Tom Randall has just climbed a hard and bold line up the wall to the right of Master's Edge, E7 6c, on Millstone Edge. The route utilises the shothole gear on Master's Edge, before climbing up and right on snappy edges with the crux coming in above the crux on Master's, putting it in very definite deck-out territory. Tom has named the route Pure Now, and graded it E9 6c.
Tom climbed the first ascent of the route on Sunday the 16th March, with the harsh winds on the day actually facilitating a smooth lead of the route due to the lack of pressure to lead it. Tom explained further on his blog:
"When I eventually decided on Sunday to go for the route I was really lucky that the weather was terrible. It was blowing a mini-gale and it was like Patagonia standing on top of Millstone. This meant that psychologically I had no pressure from the route. It had already given me a “get out” and so I only needed to do it if things felt absolutely perfect. The guys at the crag knew it was unlikely as well, so what harm was there in throwing one optimistic top rope on it, just to see how much I’d get blown about? As I warmed up, it became evident that conditions were actually rather good despite the strong gusts. I smiled to myself and thought about how the route had lured me in and now I was ready. I felt calm and accepting of the factors involved."
Tom began trying the route after climbing Appointment with Death, E9 6c, at Wimberry (UKC News Report) and The Zone, E9 6c, at Curbar, (UKC News Report) but found that he wanted to be challenged further in both boldness and difficulty than he had been on either of these already bold and hard grit routes.
He found the challenge he was looking for in the wall right of Master's Edge, with technical climbing on edges and undercuts in a no fall zone where the holds may snap at any point. Talking on his blog about how he felt whilst working the route, Tom said:
"Each session I had on the route working it, I felt pretty sick thinking about the seriousness of the route. I think it’s either the mark of a truly psychological route or me getting old. I continually brushed and flexed the holds working out which ones were the most reliable and in the end found a good sequence. Sure the odd one broke, but that was just a reminder that I couldn’t f*&k up. I liked that."
Fortunately the lead went smoothly, with no holds breaking and Tom climbing the sequence without falling. Tom described the lead on his blog:
"Setting off on the lead I climbed calmly up to the shot holes and explored my head. Everything felt good... Just before breaking out right into the hard climbing I had a quick shake of the arms and was amazed to feel good. It was just too good. I felt like I was on a VS...
Oooop. Yikes. Just for a second or two I fumbled a hold and broke out of the mist. No mistakes though Tom, this is proper. Back in. Shake the wrist. Flick, flick. Ok…. in control. High step on the snappy hold. Be accurate. Rock up…. crimp….. crimp…. crumbly hold…. just take it EASY. Hold it light. It’s bomber. Roll out and hit the match…
I now just had 20ft of soloing on mellow edges to enjoy on an ocean of millstone wall. What a complete pleasure. It was insane how good I felt in those few moments. Everything I wanted in an experience was right there in just a few Sunday morning minutes. I knew instantly that I didn’t need a hit like that for a very long time indeed. If ever."
Tom answered a couple of questions for UKC:
Why did you choose this project to get your difficulty + danger fix? If it were summer would you have preferred to go for something perhaps more classic such as The Indian Face?
Tom: I like to learn about myself through the process of climbing and I suppose a lot of it comes down to not really knowing how I fit into my own life. I wanted to know what it would be like to climb something where I couldn't be that sure I wouldn't fall off, whilst knowing the consequences would be utterly serious. It really was about the experience, rather than the climbing on this one I'm afraid. Weird I know.
Not really bothered about Indian Face as it's not physically hard enough. Doesn't float my boat right now!
You said this new route is harder than Appointment, which you gave 7b+, so how hard do you think this new line is?
Tom: Well, it's bolder than Appointment and harder than The Zone physically. So whatever that means. It's not the living end though by any means or else I wouldn't have got up it. I don't want to big it up too much as it's not that much of significant bit of climbing! It was more of a personal thing to me. If someone's up for an E9 experience though, then this will probably leave them satisfied.
Tom is also a Director of The Climbing Station