Jim Pope has made the fourth ascent of the bold Appointment with Death (E9 6c) E9 6c at Wimberry Rocks. First climbed by Sam Whittaker in 2003, the route waited ten years to see its first repeat by Tom Randall in 2013 and the third ascent was made by Nathan Lee in 2014.
Protected by a single low wire in a crack on the right, a fall would be a very serious prospect with the belayer having to jump off a ledge to be able to take in enough slack.
Jim and his friend Henry had been speculating about going to Wimberry for a while and the pair made the most of a free day on Sunday (the day after a GB Bouldering Team selection event for Jim). He told UKC:
'Initially I wanted to get on either MaDMAn or Dangermouse, but when we arrived most things were covered in lichen and scrittle. Appointment was by far the cleanest thing there so we decided to get on that.
'At first I thought it looked impossible, but after we put some chalk on the holds and found a sequence it was beginning to look more possible, and after a few top rope attempts I decided to give it a go. It was a really warm day even up there in the shade, but all of a sudden the temperature dropped loads so I gave it a crack.'
Jim climbed smoothly through the cruxes lower down on some small pebbles with bad footholds, but at the top where he had expected the route to be 'over', a foothold crumbled. He explained:
'Luckily that was only a few moves from the top and I managed to stay composed to finish it off. I think I only held on because I was on the lead. Every move felt so much easier once I didn't have the safety of a top rope because I was squeezing so much harder. I'm also pretty glad I've worked on my fingerstrength and one-armers as much as I have!'
(check out Jim's Instagram story while it lasts (24hrs) for a clip of this heart-in-mouth moment!)
Jim now plans to take a break from trad as he looks to compete in international competitions this season.
'It's not worth risking an injury which could end an important season, but I'll be back!' he told UKC. 'It's getting a bit warm now anyway!'
In October 2018, Jim repeated Meshuga E9 6c (UKC news report) - his first of the grade. Although primarily a competition and sport climber, Jim's gritstone trad apprenticeship started at the tender age of 13, when he headpointed two E6s: Nosferatu (E6 6b) and Life Assurance (E6 6b) (UKC news).
On Appointment with Death, Jim added:
'I also want to say a big thanks to Sam, Henry and Aidan for being there and being supportive. I think it's so important to have good people around you so that you feel comfortable when going for hard/dangerous leads.'