This coming May will be the 30th Anniversary of the first ascent of "Deja Vu" in the Great Zawn, Bosigran, West Cornwall by American "Hot" Henry Barber and myself.
I have not seen Henry since that week 30 years ago but I hope to do so this year at the Llanberis Film Festival. If anyone reading this is in touch with Henry please pass this message on to him.
To quote the historical section of CC Guide "West Cornwall": "Great Zawn was the scene of a stylish and historic piece of climbing with the ascent of the smooth "vertical" slab flanking "Dream" by American ace Henry Barber, seconded by Frank Cannings. "Deja Vu" was the result. The line had been spotted by Cannings, who felt it was not for him as a lead. "Here was a line that I'd seen and couldn't do. And here I had the chance to throw one of the world's top rock climbers at it." The pair first went to view the line from the sea; literally - by swimming round into the mouth of Great Zawn to discuss the possibilities. The route was climbed the following day, but only after Barber jibbed and gibbered at making the infamous leap across The Crevasse for a good half hour. Once across , the remarkable "Hots" resumed civilised activity and made a fine and faultless on-sight lead of the extremely bold and sparsely protected "Deja Vu".
The route is so named because when Henry and I were sat down amongst the grass and beautiful wild flowers at the top of the climb we both had a strong feeling that we had been here and done this before.
I'd like to gather together some recollections of ascents of the climb over that 30 year period. I'd also like to hear from a team that could do an anniversery ascent and from anyone who would like to film that ascent.
In reply to Frank Cannings: Frank, I think, though I might be wrong, that Pete Livesy and I did the second ascent, Pat Littlejohn may have beaten us to it but I dont know why I think that now? We can talk about it if you call, sent you the number on an e-mail.
In reply to Al Evans: By the way, we roped up for the jump across the crevasse because Pete didnt fancy it solo, when it came to my turn, as I plucked up the courage, Pete just pulled me off the rock and I flew across the gap, there was no way he was going to let me back out Incidently, theres a picture taken of me on it, by Brian Cropper, posted somewhere on the web, it may be on this site. I'll try and locate it for you.
I've done this route a couple of times, most recently last summer with my American friend, Ron.
Ron lives just outside Yosemite NP, and is a pretty good slab climber. I asked him for an American grade for Deja Vu, and he gave it 5.10c. It's interesting to look at one of the grade conversion tables and convert this to English grades - it comes out at about E2!
Personally, I think E4 is a bit high - but English climbers are not very good at granite slabs compared to Californians. Did Hot Henry give an American grade for Deja Vu?
BTW, my friend Ron was 64 years old when he led it. Sickening.
In reply to Andy2: Andy, Deja Vu is not E2, I'd have thought E4 is about right, when I did it I was climbing quite well and leading that sort of grade in retrospect,I was impressed by Pete's lead, unless new pro makes a difference, and I suppose sticky boots, then I cant imagine its as easy as Cenotaph Corner or Suicide Wall, or even Bow Wall which I led again last year ??????????
5.10c sounds about right for Deja Vu, it's similar climbing to something like Stoner's Highway on Middle Cathedral. Space Babble on the same crag gets 5.11a but would be a solid E5 in Cornwall. Running it out above 30 year old 1/4" bolts would be good practice for bold trad. climbing in the UK! I'd love to think I could climb E4 when I'm 64.
Yosemite grades are on the tough side but I'd guess the divergence from the suggested grade is down to the pro as Mick says: if Deja Vu had solid gear every 5' it might get E2.
my experience of us grades in a number of areas is that non-scary 5.9 or 5.10a equates to about e1, and 5.10c would definitely be at least e2. lack of pro could easily add more e points but as i haven't done deja vu i couldn't say how many
In reply to Frank Cannings: The best story I heard about 'Hot' Henry Barber was at one of Al Harris's parties in the early 70's, when my mate Norman decided to introduce Henry to all the local 'hot shots' 'and so Henry this is ...blar blar etc.' until finally Henry said to Norman..'and who the f*ck are you!'
I haven't done Deja Vu (just added it to my must-do list!) but I have done the first pitch of Dream twice. The slab on Dream above the crux overhang, but below the traverse at the break to the arete to belay, is just behind the climber in the picture and is shown as vertical. But I am 99% sure you can stand hands-off there. Therefore, looks tilted. But a great photo (feel I've seen it somewhere else, was it in a mag or guidebook at some point?).
In reply to Al Evans:
Went to do it with James in 1977 - I led the first pitch but we both psyched out at the start of the 'slab'. Absolutely awesome. I never went back and did it, do you know if James ever did.
(I still love to just sit at the top of the zawn and look across at it!)
> (In reply to Frank Cannings) Why is Frank not answering his thread?
Hello Al, Andy and all
Sorry Al, I'm not lucky enough to have retired yet so was busy with work. I'm not sure that I'm really qualified to discuss the modern grading of Deja Vu, it's certainly more than HVS. I was once told by a leading climbing photographer, or even two of them, that a good rock climbing photo should portray the feeling of the climb so it doesn't really matter if it is tilted. It doesn't feel like a "slab" - at what angle does a piece of rock cease to be a slab - 89 degrees?
Anyhow, despite the good responses - no contact with Hot H, no offers of stardom and no budding camera genius has emerged.
the other andy03 Feb 2004
In reply to Frank Cannings:
Henry lives near North Conway NH, there is a website neclimbs.com that is popular with locals. Try putting your question on that site, you may have better luck.
I do have his address and phone #, you can E me if you want them.