between having a Rock 6 racked on a QD, ready for the bomber placement coming up at the horizontal break VS sketching around, not knowing when your next gear is or if you've missed a vital piece, panic setting in, you're starting to over-grip, 'oh look something might go in this break. Looks like a 5 maybe. Shit. No. That's bollocks. F*ck, it's stuck. AARGH GET OUT YOU F*CK! GAAAAH is it a 6? get in you bstard!' etc. etc. Multiply that maybe 10 times over the length of the route and the difference between a flash and an onsight is bloody leagues. 

That's why people like Caff, Ryan, Steve Mac, etc. are rightfully celebrated for their ability to hang in there and grind routes out onsight or ground-up.  

 mrjonathanr 23 Nov 2021
In reply to remus:

I'd have thought Neil Dickinson's ascent of The Hollow Man might be the hardest uk onsight?

In reply to PaulJepson:

A good point well made, but my upvote was actually for the chuckle I made reading your highly accurate description of gear placement under stress

 Andy Moles 23 Nov 2021
In reply to mrjonathanr:

> I'd have thought Neil Dickinson's ascent of The Hollow Man might be the hardest uk onsight?

It's up there and super impressive for sure, though IIRC the small print there was that he'd done The Clown and The Bells before (also on-sight), so most of the route was familiar to him.

Though there's a good twist to that story, recounted in The White Cliff - after the film crew had left that day, he also went and on-sighted Sex and Religion, discovering in a fully committed position that the crucial peg was rotted and useless. He basically got up it and survived by the skin of his teeth. Sounds for him like it was easily the harder of the two on-sights.

Post edited at 18:36
 wbo2 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Michael Gordon: alias fringed, or not done properly ? What's the appeal? 

 UKB Shark 23 Nov 2021
In reply to mrjonathanr:

Really? I’d assumed the hardest uk onsight by far is Steve Mac’s ascent of Nightmayer which at 8a and bold and at the upper end of E8.

 andyinglis 24 Nov 2021
In reply to Andy Moles:

Psychology innit'..... if you think an e6 will be piss then you get a rude awakening...... vs expecting an e8 (that you have some prior knowledge of) to be at your limit....

In reply to Hardonicus:

I guess because they both involve starting from the ground and not the top of the route (though if you abb the route this isnt quite true)

In reply to this topic in general, I also wonder if the fact that all E9s are headpointed for their FA plays into it?

As in, the E grade is kind of for the onsight but E9s are always headpointed. Up to about E6 I imagine although  maybe not on-sighted many FAs were done in a style closer to that than headpoint, maybe a quick look on abseil, or if its an old aid route then dogging up it/yo-yoing the route. 

Whereas E9s will mostly have likely been fairly comprehensively worked out potentially meaning they are a harder onsight proposition.

In reality there are so many factors feeding into this; climbing is transitioning from a quirky past time into quite a popular one. You can see it on the crags and in the standard at them. However, its the sport and bouldering areas that are really booming in popularity, trad less so. Performance is sexy at the moment. 

Most factors have been mentioned, but to onsight E9 you have to be an incredibly good trad climber which takes loads of time, you also probably have to be an incredibly good sport climber and to be one of those you have to train a decent amount and probably be a fairly handy boulderer! Then you have to be willing to risk wasting all that time and effort you have put in to mastering all these disciplines by breaking your legs, or maybe worse!?

I think often people get into sport to improve their trad climbing and then just get sucked into that. 

No doubt, trad onsight standards are improving, but rates have slowed vastly in the last 20/30 years - when was the first E7 onsighted? late 80s? 

I think Ste Mac's onsight of Nightmayer is probably up there in terms of successful onsights. 

Caff trying to onsight the FA of what would become Moonrise Kingdom, E9, shows how horrendously terrifying trying to onsight E9 is. 

Bransby falling off the top of Impact Day at Pavey with his hand on top of the crag back when it was given E9 is another mega effort.

