It is thought that Andy Earl never graded the route after his first ascent, but it settled at E9 7a. The soaring prow of sandstone is around 10m high and features desperate climbing. The pair opted to climb the route highball style, above bouldering mats, after checking the moves on an abseil rope.
Film maker Nick Brown was on hand to capture the action and told us:
"Dan and Ned had a quick look for holds on a rope and after a brief clean and working of the moves off the ab rope, decided it was possible above pads. After a few scary falls, Dan got the second ascent - looking very wobbly on the damp top jugs - and Ned quickly followed with the third. I think Andy originally refused to grade it, but it settled at E9. Dan and Ned reckoned around Font 8a/8a+. Not bad for a session! Looks like highballing is the future for British bouldering!"
Dav Varian has written up the ascent on the Beastmaker Blog, where he states:
"...We all took turns to ab it and pry out its secrets. Micky was looking super solid on the rope and me and Ned decidedly more shaky after giving the rope a good coring we got rid of it and thanks to a huge amount of help off our mates we whacked about 8pads underneath it and set off. Micky had forgotten to work a lower move and needed to be home at 6 which was obviously bug bearing him as a cobbed-ankle would disrupt those plans somewhat.
Ned's first go was superb, wobbling his way up to the last hard move where a broken foothold lead to him peeling off the hold at the end of the crux and just catching the edge of a 3ft high pad stack. My first go was poor, with slightly messed feet I unwittingly decided to test the lower fall. Next go I decided to give it beans and promptly woke up on the last move with beta I'd only looked at once and wet jugs (it had been covered in pine needles and moss) for company, after a bit of a kerfuffle I sorted myself out and topped out for the 2nd ascent..."
Varian has also been active at other venues in Northumberland, such as Back Bowden, where he added a superb looking new problem called Black Triage, which he estimates to be soft Font 8A. The line climbs a vague groove on the steepness to the left of County Ethics.
Master lens-man Mark Savage snapped some shots of the problem, battling darkness.
Mark, who isn't pleased with his photos (we think it looks fantastic!-Ed) commented:
"It looks like a great set of moves and it's surprising it hasn't been done. It might have had something to do with the vegetated top out, but that's been nicely cleaned. The north wall at Back Bowden never really dried for years, even during summer droughts, so a lot of those routes were neglected.
The trees nearest the crag were chopped down in 2008 and now the wall is usually in great condition. Most of the routes have been repeated (but not all). The route that sees the most action is County Ethics, Cubby's route/highball. Black Triage takes the steep groove to the left.
I'm not really happy with the photos. It was way too dark. Dan had to shine a torch into the camera so I could get focused, then off he went. I couldn't see what was going on through the viewfinder, so it was all guesswork. We're planning to do some more photos on it when it's light!"