Last weekend, another of Staffordshire Grit's Last Great Problems was climbed, the direct start to Headless Horseman, E1 5b, at The Roaches. Climbed this time by Pete Whittaker, it is a very bold and technical line, first tried by Simon Nadin, Pete has graded it around E10.
Pete is no slouch on Grit, having previously climbed hard routes such as; Dynamics of Change, E9 7a, A Little Peculiar, E6 7b, and Baron Greenback, E9/10 7a, to name but a few. Pete has named his route Sleepy Hollow, and graded it E10 7a, commenting;
"I'm not the best at grading and always find it really tough to grade first ascents. You always have an idea of what you think its going to be when you are working it, but then when you do it, it feels fine and you think 'oh that was ok maybe its not that hard'. That happened with Baron Greenback and I got back on it maybe 6 months after doing it and was like 'crikey, that is actually pretty tricky!!' Maybe this new route is E10 7a at a guess, I don't know."
UKC got in contact with Pete and asked him a few questions about Sleepy Hollow:
Headless Horseman Arete has been a well known about, and well-tried Last Great Problem for some time now, with many people trying it on top-rope, why do you think no-one has gone for the lead until now?
Pete: I'm unsure who has actually climbed it on toprope, apart from Simon Nadin, who apparently did it in a oner back in the day. I don't know of anyone else who has done it in a oner. Quite a lot of people have tried it and done all the moves or linked sections together. I don't know why nobody has lead it before, you'll have to ask them, though it is quite thin and on/off, so maybe thats why.
What made you decide to try the line? Has this been a long-term project, or something you recently got psyched for and did quickly?
Pete: It hasn't been a long term project to try and do it, I think I just decided I wanted to try it. When I abbed down and saw some holds I knew straight away it was possible.
Could you give us some insight into what the climbing and protection is like?
Pete: The climbing is thin, crimpy, pebbley and droppable on any move really. the protection is good but you place it on the starting ledge and go from there so it would be a tumble or big fall if you fell from the final moves. I also used pads where I placed my gear on the starting ledge. After the hard section there is good protection and the climbing eases.
You can watch the film on BMC TV: