Pete Robins has made a spate of bouldering first ascents around North Wales over the past year, finding and climbing over 100 hard new lines in the area. Although Pete's passion for establishing new problems is not unheard of, this particular rush of productivity has been spurred on by Simon Panton's upcoming North Wales Bouldering guidebook, which is preceded by a now out of print 2004 edition.
Occasionally working on tip-offs from Simon and otherwise simply following his nose, Pete was keen to help bulk out the new guide. Last week, Pete added two of his hardest new problems - Hammerhead (8A+), at Fedw Fawr, Anglesey, and Agent Orange (8A), on the Talfarach headland (DMM news report). Many of Pete's problems are highballs and word on the street is that they're a bit 'spicy' to say the least. We sent Pete some questions about what he's been up to...
Clearly the upcoming guide by Simon Panton has been a catalyst for your ascents, but why were you so keen to take it upon yourself to get out there and find some new problems?
This is just what I do. I’ve been frantically putting up new routes since 1996. It’s not a burden, as you put it – it’s the prize. Surely the question should be: What is everyone else doing?
Who else has been out seeking new lines?
The same old guys around North Wales. Martin Crook put up his first new route back in 1975 (anyone guess it?), and George Smith is always up a crack or sending me cryptic messages about projects, or not. Simon Panton and Chris Doyle obviously as well. Owen Hayward has also done nearly as many first ascents as me over this time.
What are your hardest recent additions? Tell us a bit about them.
Because of the looming guide, I’ve focussed on getting as much in it as I can. So I’ve only recently had time to climb the harder ones, just about breaking through to the 8th grade. The striking thing from my perspective is the quality of the problems. They just seem to get better and better. I hope that this comes across in the guide and it's not just me sinking deeper and deeper into an embarrassing bouldering subculture.
What's the spread of grades like, roughly, from your additions over the past two years?
Almost all 7s.
Which crags/areas have seen the most new problems?
Over half have been developing Fedwr Fawr on Anglesey. This has been really fun and sometimes spicy down there on my own. We developed the upper tier at Tremadog over the summer, a beautiful spot. Martin has also shown me the lines in his beloved Nant Gwynant that he can’t do.
I've heard a number of your first ascents are pretty committing. What attracts you to try such problems?
They’re not that committing. People are just nesh.
How much more potential is there in North Wales for problems of all grades?
Well, we struggled to keep Megos entertained when he came over, but everyone else will have a stab at finding a few they can climb.