/ Footless Crow

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Rick Graham on 24 Jan 2019

Was Footless Crow the hardest rock climb in the world when it was put up in 1974?Footless Crow (E5 6c)

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wbo - on 24 Jan 2019
In reply to Rick Graham: it's lost holds hasn't it? What was the original grade.

I suspect the answer is not quite

 

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DaveHK - on 24 Jan 2019
In reply to wbo:

> it's lost holds hasn't it? What was the original grade.

Was it Tom Prentice that pulled the flake off? Pretty sure I heard that from someone who climbed with him. I think that made it significantly harder.

 

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paul__in_sheffield - on 24 Jan 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

Tricky to compare I guess, but John Gill had put up V8, V9 and V10, and soloed hard 5.12 in the 1950s , so maybe it depends where footless crow is on the 6c spectrum?

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Rick Graham on 24 Jan 2019
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:

FC was usually E5 6b in the guidebooks before the flake came off.

Lakes E5   

I will have to check with Pete Botterill but I think it was E4 on his scale but that was his top number on the original list .

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paul__in_sheffield - on 24 Jan 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

Thought it was 6b, so prob not the hardest climb in the world at the time. I guess the only time that’s happened would be Liquid Ambar, Hubble, maybe that route of Steve Macs on Raven Tor that no one can repeat, and maybe Violent New Breed. 

Doing this from memory so may also be cr*p!

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Rick Graham on 24 Jan 2019
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:

> Thought it was 6b, so prob not the hardest climb in the world at the time. I guess the only time that’s happened would be Liquid Ambar, Hubble, maybe that route of Steve Macs on Raven Tor that no one can repeat, and maybe Violent New Breed. 

> Doing this from memory so may also be cr*p!

1974. Would there  only have been boulder problems harder at the time?

Were not most of the Allen / Bancroft routes done later?

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AlanLittle - on 24 Jan 2019
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pec on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:

> Thought it was 6b, so prob not the hardest climb in the world at the time. I guess the only time that’s happened would be Liquid Ambar, Hubble, maybe that route of Steve Macs on Raven Tor that no one can repeat, and maybe Violent New Breed. 

Presumably if you go back far enough then quite a few UK routes would have been the hardest route in the world, stuff like CB on Scafell perhaps. Largely because rock climbing as a sport in its own right (as opposed to mountaineering) wasn't being practiced elsewhere.

 

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DaveHK - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:

> Thought it was 6b, so prob not the hardest climb in the world at the time. I guess the only time that’s happened would be...

Requiem at Dumbarton has been touted as the hardest route in the world at the time. I'm not sure as to the validity of that.

 

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Michael Gordon - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

Maybe in '84. In 1974 Requiem was still very much an aid route.

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Phizzers - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

It was certainly the hardest route in the Lakes by a country mile, and at the time probably the hardest hit crag route in the country.

It's influence land impact on climbers of that era was immense. It killed off the trad 'ground-up ' approach to hard new routing, particularly when Livesey criticised Tut and Rod for their on-sight ascent of The Cumbrian.

It was probably the most significant route climbed since C.B. and there's been few others since, perhaps The Indian Face is the only other route which has such influence on climbers.

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DaveHK - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> Maybe in '84. In 1974 Requiem was still very much an aid route.

That's what I meant, the comment I was replying to was about times when the hardest route in the world was found in the UK.

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In reply to Rick Graham:

I would have thought that Our Father (E4 6b) would technically give it a good run for its money and if you give that a bit of kudos for being 1967 then at least comparable if not better.

There are a number of other Stoney routes that can hold their heads high in the pantheon of impressive trad ascents for their time. A route like Circe (E5 6b) (Proctor 1977) was almost certainly harder than Footless I suspect (although obviously three years later).

Alan

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john arran - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Wasn't Our Father given E3 6a for a long time? I did it in the early 80s and don't recall any particular difficulty compared to Peak E4s and E5s, which certainly felt harder. 

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In reply to john arran:

> Wasn't Our Father given E3 6a for a long time? I did it in the early 80s and don't recall any particular difficulty compared to Peak E4s and E5s, which certainly felt harder. 

