Wednesday, 29 October 2008

I finally fell asleep way too late and was woke by my alarm way too early. After waking up a little and cleaning the sleep from my eyes, I opened up my computer to catch up with life back home. After browsing all my usual sites, I saw the news about The Promise finally getting a repeat on UKB and excitedly clicked the link. E8! Was this some kind of joke? I read down expecting to find a punch-line lurking somewhere but none came and I realised it was for real. The route, that until this year was the culmination of all of my climbing, was now being compared to the likes of Gaia, and End of the Affair! Jumping to conclusions before knowing all the facts is the habit of fools, so I read all of the information I could find on the ascent before going any further.

A team of young American trad stars, including Kevin Jorgeson (solo of The Fly and FA of The Duel) and Alex Honnold (solo ascents of Moonlight Buttress and Regular North West Face, Half Dome) were practically destroying Gritstone, and The Promise was their latest in a long line of top class trophies. After reading the various reports of the ascent, and letting all of the information digest, everything started to make a little more sense.

The Promise in an hour, regardless of anything else, is an amazing bit of work. My hat is well and truly off. It seems like there is a bit of a storm raging on our beloved little island and I am sad that I am not there to witness it in person, but you gotta be where you gotta be. Maybe I will get chance to climb with Kevin when I return from the land of the rising sun, that is if he has not already done everything and gone home.

So The Promise...

When I first climbed this route almost 2 years ago you all knew my thoughts and feelings as my comments were recorded in many mediums for all to read and hear. Surprisingly or not, I still feel exactly the same, and if I was to climb this route again today, using the same style etc, I would grade it exactly the same as my experience and comparisons would be the same. To save both your time and mine, I am not going to go into detail over my reasoning because I have already written lots on the subject (comparing it to Equilibrium etc) that will be easy to find for anyone interested with a little help from their good friend Google.

To quote something I wrote a few weeks ago “When you offer a grade to a first ascent, what you are effectively doing is defining your experience as a point on a scale. Since your experience is deeply personal, this grade is only really relevant to you and may change, up or down, depending on future ascentionists experiences”

Simply put, the “rules” for climbing are very subjective and the overall difficulty will change dramatically depending on the tactics used. There are very few “rights” or “wrongs”, but lots of differences, so I feel it is important to declare exactly how a particular ascent is made.

The difference between mine and Kevin’s view on the route comes down to our experience so I guess we should look at if, how and why they differed? Below is a copy of Kevin’s report of his ascent that was posted in the news section of UKClimbing. As you will notice, I have added in a little superscript and I will make footnotes about these points below. Thanks to Kevin for making it so clear as to exactly what he did.

Today I managed to climb The Promise at Burbage North for its second ascent. On my initial inspection two days ago on rappel, I didn't even try the moves. The original beta just seemed completely out of the question 1.

Returning today, looking at the chalk on the holds, I visualized a new possibility for the beta and gave it a try. This involved turning a right hand pocket to an undercling, which as a result shortened the reach to a bad sloper. I quickly did the moves with the new beta on top rope, rested, and climbed it clean on top rope 1. After figuring out how to place the slider nut, which was surprisingly bomber 2, I was ready to go. I climbed up, placed the piece and returned to the ground. On the lead, there always seems to be some unplanned decision to be made. For me, it was the position of my right foot on a key hold relative to the rope. This unplanned decision resulted in me placing my right foot a little wrong, requiring a readjustment. Once in place, the crux move felt quite a bit harder than I was anticipating. Luckily, there was enough tolerance in the move that I was still able to stick it. The whole process took about an hour.

The obvious question that arose was regarding the grade. After climbing Parthian Shot, The New Statesman, and The Promise and having spent two days on Equilibrium and one on The Groove, my opinion is that the grade falls at E8, 5.13c/d R 4. The reason for this is that a fall from the crux would not result in a ground fall, assuming the gear holds. Regarding the gear, the only way that it would fail is if the cables broke 3. After bounce testing the piece while clipped directly into my harness, I was confident that it would hold 2. It should also be stated that I placed two crashpads at the base of the climb 5. All in all, the route climbs wonderfully and would highly recommend it to anyone 6!

