If you'd like a gresh-style essay, I'll have a go at replying. Apologies for taking a while to reply, I was busy belaying people on projects/celebrating and then finishing some DIY. As this is UKB critism thread #483, I think you'll know that I'm open to criticism. I know I do things my own/weird ways and am happy to take a bit of crack/answer questions, but being called a sociopath/ liar / chipper are not really on. This episode is almost entirely about me having not bolted a direct start to a sport route and instead super-extending a draw. I think some of the responses on here are deranged tbh.
To start, I'll acknowledge my faults first in the hope we can reach some common ground - I gave something a "big grade" without any idea of what those grades are, badly resined a hold up that appeared, didn't bolt a new sport line, left some bright orange ropes hanging.
The hold: I first worked the line and figured out a sequence for the headwall. I worked it a lot like this and then did the direct finish. Shortly before leading this, one of those very thin slate spikes broke and left a small useable hold. This ruined both the jump move (you can use this hold with your right hand for that) and the hard rockover (you can use a lower foot on this hold). For me, a significant part of the quality of the route was this dynamic and wild headwall sequence. The two best moves were ruined by this new hold and it wasn't something that was initially there. With the new hold, both moves would just be standard rockovers, without any of the complexity that was originally there. The bit that broke off here was tiny and disappeared, so I did a shit repair job by sprinkling bits of dust and tiny slate pieces on super glue. This looked terrible, but rendered the hold unuseable, which was all I was after really. Obviously it's significantly easier to do this headwall with the new hold also, but I didn't care so much about that, it was mostly the pursuit of quality that guided my actions (I've acted in the opposite ways in the past when new routes I've put up have been made easier). Quality is the most important thing to me in climbing - hence all the daft debates about lines. Obviously there are ethical issues with using glue or resin on routes, but there is precedent on this wall, with the repair that has taken place of the meltdown jug (not by me) with cement, not to mention Dawes' desire to add a bronze hold!! So there really is no contoversy to see here.
I climbed this new route with the good sequence, not using the new hold. This repair job was still in tact shortly before I redpointed the route, so I assume it was still in tact on the day I did it, as I didn't notice any change. When I next went on the line, a couple of days after I'd done it, I noticed part of the repair had come off. This could be my poor repair job, as it was just bits of slate glued on a hold (this seems unlikely timing), or someone could have broken the repair off by using it/ deliberately prising it off (we're talking about a very small stone coming off that was filling in a small hold). Either way, I was keen to restore the line to the original state and the way I did it. This next time, I did it with resin, which I hope stays on and makes the whole (small) hold slick and unuasable. So criticise me for repairing the route, for repairing it badly and making a mess, but trying to read more into this is, I think, unfair. As for "believing whether Franco used that hold on his ascent", I honestly am not that bothered what you believe. If I had used the new hold, I'd want to go back and do it without, cause the route is way cooler and having to execute those moves when you're pumped is one of the best challenges I've had on any route. But I also see this route as very much a stepping stone project to the trad challenge - I really don't see it as a major achievement in its own right. Leading a sport route with massively extended draws is obviously still leading the sport route and with the hanging rope it means that sport and trad can coexist on the same line, which is pretty cool.
The hanging rope thing is totally straightforward for me - I just didn't want to place bolts. There's a long history of oddities like this (I don't remember anyone criticising Pete for his weird bamboo draws on baron greenback for example), it's just a bit of fun really. (FWIW, I think the route's probably more difficult with the knotted rope, as it moves and you have to hit it so it bounces back to clip, as it's almost out of reach. The bolts are pretty much in the same place, apart from more bolts low down).
No one's likely to do this line without top roping it, so the rope's not a logistical problem, just one of aesthetics - only from the theoretical world of the UKB armchair is it a problem
. I've belayed 2 people on The Medium and 2 people on The Quarryman over the last couple of weeks and all have extended bolts - it's common practice on slate routes if you want a 'sport experience'. The only argument I accept here is that I shouldn't publicise an ascent of a 'sport climb' when I haven't bolted it. This is kind of fair enough, but I was totally honest about the way I did this. For the guy who said I wasn't upfront about this, I think your argument is really unfair and mean-spirited. I posted 2 videos of me trying the lower wall and clipping the rope as I went a few posts before I climbed it. On one of the videos I talked with loads of people about the style I was trying it in. I haven't hidden the style at all. I'm not going to put a paragraph at the bottom of every post trying to pre-emptively bat away every possible criticism someone could throw my way. The first proper interaction I had with UKC, I also made this clear. I'm not one of these climbers that sends in press releases to websites. UKC contacted me when I was out (in the quarries) and I responded very quickly and gave them no detail. It does annoy me that people think they can publically throw around accusations of deceit or whatever from the safety of their anonymity. It's a big deal to call someone a liar or say they've been hiding things, when in fact they haven't, you just don't know the facts. I'll post the email interaction I had with UKC below - I think you'll agree it was pretty brief, it's not like I've deliberately omitted key facts. You've made a mistake by reading a long UKC article and assuming I wrote it/ sent in a massive press release. That's your reading error, I hadn't at all:
Congrats on The Dewin Stone, amazing achievement!
