James Pearson has made the first ascent of a run-out 8c trad line at Sunset Rocks, Chattanooga, TN, which he has named Power Ranger and graded 5.14 R. The line follows a closed seam up an otherwise blank face.
He told UKC: 'There is no question about the line or the sequence… you've got what you've got… you just have to find a way to use it!'
James has been on a quest to find his "ultimate" trad route for many years now, and he believes Power Ranger is a worthy contender.
Describing himself as a "one trick pony" previously - good on the short and technical gritstone, but less proficient on other rock types - James took some time to diversify his one dimensional skill set. Between 2009 and 2012 James spent most of his time sport climbing to work on his weaknesses and saw huge gains in his trad grades as a result. He told UKC:
'Suddenly I could look at a steep trad route and feel excited, instead of afraid. Suddenly I knew I would have the time to search for gear placements without every second being a countdown to disaster. Yet as I began to climb more varied routes at different crags all around the world, I realised you can never be great at everything. We Brits say "Jack of all trades, master of none"! We all have our natural strengths and weaknesses, and whilst it is important to balance them out, you'll never see better results than if you project a route in "your" style. I was and I still am at my best on bold grit or sandstone, because this is where I started.'
James sent in the following text about Power Ranger:
Power Ranger (5.14 R) climbs an incredible clean face at Sunset Rock above Chattanooga Tennessee. After a bold but easier lower wall, you make the most of a great rest before starting the difficulties of the headwall above. From this point on, the moves become intense and unforgiving, with long powerful reaches leading into an intricate and delicate crux, and onwards to a run-out power endurance sequence to the top. It's a beautiful flowing sequence up almost perfect sandstone, and for the last year since I put my hands on it, I have been obsessed with returning to this line.
Finishing this route might seem like the end of the adventure, but my memories of these times will live on. It was all so worth it, because this is all that climbing is about. I could now continue and focus on the grade, go big and tell you that it is my hardest route ever, but the truth is, I don't know how hard it is. It's somewhere close to my latest ticks for sure, yet instead of the 1000th story of "hard ascent of the year", can't we focus on something else?
This route is beautiful - a single line of holds up an otherwise blank wall. No way around, no way to cheat, you get only what nature has given. The moves are powerful, yet delicate, with an obvious crux but also the chance to fall on any move. The gear is good, the run-out quite big, and provided you fall in a controlled way you should be ok, yet the climbing is awkward, the rope runs behind your legs, and falling off the upper moves would send you exactly in the direction you don't want to be going! I never fell off the last few moves, so I can't say for sure. Perhaps it is safe, perhaps not…only time will tell.
I wanted to make a film about this route as I feel like it deserves to be shown, not for my ascent, but for just how cool it genuinely is. I had the chance to be close to a creative video maker, Pietro Porro, and to have the unconditional support of La Sportiva to unleash our darkest thoughts… Influenced by the insta-consumption of today's modern world, the film looks at our relationship with climbing and how, if at all, it has changed over the years. As always these things should be taken with a pinch of salt. Pietro's in the editing suite as we speak, but he's an artist and these things take time. It will be ready when it is ready, so in the meantime, (this bits best said in a deep, somewhat over the top American accent) get ready for… "Beyond The Mostest", coming soon…