During the onslaught of team America, it was reported that Kevin had repeated The Groove, but a little later the report was altered after Kevin said he had only climbed the bottom section. This was pretty confusing; did he or didn’t he? I guess there are still quite a few people who don’t really know either way so I hope the following will clear things up. Like everything, this is not black and white and you will need to come to your own conclusion.
Kevin began to try The Groove and made remarkable progress on the bottom groove (lower crux), managing to link it very quickly. He had more trouble with the upper crux, and after 4 days of working, felt it was “impossible”. After deciding he could not climb the upper crux, he lead the bottom groove, traversed off, and then back on to join The Groove above the top crux, and continued to top of the wall.
The Groove is shown by the red line (17), Kevin’s alternate line is shown in black (14)
Scanned from my Rockfax Peak Grit East
Climbing is a very personal thing and you should not feel bound by existing lines; climb wherever you like. But it is my feeling that if you want to repeat an existing route (and take the kudos from it) then surely you must take the line that the first ascentionist chose? “The Groove” takes a defined route up the left wall of the Owl Gulley at Cratcliffe, and for reasons discussed before, this was the most obvious and logical line for me. Whether anyone else agrees with my logic is actually irrelevant; by not following this line, you have not climbed “The Groove” but simply an alternate way up this wall. This new way may seem equally, or even more logical to you, and after climbing it you then have the joyous task of naming the route and presenting it for approval in the public domain, if you so wish. If a route is good, it will be remembered; if not, it won’t – the powers that be will decide.
It is my opinion (and I stress the words “my” and “opinion”) that Kevin did not repeat The Groove, but climbed an alternative line. It is up to Kevin whether he wants to name it as a new route, and up to history to decide which will be remembered.
Moving onto the subject of danger; anyone who has seen Committed Vol II will have seen the sequence about testing the fall off the low crux of The Groove. We set up the rope system exactly how it would be on the lead, and paid out just enough slack to allow me to stick the dyno and not come tight on the swing. The belay plate was then locked off, and I was lowered on toprop to the ground, arriving before the rope even began to tighten.
Now this was very different to how dangerous Kevin reported the route to be, in fact he was so confident he would not get hurt falling from the break; he tested the fall on purpose by hanging from the break and dropping off, leaving him hanging on the rope a few feet above the floor. These two accounts are pretty different and yet both are true and documented on film, so what could have caused such a difference?
Copyright David Simmonite Photography
The move at the top of the lower groove is a long slap of bad hand and foot holds and the difference between success and failure is very slight. On a failed attempt, I would normally get my hand into the break, but not far enough back to hold on and slip out almost instantaneously. From a belayer’s point of view, this is an utter nightmare. You need to have enough slack out for the climber to execute the move and the following swing without any contact with the rope, but you also need to minimise the slack to have the best chance of keeping the climber off the floor. From the belayer’s perspective, they would see the climber’s hand going into the break and then have the smallest amount of time to decide whether they had been successful or not. If the climber sticks the move, but the belayer thinks otherwise, by running to take in the slack, they risk pulling the climber off the route. But if the climber fails, and the belayer does not move, the climber WILL hit the floor.
When I tested this, I wanted the setup to be as accurate as possible to give me the best Idea of what would happen in the event of a fall. After all, if the test does not accurately represent the lead situation, then what is the point of testing at all? When Kevin tested the fall, he hung from the break and dropped. The belayer could take in the rope as much as necessary before hand, and also know exactly when Kevin was going to let go, meaning they could move back at the perfect time. I don’t think this test is an accurate representation of a lead fall. This may seem like I am being picky, or trying to split hairs. The reality is that gravity moves you very quickly, and when the difference between hitting the floor and not, comes down to a few feet of rope, a split second of almost unavoidable hesitation makes a big difference.
The other big difference between Kevin and I’s approach was the use of one rope vs two. I chose to use two ropes, to spread the force on the micro wires and hopefully control me a little better in the air. However the reality was my left rope kept getting caught around my leg in test falls, effectively flipping me upside down. For whatever reason, I was unable to see the obvious answer of only using one rope (as Kevin did) and persevered, trying to work out ways to position the rope on my left leg to minimise the risk. In hindsight, one rope is the obvious choice and without the fear of being flipped upside down, the consequence of failure would seem a little less dire.