Iím going to put a piece up on site today, but I'd be keen to ask you some questions about the route and your time on it, and get a longer interview on site at some point in the coming week or two, if youíre free to answer some questions?
Let me know, if so I can send you some questions over later today.
Cheers, and congrats again!
Earlier the better really for me
Quick question or two for the piece going up today if thatís ok - should have asked these earlier, sorry! No need for extended answers, unless you feel the answer demands it!
- Does The Dewin Stone follow the same finish as The Meltdown Direct?
- Do you know how many sessions you spent working out the lower section of the route (up to the hardest move)?
- How does the route compare to your direct finish to The Meltdown, in terms of both quality and difficulty?
Nah, it's totally different. See topo.
Nah, i don't know. Quite a long time. Leading the route vs doing it on a top rope seemed quite a lot harder, as you have to hold stress positions
They're both really good. This seemed harder, as it packs so many moves together//////
When it comes to the ethics of the rope hanging, I can see why it would annoy you if you're a die hard sport climber and why it can seem like I'm trying to be controversial. I think I know enough people in person these days for people to know what I'm like. Most of all I want to have a laugh and occasionally a bit of a wind up, but I'm not into winding people up with what I do in my climbing. However, like someone above said, I'm also not bothered about being seen as controversial and I do like things being a bit weird. In an ideal world I'd climb some cool stuff, get moderate support from companies as a result that will allow me to try more cool stuff. Being controversial has no positive impact on being able to do this (or is perhaps even detrimental). That said, I'm not going to start drilling holes in a rock face in order to avoid controversy (the fact that that sentence makes sense blows my mind btw - drilling is now the done thing... I find that pretty sad). I get the hypocrisy of claiming a sport line when advocating not placing bolts, but I like to be a pragmatist and the bolts in Meltdown were already there, so hanging the rope down from the bolts and leading the route as a stepping stone on the way to the trad project made sense. For me, there was a 'natural' designer danger challenge already set there - of getting into the metldown groove on trad and then running up this with the bolts to the top, a bit like leading a thin seam trad route on mostly old pegs. We can talk about ethics in a pure sense, but if you start from the position of not wanting to place any more bolts, but dealing with what you already have, then that thing was actually very inspiring to me. I can see that hardly anyone else would see things that way, but I like to just do what feels right for me. I wasn't told that the line had been bolted, so when I went back with Anna to try the other project, I was really sad to see that it had been unilaterally bolted. That trad line (and then entirely without bolts) was something that was really on the aspirational horizon for me and a difficulty and style that is really rare. That being bolted was a total gut punch - I actually shed a tear when I saw these bolts, it was really, really sad to see something like that being destroyed in that way. I don't expect anyone else to see it my way (which maybe even makes it even sadder), but that is the strength of feeling I had towards that challenge. It wasn't a piss take or frivolous. Perhaps I shouldn't have publicised the fact I had done it sport style, but I thought people would be interested. We basically disagree on one point (placing bolts) - if you park that issue, all of my actions are logical.
