Hazel Findlay has climbed her first 9a with an ascent of Esclatamasters (9a) at Perles, Lleida, Catalonia. The line was first climbed by Ramon Julian Puigblanque in 2006. Hazel is only the second British woman to climb 9a after Emma Twyford's ascent of The Big Bang (UKC News).
Hazel and her partner Angus Kille chose the line as a shared goal and trained throughout the winter. She told UKC:
'We went to Spain in November and tried a few routes but quickly settled on Esclatamasters because it's such a good route in a really nice place and seemed to be the right challenge level for us.'
The pair figured out the moves but we weren't ready to attempt proper lead burns on that trip. 'We also hadn't worked out how to use knee pads, which are fairly critical for the lower section of the route,' Hazel explained.
After a long winter of training in North Wales, Hazel and Angus returned to the project mid-February. Initially, progress was slow.
'We were finding it hard to transfer our training to the rock. A week in, we started climbing better and I started to get fitter every time I went climbing,' Hazel commented.
On each redpoint burn, Hazel reached a new highpoint. When she broke through what was probably her redpoint crux on Wednesday, she climbed to the top. She told UKC:
'I'm pretty psyched to climb such a hard sport route as I probably didn't see myself doing that. I really enjoyed the process and had such a good time climbing on the route because it's extremely varied and on perfect rock the whole way.'
The start of the route is steep and burly with a lot of heel hooks, drop knees and kneebars leading to a kneebar rest before a harder top section, which is crimpy and technical but still pumpy, with an intimidating run-out.
'It's a route that requires a lot of varied skills and you to have all round fitness and strength,' Hazel added.
Writing on Instagram, Hazel explained the mental process of ticking the line.
'Yesterday really felt like a no-fear ascent and that became my mantra for the final section of the route. A jug marks the end of the hard climbing but you have a tricky little section at the end of the route which is totally dropable if you aren't focused or climbing well. I knew that if fear of failure showed up too strong I'd struggle to do that part so tired. But I really focused on being connected to my experience and honestly the whole climb felt pretty joyful.'
Hazel adds her 9a tick to a long list of hard sport and trad ascents including Once Upon a Time in the Southwest E9 6c, Chicama E9 6c, Tainted Love, 5.13d R, 8b+/E9, Magic Line 5.14c R/8c+/E10 and more recently Mission Impossible E9 7a and Muy Caliente! E9 6c, alongside four free ascents of El Capitan and previous sport ascents up to 8c.