Leo Houlding on his early ground-up efforts on The Prophet on El Cap would also be up there.

Pete Whittaker flashing Freerider and flashing/onsighting that 8b crack in Norway and onsighting the complete scream, E8, at Fairhead would also be more examples of the upper limit.

Realistically, Caff and Ste Mac are the main ones pushing this, maybe with James Pearson as well. Jim Pope could be one for the future as he is obviously a really good climber, but also interested in trad and enjoys trying things from the ground (from what I can gather).

Will be amazing when the first one goes down. Will Indian Face ever get onsighted (My money is on no)

 UKB Shark 24 Nov 2021
In reply to Duncan Campbell:

> No doubt, trad onsight standards are improving, but rates have slowed vastly in the last 20/30 years - when was the first E7 onsighted? late 80s? 

Waaay later Duncan. Seb Grieve was credited at the time as the first to do it in 1997 with Snap Decision at Ilkley. Certainly he was the first do an E7 onsight when it was graded E7.

(Caveat: It might be the case of a prior E6 onsight that has subsequently been upgraded to E7 but I don’t know of any)

 Ian Patterson 24 Nov 2021
In reply to UKB Shark

Didn'y 

> Waaay later Duncan. Seb Grieve was credited at the time as the first to do it in 1997 with Snap Decision at Ilkley. Certainly he was the first do an E7 onsight when it was graded E7.

Didn't Andy Pollit onsight The Bells The Bells in the mid/late 80s? Definitely graded E7.

 Darkinbad 24 Nov 2021
In reply to UKB Shark:

> Really? I’d assumed the hardest uk onsight by far is Steve Mac’s ascent of Nightmayer which at 8a and bold and at the upper end of E8.

Indeed. Bold in the massive, gear-stripping whipper sense (as ably demonstrated by Nico Favresse) rather than being certain death, but no less impressive for that.

Incredibly gnarly but safe cracks are a whole other thing, but the UK doesn't have many of those.

Post edited at 11:22
 UKB Shark 24 Nov 2021
In reply to Ian Patterson:

> Didn't Andy Pollit onsight The Bells The Bells in the mid/late 80s? Definitely graded E7.

Second ascent though think it might have been graded E6 when he did it. I’d be surprised if it didn’t involve some pre-inspection or beta from Redhead.

The distinction between onsight and flash often got muddled then. The mags certainly claimed Seb’s ascent as the first onsight at the grade and would have factored in the style routes such as the Bells had been done.

I don’t think ‘onsight’ in the more anal modern sense became such a ‘thing’ till the 90’s. If it had been a more coveted style earlier then talented climbers in the 80’s would have striven more for that crown.

 UKB Shark 24 Nov 2021
In reply to UKB Shark:

Been doing some googling. If Strawberries is E7 then Stefan Glowacz’s onsight ascent in 1987 has to be a potential contender 

https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/features/strawberries_-_a_british_on_sight-1117

In reply to UKB Shark:

Seems to me it could well be as its only had 3 onsights in forever and a lot of good climbers have tried and not managed it; Caff, Hazel, Pete Robins, loads of others too I'm sure.

Didn't Dougie Hall repeat one in good style very early on too? I think maybe one of those Dove crag ones? Might be well off the mark there.

I guess Ian Vickers was operating in the 90s when he did things like Broughton Power, E8, at Greenham Common which he did with minimal pre-practice? (Not 100% on the exact details)

Stuart Cameron did Extinction on Main Cliff at the big G ground up in the 90s.

 Ian Patterson 24 Nov 2021
In reply to UKB Shark:

> Second ascent though think it might have been graded E6 when he did it. I’d be surprised if it didn’t involve some pre-inspection or beta from Redhead.

> The distinction between onsight and flash often got muddled then. The mags certainly claimed Seb’s ascent as the first onsight at the grade and would have factored in the style routes such as the Bells had been done.

