MINI INTERVIEW: MaDMAn 2nd Ascent for Nige Kershaw

by Duncan Campbell - UKC Apr/2014
This news story has been read 8,494 times

At the beginning of April, Sheffield-based dark horse, Neil 'Nige' Kershaw made the 2nd ascent of MaDMAn, E8 6b, at Wimberry. 

MaDMAn was originally climbed by Dave Pegg in 1994, and originally graded E7, though with sustained 6b moves high off the ground with no protection, the route saw no repeats despite attention from top climbers such as Andy Popp. Dave's original route gains a sloping ledge and then bridges left into the E1, Trident to finish.

Nige spent three sessions on the route, also adding an obvious direct finish, adding yet more sustained 6b moves, though fortunately protected by a runner in Trident. got in touch with Nige to find out more about his ascent:

What inspired you to begin trying MaDMAn, despite it having been unrepeated for 20 years?

Nige: Well you’ve partly answered your own question there! To be honest I’d only ever bouldered at Wimberry so the crag was a clean slate for me, the initial plan was obviously to try the classic of the crag, Appointment with Fear, with my mate Gus. However when we arrived everything on that slab was wet. So I had a little walk along the crag for something else to try and MaDMAn just stood out as a great line. I’ve always thought it was one of the best route names around so it already had my interest before I arrived, and the fact it hadn’t been repeated was the icing on the cake. Not for doing the second ascent, which is neither here nor there, but because it retained a bit of mystery which the other hard routes lack. You can watch well produced videos of most of these now, sometimes you feel like you’ve been on them already; you know the holds, you know the moves.

It was a new crag for me so it was nice to keep a bit of adventure. I think we’re maybe losing something by videoing everything now. It doesn’t feel like just cragging anymore. Although on the other hand watching them is helpful for getting stuff done quickly! I suppose I’ve undermined that a bit by having a bit of video of this one, but that’s just because I found a camera in my bag left over from a trip to Wales and thought it’d give Bob (Hickish) something to do, its not nice to watch these sort of routes get done. He said the camera gave him a bit of distance from proceedings so it helped him at least. The footage stops when he realises I’m going to put the gear in and he has to mind the ropes! There was only us two there. That shows pretty much all of original MaDMAn, but none of the new upper bit. And the footage is terrible! [You can view this footage here] So hopefully some mystery is retained for others…

1) Baron's Wall, E6 2) Sectioned, E8 3) Neptune's Tool, E6 4) Wristcutter's Lullaby, E6 5) Trident, E1 6) MaDMAn, E8 , 237 kb
1) Baron's Wall, E6 2) Sectioned, E8 3) Neptune's Tool, E6 4) Wristcutter's Lullaby, E6 5) Trident, E1 6) MaDMAn, E8
© Chris Craggs - Rockfax

You then decided to add a direct finish – does this affect the difficulty of the route?

Nige: Yeah I suppose it does. Dave Pegg’s original MaDMAn reaches the sloping “ledge” then bridges out into the neighbouring E1, Trident, via a pretty tricky move and finishes up this, its about Severe to the top from here. The direct finish is more sustained 6b moves. You do get a bomber rock 12 in Trident which I placed from the slopey ledge on MaDMAn to protect this bit, it is runout, probably E6-ish on its own. But after doing the original MaDMAn its pretty chilled so although yeah its harder overall I doubt it changed the grade. To be honest I don’t care, I did it because it’s a better line, it needed doing.

How long did it take you from beginning trying the route to making a successful ascent?

Nige: I did it third visit, which was the only time conditions were OK! The first time it was slimy, the second visit I wanted to do it but the wind was ridiculous, I actually got blown off the finishing jug on one top-rope go. The third visit I was secretly pleased to see the crag wet when we got there, however over a few hours the breeze gradually dried it out so I had no excuses.

E8 6b is a rare grade, but it is unusual that the other higher grade routes on the crag have seen repeats, yet this hasn't. How difficult and bold is this route?

Nige: Well I would suggest that the lack of repeats is because Wimberry is a bit of backwater, its not a well trodden crag in the same way that perhaps the Eastern edges are. But like you say the other hard routes have been repeated a few times, so maybe its something else? One reason might be that Dave Pegg gave it E7 originally, it only went up to E8 in the 2009 rockfax to the area which was then confirmed by the BMC in 2012. E7's just aren't of much interest to hardcore headpointers. It is sort of that middle ground where its maybe not much of a challenge to headpoint, but a big deal to onsight, so they often get missed at both ends of the spectrum. And no-one is going to stand beneath MaDMAn and think about the onsight! I'm sure people must have been on it though otherwise it wouldn't have got put up to E8, at the very least Kevin Thaw must have tried it as it seems he had the crag to himself in the 90's putting up other E8's, and I know Andy Popp tried it once and he's got form. And certainly Dave Simmonite went on it the day he took that classic first ascent photo, just after Dave Pegg had done it. I spoke to him about it and he said two or three pebbles came off under him, pebbles that Dave had used!

Difficulty wise its weird, you do a steep 6a-ish bit to get stood on the slabby rib, just high enough to be in trouble. Then it's the crux which is pretty hard 6b, very insecure, then its sustained 6b all the way to where it joins Trident. That's unusual for grit, normally there's a very definite crux with steadier moves either side, and usually some token gear somewhere. Its kind of a unique feature, you've got this amazing shape like a yacht's sail which goes from steep, to slabby, to gradually steepening, to a mantle, then a bulge. And every move is precarious blind 6b. But between every move you can stand in balance fine, which in a way is the worst thing. And there's no gear at all until you're on that ledge. Despite grit's reputation that is quite unique for a high grade route, a total solo (original MaDMAn), although it happens quite a lot on lower grade routes!

How did the actual ascent go, all to plan?

Nige: Yeah it went fine. To be honest I had two plans – either solo the whole thing or place the gear to protect the top. I took the rope and gear and thought I'd make the decision when I got to the ledge. The reason is that although you place the gear from the exact same body position that you start the upper sequence you do need to move your hands to a slightly different place, which for a split second means being stood with your feet right at the very top of that slopey ledge, higher than Dave in the first ascent pic, with the rib bulging you out of balance, and all you're holding is a tiny two finger crystal to get a sidepull at full stretch which you can't see. Then you've got to lean across yourself to get the wire in, then do it again to get the rope clipped. Its precarious. Out of balance. I didn't like it. You're in harm's way there. On a top rope its nicer to carry straight on, but I'd had to take a lot of moss off the holds on the top bit, they were still a bit smeggy, and every foothold is a pebble, that weighed on me. And there was no escape into Trident like on Dave's original because the side walls of Trident were still wet, if you bridged out you'd have slipped straight off. I put the gear in! But actually on lead it went fine, yes. Sorry.

Nige is no stranger to climbing hard gritstone route in good style, and has onsighted Master's Edge, E7 6c, at Millstone and made the first ground-up ascent of Braille Trail, E7 6c at Burbage South.

You can read more about Nige's understated style of climbing in this great article from Adam Long HERE

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