Charlie Woodburn Repeats The Walk of Life

© Simon Wilson
An uncomfortable height above an RP zero.  © Simon Wilson
An uncomfortable height above an RP zero.
© Simon Wilson

Charlie on the bold lower section before the first decent gear at about 10m.  © Simon Wilson
Charlie on the bold lower section before the first decent gear at about 10m.
© Simon Wilson
Charlie Woodburn has made the fourth ascent of The Walk of Life at Dyer's Lookout in Devon.

Rapidly becoming the Culm Coast's most popular route, The Walk of Life, E9 6c, was first climbed by James Pearson in 2008. It was repeated by Dave MacLeod the following year and then by Dave Birkett in May this year.

Charlie climbed the epic pitch on Thursday 25th November. His wife Gilly held the ropes.

He said:

"I'm pleased that a shandy-swilling southerner has done it at last. It makes a nice change from all these northern wads coming down and having all the fun.

I really wanted to do it last weekend but conditions weren't ideal. Frustration got the better of me and I went for the lead anyway. Despite intermittent showers, I got through the bold start then slipped off one of the route's few easier moves because of a wet foothold."

Charlie tried again, battling to three quarters of the way up the route before another slip on a wet hold proved an agonising end to 45 minutes climbing. He was eager to get back on the route as soon as possible but had to wait until Thursday before his calf muscles had recovered sufficiently.

The route went first go on the day but not without a wobble near the top when a piece of gear fell out. A long, contemplative pause followed before a delighted Charlie pushed on to the top.

He said:

"Climbing the route placing the gear on lead is so sustained. I think it's probably French 8a to top rope and 8a+ to put the gear in as well.

I borrowed ball-nuts off about four different people to protect the route. And the ropes I used were super light prototype 'project 8.0s' from Sterling. Thinner than 8mm, they were such a help because of the length of the pitch and the number of gear placements."

Charlie said:

"I've no doubt it is worth E9. Even though I made the bottom safer than I think James did on the first ascent (with a tied down skyhook and a filed down ball-nut), it still felt bold and hard. Ian Vickers graded the top on its own E8 and that was with the pegs in it.

The main difficulty is it's so long and so relentless on the fingers and calves."

A popular climber on the scene, Charlie's talent has too often been kept in check by a list of injuries/maladies as long as The Walk of Life itself. Even on the day of the ascent he contended with a worsening in his arthritis brought on by one too many whiskies the night before.

Gilly had this to say:

"I'm delighted it's over. What an idiot trying it in late November with rain, hail, high northerly winds and bad tides. A well deserved dram of Talisker is now in order. And maybe a small one for him."

In the past Charlie has made the first ascents of Harder Faster E9 6c at Black Rocks, in the Peak District, The Grey Area E8 7a at Curbar, also in the Peak District and San Simeon E8 6c at Hollow Caves Bay, Pembroke.

Charlie fully embroiled in the relentless technicalities the route has to offer.
© Simon Wilson

The rack. Note plenty of ballnuts.
© Simon Wilson

Charlie is sponsored by Beta Climbing Designs.

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26 Nov, 2010
well done! I think this is probably going to be a lifetime goal of mine :)
26 Nov, 2010
amazing effort!
26 Nov, 2010
Fantastic work, congratulations! One question - why is it quite common for top climbers using marginal gear on long routes to use short quickdraws? I know that if I were in that position I'd be, if not extending them, using 25cm draws to prevent rope drag (which would be hellish on such a long pitch, even if it is straight). On this route I noticed that James Pearson in Committed 2 also used 10cm draws. Am I missing something clever? Also why do very few climbers using marginal gear on top-end routes use screamers? I think I noticed DM using some on the picture of his latest slab, but I can't think of any other examples.
26 Nov, 2010
I think the line is pretty direct so sporty draws used Nice one Charlie, becoming a trade route that WOL.
26 Nov, 2010
Screamers don't work for falls greater than a metre or so - so I'm told be someone who really should know. Also - no-one gets on a hard route expecting to fall. Re: quickdraws - I suspect that this could be because you don't have time to lengthen quickdraws on hard routes, and not really the mental space to make a decision as to which QD to choose - easier to simply take them all the same and put up with moderate rope-drag.
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