Emma Twyford, James 'Caff' McHaffie and Madeleine Cope have had a productive trip to Dyers Lookout in North Devon, in which they completed the two ~50m king lines of the crag. All three headpointed Dave Birkett's Once Upon a Time in the South West E9 6c and Caff also ticked James Pearson's metre The Walk of Life E9 6c. Both are bold, technical face climbs on occasionally friable rock.
For Emma, the trip and the choice of route came about by chance. She told UKC: 'I'd never really thought about Dyer's Lookout. I'd seen the video of Hazel [Findlay] on Once Upon a Time and it looked flipping scary so that was that. Caff planned a DMM trip to the South West and I suddenly had a partner in crime in the form of Madeleine Cope to try and work the route and figure out the gear whilst Caff and Ryan Pasquill tried the bottom of Walk of Life.'
The first two days of the trip were relatively relaxed. Emma figured out a sequence and recovered from routesetting work. Despite not having many trad climbs under her belt so far this season, Emma made good progress on the line. She explained: 'One of the hardest bits for me was actually remembering where the kit went and placing it as I've barely trad climbed this year. After 3 days of figuring things out I had a rest day on Tuesday, so I had it in my head that Wednesday would be the send day once I had a better look at the bottom of the route to remember where I was placing the very small cams that all looked the same!'
Whilst Madeleine figured the moves out, Caff tied in on the sharp end for Walk of Life. Emma told UKC: 'It looked wild and like he was definitely having to try. It was a relief to see him top out - finally someone had sent something and it got me fired up in a nervous sort of way.'
Emma scoped out the bottom section one last time and knew it was now or never. 'I decided to give myself 20 minutes then go for it. I minced the very first bit. It was chossy and I hadn't checked it out, thinking it would be easy. It was tricky and scary as the gear is pretty bad, but the more small cams I plugged in, the happier I got going for it to just beneath the crux. It felt like lots of 6b moves to get to there. Then you get a good rest to contemplate what the hell you're doing up there and why you climb these things. The gear is small a little blind on the crux with some tenuous and balancy moves.'
Up until this point, Emma had simply considered it a 'recce' lead attempt to see how scared she would get, but she managed to commit and push through. 'Once I hit the rest at the end of the crux I thought it was on and that I had better try not to fluff it,' she told us. 'You get some bomber kit and some hard and spanned-out crimpy moves where you could still blow it. This is the point where you enter the cool runnel feature and the moves end up easing off a little into continuous 6a moves, but the rock is quite friable either side.'
'You end up having to be on your feet more than you would like at this point because it's slightly off-balance the entire way. You get to run it out, but the gear up until near the top is small and poor and the ropes start to feel heavy. You really have to keep it together, which makes it feel cool but serious.'
All in all, a successful day out for both Emma and Caff. Emma commented:
'The route was one of the best and most serious I've ever done. The climbing is involved and your head game has to be good, which made it an incredible feeling to overcome. I love having to feel composed and commit above small kit on tenuous moves where you have to reach this moment where it all comes together and clicks in your head. I definitely felt huge relief pulling over the top having put up with very sore feet and not blown the top.' Emma reckoned the route equated to 8a in difficulty if placing the gear en route.
Today was a good day! @caffinspain started the send train with an impressive ascent of walk of life (E9 6c) and I managed to surprise myself with an ascent of Once Upon a Time in the Southwest (E9 6c). I've not done much trad this year let alone anything that has felt serious so I wasn't sure if my head was in it. My initial plan had been to go for a recce lead and sit on the gear if I got scared but somehow I managed to push on through the crux and not fluff the spicy head wall. What an incredible line with amazing vision from the wizard that is Dave Birkett. Thanks @madeleine_cope for very patient belay and @Ray_wood for the 📸. @dmm_wales @v12_outdoor @climbskinspain @scarpa_uk @patagonia_climb @patagoniaeurope @northdartmoorsearchrescueteam @frictionlabs @pongoose.climbing
The Walk of Life is perhaps most famous for initially being graded E12 7a, the hardest grade ever assinged to a route in the UK. Caff summed up the trip as follows:
'I'd abbed Walk of Life three times to check gear and moves and was chuffed to do it first go putting the gear in. The start is serious unless you know exactly what you are doing, as there are moves you can't linger on. If you check these routes they can feel less scary than onsighting a lot of E6s, but if you try them without inspection you soon realise where the big grade comes from.'
'I'd tried to flash Once Upon a Tme with Ryan, but we fell fairly low really and I was lacking the metal for a ground up siege. I abbed it once after doing Walk of Life to check the crux moves and again yesterday abbed it to check the two crux bits and gear. I was feeling pretty baked so still nearly fluffed the end of the runout in the runnel. '
'Maddy looked well solid on her lead which was just before it rained and on the last day of the trip. It was funny watching her from the side shaking her feet out at 40 metres' height and trying to sit on a heel on a small crimp. We all did that as your toes take a hammering!'
This is Madeleine's first E9. Ryan Pasquill made an impressive ground up attempt on Once Upon a Time, but unfortunately ran out of time to try it again.