1. The first obvious difference seems to be in the sequence. It is completely possible that I missed an easier method, and if this is the case, then it would affect the overall difficulty. Time, and more repeats will tell if this is the case.

2. It also seems that Kevin found the protection to be much more trustworthy than I did. The slider ripped out during testing, and when I set off on my ascent, it was with a belief that the gear would fail in a fall, but possibly slow me down. Why the protection now seems better than before, I cannot say as I have not seen the placement since making the first ascent.

3. Regarding the only way the gear could fail – I think it is highly more likely the placement would give way before the piece breaks. People that are familiar with sliders know how small and expansion range there is on a No.1, and people that are familiar with gritstone know how easily rock is damaged/worn away in gear placements (just take a peek inside any popular friend placement). It really wouldn’t need that much to crumble under load (even just a crystal) for the slider to expand too far and pop right out.

4. Kevin offers a proposed grade of E8, 13c/d, R based on his experience and comparisons with other routes he has climbed including Parthian Shot which I believe the team regarded as E9, 13b/c, R/X (I hope this is still the current feeling because China won’t let me onto peoples blogs to check if minds have been changed with hindsight). Am I alone in noticing the obvious discrepancy - before we even go into more detail?

If we do compare specifics of each route, Parthian Shot is 8a/+ with a fall (off a 6c crux move) into air onto wires in a flake that has been described as “bomber”. “Bomber” or not, the flake has held well over 50 falls which would suggest to me that it is trustworthy.

The Promise was given 8b+ but may be easier due to a new sequence being discovered? A fall from the 7a crux would be onto a single No.1 Ballnut in a tiny slot that has both held, and failed during body weight tests and has never taken a fall.

There are the facts and figures, make of them what you will.

5. Around 4 years ago I decided to make an ethical stand and not use bouldering pads to protect trad routes. This decision was based on many reasons that I am not going into now as would only dilute the current discussion. There have been times however, where I had wished I had not gone down this road as it has made certain things a lot less attainable and much more dangerous. The Promise was one of these times. On a route so short, with such a bad landing, a few pads would have change things dramatically, turning a dangerous route into something very different. Maybe my approach was foolish, but I chose to take this path, and I will stick with it through good and bad. Please don’t take this as a dig at anyone, because it is most definitely not. Climb what you want, when you want and how you want, just make sure that when it matters, the facts are clear. You should never feel forced to sit in a certain box and conform to people’s expectations. Be a renegade...

6. It sure does, The moves are ace and it is one of my favourite routes :)

Now that The Promise is finished, I guess the question on everybody’s lips is what’s next?

On a bit of a tangent, but very related, I was reading about Kevin’s ascent of The Duel, a 25ft wall at Hueco that he graded V10/E10 and was protected by 17 pads. Using many, many pads to protect short (less than 45ft) solos seems to be the way that things are heading in the US, effectively making great big highballs, with big soft landings (just to confirm, this is not in direct reference to The Duel which from what I can gather has a particularly nasty landing, but US highballing in general). In many ways this makes perfect sense. The technology to make these problems safe(r) is there, so surely it is foolish not to use it.

So what about the Grit? If 2 pads can make such a difference to a short route like The Promise, then imagine what 17 would do. If 17, why not 18, if 18 why not 20, if 20 why not... I know I am exaggerating a little, but you get the point. For a rock type where the level is often defined by the danger (I know that’s not the whole truth but I’m trying to simplify) how would using a protection device that’s protectional ability is almost unquantifiable work? It would never be black and white, but many shades of grey!

