Yesterday James Pearson made the fourth ascent of Rhapsody E11 7a at Dumbarton Rock near Glasgow. Having previously tried the route back in 2008, James returned to Dumbarton and has been attempting the route seriously for the last two weeks - making a very fast repeat of the first E11 in the world.
James' ascent is all the more poignant following the public scrutiny he came under due to comments made about the route in 2008, where he questioned the difficulty of Rhapsody in comparison to his first ascent of Walk of Life in Devon, initially graded E12 7a but subsequently downgraded to E9 6c by Dave Macleod. Despite dismissing Rhapsody as insignificant and claiming it to be overgraded, James didn't manage to complete the route. His opinions caused a backlash in the British climbing community and today, after spending the last few years living in France with his wife Caroline Ciavaldini and reflecting on his actions, James feels ready to confront his past - redeeming himself and regaining his integrity as a climber.
Commenting on his blog, James explained: "I couldn’t take it back, but perhaps I could do something to make up for it? A gesture of good will, or perhaps even a peace offering to the UK climbing community? Call it what you will – going back to try Rhapsody seriously, to give it my all, and accept whatever may come seemed like something I needed to do."
James claims to have acted like "an arrogant, immature kid" and the consequences of his behaviour left him feeling uncomfortable in the knowledge that he was concealing an unresolved issue. For his wife Caroline, the unfinished business of Rhapsody - "a route that I had tried just before leaving the UK, had failed on, and to make matters worse had openly criticized rather than accepting defeat" - appeared to be the underlying issue.
Regarding the difficulty of the the route, James now claims that "Rhapsody is hard, it’s really hard in fact, and a giant step up from any Trad route I have done before."
Rhapsody was first climbed by Dave Macleod in 2006 and was the first route in the world to be given the grade of E11. Since Dave's ascent (UKC News Report), Canadian Sonnie Trotter (UKC News Report) and Steve McClure (UKC News Report) made the second and third ascents respectively.
James was filmed by Hot Aches Productions for their upcoming film Redemption: The James Pearson Story which is due to premiere at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival on the 21st November.