Looks like an epic excursion! Alex was particularily impressive coming from a bouldering background, kudos.
The only thing i find hard to grasp about this , is Robbie stating he seeks Adventure, then works every pitch on the climb to death! surely if someone is capable of leading E10 they can cope with Adventurous E5 pitches this is what they graded for the onsight!
> The only thing i find hard to grasp about this , is Robbie stating he seeks Adventure, then works every pitch on the climb to death!
I didn't get the impression they worked anything to death except possibly he crux pitch. In fact did they work any of the rest of it?
I think even working and prepping the line it was an adventure; OS would almost certainly not have been possible, nor GU in a day. It seemed from the film that working the pitches wasn't about getting over fear, etc., but just about bringing an enormous challenge into the range of the possible. Even then, doing it in a oner seemed to be anything but a given.
Its a 300m high biscuity sandstone cliff, in an exposed position in the north Atlantic ocean. Big Mac climbed it 11 years ago (although I think Caff & Bransby have repeated it since, if I'm not mistaken?). I'm not surprised that stuff had worked it's way loose in the intervening years.
Read it there...
N.b. Dave Mac was first the free the full route, but it is infact a Drummond/Hill aid line.... Should be noted, that the vast majority of it was freed by Arran/Turnbull (they opened a slight variant to by-passing part of the crux pitch with and easier variant, that was still not certainly an easy one).
So those into that sort of thing... did Arran/Turnbull actually free the route... I mean a lot bigger wall, called El Cap has this really hard line called Freerider... which a certain british lad was the first to flash... oddly enough... Freerider is not actually a line per se, but there are a few ways about it up (the boulder vs teflon corner). Isn't what Arran/Turnbull did the same deal?
Which actually brings up another ethical topic... Flash be all accounts means a successful ascent of the route without falling and never trying the moves beforehand... so no falling... but didn't Pete fall... I recall he did (on the Boulder pitch), so he flashed then the Teflon corner... But did he flash Freerider? Yes, he flashed all individual pitches... But he also failed on one? That being said... wasn't Teflon corner original line on how Freerider was climbed by Hubers...
> They worked it.
To what extent other than Robbie having tried the route a year earlier? And how can one be said to work pitches which are technically easy for you but you probably wouldn't want to hang on any of the gear? And is just climbing a pitch two or three times really working it? I'm not really clear what they did - I just didn't see anything I would call "working" in the film.
Good questions, to which there are no clear answers. What is clear is that, as time progresses, the definition of a route becomes progressively more specific, so that what once may have been different ways to climb a single route then become different routes in their own right.
When Dave went to quiz Oliver Hill (who did the FA with Drummond) on where the route went up the headwall, he was extremely helpful. I remember Dave reporting his advice, that the FA aided up an impressive thin crack, which according to Oliver might be possible free but extremely hard (what foresight from 1970!), but that an easier way to free the route would be to take a left-hand variation and traverse back to the crack higher up, which we did. Apologies to Oliver if I've misremembered or misinterpreted his message, but it definitely suggests he thought our way would be another way to climb the same route. I'm also mindful of the Scoop on Sron Ulladale, which takes a notably different line at times to its originally aided version.
What I don't doubt is the difficulty and quality of the crux pitch that Drummond aided (no small feat in itself, I'm sure) and Dave MacLeod later freed. I recall looking up at it and thinking it would be amazing if it were to be climbable free, but it seemed well out of our league at the time, especially ground-up! It almost certainly would have been too hard for us even after practice, though that wasn't the game we were playing at the time. Such a pitch at the end of such an adventure deserves a status of its own; whether it's the principal free line of the route or a stunningly good and hard variation I'll leave for others to decide.
> Not sure Dave Mac worked those lower pitches on the first ascent, pretty clear considering the trundling they were doing!.
From Dave BigMac's account, he had two attempts during which he started from the ground. Although he initially climbed the lower pitches OS, he wasn't able to complete the entire route on those days - presumably due to the extra energy and time involved in OS climbing of those pitches:
"So a drawn out epic was exactly what I had. Lots of driving back and forth to Orkney, many days of cleaning the headwall pitch and trying the moves and a two attempts from the ground, climbing the lower pitches on sight with Michael Tweedley and Donald King."
