Mat Wright establishes new E10 7a at Pavey ArkInterview

© Alastair Lee/Posing Productions

Mat Wright has made the first ascent of a new E10 7a at Pavey Ark, and has named the route Magical Thinking.

Mat Wright on Magical Thinking E10 7a.  © Alastair Lee/Posing Productions
Mat Wright on Magical Thinking E10 7a.
© Alastair Lee/Posing Productions

The route, an old project of Charlie Woodburn's, is a direct finish to the route Eclipse (E4 6a). Belayed from the same position as Neil Gresham's Lexicon - which Mat made the fourth ascent of last year (UKC News) - Magical Thinking climbs directly above a steep ramp, meaning that almost all of the hard climbing takes place in the no fall zone.

We got in touch with Mat to find out more.

Congratulations on the new route! Can you describe it for us?

Thanks guys! The line that would become Magical Thinking is a recent project from Charlie Woodburn.

It's an independent line that takes the centre of the blank wall right of Sixpence (E6 6b) on Pavey Ark. There's a narrow fracture that splits the centre of this wall, making up the majority of the holds and moves, but it doesn't contain any features suitable for protection. So being bold helps on this one! 

The climbing in the end turned out to feel around 8a+ overall, but a fall from any of the hard climbing would guarantee hitting the ramp below. Something I didn't fancy testing!

In my opinion, Magical Thinking is the ultimate bold mountain route. Its famous neighbour, Lexicon (E11 7a), is just two routes further left. They both share similar characteristics, where the hard climbing is above the break, though where they vary massively is that this new line has a steep ramp positioned exactly in the fall zone. So falling off really isn't an option anywhere on this route.

When did you first start working the new line, and how did you go about working the new moves?

I started working the new line fairly recently - I had my first look six days before I sent the route. I love the process of working a trad line of this magnitude more than anything and thus, I really get stuck in with these things! Hard routes in the mountains are really quite something. 

I spent three days figuring out this complex puzzle, trying to find the most secure sequence. I had to have 100% confidence that I would not fall. Leading this thing would become a decision that I would just have to trust my gut with. 

At the end of my third session, my gut was telling me that I was ready. I contacted Alastair Lee for filming, and my friend Will Sillett for a belay. The next day, as if by magic, the weather was perfect, and Al and Will were very responsive... It's show time! Thank you guys!

You said this was an old project of Charlie Woodburn's, did you get any advice or guidance from him about the route?

Charlie had spent a few years working the line and training specifically for it, but never quite felt like he wanted to commit to the lead - I can understand why!

Earlier this year he decided that he didn't fancy it anymore, and he stopped trying the route. I wanted to give it plenty of time just in case Charlie had any changes of heart. It seemed that he was set on his decision, so I decided to just go for it. 

It was great to meet Charlie on one of the days! We discussed many things; personal life, and the line… specifically the quality, beta, and potential grade. I have complete faith that Charlie might still one day do it, and I would love to see that happen! 

The project was first attempted by Charlie Woodburn.  © Alastair Lee/Posing Productions
The project was first attempted by Charlie Woodburn.
© Alastair Lee/Posing Productions

From the few photos we've seen, we thought the route might share some things with Lexicon - some of the climbing, some of the gear, some of the risk of falling 20+ metres and hitting the ground! Can you tell us about where the similarities and differences between the routes lie?

The line doesn't share any climbing whatsoever with Lexicon, though you do belay from the same stance.

This new route's an almost entirely independent line, it's a super direct finish to Eclipse (E4 6a), an amazing, long corner system that follows the ramp feature up the right side of the crag. Once you reach the horizontal break, you plug it full of gear, and commit directly up the bold, overhanging wall above.

Lexicon is basically safe, until it's not. Though, it's pretty clear that a fall from the crux of Lexicon could see you skimming the ground, being far too close for comfort! It's incredibly scary, and nobody in their right mind can argue that taking such a fall is safe, regardless of where the ground is in relation to where you stop!

