Buster Martin has just become the youngest Briton to climb 8c at the age of 16, with his ascent of Bat Route at Malham. After plans to go abroad to try to push his climbing further since his redpoint of SatanX, at Gorge du Loup and L'ami De Tout le Monde, at Ceuse, both 8b, last year, wet crags forced him to back to the UK to find a suitably challenging project.
Buster returned to Gorge du Loup earlier this year, hoping to climb Hot Chilli X, 8c, a route he had briefly tried after climbing SatanX. However, upon arriving at the crag, his hopes were dashed as the whole crag was totally soaking, commenting on his blog about his trip to France, Buster said:
"Easter came but the route was wet. The whole crag was soaking wet, I was dissapointed, but maybe relieved I didn't have to find out if I was good enough to climb this route. I escaped from the pressure... I ended up consolidating which isn't a bad thing, but it wasn't what I had gone to do."
Buster then began looking for other projects on which to test himself. Having already tried the route when it was wet, Buster decided to have another look at Bat Route at Malham due to it being relatively 'European' in style; not horrifically bouldery and relatively long with good holds.
Buster began working the route, heading to Malham for 3 days, where he began to work out all the moves and then start trying to link sections of the route. On his 3rd day on, he failed to do the crux, and struggled on the final crimpy headwall. He remembered someone mentioning using a heel on the crux, after working out a better method for the crux he knew he had cracked the crux. Upon returning home he said:
"I was loving this business of redpointing a properly hard route. It's amazing how much that starting 7b can add, even with a good rest. I stayed psyched. 8c isn't meant to be easy. I was enjoying myeself. I hadn't had so much fun in ages, falling over and over again on the same few crux moves. I loved it!"
Buster then set about training and planning his next trip to Malham. He headed back a few weeks later, catching the train up to arrive at the crag in the evening. With the route in the shade and his quickdraws left in, Buster climbed the route bolt-to-bolt to remind himself of the moves, excited that he had climbed all the sequences without falling he commented:
"My first go up on the route and I climbed it bolt to bolt without falling once... I got past the crux but that didn't seem to be much of a problem anymore, as the crux, the new way, felt good... It was that moment I'd been searching for, the thing I love about redpoint; that giggly moment when you realise that you're going to do the route... I'd never enjoyed climbing so much, every go I was getting more and more tired and at the end of the evening I got to the final few moves a couple of times... I felt like I had all the time in the world. I was content, just enjoying the process."
The next day, after pulling a bolt out in the middle section, Buster reasoned that the run-out was safe and that skipping the clip would save him some energy, and so began to start redpointing in earnest. It was on this day that Buster managed to climb through the crux and the tricky headwall above, clipping the chains as the youngest Briton to climb 8c. Commenting on how it felt to clip the chains, Buster said:
"I clipped the chain and there was a dissapointing feeling that it was over; dissapointed that it wasn't as hard as you first thought, because you'd done it; dissapointed I wasn't going to get another go... It wasn't clipping the belay I enjoyed; it was the whole thing, the whole process of working the moves out and feeling the progress... Bat Route my first 8c while I was 16 and when I should have been in biology lessons."
The route took Buster 14 goes, in 5 sessions spread over two weeks, after clipping the chains on Bat Route, he had a quick play on Rainshadow, so watch this space! Buster is now going to concentrate on the upcoming competitions, including the World Championships in Canada. Here is a video of his ascent of Bat Route:
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