Legendary Gritstone Route Gets First Ascent

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James Pearson at the end of the difficulties during his first ascent of The Groove (E10 7b) at Cratcliffe Tor, Derbyshire, England. Photo by David Simmonite, courtesy of Climbmagazine.com.

James Pearson at the end of the difficulties during his first ascent of The Groove (E10 7b) at Cratcliffe Tor, Derbyshire, England. Photo by David Simmonite, courtesy of Climbmagazine.com.

James Pearson has climbed one of the “last great problems” of English gritstone, The Groove (E10 7b), at Cratcliffe. Pearson had occasionally attempted the route over the past four years, and other top British climbers have been eyeing and sometimes trying the line since the 1970s.

E10 7b does not translate directly to American grades, but it indicates extremely technical and difficult climbing above very poor gear. Pearson reportedly called the crux moves Font 8A+, or about V12. Dave MacLeod’s Rhapsody in Scotland, the only E11 in Britain, had an easier technical grade of 7a, and MacLeod equated Rhapsody’s difficulty to at least 5.14c sport climbing.

Dave Brown, who filmed Pearson on the route for Hot Aches, said The Groove has two cruxes, with the four-move first crux being the most dangerous. “There is gear in the break, but we carefully measured the length of the fall from the end of the dyno, and the belayer needs to take in about five feet to avoid the climber hitting the ground,” he said. “Doesn’t sound [like] much to take in, but it would have to be split-second.”

Pearson works The Groove on toprope. Photo courtesy of David Simmonite.

Pearson works The Groove on toprope. Photo courtesy of David Simmonite.

Pearson succeeded on his first attempt at leading the route, so he never tested the belayer’s reaction time.

“The second crux (Brit 7a) is much higher up and is well-protected,” Brown said. “The only danger of falling from here is the prospect of having to re-lead that first crux again.”

Pearson wore a helmet but did not use bouldering bads at the base, “so as not to blur the distinction between a route or a highball problem,” photographer David Simmonite said.

Pearson, 22, has climbed two other English E10s: Equilibrium (E10 7a) in 2005, and the first ascent of The Promise (E10 7a) in 2007. More recently, he has flashed an astonishing three F8B (V13) boulder problems in Europe, becoming the first person in the world to flash V13.

Video footage from the ascent is expected to be posted today at Climbmagazine.com.

Date of Ascent: Saturday, February 2, 2008

Sources: David Simmonite, Dave Brown, Climbmagazine.com, Hotaches.blogspot.com

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Pearson works the upper crux of The Groove. Photo courtesy of Hot Aches Images.

Pearson works the upper crux of The Groove. Photo courtesy of Hot Aches Images.