> I don’t think ‘onsight’ in the more anal modern sense became such a ‘thing’ till the 90’s. If it had been a more coveted style earlier then talented climbers in the 80’s would have striven more for that crown.

Think it was always E7, certainly is in Extreme rock about a year after Pollitt did it.   Agree on the onsight/flash difference not being so distinct back then though the link below calls it onsight and certainly doesn't mention any pre-inspection.

https://www.v-publishing.co.uk/blog/v-publishing-blog/the-bells-the-bells/

Impressive and very bold for certain.

 Andy Moles 24 Nov 2021
In reply to andyinglis:

> Psychology innit'..... if you think an e6 will be piss then you get a rude awakening...... vs expecting an e8 (that you have some prior knowledge of) to be at your limit....

Not denying that kind of psychology is a thing, but Sex and Religion is E7 6c (compared to Hollow Man at E7/8 6b). It's described as poorly protected, and he was less familiar with it, so I would guess he wasn't taking it too lightly. So who knows, but the respective difficulties might not be reducible to 'psychology' alone.

Post edited at 14:55
 UKB Shark 24 Nov 2021
In reply to UKB Shark:

> Waaay later Duncan. Seb Grieve was credited at the time as the first to do it in 1997 with Snap Decision at Ilkley. Certainly he was the first do an E7 onsight when it was graded E7.

Given the copious examples of E7 onsights from at least 1982 onwards I think it must have been that he was credited with the first grit E7 onsight and I’ve misremembered. My bad. Sorry. 

In reply to Ian Patterson:

> Agree on the onsight/flash difference not being so distinct back then

IIRC the earlier terminology for "Onsight" and "flash" was "onsight flash" and "beta flash". This change which happened over some time, has of course complicated everyone's memory of who did what, when and how. 

 Misha 24 Nov 2021
In reply to Duncan Campbell:

Agree with all that. For some pros, there’s another aspect as well - trad onsight just isn’t valued or understood in many countries or indeed among many climbers even here. So a Eurowad could put a lot of time into trying hard onsights, potentially at significant risk, for relatively little commercial gain. Let’s face it, that’s going to be a big consideration for some people. Headpointing is easier and safer as well as providing an opportunity for a bigger E number, so it’s more attractive, not least commercially. 

In reply to Misha:

> Headpointing is easier and safer as well as providing an opportunity for a bigger E number, so it’s more attractive, not least commercially. 

I wonder whether, if H grades had caught on so that you couldn't get big E numbers for headpoints, there would be more incentive for onsights (which are the only true way of gaining E points anyway).

 Misha 24 Nov 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

Doubt it would be to any significant degree. Onsights are hard and can be dangerous. These are significant obstacles, whatever the grade is called.

In reply to Michael Gordon:

>it seems a shame that Ground-up has become such a grey entity with huge differences in style and therefore difficulty within it

Why is it a shame? It's not a competition.

Also, in what sense has it 'become' a grey entity. When was it not? There have never been any rules; styles of ascent have always covered a very wide spectrum.

jcm

In reply to mrjonathanr:

> I'd have thought Neil Dickinson's ascent of The Hollow Man might be the hardest uk onsight?

Dickson, no?

jcm

 Michael Gordon 25 Nov 2021
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

> Why is it a shame? It's not a competition.

I know it's not a competition but it allows for so much that it can be hard to know what an ascent has involved without further info to clarify.

> Also, in what sense has it 'become' a grey entity. When was it not? There have never been any rules; styles of ascent have always covered a very wide spectrum.>

Could be wrong but it was my impression that Ground-up used to be the default next option after a failed onsight, i.e. you still had to work it out as you went. Nowadays it seems to still be an option after a failed flash. You're probably right that it has always been grey but it does seem to allow for a lot more difference within it than onsight or flash.


Please Register as a New User in order to reply to this topic.
Loading Notifications...