Yes, it was given E3 which is incredibly significant when you consider that it was one of the original benchmarks for E3 which were first introduced into UK guides in the 70s series of BMC Peak guides!

My experience of Footless Crow (E5 6c) was arriving at the bit in the guide where it said "climb up past one undercut to a second undercut" and realising that there was no second undercut. I don't seem to remember it being particularly hard up to that point. Not sure what it was like afterwards since I never got there but I doubt it was going to be harder technically than Our Father. 

I think my point is that whilst Footless may have been a big route ahead of its time, I very much doubt it had the hardest climbing on it even in 1974 although I might struggle to come up with one off the top of my head.

Alan

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Tom Briggs on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

I dunno about the OG line of Footless, going left, but I did the direct in 2003 and I don't remember it being technically that hard, it just felt very bold going for it above an inverted peg. I've done Circe a few times and am always surprised how hard that crux is.

I'm not sure about the mid-'70s but certainly post war I suspect some of the hardest routes in the world were in the Czech. Put it this way, Goliath at Burbage South would have been a warm up for solo for some of the routes done at the same time in Ardspach.

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Chris Craggs - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to john arran:

> Wasn't Our Father given E3 6a for a long time? I did it in the early 80s and don't recall any particular difficulty compared to Peak E4s and E5s, which certainly felt harder. 


Let's not forget Our Father was originally given HVS!

Chris

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Tony & Sarah - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Tom Briggs:

Hi Tom, agree with you about Adrspach , Goliath is about 7 on their grading system, easy HVS.

However Elbebandstein for a long time had the record for the hardest routes. We are in the Alps at the moment so cannot pull our history books to check.

Sarah

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In reply to Tony & Sarah:

> However Elbebandstein for a long time had the record for the hardest routes. We are in the Alps at the moment so cannot pull our history books to check.

I am sure you are right Sarah. There are routes that would currently get E4 from the 1920s in the Elbebandstein, probably even some E5s.

 

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seankenny - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> I am sure you are right Sarah. There are routes that would currently get E4 from the 1920s in the Elbebandstein, probably even some E5s.

An article on E5s in the 1920s would be well worth reading. Who the hell was climbing those routes? What were they putting in the water in Weimar Germany and did they even know what AnCap was?!

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webbo - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

Macabre roof 5.12c Ogden UT 1967

English hanging garden 5.12b Big Rock 1970

Pasino overhang 5.12c Suicide rocks 1973

Kansas City 5.12b Shawangunks 1973

There is also Red Cross overhang either 5.13 or 7c but may be considered too short to be a  route.

 

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scott titt - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

Supercrack, 5.12c put up by Steve Wunsch at the Gunks  probably takes it.

https://web.stanford.edu/~clint/yos/hard.htm

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jimtitt - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

Probably one of the more accurate lists is here;- http://www.emontana.cz/climbing-milestones-from-6a-to-9c/

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Offwidth - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

This is a useful thread.  Very few UK routes.

https://web.stanford.edu/~clint/yos/hard.htm

The notable routes before '74 (ignoring Gills bouldering) are:

'61 The Thimble 5.12a/b (John Gill)

'67 Marcabe Roof, 5.12c (Greg Lowe) 

A few other 5.12c routes were climbed in the early 70s. The brits were still mearly closing the gap.

 

 

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In reply to jimtitt:

> Probably one of the more accurate lists is here;- http://www.emontana.cz/climbing-milestones-from-6a-to-9c/

That's a great article Jim.

The only thing I would say is that anyone who thinks those Elbesandstein routes given from 6a to 6b are like the 6a and 6b routes down the wall should go and do one!

That first one - Perrykante - is given the grade VIIb! In reality that is WAY harder than a modern 6a sport route. Think E4/5 minimum!

Alan

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Rick Graham on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

> This is a useful thread.  Very few UK routes.

> https://web.stanford.edu/~clint/yos/hard.htm

> The notable routes before '74 (ignoring Gills bouldering) are:

> '61 The Thimble 5.12a/b (John Gill)

> '67 Marcabe Roof, 5.12c (Greg Lowe) 

> A few other 5.12c routes were climbed in the early 70s. The brits were still mearly closing the gap.