It was for reasons like this that I decided to stop using pads until the murky waters clear. I do not know the answer; in fact I barely understand all the questions. But what I do know is things are getting more and more confusing and blurred for each day that passes.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

I am in China and I can’t sleep, so what better time to write a blog post. Since my last post, not much has gone on, which is good for me as it means I don’t have to write reams, but not so for you, as my precisely planned prose will only entertain you for a tiny part of your lives. Still, you must surely have more important things to do than listen to me warble on about nothing in particular, so in reality, I am doing you all a favour ;)

My week at work was literally hell, so bad that I don’t want to talk about it, so let us say no more. Friday eventually came and along with it brought Richie at the Warehouse Project which was something I had been looking forward to for a long time. Sadly, for reasons mentioned above, I had racked up less than ideal sleep hours the previous week and by 2pm, an hour before Richie even came on, I could take no more and bailed. Thankfully, according to a very knowledgeable and respected source, his set was only average and so my warm comfy bed now seemed like a fairly smart choice.

Once semi recovered it was time for Keith (or Unclesomebody productions if we are being formal) and I to pull some David Blaine shit and make the magic - can you feel it? We directed, starred, filmed, edited and produced. Tirelessly slaving away over hot stoves and on-screen Keyboards for 3 days until Galatea came to be. I am not sure if our creation will ever grace the public domain, and maybe that is a good thing. Your imagination is more entertaining than any film could ever be, and if you try hard enough (and know Keith and I well ;) ), I am sure you can come up with your own ideas...

Thursday found me in London meeting with some well known male magazines, ooohhhh HALAM, which was definitely a new and somewhat strange experience. I really dislike London. The hustle and bustle and attitude of a lot of the people does not agree with me but like a lot of things, once in a while won’t hurt. I think I got a little carried away with the cosmopolitan lifestyle, or maybe it was just from living the good life on company accounts, but on returning home that evening I took Emily out to one of Manchester’s best restaurants for a fancy farewell meal. The food was out of this world, and it was very pleasant to spend some quality time with Em after what has been a crazy few months. When it came to paying the bill, Emily produced some vouchers she had found online for 2 meals for the price of one and a big smile crossed my face. Great company, great food and a great deal, what more could you want.

Just over a day later I was saying goodbye to Emily and begining my long, staggered journey to Yangshou. Manchester - Frankfurt, Frankfurt - Beijing, Beijing - Guilin, Guilin - Yangshou.

I arrived in town in the evening and stumbled aimlessly up and down the streets in search of my hotel. After asking various people and finding the garbled chinglish directions of little use, a nice young man kindly offered to escort me and I gladly followed. Down back alleys and through restaurant kitchens, I began to get a little worried, but suddenly there it was. TNF had been kind to me once again and I wasted no time in collapsing into the luxury bed, shortly followed to a much needed visit to the land of nod.

After a day of chilaxing, I met up with some old friends and who took me rock climbing, which is something I have heard lots of good things about and felt strangely familiar, possibly I did some in a past life? Anyway I had great fun, despite the heat and must remember to try it again sometime. To escape from the sun, we went for a quick swim in a water cave, which was pretty cool, in more ways than one. Here are a few pics

We bailed back to town for a clean and a feed. I asked my friends to take me to the best Szechuan restaurant and arranged to meet them at 6pm. Once everyone had arrived, we all walked to the restaurant of choice, which happened to be right next to my hotel, and a place I had disregarded on a few previous occasions for reasons I don’t actually know. The food was amazing, the best I have had in China so far and I am sure I will be returning tomorrow.

We finished eating at about 6.50pm and I decided to go to my room for some work, a movie and an early night. It is now 01.20 am and I have failed to get to sleep for a second time. It is not fun and I don’t envy insomniacs in the slightest.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Hello again,

There wont be any posts for a while as I will be locked away at work until the 17th, but I just thought I would highlight a tiny edit I made to my last post. I made a joke about Rockfax, which was honestly made with the best of intentions to brighten up peoples days and at the time it felt funny. On reflection and re reading of my post, I realise it was pretty rubbish and brought nothing positive to the table so I have removed it, never to be spoken of again :)

Sorry Rockfax, I hope we can still be friends.

