Wirral-based climber Mike Hart has made the third ascent of Malcolm Smith's Pilgrimage 8B+ at Parisella's Cave, North Wales. Ben Moon famously fell off the very end when it was a project and Malcolm eventually made the first ascent back in 2004. Alex Barrows made the first repeat in 2011 (UKC News Report).
Mike told UKC:
'The desire to do Pilgrimage came naturally for me. I started climbing in the cave many years ago, trying Left Wall Traverse and the problems on the lip before finally moving on to harder lines such as Rock Atrocity. Then, as is often the way with the Cave, you begin doing more and more links into problems you've already done. Sit starts or extensions for example. One of the links I managed a couple of years back was a smaller version of Pilgrimage, known as Pilgrim. After ticking that it seemed only right to at least try and tick the big one at some point down the line.'
This is Mike's hardest boulder problem to date, one step up from his previous best - Riverbed 8B in Magic Wood, Switzerland. Interesting to note is the fact that he didn't use kneebars on the problem, something which Alex Barrows used to his advantage on the second ascent. In an interview with UKC in 2011, Alex told us:
'My sequence is WAY easier than the beta Malc Smith used on the first ascent. My beta is pretty 3D and uses a bunch of kneebars, both for moves and for rests. Some of the knees are quite good but some are pretty marginal and rely on having a decent pair of kneepads. People tend to fixate on the difference they make to the rests but actually the biggest difference compared to the original method is that I have alternative sequences on what used to be the two crux moves.'
Regarding his no-kneebar method, Mike explained:
' It's just a personal preference. I have nothing against people using them but for me I just prefer not to. One of the most appealing aspects of climbing for me is the physical challenge. I enjoy it being as hard as I can physically manage. I guess you could say that I prefer to try and bring myself to the rock's level as opposed to lowering the rock to my level.'
To train for the problem, which consists of 40+ moves and is also known as 'The Big Link,' Mike made regular trips to the Cave combined with frequent training sessions at the wall. He commented:
'As with most longer climbs I just aimed to do it sections to begin with and eventually started trying to link overlapping halves, which came surprisingly quickly. After that I just started trying it from the beginning as I knew if I got through the crux (undercut drop-in move) then I had a really good shot at doing it. I had two goes on Sunday and got it on the second. The first go I made a silly mistake, dropping it right after getting through the crux.'
'Next on my list is hopefully a trip to Switzerland in a couple of months' time. I have unfinished business out there! I have also been over there 4 times now and have only been to Magic Wood, so I'm definitely keen to check out some of the other areas.'
Watch a video of Mike on Pilgrimage below: