Good article. Thanks. Apart from the actual climbing itself, alot of environmental nature and ecology issues are out of our hands and in the hands of industry and land owners. To add a voice and numbers to the protest. Come to Yorkshire's cop 27 demonstration which is being held in Sheffield on 12th November . Meet at Barker's pool at 12pm on 12th November, bring plackards or banners with your environmental issues (Ban grouse shooting) or whatever ... (more access to nature) ... but mainly just bring yourselves. Clean climbing is a good ethos, maybe thats how we should live aswell . Look climbers for climate up on facebook for more details! ...
Many thanks indeed. I think that what those guys did back then was quite something. Obviously our world today is very different (and seems much more complex). But they cared... and they did something that was pretty brave.
Hopefully their actions fifty years ago will inspire people today.
In the photo on Malc Taylor at Turkey Dip, it seems he's actually on a route called Step On It. The Land That Time Forgot is to the side.
Also a Factor Two fall is where the leader goes the length of the rope and then again, i.e. straight past the belay, with no gear stopping them. Stomach churning and to be avoided at all costs. Unless you're very confident (and even if you are?) it always seems better to place something as soon as possible above a multi-pitch belay. Or even a few things.
I've heard so many tales of grim falls stopped by pieces of gear which the leader felt would never hold and thought, "Is it worth placing it?" But if you don't place it, it can't stop you! (Lesson for me too.)
Once again, very enjoyable piece of work, well done.
Your prior comment about placing "is it worth it?" gear...
I've always gone for the "double tap" method...place a bit of gear, then one extra. A number of times the "good" one has gone, but the crappy double tap has held. It's actually saved me from serious injury several times over the last 50 years....
Your reference to PTSD got me thinking about my first one. Not a problem with there being no gear, just young, impetuous, underskilled and as it turns out, lucky. I can still see the grit flying past my eyes as I am about to deck out from high on Old Friends on Stanage. All the gear popped, but a bunch of gymnastics comps when I was at school landed me by autopilot, just before all the gear landed with the rope. It was a long way down.
What JB said about Left Wall being a big step up wasn't just about the gear I think. Pete and Ron were properly training for climbing as a sport, and at that time E5 6a was just....much harder than the typical Rock and Ice routes, irrespective of gear. Roll forwards a few years and Jerry solos up and down most of the significant routes on the Cromlech in an afternoon with just boots and chalk bag, no gear. Typical Jerry, he called it an 'easy and outdated crag'.
Many thanks, Andy, agree, redundancy is your friend. I can remember landing on a nest of half a dozen wires. A silly fall really. All but one ripped. If that had gone (and it was a pathetic placement), the fall could have ended badly.
The next day I reversed most of Man of Straw in a downpour with (as I remember) no gear in. You look back, shudder and give thanks.
Hi Paul, God, you were lucky with Old Friends. I'm guessing you didn't quite latch the dyno. There's an old photo of Ed Wood setting up for the dyno and looking as though his heart wasn't really in it. Gripping stuff.
Agree totally, Right Wall, Footless Crow and all those others were about far more than the gear. Pete lacked the ability which Big Ron so conspicuously possessed - and still has. But he had everything else: the vision, the self-belief, the bottle, the fitness and yes, I suppose, the ruthlessness too.
To deconstruct things, back then people were probably climbing routes with V3/V4 cruxes, but their bouldering ability was probably only V5/V6. Not like nowadays when most people have so much more in the tank. Without wires, I think it would have simply been too dangerous.
I believe that when Henry Barber brought 5.12 to the Valley with the FA of Fish Crack, he took a huge whipper and a crucial wire held. Seems that if it hadn't, he'd have been badly injured/dead. Apparently Bachar and Kauk weren't up for that (seems sensible to me). Barber went back and did it. But there's only so many times you can do that. Nobody is immortal.
I suspect Brown was a master of reading the rock, extricating himself from sticky situations and going home safely at the end of the day. Which, I'd argue, is what it's ultimately all about.
Not sure about Ron and Pete. Ron never worked and climbed and trained full time, whereas Pete did. I think it. was more like a progressive evolution. In fact John Sheard had more ability than Pete, but no neck. I well remember years ago going to Malham, when sports routes still had E grades. On seeing everybody hanging of bolts, John declared “ I can lead E6 now”. Interesting to see and experience those interactions. Take your point about grades in hand. I’ve heard people claim Golden Mile is 7B+, whereas 6C/6C+ is probably about right. Masters Edge is 7B+! Sports climbing I never on sighted anything above 7A+, but could on sight E6. Good article though.
Great article, Mick. I well remember getting my first hexcentric back in the late 70s (a 4 I think?) and just turning it in my hands and looking at it, it was so well-engineered. And it went in and cammed like a dream on Woods Climb at Helsby. And then it was wired Rocks, Friends, RPs and all the rest. Trouble is you carried so much gear that, whereas you felt much safer and more confident, the rack was so heavy you couldn't climb. It was a relief when bolted routes arrived - all you needed was a few clippers. There was a phase, of course, when everyone soloed everything but that didn't last too long (thank God!). Only joking...
Hi Pete, many thanks indeed. You're absolutely right; as with the pitons which they superseded, the first hexes and stoppers were beautifully done. Though I guess Brits of a certain age will always have a fondness for MOACs.
In the first essay I mentioned Doug Scott's great book, 'Big Wall Climbing'. There were two photos in it which really were the shape of things to come. One was of a cam in an inverted crack. I think it was by Greg Lowe. I remember thinking, 'It's only a question of time until virtually any crack can be protected.'
The other photo was of a gritstone climber with what Scott felt was a way too big rack. Clearly he was a man ahead of his time! A modern rack is probably about three times the size of a '70s rack and five to ten times the size of a '60s rack.
The result? Take a route like Right Unconquerable. When Joe Brown first did it in 1949, with no gear, he was facing a death fall from the top mantle. I used to do it with three pieces (two in the same place, none cams). Massively different situation to Brown.
Now, armed with a big rack of cams, anybody knows that if they get pumped or gripped, all they have to do is hang on for a few seconds, get a cam in and slump on it. Massively different situation again.
Obviously 'plug and play' means more traffic on the route and ever greater chances of the flake being damaged by hasty/poorly thought out placements.
Thankfully there's much less chance of someone getting hurt. But equally there's a moral question, "Should I be on this route at all?"
Jobs Head Route Setter, The Climbing Hangar - Swansea
Elsewhere on the site
Fri Night Vid Fields of Gold - Wadi Rum Bouldering
In this week's Friday Night Video, Luke fletcher, Zoe Wood, Duncan Cunningham and Eadan Cunningham travel to the desert of Wadi Rum in Jordan with the aim of exploring the landscape for bouldering and putting up new lines. With the help of some...