The Big Issue E9 6c by Matt Helliker

© Stefan Morris

Matt Helliker has headpointed John Dunne's The Big Issue (E9 6c) E9 6c at Bosherston Head, Pembroke. Matt chose to place the gear on lead with the 20+ year old peg tied off.

Matt Helliker on The Big Issue E9 6c.  © Stefan Morris
Matt Helliker on The Big Issue E9 6c.
© Stefan Morris

Although inspired by the history and aesthetics of the route from a young age, Matt didn't think he'd ever get round to trying it. He told UKC:

'I remember at the age of 16, buying 'On The Edge' magazine, and inside seeing photos of John Dunne on his ascent. The wall just looked incredible, so steep, smooth and holdless from above. Nothing like any other sea cliff trad route I had seen. These images definitely inspired me as a youth to climb trad routes like that. It just looked so cool. I never thought I would have got the chance to ever climb it. For a start just looking at it scared the shit out of me!'

Ali Kennedy's ascent in 2017 and Emma Twyford's last year - where Matt belayed on her successful ascent - inspired him to dedicate some time to trying it. A shoulder injury meant that he couldn't commit fully, but he opened the account nonetheless. Matt explained:

'Belaying Em on her ascent, I did my best to try giving her a slow rope on a few critical clips as I knew she was pretty much gonna smash it that go, therefore leaving me on my first weekend on it without a partner to work it with. Being injured anyway, I knew that last year I was wasting my time being there but most importantly I knew the route would be possible for me, once I'd fixed my shoulder.'

The window for conditions on this wall is very small, with some specific weather and tides required to make it climbable. Matt told UKC:

'Mornings are a write-off with too much sea smeg, so you have to wait at this time of year until midday for the sun to come round and burn it off. To climb in the sun for me was too hot, so I had to wait until 6.30pm for shade to try the route in 'OK' conditions, leaving only 1.5 hours of daylight per session. On cloudy days with a strong SW wind, spring tides and a rolling swell, forget it and try something else - it will be minging!'

'Basically to do The Big Issue I had to get good at resting and being patient waiting for conditions to be right!', he added.

Athletic moves with long run-outs on steep ground made for a memorable experience and a couple of big falls when it came to lead attempts. Matt explained:

'After the first shouldery crux and making two wire placements in a very unrestful spot, the second crux comes straight at you. Long, powerful moves, stabbing into pinches and pockets on dinky feet, running it out to the next placement. It's probably the best king line single pitch rock route I have ever climbed.'

Matt on the steep and athletic The Big Issue E9 6c.  © Mike Hutton
Matt on the steep and athletic The Big Issue E9 6c.
© Mike Hutton

Regarding the style of his ascent, Matt commented:

'I chose to place the gear on lead but had the 20+ year old peg tied off. This was the style that I personally wanted to climb it in and it felt about F8b to me when trying to wiggle in wires on such a steep wall. I guess if climbed in more of a 'sporty headpoint' style with the kit in, then it would feel more like F8a+.'

Matt Helliker tops out on The Big Issue E9 6c.   © Stefan Morris
Matt Helliker tops out on The Big Issue E9 6c.
© Stefan Morris

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 a trad style by John in 1996. The name of the climb alludes to the debolting of the line in the '90s, as Pembroke was going through a time of controversial first ascents and bolts were used on some routes, which were subsequently removed.

This post has been read 10,566 times

Return to Latest News

Matt’s life has been shaped by mountains and coastlines, from the sea cliffs of Great Britain to Scotland's winter mountains, the European Alps to the Greater Ranges of the Himalayas, South America and Alaska....

Matt's Athlete Page 20 posts 1 video

18 Sep, 2019

Jeez Matt, go to the gym once in a while.

18 Sep, 2019

Amazing that that chunky f*ck managed to walk to the crag, never mind climb anything.

18 Sep, 2019

I know that you work at a climbing wall in Bristol called Bloc. It is very surprising that you posted such an aggressive comment towards a climber, as you work within the climbing community. Shame on you and you should refrain from this kind of destructive comment. This behaviour is definitely not the spirit of climbing, specially if you work at Bloc. It is a nice wall and Bristol is a nice place for climbers, so don’t shame us. I live here and climb at Bloc, too.

18 Sep, 2019

Um, calling him fat was clearly a joke in reply to the other know, since he's shredded.

18 Sep, 2019


More Comments
Loading Notifications...
Facebook Twitter Copy Email