Adios mi amigos

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

The Walk Of Life, E12 7a, 48m

Description (very brief and boring, just the facts, little info on anything else)

Tidal – The base will become wet a few hours either side of high tide.

Starting from the centre of the wall, climb the initial overlaps to gain the base of the smooth hanging slab. Move up this via a series of very thin, powerful and precarious moves (passing a possible micro wire placement – psychological only) to good holds and the first reasonable protection (no.1 Ballnut) at 15m.

Continue on spaced thin breaks (micro friend protection) for 10m until the first and only bomber gear (Friend 2 in a rogue, wide slot), climb past this to join the original line of Dyer Straits (all 13 of the original pegs now removed).

Follow the hairline crack to the top off the wall passing several difficult sections. The protection is all marginal and difficult to place on lead with many pieces placed blind. The wall becomes steeper the higher you climb and is almost vertical at the top.

Take care with the rock on the entire route, holds have a tendency to snap, protection has a tendency to fail.

Belay from a stake at the top (back-up with other stakes)

The line of the route almost perfectly follows the rope I am hanging from. At that point, I am just about to join the orignal line of Dyer Straits. Copyright David Simmonite


80’s - Looked at by Johnny Dawes

94 - Attempted and equipped by Andy Donson. “Its been 13 years since I was on it, and the best I managed was with a few rests on the pegs. I recall seeing a poster of Johnny Dawes trying on tr back in the late 80s, but apart from that don’t know who else had played with it. It wouldn’t surprise me if Nick White had been on it while he was new routing in the area. The route had definitely been brushed before I got on it in 94/95. I am the fool who hammered all the pegs in – which was shortsighted but I was a bit blinded by all the excitement when I realized it was climbable”

98 - First ascent of Dyer Straits by Ian Vickers. Climb the arĂȘte of Earth Rim Roamer to just over half height before traversing in and climbing to the top of the wall past 13 pegs. The route was climbed in a redpoint style with preplaced quickdraws in the pegs, and small amounts of pre-placed gear. Felt to be 8a+ as a sport route (Considerably harder now since loss of crucial holds and placing protection on lead)

Late 90’s - Simon Jones, and possibly others try the direct start. As far as I am aware, Simon intends to place pegs in the start and feels the start alone (with pegs) will be E10

04 - I look at the original line and decide to try to repeat it. It feels 8a+ on a top rope but the pegs look un-trustworthy. At first I plan to replace the pegs with either Stainless Steel or Titanium

05 - I struggle to find any suitable pegs and in asking for advice, get chatting to Ben Bransby who attempted Dyer Straits with Ian. He tells me his view on the use of pegs and how they have a massive negative impact on our climbs. I realise I agree with him and decide to either forget about the route, or to remove the pegs and try it on leader placed gear.

06 - I realise the line is protectable on trad gear (just) and begin to remove the first of the pegs during regular trips to visit my girlfriend’s family in Devon. During working the route, various holds on the upper wall fall off making the climbing much harder.

07 - I decide that if I am going to put in the effort to climb Dyer Straits on trad gear then I should at least look to see if the direct 20m is possible with the idea of linking it into 1 mega pitch. I find it is hard and unprotected, but possible. My girlfriend and I ab down the wall on Boxing Day and remove the last of the remaining pegs from the upper wall.

08 - I begin to invest some serious time after completing The Groove. I break off a crucial hold on the upper wall making it much, much harder than originally thought. At first it seems impossible, but I work out another sequence and realise that it is still climbable. After a few days of effort I link the upper wall on a toprope which feels way, way harder than the original 8a+. Eventually, by June, I feel almost ready to attempt a lead and I return with David Simmonite and Hotaches Productions. 13 days and 4 trips and one huge fall later, I finally top out.

