UKC

James Pearson climbs Immortal E11

© Neil Gresham

James Pearson has made a repeat of Franco Cookson's E11 route Immortal (E11 7b), at Maiden's Bluff, North Yorkshire.

James on Immortal at Maiden's Bluff  © Neil Gresham
James on Immortal at Maiden's Bluff
© Neil Gresham

The route, which features delicate climbing on sandy micro crimps above questionable gear, was first climbed by Franco in April 2021, and was subsequently featured in that year's edition of Brit Rock.

After making the ascent, Franco described the route as follows:

'a fabulously aggressive micro route, with the difficulties being fairly short lived, all hinging on a handful of desperate micro crimps, super sketchy feet, exact body position, as well as timing for the lateral lunge. The penalty for failure is a fall onto some rubbish skyhooks on soft sandstone, with a large drop below. Right up to the point of commitment, I had no idea whether I'd summon up the required cocktail of courage and madness to go into the one-way tunnel. It was one of those life-defining moments'.

He continued to describe the route as 'as physically hard as any of the safe outcrop E10 Trad routes in the UK, but with obvious far bigger consequences if you fail', whilst acknowledging that 'the boundaries between grades above E9 are so undefined and shifting all the time, it's impossible to say', and that 'there are loads of variables that could easily change or turn out not to be as bad as I think, which would render it a bit easier, although still probably harder than E10?'.

James first scoped out the route last year, shortly after climbing Parthian Shot (E10 6c).

He revisited the route last week alongside friend Gus Hudgins, as well as Steve McClure and Neil Gresham, who both tried the route as well.

In a post on Instagram, James addressed the grade of the route, suggesting that he 'climbed it too quickly, and felt to chilled for it to be E11'. 

'It had snowed a lot on the North York Moors, and was bitterly cold', James said, 'The top of the route was covered in snow and it was difficult to stay for more than a few minutes at the top of the cliff due to the howling wind. Luckily for us, the actual cliff was quite sheltered and as long as you kept moving, it was quite pleasant climbing conditions down on the wall'.

'Whilst the route is technically quite close to the parking, it's a bit of a logistical nightmare to get everything in place. Like Franco, I chose to use two ropes, and a lot of pads to protect the route, and ferrying enough pads across those fields, and then lowering them down to the ledge below the cliff was definitely hard work in the Arctic conditions'.

James on Immortal at Maiden's Bluff  © Neil Gresham
James on Immortal at Maiden's Bluff
© Neil Gresham

James used two skyhooks tensioned down to the ground with a separate rope as protection, and climbed the route using all the same holds as Franco, but used a slightly different beta. 

'Both Franco's method and my own use all the same holds', James told UKC, 'we just take them in a slightly different order. My sequence is a little bit more basic than his, and I use the small crimps more like you would climb a ladder, rather than the big roll-over move that Franco used. I'm not sure if my beta is easier, but having played with both sequences, it definitely feels a lot more secure, and that's what I prefer when things are dangerous. Both sequences are very morpho, especially the last move to the good hold which is much harder if you are short'.

When asked if there were any other routes that James had climbed that he could compare Immortal to, he had the following to say:

'Immortal is definitely not your typical trad route. It has some similarities to some of the really short, bouldery routes that you find on the gritstone, and the rock is very similar in terms of features to Millstone and some of the other quarries I climbed in as a kid'.

'However, it's so soft that it's quite an odd, unnerving experience climbing upon it, because even as you are moving through the holds, you can feel the sand under your fingers. You really have to brush the holds after every single attempt, and (especially with the footholds) you can see them slowly disintegrating with every passing climber. From speaking to locals, it seems like this wall is particularly sandy, and most of the other places on the moors seem to be much better'.  

'The sandy rock also makes it a lot harder to judge the quality of protection. Skyhooks are complicated at the best of times, and though I was fairly pleased with how these ones looked and felt (especially after being tied down) you never really know. I thought there was a reasonable chance that the hooks would hold a fall, yet though it didn't feel like a full on solo, I definitely climbed with the intention of not testing them'.

James on Immortal at Maiden's Bluff  © Neil Gresham
James on Immortal at Maiden's Bluff
© Neil Gresham

'I really liked it up there at Maiden's Bluff, it's in a spectacular location, and it seems like the rock on the rest of the cliff is much better than it was on this one wall. I'd definitely be happy to go back climbing there if I ever found myself in that part of the world again. I'd be even happier to go and check out some of the other cliffs on the moors, especially Sandy Crag and Franco's other mega route Nothing Lasts (E11 7a), which generally looks really good'.


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James has gone from climbing near his family home in the Peak District of England to exploring walls and mountains in exotic locations around the globe everywhere from Tazmania to Thailand. His first venture into rock...

James's Athlete Page 33 posts 12 videos



24 Jan

Who moved Sandy Crag!

24 Jan

I don't know what's more impressive, the route or being so psyched in those bloody freezing conditions! Great that JP is now a fully established elder statesman of trad dishing out juicy downgrades to young whippersnappers (sort of).

24 Jan

A lesson in downgrading without downgrading 😂

24 Jan

I think it's so cool that we have James and Franco in the trad scene in UK, both bring so much in their different ways. Yes we know grades at that level will always be contentious, but I think that's slightly beyond the point. I think Franco has put the Moors in the map, and it's cool that JP has gone to repeat it. I think James specially is probably the best all-round trad climber in UK at the moment in my view.

24 Jan

I'd add a grade or two if I'd had Joe Cocker blaring out when I was trying to concentrate

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