INTERVIEW: 2nd Ascent of Talbot Horizon E9 6c by Jordan Buys

16 years after the first ascent by Lakes legend Dave Birkett, Jordan Buys has made the first repeat of Talbot Horizon​ E9 6c on Scafell East Buttress​.

Jordan Buys poses for the camera on Talbot Horizon, 178 kb
Jordan Buys poses for the camera on Talbot Horizon
© Liam Lonsdale

The route, a bold and deceptively steep arete in the centre of the crag, follows holds around both sides, with a crux boulder problem at half height involving some powerful moves above some very suspect gear (namely a sling on a loose block).

Jordan headed up to the East Buttress with Charlie Woodburn for the second time this year early on Monday morning. Their previous visit came at the same time as Britain's heatwave, with fell top temperatures of over 20C (in the sun) — note, they had nothing to do with the tumbling of the ‘Lords Rake block’ which fell down on that day too!

Lakes-based photographer Liam Lonsdale was on hand to shoot the ascent and caught up with Jordan afterwards to get his thoughts on the route.

What is it that originally attracted you to Talbot Horizon?

Well, I remembered a photo from an old ‘On The Edge’ magazine of the route that looked stunning. That, coupled with the bit in ‘Set In Stone’ where Dave [Birkett] is talking Al Lee through all of the aerates on that wall, and the fact that Talbot Horizon was not re-climbed for the film added an air of mystery about the whole thing.

Tell me about your experience of Scafell’s East Buttress, it’s an incredible crag (with an incredible approach too).

I had been up there a few years back and had a bit of an epic to be honest.

On the first afternoon in Wasdale, Andi Turner and I had nipped up to do Viking on Napes and thought we could just about squeeze in doing Napes Needle as well — getting back to Wasdale Head in time for grub at the pub. We miscalculated our speed, or rather slowness and ended up sprinting all the way down to get back in time.

The next morning we both had to drag ourselves out of our tents, groaning with two pairs of very dead legs. They were absolutely battered! Still, we decided on hiking up to East Buttress for a look as [Adam] Hocking had just done ‘Return of the King’ E9 6c and I was intrigued.

We got overtaken by everyone and their granny. The shame.

Andi led ‘Ichabod’ and I pretty much campussed up behind him, my legs apparently just there for show. We soon realised that just getting back to the car park was going to be a challenge and without wanting to burden Wasdale Mountain Rescue we headed down. We actually could only manage the descent by walking backwards ... it was less painful that way!

Several years later and remembering the whole experience through rose tinted spectacles, I was ready to go back ...

On your first day up there this year, you were “ill prepared” for the mountain conditions ... was this a bit of a steep learning curve?

[laughs] Yes, me and my short shorts. Well, it was a zillion degrees down by the lake the first visit so I packed super-alpine. I didn't think I’d need trousers or a massive jacket, but how different it can be up top! I learned quickly that there is only so high you can pull your socks up and only so low you can get your shorts to keep warm. We were pretty late in setting off for the crag too which meant we didn’t get up there until mid-afternoon and we needed to warm up too, climbing Lost Horizon to get a feel for the climbing on that part of the crag. It was pretty late when we finally started to try the route. At least with somewhere like Malham you can just pack for all weathers and not worry about the weight of your pack or the length of the approach!

Jordan Buys on the first repeat of Talbot Horizon, 192 kb
Jordan Buys on the first repeat of Talbot Horizon
© Liam Lonsdale

So let’s talk about Talbot Horizon itself. How did the actual ascent go? How did the crux feel? Can you describe what was going through your mind?

The whole thing went pretty smoothly, thankfully. I hadn’t bothered top roping the route in a one-er, I figured I should save all my energy and skin for the lead. On the day I felt like I had plenty in the tank, which was nice. The crux actually felt a little harder on lead with a rope getting in the way of each foot placement on the route, although I had anticipated that when I practised it.

The move involves releasing a bomber heel hook and getting in a ridiculously awkward position in order to slap for a sloper. I seemed to be spending an eternity trying to flick the ropes off the foot holds. The other thing is the angle of that arete, it is very weird, it feels like it is trying to throw you off all the time.

Other than nailing the sequence, nothing really went through my mind.

What is the gear like?

Hmm, it’s so-so. There is good kit leaving the first ledge. That is followed by a sling over a suspicious block and a small cam protecting the crux. Part way through the hard section is a battered peg and from there to the top there are a couple of wires and another small cam. Charlie and I reckoned it was probably best not to fall off ...

On the day, you told me that you thought you were hiking up there to belay Charlie on the route and have a few top rope burns yourself, that you didn’t think you were anywhere near it ... but in the end it was you that topped the route for the second ascent. Talk us through that.

So on our first day on the route [the short shorts day] I’d found the climbing really hard. I had been working in the heat the day before and put in one of the biggest window cleaning days of my career. Looking back, I think I was just too tired and too cold. So when it came to Monday, I was happy to just to go for another play and support Charlie as he had looked really steady on it. When we got up there on the second day I felt so much better than before. This time it was Charlie who was cooked from a double bouldering session on the weekend and not enough rest. I guess it is easy to forget how much energy you need in the mountains. A long approach with big packs takes it out of you at the best of times. It would have been great if we both had done it, I think Charlie is psyched to go back.

Talbot Horizon hadn’t seen an ascent for 16 years, there are multiple other unrepeated Birkett lines on the you think you will you be going back?

Hopefully, yes. It’s amazing up there, I’d go even if it was just to climb some of the old classics.

You’ve been putting a lot of time into sport climbing this season, what did you do to flick the 'mental switch’ from hard red-pointing to hard head-pointing?

Earlier this season I went to the Fairhead climbing meet and I did a couple of E8's there, that got me back into the head-point game pretty quickly. The highlight route of that trip was ‘An Bealach Eile’. Out of the many E8’s I’ve done, this has got to be one of the best. After that trip my interest was sparked and it got me thinking that I should do some more E9’s. It’s a good rest from sport climbing.

So, what’s next?

Weather permitting, we will be heading down to Pembroke soon, then later in August I am keen for Scotland, for some proper adventure climbing.

Read a recent UKC interview with Dave Birkett.

Watch a long-shot clip of Jordan's ascent below:

Jordan is sponsored by: Boreal, Edelweiss, Monkey Fist and Wild Country

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