Gritstone Action at UK's Wimberry Rocks



An animated Miles Gibson on top of Dangermouse (E9 7a or 5.13b X) after the first ascent. Photo courtesy of Wild Country

At the end of September another great gritstone project bit the dust courtesy of Miles Gibson, who is one of the UK's strongest underground climbers. Weighing in at E9 7a this route is now one of the hardest routes on grit.

Gibson’s route, Dangermouse (E9 7a or 5.13b X) tackles the amazing overhanging prow below the classic Sick Bay Shuffle at the intimidating and fortress like bastion of gritstone that is Wimberry Rocks. Gibson had been projecting the route over the summer and had to wait until the cool of September before sending the route. The route which has token protection for the first 5 meters, of it’s 20 meter length, has been tried by a bunch of people and was high on Wimberry afficionado Kevin Thaw’s project list.

Miles Gibson commented, “You get gear behind a crack (on Bertie's Bugbear) and a flake on the arete. That's it though, there is no more gear.”

Later in an email Gibson added, “I'd been on the line once or twice years ago and knew it was quality and had very hard climbing. I went on it again maybe six weeks ago and figured out a demon sequence which I thought could work. After a few more days spent working the route, in various conditions, I managed to top-rope it cleanly. Then, after a couple more warm and wet visits, (why does Wimberry seem to have its own weather system?) I hiked up to Wimberry yet again, and found that it was coolish and my skin was good (which is pretty important). I'd borrowed a slider from Johnboy for the higher gear in the starting flake. I top-roped the route a couple more times and waited for the temperature to drop a bit (to make it feel more secure). I set off on the lead, pulled up to the first pebble, thenpinch, crimp, arête, go again, then set up for the crux... 'NO!' it just felt wrong! I slapped down a move and jumped off. Oh well, at least the higher gear held! I think the main problem was it was getting late and I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast, so after half a muesli bar and a few minutes rest I set off again, last chance, since it was getting dark! Bang, bang, bang... I didn't think too much, hit the crux easy, two more flicks autopilot, that's the hardest bit done, but man I'm scared, I want to be blank right now but I'm scared. I don't even want to be here anymore but there's only one way out, so I rock up, sloper, weird high feet, pull up to big pebble thing and then decent pocket, good arête, breathe, top, happy now!!”

Less than well known across the globe, due to his part-timer status, Gibson has a string of unrepeated grit routes under his belt including Superstition (E8 7b) and Fagus Sylvaticus (E7 7a)

And speaking of Kevin Thaw, on the same day Miles sent his project, his belayer Ben Heason, again no stranger to hard grit, sent one of Kevin's earlier creations, a super committing route named Order Of The Phoenix (E8 6c or 5.13 X).

Originally graded E9 (but has settled in at E8) Ben Heason commented that, “It looked like a nice line and seemed the cleanest of the harder routes up there. Kevin gave the route E9 6c but I didn’t find that out until after I’d first tried it, that it had been downgraded to E8. Still, with fantastic moves up a beautiful sustained arête I thought I’d persevere.”

Heason continued, “Physically it’s the most sustained hard grit route I’ve done so far with no easy moves on it. The climbing is highly technical, often with tenuous footholds and a crux slap up the arête from a 1-finger pebble (by which time the gear/rope is redundant), culminating with taking a small pebble in each hand to make a super high step to a smeary top-out.”

Heason also added that, “Kevin lead the route with a low side runner in Coffin Crack, in an attempt to avoid the nasty boulder-strewn landing should the worst happen… Even without this it felt like E8 rather than E9 (so long as you trust the pebbles…) My ascent went smoothly but it's probably quite stern for the grade.”

Never the most popular venue due to it’s exposed position high on the moor, with a north facing aspect, which sometimes leaves it almost luminous green, Wimberry nevertheless lends itself to hard routes with two E9s, three E8s and three E7s — it’s not a crag stacked with moderates.

Below are two videos from the recent ascents:

Miles Gibson on the first ascent of Dangermouse (E9 7a), a new route at Wimberry Crag in the Chew Valley. Video by Wild Country

Ben Heason making a repeat of a Kevin Thaw's Order of the Phoenix (E8 6c) at Wimberry. Video by Wild Country

Date of Ascents: Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sources: Richie Paterson / www.wildcountry.co.uk / www.redchili.de

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