Robbie Phillips and Ian Cooper have had a productive weekend in the Dinorwig slate quarries, North Wales, making the 3rd and 4th ascent of Johnny Dawes' infamous Coeur de Lion E8 7a and adding an impressive new link-up to the Twll Mawr Quarryman wall, taking in the majority of its hardest climbing and named Space Cadets.
Robbie claimed Coeur de Lion - first climbed by Dawes almost 30 years ago and repeated by James Mchaffie and Pete Robins in April last year (UKC News Report) - to be his hardest slab climb so far. He told UKC:
'The Coeur de Lion crux pitch is bloody nails - for me it is 8b easily (probably took me as long as 8c usually takes) and is exceptionally hard-to-repeat with a minimal number of attempts due to the size and nature of the holds (like small shards of glass).'
Having made light work of Coeur de Lion, Robbie and Ian turned their attenton to their main objective. Their goal was not only to climb the original 3-pitch route, but also to establish a new link-up involving as much of the hard climbing on The Quarryman wall as possible.
The 5-pitch line meanders across the Twll Mawr slabs, involving the following notoriously difficult pitches preceded by a 'chossy offwidth':
(1) "Choss Offwidth of Doom"
(2) The Hunted E7 6c - Calum Muskett - 2011
(3) Coeur de Lion E8 7a - Johnny Dawes - 1987
(4) Blockhead E7 6c - Adam Wainwright - 1992
(5) Fire Escape Variation E6 6b - Johnny Dawes
After climbing The Quarryman E8 together last year, the pair were keen to make a harder link on the wall. Robbie commented:
'Coeur de Lion was an obvious pitch to include due to it's difficulty and scare factor! "Blockhead" (E7) was the next obvious link and making a 2nd ascent was a much sought after proposition. All we needed was a start and an end. We abbed in from the top and scoped out a potential finishing line which started at the "Blockhead" belay, traversing right into the crux of "Fire Escape" (E7), but with a slightly less bold finish.'
'I had to reel Ian back a bit as his excitement for finding the hardest climbing was sending him in some wacky directions on the wall. As much as I love to climb hard bits of rock, I prefer a logical line to an eliminate and wasn't psyched on taking the harder, more contrived option to reach the same point on the wall. We ended approaching the route via the cave system as seen in "Stonemonkey" and climbing via a sketchy traverse and chossy offwidth for the first piece of "roped-up climbing."'
The pair have named the link-up Space Cadets. Robbie explained:
'We climbed from the bottom to the top in one push establishing the esoteric mad link that we are affectionally naming Space Cadets on account of me and Ian's approach to climbing... and life in general actually!'
Describing the varied pitches, he added:
'Calum's E7 (7c) is gnarly! The Blockhead E7 pitch is so different to everything else on the wall - it climbs like an Indian Creek finger crack. And finally the E6 finish is just pretty scary and definitely doesn't feel like a warm down. In the end, the line was the most obvious on the wall that took in the most variety in styles as well as difficult climbing.'
Robbie used his slate experience as training for Yosemite big walls this Autumn, and has revealed that he has more slate link-ups in mind:
'Right now there is one idea that lingers deep within the recesses of our imagination which would be to climb The Meltdown 9a as part of a link-up. I feel at this moment I am too sane to realise a concept such as this; Ian however...'