Alasdair 'Ali' Kennedy has made the third ascent of Charlie Woodburn's Something's Burning E9 7a at Stennis Ford, Pembroke. In the same weekend, Ali also climbed two E8 6cs - Mercia Wall and The Brothers Karamazov. Although not a familiar name to many, Ali has a growing list of trad ascents up to E9 headpoint and E7 onsight.
Something's Burning was first climbed by Charlie Woodburn in 2012 (UKC News report) with the route giving sustained and bold climbing at a difficulty of around 8a+/b, protected by small wires. The climb saw an impressive flash ascent by James Pearson in 2014 (UKC news report).
Ali became interested in Something’s Burning after he had climbed Muy Caliente E9 6c and Point Blank E8 6c towards the end of summer last year. He told UKC:
'The rock on that west face of Stennis Ford must be some of the best quality in Pembroke so when I was thinking of goals for this year any excuse to climb another route on it was enough for me. I spoke to Charlie and his enthusiasm for it made me even keener so by the time some good weather finally came at the start of April I was pretty excited! I was planning on trying other easier routes to start the trad season off but on my first Pembroke visit the whole of Stennis Ford and most other crags were seeping quite badly, apart from Something’s Burning, so I didn’t really have an excuse not to get on it.'
Conditions were poor, but on the first day Ali managed to work out the first crux undercut moves through the bottom overlaps and figured out the gear, but struggled on the hard section higher up and split a tip quite badly in the process. Eventually he decided to spend the rest of the weekend onsighting. After watching a video of Charlie on it, Ali discovered some better beta. His next session was more productive and Ali was able to toprope the route in one. He told UKC:
'My first go on the sharp end was over the Easter weekend when I fell from the final big move out left (where it joins the E5) but for the rest of the weekend I got distracted trying other projects and more onsighting, where I managed my first E7 onsight - Boat to Naxos - so didn’t get around to trying it again.'
The following weekend, conditions were perfect and Ali was ready to go for the lead. He told UKC:
'On Saturday morning the lead went much more smoothly and it went down first go. I found the climbing on it much harder than on Muy Caliente but it doesn’t have the notorious run out so I guess E9 7a is probably about right, but I don’t have anywhere near enough experience to comment with any authority so I’ll trust Charlie. Either way James Pearson’s flash of the route is a mighty impressive one!'
Not content with just one measly E9 tick for the weekend, Ali had other plans. On Sunday morning he ticked both Mercia Wall, Dave Pickford’s E8 just to the left of Something’s Burning and The Brothers Karamazov at St Govan's Head. Ali described his 'epic' on the latter:
'The afternoon turned into a bit of an epic when I stupidly decided to have a go at The Brothers Karamazov despite the tide coming in a lot quicker than I expected! Shortly before setting off, I realised the boulder my wife Tash was belaying from was going to be under water pretty soon, so it was a bit of a rush to get to the top. After getting through the bottom pitch, which is the meat of the route, I didn’t have time to rest at the midway break and peeled off the tricky upper wall, dragging Tash into the water! She then got another dunking to rescue a cam that had fallen into the sea and a final one starting the jumar out when the rope stretch dropped her in again (sorry Tash!). After a change of clothes and a bit of dinner we were planning to call it a day, but the evening was such a nice one and with the tide on the turn Tash agreed to go down for another go. Thankfully all went smoothly this time and I did it in one long amazing pitch with the evening sun lighting up the wall a beautiful orange. Pretty good end to a great weekend!'
Watch a video of Charlie Woodburn's first ascent below: