/ The first route to be awarded the E1 grade?

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Philchris 07 Aug 2019

Hi all,

I’ve tried to use the search function but to no avail so I’m hoping someone might be able to shed some light on my question; what was the first route to be given the E1 grade? 

I’m aware this may not be a simple answer as I know the ‘Extreme’ grade evolved into the linear system in the 70’s and there were already routes of E1 difficulty and harder when the system was applied, but was there ‘a’ route that received the grade first? Or, as I suspect, was a guide published using the system retrospectively and several routes ended up with E grades all at once? 

Any info gratefully received! 

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Ron Rees Davies 07 Aug 2019
In reply to Philchris:

"Central Buttress on Scafell Crag, the first E1 in Britain, was first climbed in April 1914 and the likes of Cenotaph Corner and Cemetery Gates weren't ascended until the start of the 1950s;"

(From https://www.thebmc.co.uk/how-to-climb-e1-james-mchaffie)

Though, as you suggest, I'm not sure whether it was graded "E1" at the time of the FA

Post edited at 11:59
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Pursued by a bear 07 Aug 2019
In reply to Ron Rees Davies:

It was graded a challenging HVS 5a for many years until the chockstone behind the big flake regettably fell out.  So not the first E1, not E1 at all until about 20 or 25 years ago.

T.

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Postmanpat 07 Aug 2019
In reply to Philchris:

 This is a good source. http://bobwightman.co.uk/climb/article.php?p=uk-grades

Pete Botterill came up with the E grade system in about 1976. The first guidebook to embrace it was probably the 1979 Buttermere guide and the first CC/Wales guide was the 1982 Ogwen guide. So you'd have to take your pick of those to choose the first "official" E1 although I reckon the system was probably being used in magazines before 1979.

  But in terms of the first ones to be climbed: CB in the Lakes and probably Javelin Blade in Wales.(1930)

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Chris Craggs Global Crag Moderator07 Aug 2019
In reply to Postmanpat:

Great link - I remember the discussions at the time.

I can't see it mentioned there, but I have a vague recollection of a 'test' list of E grades for well know routes in one of the New Climbs pamphlets that were published around that time,

Chris

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Doug 07 Aug 2019
In reply to Postmanpat:

I think most climbers who were active in the 70s first heard about the idea in an article in Mountain published in (I think) 1976 & probably the source of the quotes on Bob's page under the heading 'A solution'. Lists of proposd E grades then appeared in other magazines eg I remember a Scottish list in Crags.

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Martin Bennett 07 Aug 2019
In reply to Ron Rees Davies:

> "Central Buttress on Scafell Crag, the first E1 in Britain, was first climbed in April 1914 and the likes of Cenotaph Corner and Cemetery Gates weren't ascended until the start of the 1950s;"

> Though, as you suggest, I'm not sure whether it was graded "E1" at the time of the FA

In the 1924 guide book it is ungraded (because ungradeable?) but described as "possibly the hardest climb in The World" and it of course used combined tactics at that time. I don't have the 1936 guide book so can't say as for that but in the 1956 guide book it gets Very Severe and still combined tactics are recommended, even though Menlove Edwards had done the first free ascent as early as the 1930s.  The long awaited 1967 guide gives it Very Severe (Hard) in its free version. To me in 1971 it felt harder but the FRCC had no harder grade to give it at the time, though Exceptionally and Extremely Severe had already been used in CC guides to Snowdonia. The 1996 guide is the first to give it E1 after the loss of the chockstone in tragic circumstances. Seconding it in its new form at the time I'd say top end E1.

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Gordon Stainforth 07 Aug 2019
In reply to Philchris:

We've discussed this before. One very strong contender for this title is surely Cave Arete Indirect (E1 5a) at Laddow, soloed on sight in plimsolls by Ivar Berg in 1916. Though of course it was years before it was given this 'modern' grade.

Post edited at 12:31
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r0b 07 Aug 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Cave Arete Indirect is what I was going to suggest too.

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DubyaJamesDubya 07 Aug 2019
In reply to Philchris:

> Hi all,

> I’ve tried to use the search function but to no avail so I’m hoping someone might be able to shed some light on my question; what was the first route to be given the E1 grade? 

> I’m aware this may not be a simple answer as I know the ‘Extreme’ grade evolved into the linear system in the 70’s and there were already routes of E1 difficulty and harder when the system was applied, but was there ‘a’ route that received the grade first? Or, as I suspect, was a guide published using the system retrospectively and several routes ended up with E grades all at once? 

> Any info gratefully received! 

Basically the grading system came in well after routes of E1 std had been climbed. I was under the impression that the concept of the extreme grade was mooted quite a while before the numerical was added and, logically, we could have ended up with; extreme, hard extreme, very extreme and hard very extreme but I think by the stage when the first guidebooks were ready to use it we already had more than 4 grades in the extreme. Hard to see where we'd have gone if after extreme if the numbers hadn't come in. Extremely extreme?

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Offwidth 07 Aug 2019
In reply to Ron Rees Davies:

It was not E1 until the chockstone fell out. I thought the normal candidate was Cave Crack Indirect, Laddow,1916 by Iver Berg. Though hareder routes were climbed before on Elbsandstein.

https://web.stanford.edu/~clint/yos/hard.htm

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Jim Nevill 07 Aug 2019
In reply to Chris Craggs:

Just looked at Mountain 9, May 1970, which had an article re Stoney and an Extremely Severe (Lucy Simmons) - or HVS depending on opinion. All above my pay grade but I recall Extreme briefly expanded into Exceptionally. I guess rather than then have Hard Exceptionally, etc. E grades were the obvious solution. So there were plenty of E1's around long before they were graded thus. As to when it was introduced - pity Ken isn't around to give the definitive answer.

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Tyler 07 Aug 2019
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Pete Botterill came up with the E grade system in about 1976. The first guidebook to embrace it was probably the 1979 Buttermere guide and the first CC/Wales guide was the 1982 Ogwen guide. So you'd have to take your pick of those to choose the first "official" E1 although I reckon the system was probably being used in magazines before 1979.

Either the 1977 Gogarth guide or the 1978 Llanberis Pass guide had a list in the back of all routes banded into E grades.

Post edited at 13:05
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Philchris 07 Aug 2019
In reply to Philchris:

Thanks all! There's loads to look at and consider here. I think I was trying to establish where and when the new E1 grade was actually applied to a route. I understand that routes of that difficulty had been climbed previously but attracted all kinds of grades to figure out how best to describe them until some consensus was reached. 

A better question may be what was the first route that has only been awarded E1? By that I mean which route received it’s  FA after the linear E grades were established and was given E1? 

Please feel free to totally ignore this question as far too dull but if anyone does know I’d love to hear about it! 

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Pedro50 07 Aug 2019

Regarding E grade adoption:

Crags 5 circa late 1976 (Irritatingly Birtles appears to have abandoned dating the mag) had a list of E graded routes compiled by Ron Fawcett, up to E5

Crags 6 had a personal selection from Ed Cleasby, which only proposed E1 to E4 (including Footless Crow at E4!)

Mountain 54, March 1977 had a list of 100 Lakes routes and a selection from other areas. Only Footless Crow and Right Wall got E5; Right Wall was described as "Terminal"

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Michael Hood 07 Aug 2019
In reply to Postmanpat:

Llanberis Pass guidebook from mid/late 70's has E grades with the technical grades in a list at the back. Ogwen 1982 is probably first CC guide (for N Wales) to include E and technical grades within the climb's text.

To all:

For those who haven't been around umpteen years "Very Severe (Hard)" in Lakes guidebooks effectively meant HVS; it didn't mean VS+ (i.e. didn't mean hard for the grade VS).

Before E grades (the initial idea only went from E1 to E4 but was conceived as being open ended - Footless Crow & Right Wall were the first to get to E5 - I think) various top end grade terms were used...

1) Extremely Severe & Exceptionally Severe

2) XS(-), XS, XS(+) - I think only the Orange Froggatt-Millstone guide from early 80's - bonus point if you know the only XS(+) in that guide without looking it up

3) Mild Extremely Severe, Extremely Severe, Hard Extremely Severe

E grades were originally conceived when it was realised that splitting Extreme into 3 wouldn't be enough. Hats off to Mr Botterill for coming up with the idea and for it being simple and effective.