He then returned for a third full attempt, having already started from the ground at least twice, i.e. with prior knowledge (prep) of those lower pitches. Yet, he still felt:
"Climbing it in a day was the big deal for the difficulty of the route. I knew the crux pitch,65 metres long and around 8b+ish with some long runouts would feel about 90% of my limit. But could I climb the 400 odd metres below without losing 10% of the strength in my arms. When I got to the guillotine belay before the big pitch, the answer felt like most definitely NO!"
He starts to worry that he's wasted his chance, that he's going to fail, that he didn't prepare enough, and this feels very wrong, given the people, logistics and time involved. Then, in typical Dave McLeod style, he digs deep and pulls it off through sheer experience and skill.
So... It seems to me that Dave and Robbie felt similarly about the route: a) that the challenge wasn't the crux, but doing the crux after all the earlier climbing; b) that it would be an awful shame to waste an ascent opportunity through a lack of preparation. Neither of them climbed the whole route on days when they also attempted to OS some of E2 - E6 pitches; both climbed all or most of the pitches before the oner ascent; despite this, both felt it remained unlikely that they would manage to finish the route, due to the scale of the challenge.
Cf. John Arran's ascent for a sense of the extra time and difficult involved in attempting it GU.
In short: it was a fantastic achievement that wouldn't have been possible without extensive preparation. Maybe it will be at some point...
In future it doesn't seem outwith the realms of possibility that the route could be attempted ground-up. With the hard pitch being relatively safe, it doesn't seem beyond the potential of our current best (world) sport climbers, at least on paper.
What a brilliant film that is! The route looks full on and Robbie and Alex are total beasts!! Well worth Watching!!
> In future it doesn't seem outwith the realms of possibility that the route could be attempted ground-up. With the hard pitch being relatively safe, it doesn't seem beyond the potential of our current best (world) sport climbers, at least on paper.
If you could find a weather window I imagine some trad wads would have a great time taking a portaledge up there and spending a few days trying it ground up. Trying to do it ground up in a day would be pretty hard core!
< That being said... wasn't Teflon corner original line on how Freerider was climbed by Hubers... >
Not so, apparently, according to Clint Cummins - who I suspect is as authoritative as anybody when it comes to the fine detail of this stuff. His website piece - "Yosemite - Long Hard Free Climbs" - records that they used Alex Huber's variations to avoid the p19 corner and "Teflon Corner". Both had used the Boulder Problem version on their respective earlier free ascents of the Salathé - Alex having found, equipped and climbed this variation in the course of his Salathé ascent in 1995. For clarity, and for anybody who might be scratching their head over these various variations: the original aid line on this pitch [#23 or #24, topo dependent] has never been completely free-climbed - only its lower half; Skinner and Piana established the Teflon Corner variation, to the left of the aid line, when they freed The Salathé - with five departures from the original route [of which two had become 'normal'] - in 1988. The Boulder Problem is to the right of the aid line, which it rejoins via its final 'karate kick' or dyno.
Thanks for correcting my mistake. Which sort of comes to the point, that freeing an existing line is quite often done via variations, and not following the exact line climbed originally. So as time has progressed, climbing ethics have actually deteriorated... after all, the lines opened up in the Alps and Dolomite in the 50s and 60s (and earlier) often resorted to aid. Later the exact same lines were free climbed... Later on though (with more modern aid climbs, thus also harder), free climbing "roughly" the existing aid line has become the norm (e.g. pretty much all free climbs on El Cap, perhaps only Nose follows the original aid line... but I might be mistaken on this as well ).
I guess the same practices also apply for winter lines (obviously in the mountains... not kosher to drytool existing summer lines on outcrops with just some surface hoar/frost). Albeit to a lesser extent me thinks (summer lines in the mountains tend to follow lines of weaknesses, so they are obvious for the winter ascent... only if you have a nice fat icefall nearby, why would you climb cruddy crack... Albeit if you have fat ice close by... most likely that region will be rather damp also in the summer... so perhaps there isn't anything worth climbing in the summer).
