Last week, The Indian Face, E9 6c, got three more repeats first from James McHaffie (Caff) and then it saw two repeats in the same day from Calum Muskett and George Ullrich, making the 6th and 7th repeats respectively. UKC managed to catch up with the two of them to talk a bit further about their ascents of such a famous route - the first E9 in the world - and an iconic testament to Johnny Dawes' skill and boldness.
Calum Muskett, a 19 year old Outdoor Instructor from Bethesda, the 6th ascensionist, explained his motivation to try Indian Face:
"I headed up on the tuesday afternoon with the intention of going for the onsight of Master's Wall, E7 6b, but Caff told me it was a shit route with no line, which, having looked at more closely, I agree with. I then decided to look at the Indian Face, after dropping a top-rope down it, I then climbed it once on top-rope, onsight before walking back down, planning to lead the route the next day."
Upon returning the next day, Calum did the route on a Gri-Gri a couple of times, still planning to go for the lead despite humid conditions, until photographer Ray Wood informed him of better conditions the next day. He then returned on the Thursday, toproped the route a couple of times before making his successful lead. Commenting on the style of his ascent, Calum said:
"I had the gear pre-placed for the lead, it basically all revolves around one cluster of RPs, which I felt had more chance of holding if equalised and placed off a rope rather than whilst climbing, though there still isn't much chance they'd hold! I didn''t bother with any skyhooks as I didn't reckon the placements were any good, but carried one just in case."
Calum then described how it felt to be on 'The Indian Face', a very iconic route that has a lot of mystery and aura surrounding it due to the technical and bold nature of the route:
"I didn't really have too long to think about how scary it was as I spent very little time on it, around 5 minutes with a quick 30 seconds rest on the ledge, I was just in 'up' mode trying to keep moving and focused, and not let the history of the route creep into my mind. Overall, I felt the lead went very smoothly, with just one 'moment' where I couldn't pull as hard as I wanted on a poor crimp due to thin skin, I had to make a slight slap for a good side-pull and a quick kick up for the next foothold, which probably gave any onlookers a bit of a fright! I agree with Caff, it felt pretty much like a solo, but the psychological support of having the rope and the slim chance of survival was nice to have."
George Ullrich then gave us the details of his own ascent of The Indian Face, starting with his motivation to try the route:
"The Indian Face is the one route which I have always said, 'I will do that one day'. But I never imagined it to be so soon. James McHaffie asked me if I would belay him on it on Tuesday, this seemd the perfect excuse to go and look at it... Probably the most gripping belay I have ever done despite the fact that he was so smooth and looked 100% solid the whole way up. An incredible effort!
I seconded it clean and unsurprisingly was disgusted at how s*** the gear was. None of it would have held a fall. The whole time I was seconding I was thinking to myself I don't want to lead it, I don't want to lead it. But then having toproped it twice clean, a voice in the back of my head was saying, 'yeah you can probably do that'. I toproped it once more just to see how I felt on the climbing just in case I wanted to come back one day and lead it. By the time I was back on the floor I was telling myself I was going to come back on Thursday and lead it."
George then described the run up to his successful ascent:
"From the moment I told myself I would lead it, I had a constant sick feeling. Just thinking about it made me nervous. It seemed that the only way to get rid of this feeling was to go and climb the route... Once Calum was ready to lead the route I couldn't watch, Sam and I went for a wander around the lake to fill up the water bottles. From the other side of the lake, through the haze wec ould just make out Calum moving up the wall and to safety at the top. An amazing effort!"
Describing how it felt to be on The Indian Face, George gave us an insight into his thought's whilst on the lead:
"My t-shirt was sticking to my back, I meant to take it off for the climb but completely forgot. More chalk, relax. What the f*** am I doing here? Breath, chalk up, I've got such a dry mouth. I swapped my feet and committed to the final crux moves. I breathed my way up and crawled my fingers onto the finishing jug. What a relief!"
You can read more about George's ascent on his blog.
George Ullrich is sponsored by: Metolius, Evolv, and prAna