The Walk of Life E9 6c by Angus Kille

© Angus Kille

Angus Kille has repeated James Pearson's The Walk of Life (E9 6c) at Dyers Lookout, Devon. Initially graded E12 7a, the route was later downgraded to E9 6c by Dave MacLeod. The line is a long, bold and gradually steepening slab climb on friable rock.

Angus pads slowly up the intimidating The Walk of Life E9 6c.  © Angus Kille
Angus pads slowly up the intimidating The Walk of Life E9 6c.
© Angus Kille

Angus had been curious about the wall since he saw the film of James Pearson making the first ascent. He told UKC:

'The FA made quite a splash, partly for being overgraded, but the video does a good job of showing how techy some of the climbing is. Friends' ascents on the wall, including Hazel's [Once Upon a Time in the South West E9 6c], made me want to get involved.'

During a trip to visit family in Devon, Angus and Hazel thought they'd take a look at The Walk of Life. Angus was awestruck by the line. He said:

'The wall is really impressive and really intimidating. I've climbed at a lot of different crags and don't think I get intimidated too easily, but there's something about the dark slab steepening at the top — it doesn't look like it wants to be climbed.'

The movements are cryptic and awkward, with insecure positions. Angus explained:

'It feels as if the rock is conspiring against you, never pairing reasonable footholds with reasonable handholds and few of the thousands of cracks actually hold gear. Despite being a slab, it's quite an aggressive style of climbing compared with the dainty style you associate with slabs like Indian Face. That said, you don't have to be seriously strong, very fit or that bold to climb the route. I think you do need quite a lot of psychological endurance as you've got to make hundreds of moves, most of them run-out above OK kit and progress up the 50m wall is mostly quite hard-earned.'

Among the shallow seams with a long way still to go.  © Angus Kille
Among the shallow seams with a long way still to go.
© Angus Kille

Hazel and Angus dropped a line down the route and checked it out over a couple of days, before heading to a very hot and busy Pembroke on an onsighting spree. Angus eventually suggested bailing to Devon. He commented:

'There's a lifetime's worth of good climbing in Pembroke so it felt stupid to leave, but Walk of Life was stuck in my head and I reckon it's those routes you've got to do.'

The pair arrived to busy crag scenes at Dyer's lookout. Once Upon A Time was getting a lot of attention from potential suitors. Angus continued to work the moves on a fixed line and then came back for a lead burn. He described the first sections of the route and its gear as follows:

'It's actually quite a bold start, the first good gear is at 15m and the climbing is far from trivial, but Caff and Charlie had given me some advice for marginal gear which helped me justify it — sky hooks, a tiny blue slider we bought from Tom Pearce when we saw him and a little pecker.

'After 15m you actually get a reasonable section of well protected climbing which gives you some height for when the holds and gear thin out. I couldn't remember all of the moves from when I worked the route and the gear turned out to be hard to place on lead. I climbed in a newly resoled pair of shoes that I thought would be edgy but comfortable enough for a 50m slab, but my feet and calves still ached and even with reasonable footholds I didn't feel like I had anywhere to rest for too long. I almost fell quite a lot of times and once caught myself from falling with a bad crimp.'

Regarding the danger level of the crux parts, Angus commented:

'I don't think the harder sections are actually dangerous, but there's a long way to fall before one of your runners holds. Very few of the moves in the top half of the route felt particularly secure, so it felt very unlikely I would link all of them without a slip or lapse of attention and it increasingly felt like I was going to run out of luck/skill/mental energy.'

In the thick of the steeper top section.  © Angus Kille
In the thick of the steeper top section.
© Angus Kille

Despite a summer of strong ascents - including a headpoint of Muy Caliente! E9 6c, E7 flashes and hard boulders - Angus was unsure that he could complete such an intricate route. He said:

'I topped out in disbelief. It was clear early on that I was capable of doing the route but never a given that I would actually pull it off, especially first lead attempt. It felt pretty unlikely halfway up the wall when I was improvising my sequence, so it was a real challenge to hold it together and commit one move at a time.

Commenting on the line's difficulty and its controversial initial grade, he added:

'It feels different from other routes I've done of a similar grade and that psychological endurance was a really interesting aspect of the challenge. Usually being fitter or stronger or bolder helps you out, but this wall just keeps throwing 6c slab moves at you. From that point of view I can understand it getting overgraded, especially as it probably didn't play to James's strengths at the time and he didn't place as much kit.'

Watch a video of the first ascent by James Pearson below:

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Angus Kille is a British climber and AMI Mountaineering Instructor based in North Wales. Angus is famous for ascents of hard UK trad routes, including The Indian Face, and has also climbed sport 8c.

Angus's Athlete Page 13 posts 2 videos

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4 Sep, 2021

This is amazing, I've often looked up at this route and shat my pants at the thought of climbing it!

5 Sep, 2021

Have you seen the James Pearson whipper?

you know it’s a big fall when you have time to scream twice

5 Sep, 2021
I remember I saw this climb near the start of my climbing career - holy shit haha
5 Sep, 2021

Beast of a route

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