Luke Hunt and Franco Cookson have succeeded on their long-term project of free climbing the girdle of Whitestone Cliff, North Yorkshire at a grade of HXS 6b.
The 14 pitch adventure is described as a "brilliant and serious route, weaving a line of weakness through spectacular rock architecture".
Franco Cookson gave us the low down:
"The description and history of Chameleon (The Aided Whitestone Traverse) runs for an entire guidebook page, with tales of bad weather and pegs popping on the various attempts to first cross the cliff and then to reduce the aid used to do so. A determined effort in 1989 from the Alpinists Chris Woodall and Mike Mortimer managed to free 'most of the Blitzkrieg pitch', but still left the entire previous pitch dependant on aid."
On the 30th of June the young pair climbed the route completely free, this time opting to climb from left to right, meaning they would encounter the hardest pitches early in the day whilst still fresh. The tactic paid off:
"It worked quite well, with four of the most horribly loose pitches in Yorkshire falling in a couple of hours, perhaps giving the first E2 4c, with massive flakes departing from the cliff and half my belay collapsing into the trees." commented Cookson, safely back on solid ground.
The daring-duo had attempted the route on previous occasions, but were defeated by loose rock and oncoming darkness.
The route had previously been climbed almost entirely free, but had a 10m section of "overhanging cheese" that still required aid. Luke Hunt managed to free this pitch, estimating the technical difficulties to be around UK 6b.
Franco Cookson takes up the story:
"Luke gingerly climbed up to clip the archaic pegs and even more tentatively give them a two-finger tug, “Bomber” I shouted up, my voice breaking - showing my psychological encouragement for what it was. A sandy rail soon ran out and he was forced to leap for the slopey aręte; cutting loose briefly as he swung onto a good foothold against the backdrop of the Jurassic landscape below.
The good foothold promptly broke and he was once again hanging from the lifeline that was the sloper. He smeared round and managed to gain the ledge with expletives mixed with shouts of joy. The pitch had gone free!"
You can read Franco Cookson's full account of his epic adventure on his blog: francocookson-climbing.blogspot.com
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