"Bam, Bam is one of the best single pitch routes in the world." Stevie Haston on the UKClimbing.com Forums.
Jack Geldard onsights Stevie Haston E8 on the Lleyn Peninsular
I got a text last night after I'd just struggled up an E1 at Running Hill Pits.
Hi mick. I o-s that e8 today no bull. Speak later i'm off to get drunk.
The mad young bastard.
Leigh McGinley explains at the Ground Up website: "We cleaned it on an abseil rope first; we must have removed a mini-skip worth of loose rock. This route is phenomenal, so out there; brutal thuggery and with no respite, bar one resting place. And it's loose too! Stevie went for the lead without any prior practice and he made it to the top in one push, no falls. An amazing effort!"
Bam, Bam packs in physical 7c climbing on very loose rock. There are two pegs and an insitu wire low down which mark the way and the route requires a double set of cams, nuts and around twenty quickdraws in 45m of climbing and overhangs by 8m.
The sender of that text was none other than Jack Geldard, UKClimbing.com's Chief Editor.
"I ran out of gear about half way up, I'd emptied an entire rack in to the rubble. I got in a precarious bridge position and lowered a rope and pulled up another full rack. I'd used that too by the time I got to the top."I got Jack on the phone first thing this morning, he was feeling a little under the weather from a night carousing in the Vaynol Arms, but with plans to get out to Gogarth later today.
What the hell was that like I asked?
"Horrendous. It's so loose. Rocks were raining down, every time I moved. Never again. It was like russian roulette."
"Obviously I knew it was going to be loose, but what shocked me was physical nature of the climbing. It's really, really steep and pumpy. Ian got really pumped seconding and fell off. The route was so steep he ended up hanging in space. I had to lower him to the ground and abseil for the rest of the gear, which was almost as scary as leading the route!"
Jack was climbing with Ian Wilson, a competent E5 leader.
"We took safety very seriously," said Jack, "Ian rolled all his cigarettes before I started climbing, so he could keep hold of the rope almost all of the time."
"There is no way I would have gone for it if it hadn't been cleaned. Some of the holds still had chalk on too which was a real God send. It was a top effort from Stevie Haston to nab the first ascent of this the other week"
"I ran out of gear about half way up, I'd emptied an entire rack in to the rubble. I got in a precarious bridge position and lowered a rope and pulled up another full rack. I'd used that too by the time I got to the top."
"Conditions were perfect - there was nothing good on TV."
As well as loose and physical, the climbing is blind as well, Jack told me. The roofs hiding what is above, so that you are always going into the unknown with no view of what is coming next.
Forum Pundits Criticise Haston Ascent
Whilst Jack was fighting his way up Bam, Bam a handful of pundits on the forums at UKBouldering.com (UKB thread) and UKClimbing.com UKC thread) were arguing that Stevie Haston really shouldn't have cleaned this route on abseil and that to keep the spirit of adventure alive on the cliffs of the Lleyn Peninsular Haston should have attempted the route from the ground up.
I asked Jack, as the second ascensionist what he thought about that.
"Having belayed a friend who failed to get off the ground on this route before it was cleaned, and now having experienced its looseness first hand, I can't really imagine setting off up it without it having been cleaned. It was as much psychological as anything. It still rained down rocks the whole way as I climbed.
To quote Nick Bullock, "You'd be in Abersoch by the time you cleaned all the loose rock off that crag!"
I think Stevie's effort was totally fantastic and now the route is in a climbable state. The difference between this route and some of the others on the Stigmata is the fact that on Bam Bam you really have to pull on the holds. You can't shuffle up this one. Would it have ever been climbed without prior cleaning? I really don't know. To be honest I don't have a strong view on it either way."
Very few E8's have been onsighted. Jack's ascent of Bam, Bam E8 6b (or 7c .. X) is one of less than a handful.
Steve Haston Speaks About Bam, Bam
Someone who does have a view either way is first ascensionist Stevie Haston who, writing from Ariege, France, posted the following on the UKClimbing.com forums (with edits):
'I would just like to say I find it absurd that my detracters do not altogether have a small proportion of my ground up or onsight experience, some advice to them: don't talk about that which thou knows nowt about.'
Would Bam, Bam have been possible to climb without cleaning?
Answer: No, not in my not so humble opinion; in my expert opinion, in my honest opinion, not to anyone, not the best climber in the world, and remember I know some of these people and know their physical and mental levels.
Who has done the hardest ground up onsight on the Lleyn?
Answer: Stevie Haston
Who has done the most routes at Doris, and the most first ascents?
Answer: Again, Stevie Haston.
Was there any gear on Bam, Bam placed on lead by a climber?
Answer: No, emphatically NO.
What is the quality of Bam, Bam?
Answer: Bam, Bam is one of the best single pitch routes in the world.
Who gave it the grade?
Answer: Leigh McGinley provided the grade to help and protect potential ascentionists as I have no idea, I have only trad climbed twice in the last several years.
Is there ground up ethic on the Lleyn?
Answer. Some people say there is but I have never been part of it, or agreed with it, or forced people to it. I actually have disagreed with it several times and thought Rust never Sleeps and Cris Parkin's honest stand on this issue very brave and correct, historically there have been many differing approaches including using aid etc as in other areas.
I would just like to say I find it absurd that my detracters do not altogether have a small proportion of my ground up or onsight experience, some advice to them: don't talk about that which thou knows nowt about.
All of this is ludicrously funny.
I patiently waited over twenty years for Bam, Bam to get done and finally had to do it myself. Many thanks to Leigh McGinley my old climbing partner who I have shared many climbing days with ground up or otherwise, thanks mate for protecting me and gently prodding me at Bam, Bam.
Jack Geldard and Ian Wilson are off to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado at the end of the week. The Black Canyon has walls over 2,000ft high and is home to some of the scariest adventure climbing in the USA. Be safe Jack and Ian.
Jack is sponsored by Evolv, DMM and Karrimor and would like to thank the guys at DMM and Beyond Hope for their support.