On 13th June, Matt Helliker and Rhoslyn Frugtniet completed the first ascent of the Ramp "Super" Challenge on Avon Gorge (Sea Walls). The original "Ramp Challenge" was first envisaged by the late and talented Jonathon "Woody" Woods. He came up with a local challenge to climb all the starred routes on the Ramp in one session, in what was then the current CC Avon guide and in order of its pages. For a successful completion the climber would have to lead, free and place all gear on lead before moving onto the next route as though imagining the whole project being to free a multi pitch climb. The Ramp Challenge consisted of 11 routes from E2 - E6 giving a total of 50 E points.
A few strong teams attempted Woody's project, getting close only to be shut down by darkness, wet holds and exploding forearms. It wasn't until 13th November 2016, after an earlier attempt, that Ollie Benzie and Mike Coles succeeded on the Ramp Challenge only days before the new 2017 guidebook went to press, sharing leads. This was just as well, as in the new guidebook a certain Martin Crocker added a further 4 starred routes to the Upper Wall setting the bar even higher: 15 routes, 60 E points and 286 metres of climbing.
The Ramp "Super" Challenge was born.
The Upper Wall of the Unknown Area rises above Bristol's Portway and is an immaculate golden band of quartz-laden limestone, that was once buried. In 1976 Avon City Council decided to blast the whole of the upper section away, revealing its wall beneath. The majority of the Ramp's starred routes were pretty much squared away by locals in the late 70s and 80s, The routes are powerful and technical whilst relying on old pegs, wires and cams for protection. They link cracks, pockets and crimps which are all very conditions-dependent.
On Tuesday 13th June, it was one of the hottest days of the year, with the humidity level through the roof and definitely not the time to be on the Ramp, but time to wait for colder conditions was running out as Matt had to head back to the Alps, so the pair decided to take a look. The aim that Matt and Roz set themselves was for a team free ascent, with each climber freeing the route, either on lead or on second. Any falls means a strip of the gear and another go for the leader or a lower to the ground for another attempt by the second. Matt was to lead every pitch whilst Roz was to second and clean. Matt had climbed the majority of the routes before, but over a period of about 15 years. For Roz this would be her first visit to the ramp, but with her 8b sport fitness in hand.
The first 3 routes went down without a problem. Still, with rising humidity, Matt took three lobs on "Low Police Profile" E6 6b, sliding off a critical dusty, greasy side pull. The 4th attempt was successful. He commented:
"I was already asking Roz what her plans where for the Friday, the friction was super bad and the forecasted breeze had not materialised, plus I'd already lost most of my skin on the first hard route!"
The pair charged to route 9 and the feared Crocker and Jenkins test piece, Bold as Love E6 6b (F7c) in melting temperatures (25c) and in the full sun Matt managed to just get the route done:
"I thought I was off at every move, the tiny crimps felt utter rubbish in those conditions, it felt so insecure!"
Next up Lost illusions E5 6b - another sharp finger-tip chewer, Rhos up until this point had managed to flash seconding all of the routes. With dwindling power levels Rhos missed the last hold. A second, unsuccessful attempt was made before she climbed it cleanly third go.
The next stopper was Solar Power E4 6b, with a huge move to a tiny crimp. Matt latched it and sketched his way to the top, Rhos missed the crimp so it was a trip back to the bottom of the crag for a second attempt, which was then also successful. Suffering from sun stroke and dehydration, the team managed to work through the last E5 Already Gone and the hard E3 Them. With 14 routes in the bag the final route Tour de France E6 6b was next.
"There was just no air up there, I knew that the crimps would feel minging!" Matt explained. Summing up the challenge, he commented:
"Thanks Woody for your vision to come up with such a cool challenge, it was great that Ollie and Mike were able to complete your project and now for Roz and me to extend this further. I know you would have been psyched on that."
The routes in order of the Ramp "Super" Challenge E6 6b, 286m, Unknown Area, Avon Gorge:
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