So the questions remains... when freeing an existing aid line... how much can you deviate from the original line, and still say you climbed it? We could go on about nitpicking on the issue and then state that even on a boulder, you climbed it using a different sequence... did you "climb" the "line" or did you make your own variation. For boulder, this would be ridiculous, you climb the same section of rock, then you climb the problem (unless it was an eliminate, and you used the eliminated holds... but eliminates are generally sh!te). What about a single pitch route... As you're shorter/taller than the FA, you use different footholds or intermediates? Same route or no? I guess most would say that you climbed the route, because if you think they didn't, then naturally the next question is that should also the exact same sequence be used, if not, then why are different holds off limits, but not different order is not?
Now extrapolate this to a multi pitch environment... how much can you deviate from the original line? A pitch, half a pitch, not at all? Something else?
> So the questions remains... when freeing an existing aid line... how much can you deviate from the original line, and still say you climbed it? >
Obviously there's going to be an element of case by case basis, but often folk would claim to have climbed the 'free version' of the aid route. Obviously if the 'free version' is ludicrously indirect or is judged to have avoided much of the challenge then it's gonna get criticised as not worthy of the name.
> So as time has progressed, climbing ethics have actually deteriorated... after all, the lines opened up in the Alps and Dolomite in the 50s and 60s (and earlier) often resorted to aid. Later the exact same lines were free climbed... Later on though (with more modern aid climbs, thus also harder), free climbing "roughly" the existing aid line has become the norm
I suspect nothing really has changed, except that early Alps/Dolomies routes were more likely to follow significant cracks or other lines of weakness, and that the easiest way to free them would usually be by following the same line with little or no deviation. I don't think there's anything regarding climbing ethics involved, simply that the easiest aid and free versions coincided closely.
The way I see it, a route can generally be thought of as the easiest way up a certain piece of rock, the boundaries of which will vary depending on the route. Early routes would have been the easiest way up an entire face, whereas more modern routes may be the easiest way up a wall between two cracks. All routes, other than the easiest way up a pinnacle, are to some degree eliminate, as you're choosing to eschew the easiest way up in favour of a more specific and harder challenge. Conversely, in all except the most eliminate cases there is some flexibility in the precise line taken, even if in practice (such as a splitter crack) there is sometimes little or no advantage to be gained by deviating from an obvious feature.
When we then talk of freeing an aid route, we have to consider what the constraints of the route were, that the aid line was found to be the easiest way up. Then the free version, while usually following much of the aid line, may well find different ways up certain sections, within those constraints. Examples would be The Prow (Classic) (7c) on Raven Tor, or the aforementioned Scoop on Sron Ulladale. If someone later comes along and free climbs the precise aid line instead (which in free climbing terms will then be relatively eliminate, as it avoids an easier alternative), there will be a choice as to whether to call this new version a different route (e.g. Mecca - The Mid-life Crisis (8b+) or to stick with the original name and to resolve the naming duplication in some other way.
In any case, there's nothing particularly sacred about the precise line an aid route took when it comes to establishing the easiest or best free route up the same piece of rock. If it turns out to coincide with the easiest and/or best free line then that's all well and good, if not then so be it.
Wouldn't you just take it on a case by case basis, viewing the amount of deviation within the context of the route, the crag/mountain and the local history/culture? I guess you could say:
You freed something (either in its entirely or with some deviation), or...
You did a new route which was based (to a greater or lesser extent) on a free ascent of an old aid route.
If you're following the criteria above, you're making a decision as a climber - for other climbers. And for me this would be the important point.
If you're making a choice based on a media/career perspective, whether a FFA or a new route, because it's more 'attention worthy', then that seems a different kettle of fish entirely.
Such deliberations aside, ascents such as this one seem absolutely amazing to me.
> If you're making a choice based on a media/career perspective, whether a FFA or a new route, because it's more 'attention worthy', then that seems a different kettle of fish entirely.
A very good point, Mick. Even climbers are social creatures, and will be influenced by such incentives to varying degrees. Alas, 'twas ever thus.
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