Monday, 14 March 2011

The Return Of The Jedi

The Return Of The Jedi... Photo: Copyright David Simmonite

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I promised you a detailed description of my latest grit route “The Return of the Jedi”; a great little arĂȘte in Bank Quarry, climbed on boxing day last year. As seems to be the norm these days, I have been mega busy over her in Austria training and preparing for another English project in the near future, which if all goes well, should be a really exciting time... But before I start going into details of what is yet to come, I need to go back and put right the past!

So, my project...

The Line... and the landing!

Shortly after starting climbing, I was introduced to 2 “projects” in a small, dirty quarry, not far from my parent’s house. The quarry was not the most inspiring place, but these 2 lines were simply stunning and I decided I had to climb them – the only problem was, back then I couldn’t even move up the featureless overhanging rock!

I sporadically returned over the next few years as my climbing improved, and on Boxing Day 2004 I made the first ascent of “The Power of the Dark Side”, an awesome route up a slightly overhanging fridge, and a route I still consider to be one of my very best. At around fr7a+ the climbing was relatively easy, but as the route took no protection and climbed over a terrible landing, leading it was a pretty intimidating prospect.

The main project still remained, and from time to time I would wander up from my Parents to have a play, gradually working out the moves and developing an idea of how the route would one day climb. Three dynos/slaps (where my feet would often cut), linked together by several other powerful insecure moves, all above another horrible landing. I knew the line was possible but I also knew it was damn hard, and for one reason or another, I never found the motivation to lay siege and get on the “sharp end”.

Yet another session...

The quarry (and its projects) were unknown by all but the most esoteric explorers, and this gave me comfort; my little project was not in any danger of being snatched up from under my nose, I could sit back and relax in the knowledge it would be waiting, should I ever feel like the time had come. That was until the new Froggatt guide was published earlier this year, including detailed information about all the Matlock quarries, and a nice picture topo which includes my line as the “E9 Project”. Shit! My secret was out, I needed to act...

Boxing Day 2010 dawned clear and crisp. Persistent snow still covered the ground; if the route was dry, conditions could be prime. After abseiling to clean the route I returned home to warm up. Pulling on the rough gritstone edges on the side of my home brought childhood memories flooding back; a lot has changed for me over the last few years, there has been good and bad, happy and sad, but all of it has served to make me stronger, in many senses of the word.

A very cold Caroline...

Caroline offered to be GriGri girl for the day, and the two of us made our way to the quarry, neither really knowing what to expect. This would be her first experience of belaying a hard grit route, and it would be my first time on the route since failing to even do the moves during my last visit; what was going to happen was anyone’s guess. Climbing the route first try on toprope came as a big surprise! The rock felt grippy under my skin, the holds felt big under my fingers, and the moves that were once so hard, now came easily. I knew it was on...

During my time away in Chad, I noticed a big change in my mentality towards trad routes. Rather than look at and plan for all the negative points – where will it feel hard, where will I get pumped, where will I feel scared, where can I sneak a no hands rest... I now found myself excited to try, eager to see what challenges lay ahead, confident that I was fit enough and strong enough to succeed. The same could be said about this project – leading it would be fun.

“The Power of the Dark Side” was named after a pair of Christmas socks, and in keeping with the idiot Star Wars theme, I’m calling this new one “The Return of the Jedi”. I placed a couple of boulder pads at the base of the route that made it a much safer proposition than it would be without. I still believe that it’s not possible to offer an E grade for a grit route climbed with pads, simply because of the potentially limitless amount of protection they can offer. For me it was E x, for the next ascent with more pads it may be E x – y, and the one after with less pads, E x + y, with y being dependent on the number, size, and quality of your foam.

The Return Of The Jedi... Photo: Copyright David Simmonite

HXS 7a explains as much, or as little as you need to know. In other money it is perhaps F8a+ to toprope and would be a fierce little offering with a couple of bolts – from the floor to the ledge it is slap slap slap, no time to stop and chalk! With enough pads and big balls you could possibly consider the bottom section a highball boulder, but the top of the route is pretty far from the floor and still has a tricky move. I chose to take a rope and place some (bad) gear, if nothing else it kept Caroline smiling until the ordeal was over.

I’m really made up to finally finish off this duo! It’s a strange little place, but the lines are both 3*, the first projects I ever tried, and only a few hundred meters from my house – how about that!

To see a small gallery from the route, as well as a video of the first ascent, check out

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