Copyright David Simmonite

Compared to other routes

As I have said before, The Walk Of Life is harder than anything I have done or tried before. It is easy to compare it to my own repeats and first ascents including Equilibrium, The Promise, and The Groove (which in hindsight and compared to other routes, I feel is worth E11). Earlier this year I spent 1 day on Rhapsody, which I am sure you all know. What you probably don’t know is how I fared, and my feelings about the route. At the time, I kept quiet about my experience, seeing no reason to publicly state my (possibly controversial) opinion, but now it feels like I need to explain my thoughts and feelings about Rhapsody, to enable me to justify my proposed grade for The Walk of Life.

Please do not take the following section to be any sort of a personal attack on a certain gnarly Scotsman. I have massive, massive respect for Dave Macleod. I think he is an absolutely fantastic climber and also a really great guy, who has always been more than happy to help me. He has achieved things that I can only dream about and has climbed things that would make me wet my pants just to look at them. Dave is certainly one of the most knowledgeable climbers I know, when it comes to everything from technical stuff to specifics for training. I have learnt a lot from him and I am sure I will continue to do so. It seems that certain individuals believe there is some great anglo-scottish rift in climbing with us pesky Englishmen prepared to sink to any levels to get one over on our tougher northern brothers. Well I am going to have to disappoint, and say that I consider Dave Macleod a friend. It even says so on Facebook!

It just so happens that the only routes I have to compare The Walk Of Life to are either Dave’s or my own. And as always honesty is the best policy so I will tell you exactly what my thoughts are.

On my first attempt at Rhapsody (on a toprope), I flashed the first half of the headwall, falling due to an incorrect foot placement. I then flashed each individual move to the top. Happy with my performance so far, I investigated Sonnie Trotter’s claim that you could escape onto the left arĂȘte which turned out to be true and it was at this point I lost motivation for the route and became content to spend the next day playing on the boulders below.

It is a real shame there is not a little more space between the features, as from the floor, the headwall screams out to be climbed. However, once you are on the wall, you realise that each proposed way up just does not quite work. It also appears that the choice of belay position is very important and turns a nasty slam into a pleasant fall into air.

Before continuing any further, I feel there is something I need to mention briefly (don’t worry, there will be more to come about this later), and that is the word “experience”. When you offer a grade to a first ascent, what you are effectively doing is defining your experience as a point on a scale. Since your experience is deeply personal, this grade is only really relevant to you and may change, up or down, depending on future ascentionists experiences. Dave obviously put in a massive effort to climb Rhapsody and took what looked like a lot of nasty falls. When he weighed up his experience, he felt it fitted in at a certain place on the scale and gave it a corresponding number

The grade of a route should be an ever evolving and ultimately relate to the most efficient and effective way to climb a certain piece of rock. Soloing a well protected HVS does not make the route E3, nor would climbing the same HVS using only one hand. Sure your experience may have felt E3, but climbing what the rock has offered us, in the best way possible, is what everything should be measured on. Otherwise we will be in an even more confusing place than we are now.

Obviously, you can’t officially suggest a different grade unless you have actually made a successful ascent, but I can compare my experience on Rhapsody to other routes I have done/tried and have a general idea of which is harder.

Coincidentally, shortly after trying Rhapsody, I bumped into Dave and chatted to him about Echo wall. It was very interesting to talk with another person about hard trad climbing in general and to share our thoughts and feelings on various routes. I have since talked further with Dave about Echo wall and it really does sound like a terrific and terrifying route and one that I would like to try in future. Dave managed to quantify specific sections of Echo Wall with equivalent french grades which is something I currently feel unable to do for The Walk Of Life. There are many reasons for this, but mainly, having never climbed a hard, bolted slab, I have nothing to compare it to. Echo Wall breaks down into the following; Steep fr8a+ (E9) climbing protected by a single micro cam leads to the lip, a knee-bar rest and a mixture of protection. The rest of the route is fr8b to the top (V10 boulder problem into a fr7b+ for an even further break down). The crux is protected (as long as the gear holds!), after which you place a good rp3 (placed blind) and then run it out to the top (probable death from easier upper wall).

