UKC

/ Hardest route climbed on one straight axe?

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Rick Graham on 10 Mar 2018

Following on from the one axe or two topic, I wonder what is the hardest route climbed on one straight axe?

My starters OTTOMH

Eagle Ridge , Patey and co back in the day.

Point Five by Tut Braithwaite.  Rumoured to climb on one straight axe just for " old times sake" or maybe because he found things too easy with two dropped picks

 

Edit. A "straight " axe is one with the pick at almost 90 degrees to the straight shaft.

Post edited at 17:37
d_b on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to Rick Graham:

I'm going to have to look up the name, but according to the notes in the back of one of my guides there is a grade IV in the lakes where one of the first ascentionists forgot his crampons and seconded by cutting steps.

Rick Graham on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to davidbeynon:

In the Lakes, Bowfell Buttress and Steep Ghyll might be on the short list.

Dave Kerr - on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to Rick Graham:

Agag's Groove?

Doug on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to Rick Graham:

What tools did Smith & Marshall use for routes such as Orion Face, Tower Face of Comb Buttress or Smith's route on Nevis ? Or Patey, Brooker & colleagues on various routes on Lochnagar such as Eagle Ridge or Pinnacle Face ? - just one axe ?

Rick Graham on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to Dave Kerr:

> Agag's Groove?

Good shout.

Rick Graham on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to Doug:

> What tools did Smith & Marshall use for routes such as Orion Face, Tower Face of Comb Buttress or Smith's route on Nevis ? Or Patey, Brooker & colleagues on various routes on Lochnagar such as Eagle Ridge or Pinnacle Face ? - just one axe ?

Not sure. Rumours of slaters hammers and ice daggers/ modified pokers. I often wonder if the top Scots climbers prefered to modify their own axes/tools rather than give everybody the same advantage with a commercial product. Hamish McInnes excepted of course. Or maybe Hamish was the first to have the ability to make a commercial product and the belief there was a viable market for technical tools.

Post edited at 18:16
1
d_b on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to Rick Graham:

The one I was thinking of was Spiral Gully (III/IV) at Dove Crag.

 

While looking for it I found this account of the FA of Birkness Chimney (IV), which was climbed "using sharp rocks as ice daggers".

"I had asked Bert to bring up with him a suitable stone for hacking and when he saw my belay he went back down the snow slope to find a larger one.  Just above me was a small chockstone completely iced into the parent rock.  With our primitive tools I attacked the ice, hoping to break a hole through behind the chock to form a thread belay.  Hacking at ice, frozen pebbles and clay is painful work, particularly without gloves.  Soon the gore from cut fingers migled with the ice and clay to form an unpleasant melange."

Goucho on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to Doug:

> What tools did Smith & Marshall use for routes such as Orion Face, Tower Face of Comb Buttress or Smith's route on Nevis ? Or Patey, Brooker & colleagues on various routes on Lochnagar such as Eagle Ridge or Pinnacle Face ? - just one axe ?

On Orion Face, didn't Smith use one old straight axe plus the poker from the CIC Hut?

I once completed a solo ascent of Green Gully on the Ben with just one Curver axe, after the leash system on my other tool - an old Salewa North Wall Hammer - failed, resulting in me dropping it halfway up the 4th pitch.

That kind of situation certainly does wonders for improving your crampon technique

 

Post edited at 18:53
rif on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to Rick Graham:

AFAIK all the late-50s/early-60s Marshall-Smith-Tiso FAs were step-cutting with a single straight axe, as were the first few repeats of Point Five after the semi-aided FA by Clough et al. I guess Smith's Gully and Tower Face of Comb would be the hardest of them.

I don't think ice pegs were often used as daggers in Scotland in those days; normally on a steep pitch you were holding on with one hand while cutting the next hold with the other hand. But I seem to recall reading that MacInnes used a driven-in ice peg for one hand during the FA of Zero. That was more of an Austro-German technique, as in Diembergers' book or Messner's solo of the Droites NF (thinking of which, the cover of Mountain 27 illustrates the technique).

 

Mark Bannan - on 11 Mar 2018
In reply to Goucho:

> On Orion Face, didn't Smith use one old straight axe plus the poker from the CIC Hut?

Sounds like typical Smith! Didn't he nick the poker to use as protection on The Bat too?

marzi - on 11 Mar 2018

 

Watch the pinnacle mountain equipment movie. Interview with the old guys and he shows you the axe he used.

Eric9Points - on 11 Mar 2018
In reply to Rick Graham:

I'd have thought Smiths Gully.

Thinking about Eagle Ridge, I wonder whether climbing in nails actually suits that sort of route and thus makes Smiths a harder prospect.

James Mann - on 11 Mar 2018
In reply to Mark Bannan:

Poker not used on the bat but employed on an early ascent of zero gully by smith, haston and co. Maybe also used on fa of minus 2 which was probably one of the harder routes climbed by step cutting. 

 

James

Sean Kelly - on 12 Mar 2018
In reply to Rick Graham:

Archer Thompson on Devil's Kitchen circa 1895?

Howard J - on 12 Mar 2018
In reply to Rick Graham:

On my last trip to the Alps we saw some guys on the Mer de Glace practicing "French style" cramponing technique.  It was very impressive to see them climbing 70% ice with a single straight mountaineering axe, while facing out from the slope so their feet were flat against it with all ten points dug in.  It looked fairly precarious to me, compared with the two-axe front-pointing technique which is now universal, but they seemed to get around very efficiently.

aln - on 12 Mar 2018
In reply to Howard J:

> while facing out from the slope

Are you sure? 

 

 

Doug on 13 Mar 2018
El_Dave_H - on 13 Mar 2018
Howard J - on 13 Mar 2018
In reply to aln:

They were  definitely facing out from the slope, feet flat against it with knees bent.  They made a kind of backhand swing above their head with the axe and then moved their feet up.  Repeat to the top.  Never seen it before.

The video posted by El_Dave_H shows someone descending in a rather similar fashion, but these guys were climbing up.  They were on a top-rope, mind.

Mark Bannan - on 13 Mar 2018
In reply to James Mann:

OK sorry I stand corrected! Actually was it a kettle he stole and clipped on some route? I heard rumours of this some years ago.

M

Jim Fraser - on 14 Mar 2018
In reply to Rick Graham:

I am reminded of my second winter climbing outing. I was being dragged up Hadrian Wall Direct by the immensely strong and capable Colin MacLean. I started the day with a pair of borrowed tools: a Camp Golden Eagle and a Camp Hypercouloir. Oh, and my £3 s/h Salewa Classics on my feet. At some point in the midst of the main difficulties, a tool went spinning past, just to my right, at high speed. On reaching the belay, it transpired it had been one of Colin's brand new Simonds so he scrounged an axe from me and I seconded the rest of the route with one axe. A Warthog was used as a dagger for part of the way but it was of no use for much of it. Oh yes, of course, it's only seconding, but this was my second winter route and I suppose the only reason I didn't freak out was because I didn't know any better. Memories, memories.

cb294 - on 14 Mar 2018
In reply to Rick Graham:

North Face Aguille de Plan and many routes on the Verte North face by Armand Charlet (the famous picture is e.g. here: https://alchetron.com/Armand-Charlet), Eiger North face Heckmaier route, Croz spur, GJ, and harde traditional ice route in the Alps, you name it.

CB


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