Freakshow: New Kilnsey 8c from Neil Gresham

Neil Gresham has discovered a new line at Kilnsey​, North Yorkshire which he has named Freakshow and graded 8c. Neil has been particularly proactive of late in searching for new lines and link-ups at well-travelled crags such as Malham Cove and Kilnsey. The climb is approximately 40m in length and alongside routes like Infinite Gravity 8a+ at Swanage, is a contender for one of the steepest sport pitches in Britain, according to Neil.

Neil on his new 8c Freakshow at Kilnsey, 186 kb
Neil on his new 8c Freakshow at Kilnsey
© Photo courtesy of Lukasz Warzecha -

Freakshow is an endurance-based 8c, which weaves a diagonal line from left to right through Kilnsey’s main overhang. The route starts up the groove of Hardy Annual 7a+ and then gains a prominent break in the roof via a crux sequence of around V8, which features a crucifix move. It then follows a prominent horizontal break for 4 clips and launches out through some wild horizontal terrain to a junction with Guns in the Sky 8b+ before finally joining Mandela 8a+ at the crux. 

How did he come across the potential for Freakshow? Neil explained: 

“Kilnsey main overhang seemed to me to be an obvious target for long stamina pitches, which share sections with other routes, such as the ones you find at crags like Santa Linya or Rodellar. Other than Mark Leach’s classic, Mandela 8a+, there’s only Gaz Parry’s route Guns in the Sky 8b+ and Jordan Buys’ Epic Adventures 8c that take on the challenge and yet there are some notable untouched features to head for.”

He added:

“I couldn’t quite believe that the huge horizontal break in the middle of the roof hadn’t even been looked at by aid climbers back in the day, let alone by sport climbers. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was covered in jugs although on the downside, it was choked full with mud, which took a full day to excavate. The rock was all pretty solid on the whole, although I did have a scary moment when the most crucial hold on the crux shattered into a 5-piece mosaic, but I managed to re-assemble it like a 3-D jigsaw puzzle and glue it back together. Make of that what you will from an ethical perspective but this is a common tactic at Kilnsey.”

Neil had tried the route last year but felt out of shape and couldn’t do one of the crux moves after four days of effort, so gave up, not deeming it worthwhile to invest more time in. He did, however, vow to return match-fit this year and trained for it specifically over the winter. Neil told UKC:

"For the first time in my life I started working with a coach, Stevie Haston and a nutrition advisor, Glen Burrows and it seemed to pay off because when I turned up at the starting line in June I felt like a completely different climber. I did the crux move straight away and made steady progress over about ten sessions before eventually bagging the redpoint. I paid my dues by falling off the last move on the lip of Mandela, but fortunately this only happened a couple of times.” 

Neil on another of his new lines, Straight Jacket 8a+ at Malham Cove
© Dave Bottomley

Commenting on the 'crucifix' move, Neil told us:

“I've never encountered a move like the crux crucifix before and was pretty hesitant at first because it puts a lot of strain on the shoulders. However, I did a lot of work on the rings over the winter and practiced wide moves in order to prepare. The hardest part isn’t so much catching the hold but releasing afterwards, although Charlie Woodburn found some key foot beta which made this a lot easier than I first thought.”

Due to its long and wandering nature, the route comes with rope-drag management issues and some impressive fall potential, as Neil explained:

“My favourite part of the route is the final section to join Mandela. The climbing is completely horizontal on slots and pockets with really bad feet, but the main snag is that you have to skip four clips in order to avoid being pulled off by rope drag. You join Mandela bang in the middle of the crux and at this point you’re looking at taking a 40 footer. I guess the only way you could avoid this is with a double rope but I can't see that being too popular!”

Regarding the dilemma of grading the route, Neil commented:

"I’m a bit uncertain as I haven’t been on any other hard routes for a while and don’t have any reference points. The three other climbers who’ve tried it (Tim Emmett, Charlie Woodburn and Alex Barrows) haven’t disputed the suggestion of 8c out of hand, but they didn’t go on the whole route. New routes often feel harder because of the element of unknown, so we’ll see how it goes. The grade is irrelevant, I just hope it’s popular and am pleased to have got it in the bag.”

Neil also recently added an extension to Straightened 8a at Malham Cove, to give Straight Jacket 8b (UKC News Report).

Neil is sponsored by: Julbo, La Sportiva, Mule, Petzl and Sherpa Adventure Gear

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