And quite simply, that is that. I compared my experience on The Walk Of Life with the information above and came to a conclusion.

E12 7a is the point on the scale that I feel best reflects my experience, and what a crazy thing that is to say. Using two very inflexible numbers to try to sum up my thoughts and feelings at the final point of a 4 year journey seems ridiculous, and really takes something magical away from the route. There are so many things about The Walk Of Life that are special to me without even thinking about the grade, and any of these special parts explain the experience infinitely better than those 2 numbers ever could. Like how I learnt to get knocked down time and time again but keep getting up fighting even though the odds seemed stacked against me. Or how my ideas and ethics, about the use of pegs on trad routes were completely flipped upside down and in doing so made for a vastly harder, but infinitely purer challenge. Or even that the constant support of great people can make anything seem possible.

When all is said and done, and our journey has come to an end, it is not just about where we finish, but how we get there and what we learn along the way.

Do the walk...

Copyright David Simmonite

Monday, 6 October 2008

I was beginning to hate the sight of my computer monitor, I never thought this route would cause so much of a fuss but since completing it, or more precisely returning home, it has been utterly manic. For every choice you make, you must be willing to accept both the good and the not so good, and my choice to make climbing my profession should be no different. But having just finished my biggest epic yet, all I want to do is spend time with friends and family, relax and have a whole load of non-climbing fun. The urge to run-away was ever growing and on Saturday, I did just that.

One of my friends was having a little birthday celebration in the form of a chilled meal, a drink and then who knows. It sounded like just what I needed so I made a last minute decision and caught a lift down to Birmingham. The company was great, as was the meal and after too much good food and cheap wine, we found ourselves in the que for a random club. Fair enough I thought, random clubs seem to be the order of the day on spontaneous nights and you usually get exactly what you expect - bearable music, overpriced drinks but fun non the less as long as you don't expect too much.

Finally my turn came at the front of the que, "£14 please mate", shit the bed! 14 quid, he must be having a laugh, there is no way I'm paying that, doesn't he know I'm a tight fisted northerner? Then I remember I am the last of the group and everyone else is all ready inside. Grudgingly I hand over the last of my cash and head inside, probably muttering something rude under my breath.

On the way I pass a poster advertising tonight's line-up. I check to see what amusingly un-originally named local scallys are doing their thing, then choke as I almost swallow my tongue. I check again, looking to see the deliberate spelling mistake that just is not there, and run off inside, full of glee to tell the others.

I dont know how it happened, but headlining on this very night, in this very town, in this very club is none other than Krafty Kuts! Emily and I are both massive fans and have been trying to see him live for time and so cannot believe out luck. As we expect, the music is awesome and he does his amazing reputation and discography more than justice. An early morning taxi ride, far too short a sleep, very lazy day and a tiring return journey sees Em and I falling into bed and off to the land of nod.

Whilst still a little sleepy this morning, my body and mind feel fresher and I am ready to get back on with the task in hand.

Thankfully past the first section. Copyright David Simmonite

I have written a long account of the day of my ascent that will be published in Climb Magazine, along with fantastic pictures from David Simmonite, so if you want the complete low down you will need to be a little patient.

For now I can tell you that the ascent was a very strange experience with a few exciting twists creating massively mixed emotions and feelings. The route did not go without a fight and I honestly had to give it everything I had. At some points it was necessary to forget that I was on a trad route, if I had dithered, or showed too much caution it would have been over, in more sense than one.