The grade: I regret giving it 9a+. I have no experience at the grade and it's a load of shite me trying to point at grades in this range. The 'hardest slab in the world' stuff has acted as a massive red rag for people to attack all the stuff evident in this thread and a really good route has been overshadowed as a result. Just to make it totally clear, I never reffered to it as the hardest slab in the world - I suspect some of Zeni's routes like Eternit could well be harder. I don't actually think it's that hard. I've spent so much time on this wall that the moves on this and meltdown feel pretty steady. I'm way more interested in the harder project lines, as they're proper hard. 9a+ is of course a big grade for a slab though and maybe giving it that was a bit brash. I kind of thought Meltdown was accepted at 9a (it's not got a slash grade in the guidebook I don't think, everyone I know refers to it as 9a, and there's that vid of caff doing it where I'm pretty sure it's bigged up as a 9a? The story I heard was that Caff was considering giving it 8c+ because Pete Robins was close to doing it and he didn't want him to have climbed a 9a? - don't know what of that's true) and that 9a+ was a grade that wasn't really that big-a-deal anymore, but that was likely pretty stupid of me. What's weird for me is that I gave the slate modern 9a+ last year and that didn't see anywhere near as much attention, in spite of that being a multipitch (hardest multi pitch in the world
) . I suppose I did a better job at click-baiting it this time round with a snazzy title and a build up (kind of shows you why people do this, much to all of UKB's annoyance I'm sure...), but it is strange how certain things get so much more interest, when on paper they're exactly the same, or even less significant. I can see how easy it is to be beaten into giving things lower grades you don't think they are - it would have been much easier to give it 9a or 8c and have an easy life, even if that's not the grade I thought it was. I always thought the 'not grading thing' was kind of pathetic, but that too is becoming increasingly attractive - just to forget about grades all together. I still think it's a solid grade harder than Meltdown, as the start has multiple tiring moves rather than just one and the end is way more difficult, tiring and dropable, so I don't really know how else I should have graded it. A full breakdown of the two routes would be... Meltdown: 7c into a shake, couple of easy moves left into a hard move to gain the groove (shorties/unbendy people often find this the hardest move of meltdown), meltdown groove (4 or 5 hard moves, culminating in foot pick up, shake, moderate boulder problem down and right, easy climbing to top. Dewin Stone: easy climbing, two moderate moves, hard move getting foot up compressing a small groove, hard move spanning and then slapping into base of the meltdown groove (I found this the hardest move on the route on the link), straight into 4 or 5 hard moves in meltdown groove, shake, droppable balance move, hard jump move with bad feet, massive hard crimpy move, hard high foot rockover, 3 more straightforward moves to the top.
The spider web comment about ropes was because there was a bright orange rope I was using as my rope extension, an in-situ top rope (used by me and someone trying the quarryman), and a rope the whole way down the quarryman (not used for this climb). It was unsightly, but there are often in situ ropes on this face.
So to summarise, feel free to criticise, but maybe steer a clear of calling me a liar or a sociopath because what I do annoys you. You can look at this mammoth reply and think "strange that every route he climbs, there are so many points that need to be discussed", but ultimately these things all seem to stem from one initial point of disagreement, whether that's about line, clickbait nonsense or whether I should have bolted a line. People then chuck in loads of other accusations. The result is that I look really dodgey, but the only criticism based on truth is that I didn't bolt the route, gave something a big grade and repaired a hold. There are loads of examples of other people leaving ropes hanging on projects or repairing holds etc, but strangely there don't seem to be UKB threads slagging them off. Also strange that there is no criticism of the unilateral retro bolting of this new line, even when I quite clearly said I'd prefer the line to remain unbolted. I'm not one of these people who thinks the FA of a route has any more say over whether a route should be bolted or not, but nor does the person who went and decided on their own that it should be bolted. If it's accepted that all new lines can be bolted on slate, then slate trad effectively has no future. Of course a route is always going to be easier on bolts than on gear (thus quicker to work and climb), so a route is always going to be climbed on bolts before it is climbed on gear, unless it is missed or left in some way. If people are just going to start unilaterally bolting every new line (and lets remember, we're talking about a difficulty and quality of trad route that is incredibly rare to find world-wide), then I think that begins to ethically justify bolt chopping and retro-tradding routes. I'm all for both types of climbing living side-by-side and enjoy both, but the scales are tipped way too far in the direction of sport at the moment. Fashions change and we've seen that bolts are (socially) incredibly difficult to get rid of once they're in, so what happens if people want there to be slate E13s in the future?
P.s. I love that the Raven Tor story has evolved so much that someone now actually believes they were a victim of my 'theft'! What actually happened is that a mischievous older climber put me onto striping some draws from Raven Tor when I was a kid and didn't know what sport climbing was. I went there on my ow :chair:n and asked someone who was climbing at the crag (maybe Simon?) what the ethics were about taking the draws there, as I thought they'd been left behind. The person told me in clear terms that they weren't fair game! A stupid story and shows how little I knew at the time, but no draws were ever taken!