Jacopo Larcher climbs Parthian Shot, E10 6c

© @ONSEN_productions

Jacopo Larcher has made the fourth ascent of the 'post-break' Parthian Shot (E10 6c), at Burbage South Edge in the Peak District. 

First climbed by John Dunne in 1989, first repeated by Seb Greive in 1997 (as seen in the iconic 'Hard Grit'), and altered forever in 2011 by an unfortunate Will Stanhope, who fell from the crux, ripped the 'shipwreck of a flake', and found himself 'on the ground, spitting blood, struggling to breathe'.

Will Stanhope, seconds before ripping the flake and hitting the ground on Parthian Shot.  © Simon Wilson
Will Stanhope, seconds before ripping the flake and hitting the ground on Parthian Shot.
© Simon Wilson

And so Parthian Shot E9 - which had become familiar with big falls, so much so that Kevin Jorgeson took a number of them on his way to a first ground-up ascent in 2008 - became an altogether different proposition.

It was left unclimbed for two years until 2013, when Ben Bransby took it on in and made the first ascent of the new Parthian Shot, E10 6c.

Since then, only three people have climbed it. Neil Mawson in 2014, Siebe Vanhee in 2021, and, earlier this month, visiting climber Jacopo Larcher.

We got in touch with Jacopo to find out how it all came about.

Congratulations on climbing Parthian Shot! How did you first come across the route, and what did you think of it at the time?

Thanks! Well, Parthian Shot is such an iconic route… I don't even remember when I first heard about it! It's simply one of those lines you really want to climb as a trad climber!

You've climbed a lot of hard trad routes, up to E11! A lot of the conversation around Parthian Shot tends to be about the gear and how bad it is, or whether it would hold a fall. What was your approach with gear on the route, and - crucially - did you trust it?

Well, the gear in the infamous flake is a tricky one to judge. I would trust it way more on granite ;-)

The gear itself, even if small, seems quite ok, but the flake (or what's left of it…) sounds a bit hollow. I don't think it'll break off again, but I'm not sure if the gear would hold a fall from the top, which would require a harder catch. I felt quite safe on the crux, but less on the foot swap at the top, where in my head I switched into 'solo' mode. 

Jacopo getting ready to stand up ahead of the anxiety inducing foot swap  © @ONSEN_productions
Jacopo getting ready to stand up ahead of the anxiety inducing foot swap
© @ONSEN_productions

I opted for 'wasting' a bit more energy, and placed two sliders and two small wires, but felt safer on the upper part.

As one hold broke in the first part, I also placed (on lead) one extra cam in the horizontal break of the traverse, which would make a fall nicer, and also helps to keep the gear in the flake in place.

In general, the rock around the flake doesn't seem to be very solid. I wouldn't be surprised if some more holds would break off...

(Jacopo placed all gear on lead, and didn't downclimb after placing gear).

You mentioned that another hold on the route has broken off, and that it made the start a bit more powerful - where on the route was the hold, and how did this affect the climbing?

Yes exactly. When I first tried the route I didn't know about the new broken hold… and I was actually quite surprised by the powerful intro move. When in the evening Sam (Pratt) told me about it, I felt a little relieved!

The missing hold is the sidepull you reached from the first two crimps, right after leaving the big starting crack. I hadn't tried the route before, so it's impossible for me to tell how this has influenced the difficulty of the sequence… but now you definitely have to to do a move more on crimps, followed by a big move to a sloper. The shorter you are, the harder it gets.

Jacopo Larcher climbs Parthian Shot, E10 6c  © @ONSEN_productions
Jacopo Larcher climbs Parthian Shot, E10 6c
© @ONSEN_productions

What else did you get up to on your UK trip? Any other standout routes that you did?

Honestly the plan for the trip was to just visit different spots and sample some moderate classics, as we were shooting for a film project about trad climbing. We didn't have a lot of time and we wanted to see as much as possible, so I didn't plan to try anything hard.

We started our trip in the Lake District, where we wanted to check out the higher crags and some historical routes, but unfortunately the rain changed our plans and we got to climb just a bit in some sheltered crags (mostly at Reecastle Crag and Shepherd’s Crag).