As I imagined it would, The Walk Of Life, or more specifically the proposed grade, has caused quite a stir in cyber space, although not half as much of a stir as the wording of the initial press release. It seems that certain people took quite an offence to David Simmonite’s writing and reporting style, with some individuals being quite blunt (to the point of being rude) with their replies. This to me seems crazy and is genuinely upsetting; especially knowing what a good person Dave is. I realise that people have their own opinions and no one should ever try to deny or subdue these; but there are different ways and means to express yourself and I feel that, wherever possible, you should aim to be as civil and constructive as you can. In doing so, the outcome is positive, with both parties gaining something from the experience. The problem, I feel, is it is much easier to be negative than nice, which is a real shame.

Moving on...

The next most common point seems to be “how can James possibly justify giving The Walk Of Life E12?” People have been trying to compare and contrast this route with other routes of varying styles from all around the world and myself with other climbers. They have made predictions based on what they think I may have climbed in the past on trad or on bolts, on Grit or Granite, both pre and post morning poo, hung-over or sober, wearing my girlfriend’s knickers or completely starkers, or whatever else they think they may have once heard from their mate down the pub. I think by now you get the picture - a lot of people stating their two-peneth as fact, quoting numbers and names they could just have easily plucked out of thin air, which if they had, might probably be more accurate.

Hearsay is both a wonderful and wicked thing. Without it, conversations with your mates would be a lot less interesting, but if taken as the gospel, and published in public for all to see, it can have drastic and devastating effects on a person’s life. I am no saint, and I will be the first to admit it. I have made plenty of mistakes and done many stupid things when I was younger, including posting rumours on climbing forums. But, however much of a fool I have been, I feel I have learnt from my mistakes. There is a famous quote involving a fool, mistakes and wise men that seems very fitting. If you don’t know it, try a google.

So, in an attempt to settle any confusion, and to try to sum up my decision on the grade, here are some “facts” about The Walk Of Life, and the other routes I have compared it to. Let me just confirm that all of the following are either my own opinion, or the opinion of other people who have directly tried the routes in question. No third parties have been involved and no children or animals were hurt during the making of this climb.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

At long last I am back home and back into some sort of normality. This morning I have been catching up on loads of house jobs that have been building up for the last month. Whilst you may find it hard to believe, I don’t really like doing housework, in fact it often makes me feel ill. Every now and then, to avoid the piles of things taking over, I have to give myself an ultimatum – “do the jobs, or else!”. This morning I decided there was to be no computer access until it was all done and so finally after almost 2 hours of unpacking bags, folding washing, tidying up and hovering I was finished, or at least finished enough for now.

I am sure you would all be polite enough to listen patiently to me talk about this and that, about how the leaves are almost off the trees outside my window, or how it is not raining in Manchester. Or even that my Down Jacket has been moved from my wardrobe to the coat rack, signifying the grit season is on its way. But secretly, and silently, with wide fake smiles on your faces, you would be thinking “come on James, im not interested in this shit, tell me what I want to hear”

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty...

As you all know by now, on Monday the 29th of September, I finally climbed from the bottom, to the top, of Dyers Lookout without any use of aid, or fixed gear. The Walk Of Life is the culmination of 4 years of effort and comes at what I feel is my current highpoint in terms of strength, fitness, technique, mental control etc. This route has honestly pushed me further than any other rock climb I have been on before and there were many times I questioned whether I would ever complete it. Every day I returned, hoping to make an attempt, the wall seemed to put up new barriers or throw something new at me. As crazy as it sounds, it started to feel like the wall was alive and was enjoying seeing me fail.

Thankfully, with some help and encouragement from my friends and family, I persevered and on my 13th day of attempted leads, sweet success was finally mine. Actually, this is the first time I have worked out the exact number of potential lead days, If I had known that Monday was number 13, I would have thought twice about setting off at all. Ignorance is bliss.


Dont worry, there is much much more to come but before I post it, there are just a few minor details I need to confirm.

Keep checking back, I hope to post again in the next day or so. In the mean time here is another pick to wet your whistle

Copyright David Simmonite