Richie Patterson of Wild Country has put together this mini interview with Hazel Findlay on her ground-breaking ascent of Once Upon a Time in the South West (E9).
Following Hazel Findlay's ascent of Dave Birkett's Once upon A Time in The Southwest E9 6c, making her the first British woman to climb E9, I wanted to find out a bit more from Hazel about her ascent. Unfortunately Hazel was just heading out to Newfoundland on a pretty amazing looking trip so we just got the basics and hopefully I'll speak to her again when she returns.
Why this route?
I'd always been interested in doing James' Walk of Life but it wasn't until my friend wanted to check it out that I considered trying it. I went down and I top roped both E9s - Walk Of Life and Once Upon a Time in the Southwest. I enjoyed both of them a lot, but found the crux of Walk Of Life to be quite height dependent. I worked out how to do the move but it was really hard. The crux on Dave's route is also hard but I worked out a way of doing it that felt a lot more doable than the crux on Walk Of Life.
How long did you try it for?
After that day I went back a month or so later with my friend Charlie after my exams had finished but I wasn't sure I wanted to commit to it since I only had 10 days or so before I had to leave the UK and lots of things to do. I was also very unfit from spending the last few months reading books so should have really been training or at least getting some mileage in. But Charlie wanted to do it and it's such a cool wall, that I couldn't really say no.
So we went down again and I had a third session on it. Then the rain came! We sat in the van for two days as the route soaked up all the water. Then the next day was boiling! First we had to wait for it to dry out, but by that time the wall felt like an oven. I had one top rope go and couldn't do hardly any of it, which psyched me out a lot. Amazingly Charlie could still climb it and he set off at 9.30 at night!
The next day was raining again and Charlie had to get back to work, so my Dad came down to belay me. At this point I was getting pretty stressed out because I knew I had to leave the UK in less than a week and the weather had either been rain or 27 degrees, both of which are not conducive to crimping sharp edges (not for me anyway). But thankfully the next day was pretty much perfect conditions and I got it first try.
It felt really good. I really enjoyed climbing it. The start was a bit of a battle; I was feeling shaky and cold. But the top runnel that had caused a bit of trouble when working it (since all the holds kept falling off), felt really good. The moves in the runnel are more interesting than the lower part of the route.
I struggled a little at the very top because of the rope drag, which I stupidly made worse by clipping the right rope into a far left piece, but it's not so hard up there so it was all OK. Anyone who thinks they can do a route on that wall should, it's amazing up there, but be quick, because all the holds are dropping off.
How does it feel to be the first woman to climb E9?
Well I don't think I am. Lots of women have climbed much harder trad routes. For example the difficulty of Beth Roddon's Meltdown, is in a completely different league compared to 'Once..'.
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