We then spontaneously decided to spend a few days around Sheffield, as I had never been to the Peak District before. We thought that it would be way too warm to climb there, but actually the strong wind provided some nice conditions! We hoped to also get the chance to check out the climbing in North Wales, but in the end we stayed around Sheffield as the weather forecast looked better there.

I didn't try any other hard routes, but got to sample some classics. I definitely would like to go back to the Peak District in the right season for trying some of the iconic hard lines - they look so good!

Speaking of iconic hard lines, which routes in the UK are you most excited to come back and try?

Hard question! There are so many routes I would love to try! Meshuga (E9 6c), Appointment with Death (E9 6c), The Groove (E9 7b), GreatNess Wall (E10 7a), Lexicon (E11 7a), Gaia (E8 6c), The End of the Affair (E8 6c), Indian Face (E9 6c), Braille Trail (E7 6c)… not to mention all the routes in Northumberland and Scotland.

There's simply too much to do! Echo Wall (E10 7a) is definitely one that I would love to see and try at least once in my life.

Dave MacLeod on the first ascent of Echo Wall
© Claire MacLeod

What's next for you?

The last year has been very busy with expeditions and filming duties. Now, I'm honestly looking forward to spending some time around home and in the Alps, and simply climbing as much as possible and getting back in shape.

In the next months, Babsi and I would like to try to free an old aid line on a big wall in Val di Mello. In the autumn, I would love to go to Annot, and also invest some time finding some new trad projects in North Italy or Switzerland!

Jacopo is just the fourth person to climb Parthian Shot since the flake broke in 2011  © @ONSEN_productions
Jacopo is just the fourth person to climb Parthian Shot since the flake broke in 2011
© @ONSEN_productions

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Jacopo was born in Merano, South Tyrol, but grew up in Bolzano. He has Sport climbed up to 9a/+ and 8b+ onsight; Bouldered up to 8B/+; Trad up to E9/E10; multipitch up to 8b+ redpoint and 8a+ onsight on...

Jacopo's Athlete Page 19 posts 6 videos

31 Jul, 2023

Great stuff.

No mention of the quite high looking side runner in Brooks' Crack on the right though. Would be interesting to know if that has any impact on the grade or not.

Not intending to criticise, I think the routes Jacopo (and Babsi) have done across the world are extremely impressive and inspiring. He's certainly more than welcome to use whatever side runners he wants, I'm just intrigued.

1 Aug, 2023

Hi, I watched the videos of Ben and Siebe climbing the route and placed the side runner where they also did.

1 Aug, 2023

I believe Ben Bransby had a side runner in the crack too, high enough to prevent a ground fall from the crux if the flake failed (but probably not from the finish?). Not sure about the other ascents.

When it's a question of climbing a couple of moves up and down an easy crack to place a runner vs. risking it all on a hollow flake in the name of purity, I know what I would do!

1 Aug, 2023

A summer ascent should add two e-grades!!! 😉

Great stuff.

1 Aug, 2023

Thanks for the response. I had also seen that Ben Bransby used the same side runner (don't think I watched the Sieve Vanhee video), but I don't remember reading anything about it then either (maybe there was something that I've forgotten). I didn't mean to single you out, so apologies if I did.

Basically I was really wondering if the side runner is high enough to keep a climber off the ground if they fluffed the foot swap move and if that's been tested or not, thinking in the classic hard grit fashion of throwing a bag of rocks off the top.

Following on from that I was wondering if the grading assumes you'd hit the ground from the footswap or not, or if it's a very extreme version of 'scary but actually safe'. I have very little idea how hard Parthian Shot is physically, which I think would go some way towards answering my question. Is it an F8c and actually it's safe or is it F8a+ and death, or somewhere in-between? Is it the case that really it's two routes in one, physical E8/9/10 relatively safe with siderunner, then into an E8/9/10 relatively easy but very dangerous top section which in total adds up to roughly E10? My original understanding was that it was medium hard (for E10) but very scary/dangerous because of the dodgy flake, but also sort of ok because the flake seems to hold most of the time and I was wondering if that understanding was wrong because the siderunner (which if I remember correctly from when I did Brooks' Crack is good and looks roughly to me high enough to keep you off the ground from near the top) doesn't change the grade.

Questions aren't specifically directed at Jacopo, just anyone who knows.

Also agree with the above, definitely extra impressive to do it in summer!

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