Visiting US climber Peter Kamitses has repeated the Dumbarton Rock testpiece Requiem E8 6b. Peter is well known for establishing hard trad routes at crags in New England and upstate New York, including numerous first ascents in the Gunks, Rumney and Adirondack Park. Having travelled to Europe with the intention of climbing the ten-pitch Hotel Supramonte 8b on Sardinia, Peter also stopped off at Scotland's finest crag, Dumbarton Rock. We spoke to Peter to find out what he made of it...
He told UKC:
'Last year I went to go climb this amazing ten-pitch sport route in the Gola Di Gorropu. It's a limestone route called Hotel Supramonte that I've been meaning to attempt for many, many years and last year in April I finally went. Our goal was to check out all the pitches over a period of days and then climb it clean bottom to top in a day. After only a couple days on the route I took a weird pendulum fall on pitch 5 and slammed into the wall sideways and heard and felt my ribs crunch. Game over...I never got to try and send it.'
Returning this April for unfinished business, Peter didn't make things easy for himself. A few days after booking his flights, he managed to partially tear an A2 pulley in his right hand middle finger:
'I spent most of the six weeks before flying to Italy resting and slowly progressing from climbing jugs on a slab to having climbed a few 5.12's (French 7b) in the gym without making my finger worse. I was quite apprehensive about flying so far for a route like this; one which was so important to me and would be quite a challenge even in good shape.'
Once in Sardinia, Peter struggled to find his confidence and flow while climbing on the route, with the crux pitches feeling harder than they had felt the previous year, whilst simultaneously worrying about re-tweaking a half healed finger. After a couple of weeks of work on the route, Peter finally gained enough mental and physical fitness to achieve his goal. He told us:
'I swung leads with my partner Dan Mirsky and sent every pitch bottom to top in a day. The feeling like I was going to have come all this way for a second year in a row only to fail again made the mental release of success something extraordinary. Once I manteled up onto the final ledge on top of pitch 10 and was able to let my guard down and my focus relax, I was rewarded with a sense of satisfaction different than any other climbing goal I've achieved.'
Whilst Peter was planning his trip, he considered incorporating a quick stopover in the UK to visit the DMM factory in Wales and have a look at Dave MacLeod's Rhapsody E11 at Dumbarton.
'Over the last decade or so I've had some of my most memorable moments climbing doing first ascents of challenging, often run-out, gear protected routes in the Adirondacks of New York across the lake from where I live in Vermont. Rhapsody always stood out in my mind as my ideal type of route. Hard enough to require a long concerted effort, run-out enough to offer a fantastic mental challenge, yet steep enough and safe enough to fall off of without necessarily getting hurt - a lifetime goal type of route.'
However, Peter's enthusiasm for climbing at Dumbarton was met with surprise from those more familiar with its post-industrial landscape and the anti-social behaviour of the local youths:
'As I searched around for contacts and climbing partners in the UK who might want to climb at Dumbarton Rock with me, I got quite an amusing bit of cheeky sarcasm via email and text (which I quite appreciate!!) Why in the hell would I want to go climb at that bit of graffiti-covered, garbage-strewn rock in an industrial wasteland, where I'd be likely to step on a hypodermic needle and have my backpack stolen as I climbed...'
Not so easily dissuaded, Peter stuck to his goal:
'Fortunately I have your average OCD rock climber personality type and once I get something into my head it is not easily removed. So I flew from Sardinia to Glasgow, met up with a friend of a friend and got the tour of "Dumby" as they call it. I was pleasantly surprised with the setting, for a "sh*tty city crag", it is quite a nice location right on the Clyde River with a legit ancient castle sitting on top of the cliff.'
After a couple of warm-ups, Peter threw a rope down the main face and had a play on the Requiem crack and Rhapsody finish. He quickly realised that the boulder problem on Rhapsody was out of reach for the moment:
'It was quite a bit above my current power levels and I'd have no chance of getting anywhere near even a one hang ascent with only a few climbing days to try it...this was a someday/maybe kinda route for me...'
With the weather forecast calling for 'rain everyday forever', Peter instead set his sights on trying to climb Requiem, the historic route first climbed by Dave Cuthbertson in 1983 as Scotland's first E8 - weather permitting. He commented:
'I was quite impressed with the quality of the route! It really is a perfect rig, well protected crack to a wild three points off dyno to the lip of the wall with a couple of decent nuts just far enough below your feet to give you an extra incentive as you load up and spring for the top.'
'I've never been the best crack climber and found one move from a baggy sloping finger lock in the crack crux below the halfway point to be completely desperate. I gave the route a handful of top rope attempts over a couple of days and even though I was far from terminally pumped, would just slide out of that lock every time. I then finally managed to fight through that move and didn't find the rest of the route too bad...and then it rained...and rained some more...'
Peter returned to Dumby after a short visit to Wales. Despite some rain during the day, the weather soon brightened up enough for some attempts.
'I met up with a crew of the super friendly locals and we watched as the sky got lighter, the wind picked up and then really started whipping and within an hour of it having stopped raining, the wet streak down the top half of Requiem was bone dry and it was a bluebird evening with the sun blazing. My first sweaty lead attempt on Requiem ended with me falling through space out of that baggy finger lock. After an hour or so the sun had started to set and the wall cooled off a bit and I managed - just barely - to punch through that finger lock and arrive at the final jump move with enough desperation that I was actually quite surprised when my hand latched the flat jug at the lip of the wall and I was still on!'
With one classic ticked off, Peter still has his eyes on Rhapsody as a reason for a return visit:
'I then had one more day to mess around on the top of Rhapsody a bit more, some of the moves felt a bit easier but it still felt impossibly hard. I did manage to get all the moves burned into my brain enough that I can run them over and over through my head and send it in fantasy land while I wait for the someday/maybe to come around...'
Requiem is undergoing a kind of renaissance of late, with a recent repeat by Simon Smith, and has also attracted attention from other climbers as Dumby season kicks in.