So perhaps rephrase the OP.

Was FC the hardest route in the UK in spring 1974?

Out of interest what would it be in YDS.

5.12 a b or c?

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paul__in_sheffield - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

Thanks for that list, just not ignoring Gill’s bouldering for a moment, 

V8, 1957

V9, 1959

goodness me! 

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Michael Hood - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:

JG would have given it B2. If I remember correctly his bouldering grades were...

B3 not yet done

B2 done once

B1 repeated

Harsh but cuts out all the grading squabbling.

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Michael Hood - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

I remember that Footless Crow and Right Wall were the 2 BIG routes that had taken standards in the UK to the next level in the mid 70s.

There might have been other UK routes of similar difficulty at that time but these were the ones that were obviously that bit harder than what had been done before. These were the game changers that made others aspire to that higher level of difficulty.

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wbo - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Offwidth:  It's very hard I think to compare routes between areas, but suspect it would be even harder back in the day.  What UK grade would , I wonder, Supercrack and The Phoenixx get?  Grand Illusion is obviously very hard.

I don't even look at the Czech routes as there grading, attitude to grading is so different

 

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webbo - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Michael Hood:

> JG would have given it B2. If I remember correctly his bouldering grades were...

> B3 not yet done

> B2 done once

> B1 repeated

> Harsh but cuts out all the grading squabbling.

Not quite right B1 represents harder than the hardest roped climbing. B3 is a problem that has been only done once as soon as it’s repeated it’s B2.

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Michael Hood - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to webbo:

Thanks for the correction of my faulty memory

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Phil Kelly - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Chris Craggs:

> Let's not forget Our Father was originally given HVS!

I very much doubt that.

Our Father was reported in RockSport in 1968 as 'Extremely Severe' and definitely hadn't been repeated by that point; that took a while didn't it?

 

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Michael Gordon - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Phizzers:

>It killed off the trad 'ground-up ' approach to hard new routing, particularly when Livesey criticised Tut and Rod for their on-sight ascent of The Cumbrian.> 

What's the story behind that?

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Chris Craggs - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Phil Kelly:

I am pretty sure I remember Geoff Birtles telling the tale of Tom taking him up to Windy Ledge to have a look at his '"latest HVS". I doubt the grade ever made it into print,

Chris

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Rick Graham on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to phizzers

> It was probably the most significant route climbed since C.B. and there's been few others since, perhaps The Indian Face is the only other route which has such influence on climbers.

John Dunne's mega route the full height of malham ended my ambition to link main event into first night nerves into stage fright. At the time would have needed a specially ordered length of rope.

Was having sleepness nights thinking about the 40 m fall potential onto a weighted skyhook, thank you , John.

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Sean Kelly - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Michael Hood:

> I remember that Footless Crow and Right Wall were the 2 BIG routes that had taken standards in the UK to the next level in the mid 70s.

You had to be around at the time to know how big a moment this was in British climbing. These were trad leads with the shit gear we had at the time, no cams, few decent nuts, usually threaded on line,  or tape for the big nuts, and possibly only waist harnesses. No stitch plates either. So totally radical routes, and no sport-climbing bolts to harmlessly fall onto. In fact no sport-climbing at all really at the time. Livesey put these routes up with a combination of training, pre-practised moves and big balls! Even the guy holding his ropes on RW was just passing...

 

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jon on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Sean Kelly:

> Even the guy holding his ropes on RW was just passing...

You missed the bit about untying on the girdle ledge and soloing off up The Gates so he could remind himself where the top bit went, before finishing it off. I think that's right anyway?

 

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Colin Moody - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

 > John Dunne's mega route the full height of malham ended my ambition to link main event into first night nerves into stage fright. At the time would have needed a specially ordered length of rope.

 

Did he not use a standard rope and have a second belayer on the route ready to take over?

I’ve never climbed there.

 

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Rick Graham on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Colin Moody:

I think he used an 8.5 half rope, 100m length.

Maybe the drag was so much he used the mid height belayer trick. Relatively easy with the mid height terrace that almost crosses the full cove.