The thing with Lexicon is that you can climb up to a few moves below the crux knowing that it's a big fall, but also knowing that, if you take it, you'll likely be fine. This was demonstrated by James Pearson's incredibly bold flash attempt just after I did it! So, if it doesn't feel good for whatever reason, you can hop off and save your ass before it's too late. 

Magical Thinking doesn't have this novelty: almost as soon as you leave that gear, you're going to experience what it would feel like to be put though a meat grinder should you fall. Bailing isn't an option worth considering and you have to just go for it. As you gain height, you're only further gambling your fate! You're all guns blazing until you reach a niche eight metres higher. 

Is there a clearly defined crux on the route, and, if so, where does it come? We've heard rumours that it's around Font 7C+!

The route certainly has a definite crux, but it's better being described as a power endurance 8a+ in my opinion. Though Charlie's referred to the entire hard climbing as a Font 7C+.

It starts with a tricky boulder (Font 7B), for this, you're less than two metres away from the gear, but there's a lot of rope in the system and you're going to bounce down the slabby corner should you fall.

After the boulder, you gain some crimpy undercuts and enter the start of the no fall zone, above which is the second crux. The style changes from here and your fate is well and truly in your hands. You commit to some big moves on some slightly bigger holds. It's a great sequence, and doing these moves so high up the crag, whilst in a position of complete commitment, feels utterly surreal to say the least.

It's quite possibly one of the best positions I've been in on a route before! This upper section is maybe a short 7c in its own right.

Tell us about the name of the route 'Magical Thinking'.

The name of the route was first suggested by Charlie Woodburn himself. Charlie may not want to disclose his reasoning for the name, but I can fully vouch for his dedication towards this route, and I felt like I wanted to give him the opportunity to name it. Plus magical thinking is the only way you're going to convince yourself to get on the sharp end!

How did you settle on the grade of the route?

Charlie and I discussed the grade of the route in comparison to routes that we've both done, and E10 7a seemed to be most appropriate. Charlie has climbed seven E9s prior to this, and I've climbed one E11 and four E9s. 

With Lexicon and Magical Thinking ticked off, are there any other hard Lakes routes you're tempted by?

I'm mostly interested in checking out Craig's route Hard Cheese (E10 7a), just north of Pavey Ark. I've spoken with Craig extensively on this subject, and I'd love to give his trophy a polish sometime soon! It's one killer line, and it'd be a shame for it to be overshadowed by the bigger routes around the corner.

How did you find the transition back into hard climbing after taking some time away from it to do a bike tour in the winter?

Honestly, I've never felt so good climbing wise! That two and a half month break from climbing was exactly what was needed to restore my motivation. Tasmania has become one of the best experiences of my life, and it left me feeling very inspired in all areas of life, thus having a huge impact on my climbing vision. I would really suggest taking a big break to more climbers - I can think of plenty that need it! 

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Mat Wright has quickly become a very capable sport climber, with ascents up to 9a. He's already ticked Evolution, Devolution and Mecca Extension and Hubble 9a, in...

Mat's Athlete Page 13 posts 4 videos

17 Jul

Amazing effort, sounds proper scary! Without trying to stir a hornets nest, from reading the description and the fact this route is a no fall zone all the way once leaving the gear and gets the same tech grade as lexicon why does it get E10 as opposed to E11? These grades seem so hard to understand how they’re graded but I can’t quite get my head around why it’s less?

either way looks and sounds incredible! 💪🏻

17 Jul

It's two French grades easier.

18 Jul

The question we all really want to know is 'why the sunglasses, especially in the Lakes?' and 'how the heck can you climb E10 in sunglasses?'

I've climbed in sunglasses before and honestly, my perception is totally radged.

18 Jul

Oh god yes! Forget about the grading debate the question everyone wants to ask but are too too scared.

Whenever I have tried to wear sunnies on hard (for me) trad they become like leaky swimming goggles as the slowly fill with dripping sweat, I think the last time I flung them off mid route in a fit of desperation.

18 Jul

The price you pay for looking sexy on the wall

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