Armed with a large pair of bouldering pads and a van full of balls (or was it the other way around?) Ryan Pasquill and Dan Varian recently headed up to Matlock Bank Quarry to test their mettle.
The result? Boys 2, Matlock Bank 0.
Ryan and Dan had a pair of aretes set firmly in their sights - the two hard routes put up by James Pearson, namely The Power of the Darkside and The Return of the Jedi. James made an excellent ascent of The Return of the Jedi on a fleeting visit back to the UK over Christmas (which we covered last week in the UKC News). And he first climbed the very bold The Power of the Darkside a few years ago.
As is often the way, once the routes have been opened, this paves the way for climbers to come and try them in different styles - this time ground-up with bouldering pads.
Dan and Ryan climbed both routes in excellent style, but not without a bit of bloodshed.
Congratulations to all three climbers on two significant additions to Peak gritstone in a very much off the radar venue. May the force be with you all!
For more info on Dan and Ryan's ascents read the interview with Dan below.
INTERVIEW: Dan Varian Goes Ground-Up at Matlock Bank
Jack: Nice one at Matlock Bank!
Dan: Cheers, not the nicest of venues but those two lines are good. Ryan was psyched for going so I jumped on the band wagon.
Jack: So - lets start with The Power of the Darkside - can you describe it?
Dan: The Power of the Darkside, is the best line at Matlock Bank Quarries and one of the best routes of its kind I've done, it falls into a similar mental category as Edge Lane and Snivelling Shit [both unprotected E5's at Millstone], only it's slightly harder and with a poor landing. It is in no way as hard as Elm Street [E8 at Millstone] or Unfamiliar [E7 at Stanage] which got ground-upped above pads this winter also. A pleasant 3 star F7a solo.
Jack: What sort of Font grade would you say?
Dan: No idea on the Font grade as it's got no really discernable crux so to speak.
Jack: But it has no gear, and it looks high - more a sort of classic grit route in the sense of physically easy but hard to commit to?
Dan: No gear and a poor landing but with a few pads it's not horrific (we had seven pads by the way, between the three of us), however you could downclimb the whole route if needs be, bit like a slightly harder Edge Lane at Millstone but with a bad landing. Then again no one ever tries Edge Lane if there's a chance they might fall of it.
Jack: Sounds pretty scary to me. How high is it?
Dan: 11ish metres? Check the video still below.
Jack: So Ryan Pasquill onsighted it and then you flashed it after him.
Dan: Yeah Ryan cruised it on the onsight, except for getting his finger stuck in the capping roof at the top, which provided a bit of comedy once he'd extracted it...
Jack: Ryan's not shit is he!
Dan: I can confirm Ryan is definitely "not shit".
Jack: How did your flash go?
Dan: Flash was fairly undramatic as I'd just seen Ry do it and I knew a lot more about it. I whipped up it after Ryan, and then Ryan climbed it again because it's a really nice route, and so far in the comfort zone that it's not scary. I'd say it deserves E6/7, certainly not E8 as the climbing is too secure.
Jack: Fair enough. Looks like a bold proud line. Can you compare it to some other routes that have been ground-upped recently?
Dan: Compared to Unfamiliar [Stanage] which gets E7 and has Font 7c climbing on it high up, albeit above a good landing but one that you're defo going to hit at some stage, this is nowhere near the same.
Jack: As I see it, these shorter routes can now be approached in a different style - not as one would approach a mountain trad route - more like bouldering, but with extra skills involved. Multiple pads, jumping off, reversing, etc, and although different, they are still damn dangerous. Perhaps with these new styles the E grade should always be supplemented with a sport or boulder grade too - F7a as an E8 compared to F8b as an E8 is a huge gap! That's not to say either is misgraded, just that you need to know which is which!
Dan: Indeed, 'F7a solo' would far better explain what you're in for.
Jack: And the other route - The Return of the Jedi - is shorter, but much harder, more like a hard highball boulder problem?
Dan: No, The Return of the Jedi is actually longer, but the ledge really breaks it up. The bottom is a highball Font 7C we thought, almost exactly the same as Suavito (a Font 7B at Gardoms) including the moves and the landing, but twice the size maybe.
Jack: Well that sounds good! And after Suavito on steroids, you then you land on the ledge? From the photo and video of James, I didn't really see a big ledge?
Dan: It's a small plinth really, it's the one he hangs off with one arm in the video!
Jack: Ah right - yeah I see now. And you jumped off from that?! [Gulp - note to self, never go bouldering with Dan Varian]
Dan: When you get to that ledge, you can then stand there all day. I got there fourth try ground-up, but didn't fancy committing to the suspect rock at the top [a short section after the video of James has finished], as you'd be in hospital if you tumbled off it. So I jumped off the ledge to the right to the top of another route and walked down, this felt like escaping though and so I did the route again with a harness on, stood on the plinth and pulled up some gear and fettled in some shit wires for 10 minutes, then I did the last 6a massive anticlimax to the finishing ledge. This type of thing is much harder ground up as you literally don't have a clue what gear to take and what the next moves are like or whether the holds are solid.
Jack: What was the hardest part of the route for you?
Dan: The hardest part for us was committing to the tag in move for the left hand before you go for the ledge, Ryan flashed to there but then got scared, as we both did until we knew the fall was ok (just)....
Jack: Can you describe the move?
Dan: It's really insecure ground-up as it's a barn doory slap into the sidepull, which if you miss it you spin off, rotating as you fall, and your landing zone is uncertain. I bottled it once then got it by crawling my left foot on a crimp. Ryan tried it with left foot off and span out too fast, winning fall of the day prize and even drawing some blood! Which pissed him off so he crushed it next go.
Jack: I see [sounds horrific]. And moving swiftly on to the top wall, which isn't shown in James' video - how long is that?
Dan: Only small - roughly as long as Ryan's arm span.
Jack: About 18 foot then - the gangly git! (says me with a 6ft 6 span...)
Dan: Yeah there abouts..! You walk your feet to the top of the plinth, as the juggy footholds rise up it and then I couldn't quite reach the ledge from the undercut so I got two crimps on the wall/arete and rocked over. Ryan just got it off the undercut.
The gear for this bit is pretty shit and in rotten rock, I had an RP 2 and a camalot 000 or whatever the smallest camalot is in a really shallow placement, plus a DMM offset wire in some choss, that said the move is easy compared to the bottom so the gear is more for security if a hold breaks than really needed.
Jack: Good effort to both of you and also good one to James for coming all the way back to the UK and climbing at Matlock Bank Quarry!!
Dan: Yeah, personally I'd go to Black Rocks! ;-)
Dan Varian is part of the team behind Beastmaker (and they have just got a slick new website).
The video stills above are courtesy of Nick Brown who filmed the action for the forthcoming Bouldering film from Outcrop Films.
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