The Big Issue E9 6c by Ali Kennedy

Following on from his incredibly productive weekend of climbing a few weeks ago, Ali Kennedy put another weekend to good use by ticking The Big Issue E9 6c at Bosherston Head, Pembroke. Ali made light work of the route, climbing it without in-situ or preplaced gear and succeeding on his second lead attempt after falling from the last hard move the previous day. Ali's ascent is comparable to that of world-class Japanese climber Yuji Hirayama, who also placed gear on lead successfully in 2014.

Ali Kennedy on The Big Issue E9 6c  © Simon Rawlinson
Ali Kennedy on The Big Issue E9 6c
© Simon Rawlinson

Regarding the choice of placing his own gear en-route, Ali told UKC:

'I decided to try and do it without any in-situ or preplaced gear as it's a bit unclear exactly how it's been climbed before. I'd heard that various different 'stuck' wires had been in place over the years, but to be honest the ones that were in when I first tried it came out pretty easily. None of the placements are fiddly so there didn't really seem to be an excuse to have anything left in. There were also two in-situ threads, which were easy to replace with natural gear so I thought I may as well chop them too, as you could never place them on lead. The peg is still in for now, but I didn't clip it and that really should come out as well if people are happy for me to do so.'

He added:

'It wasn't intended to be an ethical statement or anything, it just felt like a good challenge to do it as a proper trad route, especially given the route's history.'

The route was originally climbed by John Dunne in 1996. John placed most of the gear on lead, but also used some stuck wires and a peg. Initially conceived as a bolted line, The Big Issue remained uncompleted until it was climbed in more of a trad style by John in 1996. The name of the climb alludes to the debolting of the line, as Pembroke was going through a time of controversial first ascents and bolts were used on some routes, which were subsequently removed. In 2014, visiting Japanese climber Yuji Hirayama completed the route, placing all gear on lead.

Ali Kennedy on the Pembroke testpiece The Big Issue E9 6c  © Simon Rawlinson
Ali Kennedy on the Pembroke testpiece The Big Issue E9 6c
© Simon Rawlinson

Route Time Line:

Pre 1996 - route bolted by Pete Oxley

1996 - First ascent (placing gear/some insitu) John Dunne

2000 - First repeat (placing gear/some insitu) Steve McClure

2000 - Repeat (on insitu gear) Adrian Berry

2010 - Repeat (on insitu gear) Gaz Parry

2014 - Repeat (placing gear on lead) Yuji Hirayama

2017 - Repeat (placing gear on lead) Ali Kennedy

Commenting on the quality of the route, Ali told UKC:

'I can't say enough about the quality of it - it's by far the best route I've done. Aesthetically it's just about perfect, climbs like the best sport route you've ever done but on trad gear and right by the sea in a beautiful amphitheatre. How can it get better than that?'

Two E9s and two E8s in a couple of weeks, with Ali's earlier ascents of Something's Burning E9 and the E8s Mercia Wall and The Brothers Karamazov - not bad! (UKC news report)


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24 May, 2017
Liked the route time line box with repeats and style of ascent. Good source of info to have with this type of article and might flush out anything that is historically uncertain.
24 May, 2017
Not sure it wasn't comparable to Yuji's ascent. No fixed gear. Ali didn't want the convenience of stuck wires (that took us all of ten minutes to remove!) or pre-placed threads, which had possible gear slots available for those with the fitness to place it on lead. He was in it for the long haul, to do it properly but in the end made light work of it, leaving me with a very unfinished project, now with no threads or stuck wires. Thanks buddy!
24 May, 2017
I don't get it. Couldn't you just abseil in and pre-place your gear if you so wish? Well done to Ali. A great effort and nice to see something cleaned up a bit!
24 May, 2017
You certainly could abseil in and pre-place gear if you so wished. You would, of course, be changing the route effectively into a sport route. The whole point of naming the route the Big Issue was to point out that it used trad gear for protection, rather than preplaced bolts.
24 May, 2017
Nice one Ali — seems like you've really found your groove down there in the southwest. Hope the time you spent in Catalunya made you realize how good a climber you are... Regards to Tash. Pete.
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