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Phil Kelly - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Chris Craggs:

> I am pretty sure I remember Geoff Birtles telling the tale of Tom taking him up to Windy Ledge to have a look at his '"latest HVS". I doubt the grade ever made it into print,

Well seeing as they did the FA together that would have had to have been before it happened. None of the evidence supports that theory though, including interviews with both of them (separately).

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Phil Kelly - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to scott titt:

Doesn’t take many lines to get to the first mistake.

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Rick Graham on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Sean Kelly: 

Even the guy holding his ropes on RW was just passing...

Agree with big moment at the time.

I think Jill Lawrence was holding the ropes on right wall. That was why it was such an extra big deal for her to do the first female lead.

Robin Witham , who was on the FA of footless, was described as a passing sailor, but apparently got roped in by Pete when he had no other options. Robin is actually a keen climber and can often be spotted at Kendal Wall.

The basis of the FC line is the Great buttress route climbed by Paul Ross with, I think, 3 bolts and 3 pegs. Quite an impressive lead in 1966.  But don't tell paul Will see if I can find an old guide description. 

Legend also has it that Pete clipped the 3 bolts then chopped them later.

Why the 8mm bolt and troll hanger (where Voyage and FC part) are a different vintage to the bolts on mirage pitch 2 and presumably the earlier bolts on Great buttress is a mystery.

 

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Gordon Stainforth - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Michael Hood:

> I remember that Footless Crow and Right Wall were the 2 BIG routes that had taken standards in the UK to the next level in the mid 70s.

> There might have been other UK routes of similar difficulty at that time but these were the ones that were obviously that bit harder than what had been done before. These were the game changers that made others aspire to that higher level of difficulty.

There's a good list of his better UK ones here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pete_Livesey

The calibre of the routes is fantastic.

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Steve Clegg - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

"The man who transforms The Great Buttress from a peg route to a free route is sure of his niche in climbing history". Mike Thompson

… but you knew that Rick!

Steve

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paul mitchell - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

Just a wee bit of amnesia regarding the heinous stuff being on sighted at Gogarth.

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Rick Graham on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Steve Clegg:

> "The man who transforms The Great Buttress from a peg route to a free route is sure of his niche in climbing history". Mike Thompson

> … but you knew that Rick!

> Steve

Never had many guidebooks early on, never bought yours

The Pete crew gogarth guide was a good ten bob spent though.

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paul mitchell - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to paul mitchell:

Alan Rouse ,Positron,Gogarth, 1971,even with a bit of aid.Phenomenal.

Post edited at 21:50
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Andy Farnell on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

Constable's Overhang (E5 6b)

E5 6b. 1973. Probably F7a+ and burly as f*ck. Got to be up there as the hardest in the UK at the time.

Andy F

Post edited at 22:04
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GPN - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Andy Farnell:

> Constable's Overhang (E5 6b)

> E5 6b. 1973. Probably F7a+ and burly as f*ck. Got to be up there as the hardest in the UK at the time.

> Andy F

Good shout - it’s nails! I reckon the top crack would get at least V6 if it was a boulder problem.

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Rick Graham on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Andy Farnell:

> Constable's Overhang (E5 6b)

> E5 6b. 1973. Probably F7a+ and burly as f*ck. Got to be up there as the hardest in the UK at the time.

> Andy F

Yes, good shout.

Anybody done both ?

Edit, no obvious logbook matches.

Possibly Mick Lovat or John Monks ?

 

Post edited at 22:24
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paul mitchell - on 02 Feb 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

At Almscliff,1973,Hank Pasquil's Goblin's Eyes Roof/Orcrist.

Very committing.Bad fall potential and very easy to fall off.

A challenge from  a  Lancastrian to some complacent locals.

His son did quite well at Ilkley,too.

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webbo - on 02 Feb 2019
In reply to paul mitchell:

Well you’ve got that wrong Kirky. As Steve Bancroft arranged a system with 8 hex tied down to a thread on the floor to stop it lifting out. One rope through that and another rope through a nut on the other side of the rift. A baby bouncer in effect.

They did the second ascent of Big Greeny the same day, seating the nuts with hammer. They also had to use combined tactics to start Wall of Horrors.

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paul mitchell - on 02 Feb 2019
In reply to webbo:

well well,interesting news.

Seems people are convinced that Steve was shit. I watched him do Reticent Mass Murderer no falls.

 

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webbo - on 02 Feb 2019
In reply to paul mitchell:

Don’t forget this was 1974? and he would be about 17 and he was still living Oldham way and had not started climbing with John yet.

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paul mitchell - on 03 Feb 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

In case people weren't aware,Hank Pasquil did both Orchrist and  first free ascent  of Constable's Overhang.

Post edited at 12:04
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Phil Kelly - on 04 Feb 2019
In reply to paul mitchell:

 

>I watched him do Reticent Mass Murderer no falls.

Interestingly in his diary Steve marks RMM as ‘easy’

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Mick Ward - on 04 Feb 2019
In reply to Phil Kelly:

Well, as Mandy Rice-Davies, would say, "He would say that, wouldn't he?"

(If he'd got up it - and bloody good effort getting up it. I seem to remember Dave Humphries having a look at it - seemed nails.)

Mick

 

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webbo - on 04 Feb 2019
In reply to Mick Ward:

I think Steve said it was easy because Ron failed on it.

I did it with Dave Humphries and Mark Stokes, Dave had been on it before as he knew all the ins and outs of getting the gear in( this was before friends). It took us all day, Dave taped up and I didn’t. I was beginning to think this was a big mistake on my part as I was losing skin on every attempt, it was a case just one last go.

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Will Hunt - on 04 Feb 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

If we wind the clock back to the 50's, there is an E4 6b at Ilkley Rocky Valley that was put up in (I think) the early part of that decade. It's almost forgotten now, doesn't get any stars.

You climb a three star severe until you get to a ledge and then take a thin wall above for a few moves to get to the top. You have to press out to a gaston, get a high left foot and rock over it to a hold above. I did it on a top rope and it probably is a 6b move. If you fluff it you won't deck, but you might clatter yourself on the ledge.

The YG definitive guide describes the first ascenscionist (I think he was fairly unknown), bivouacing in the valley for a week prior to the ascent, working the move on a top rope before committing to a lead or maybe a solo. It must be one of the earliest examples of a real headpoint effort (as opposed to a quick look on a top-rope prior to a solo). I'm not sure if 6b would have existed on a route (as opposed to a boulder) at the time in the UK.

Gremlin's Wall (E4 6b)

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webbo - on 04 Feb 2019
In reply to Will Hunt:

Ron Heilds Gremlins wall E4 6b He wasn’t unknown he did other first ascents round Yorkshire. I guess it just that it’s 5 grades harder than anything else he did.

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Rick Graham on 04 Feb 2019
In reply to webbo:

> I think Steve said it was easy because Ron failed on it.

I like his style.

History will mark Ron out as THE climber of the era, but Steve's one up manship and sandbagging skill is to be applauded 

 

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webbo - on 04 Feb 2019
In reply to Will Hunt:

> If we wind the clock back to the 50's, there is an E4 6b at Ilkley Rocky Valley that was put up in (I think) the early part of that decade. It's almost forgotten now, doesn't get any stars.

> You climb a three star severe until you get to a ledge and then take a thin wall above for a few moves to get to the top. You have to press out to a gaston, get a high left foot and rock over it to a hold above. I did it on a top rope and it probably is a 6b move. If you fluff it you won't deck, but you might clatter yourself on the ledge.

> The YG definitive guide describes the first ascenscionist (I think he was fairly unknown), bivouacing in the valley for a week prior to the ascent, working the move on a top rope before committing to a lead or maybe a solo. It must be one of the earliest examples of a real headpoint effort (as opposed to a quick look on a top-rope prior to a solo). I'm not sure if 6b would have existed on a route (as opposed to a boulder) at the time in the UK.

> Gremlin's Wall (E4 6b)

I pretty sure I belayed Al Mason on at least one attempt at what he thought was a new route. I can’t remember if I was there when he did it, although I remember trying it on rope.

I think it was always known as Gremlins Wall and it had been claimed before but that claim had been discounted. Similar to Jokers Wall being previously claimed as Lechers Wall.

 

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Phizzers - on 11 Feb 2019
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Too long to explain, but if you can, see FRCC journal 2014.

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