Black Knight Re-Climbed at E7 6c by Franco Cookson

Franco Cookson has re-climbed Black Knight on the popular Sphinx Buttress at Wainstones, North Yorkshire - the first ascent since the removal of the pegs, weighing in at E7 6c. The hairline crack was originally climbed as an artificial aid route in the 1960s and was free climbed in 1986 by Steve Brown at E5 6c. Shortly after Steve's ascent, all pegs were removed and the line became a more serious prospect.

Franco Cookson making the first ascent of Black Knight at E7 6c, 184 kb
Franco Cookson making the first ascent of Black Knight at E7 6c
© Franco Cookson

In its altered state, Black Knight was the last unclimbed line of the Wainstones - a desperately technical outing which scales the chin of the Sphinx via the peg-scarred crack forming the 'Douglas dimple.'

Franco told UKC:

'Rumour has it that the first (and only) ascensionist, Steve Brown, wore a wetsuit to grovel up the arete. I'm not sure how much truth there is in that, as I don't think a wetsuit would help much. However Steve Brown did it, it was an impressive ascent for its time and must have ranked as one of the hardest sequences in the Moors.'

Franco knows of a number of people who had tried the line in recent years and had scoped the moves and gear out over a few sessions himself:

'I've had a few little looks since I was about 17, always managing to do the odd move, but never really being that keen to lead it. It was a bit of a challenge for me, as it requires core muscles, which I've been deliberately avoiding getting; trying to stay light for less physical projects.'

He added:

'Gear wise, there is a collection of small tricams that would probably stop a fall, or gently deposit you on the ground. You could potentially fit some strange small camming device on the lip of the roof too if you had one.'

Making the first ascent during the widely reported "heatwave" added an extra element of difficulty for Franco. He explained:

'The actual ascent was a total disaster. It was roasting and we were only at the Wainstones as it had been raining loads. A kind of high 20s humidity prevailed, which is not really what you want for grit-style arete climbing. Added to this, my weak salmon of a body started to give up after about 30 seconds on the route and I could barely lift my legs up. You'll see on the video me desperately failing to slap my foot up, hands slowly slipping on the crux holds. Even the top bit, which shouldn't be sketchy, felt truly awful. A humbling moment for being a little too cocky!'

Watch the video below:

Visit Franco's Facebook page.

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