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Gordon Stainforth 07 Aug 2019
In reply to r0b:

I mistakenly said Cave Arete Indirect is 5a, when it's 5b ... and well deserving of that.

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Rick Graham 07 Aug 2019
In reply to Michael Hood:

> Llanberis Pass guidebook from mid/late 70's has E grades with the technical grades in a list at the back. Ogwen 1982 is probably first CC guide (for N Wales) to include E and technical grades within the climb's text.

> To all:

> For those who haven't been around umpteen years "Very Severe (Hard)" in Lakes guidebooks effectively meant HVS; it didn't mean VS+ (i.e. didn't mean hard for the grade VS).

> Before E grades (the initial idea only went from E1 to E4 but was conceived as being open ended - Footless Crow & Right Wall were the first to get to E5 - I think) various top end grade terms were used...

> 1) Extremely Severe & Exceptionally Severe

> 2) XS(-), XS, XS(+) - I think only the Orange Froggatt-Millstone guide from early 80's - bonus point if you know the only XS(+) in that guide without looking it up

> 3) Mild Extremely Severe, Extremely Severe, Hard Extremely Severe

> E grades were originally conceived when it was realised that splitting Extreme into 3 wouldn't be enough. Hats off to Mr Botterill for coming up with the idea and for it being simple and effective.

Pete was a co author of the FRCC new routes supplement which was published in early 1978.

OTTOMH this would be the first guide to have E grades.

The first route listed is Whit's End Direct, which is also given E1.

This might be the answer to the OP, though lists were suggested in magazines in 76? /77.

Might be best to ask Pete

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Colin Moody 07 Aug 2019
In reply to Philchris:

It's around ten minutes in.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5llEgn-grA

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Chris Craggs Global Crag Moderator07 Aug 2019
In reply to Colin Moody:

Great video and settles the matter pretty well,

Chris

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Michael Gordon 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Philchris:

I thought your question was clear from the offset! There may not be any one answer though, since when E grades were adopted they would have been applied to several routes within the same guidebook. I'm sure someone must have been first to give a route Extremely Severe in the original description (which, after all, should mean the same thing), which could be interesting if perhaps almost impossible to find out now.  

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Philchris 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Philchris:

Brilliant! Loads of really cool bits and bobs here, thanks all.

I suspected the answer/s might not be as clear cut as, “it was definitely x climb, first ascent y, by z” but I think the mystery and muddle around it all is part of the charm. The way grades have evolved without a heavy hand, rather the intuition of the people climbing the routes, is testament to the heritage and nature of climbing. It’d be a bit of a let down if it was too easy! 

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cb294 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

The first two Elbe sandstone routes in that list are scary still today. To think that they were first climbed with hemp ropes and bare feet more than 100 years ago....  

Wilder Kopf:

http://skaly.lezec.cz/fotos/clanky14/c140428bbig.jpg

Teufelsturm:

https://www.teufelsturm.de/img/fotos/pic3001.jpg

CB

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Phil Lyon 08 Aug 2019

I would presume that the first time a route was graded E1 was after someone recognised a harder route deserved E2; otherwise the Exceptionally Severe grading would have been sufficient.

Much like the 1st World War has only been known as that since the 2nd one occurred.

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Lemony 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Philchris:

Well according to the original list it was either Dovedale Groove or "Route 2" depending which side of the paper Pete started writing on:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xV5CRWi8vWMt=658

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Sean Kelly 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Beat me to it Gordon.

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Trangia 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Ron Rees Davies:

> Though, as you suggest, I'm not sure whether it was graded "E1" at the time of the FA

I first started climbing in 1960. IIRC the only grades at that time and previously,  were:-

Easy

Moderate

Difficult

Very Difficult

Severe

Very Severe

There were no adjective sub divisions such as HVS or HS, and anything harder than Severe was graded VS. This meant that VS represented a huge range of difficulties. Extreme was introduced subsequently for anything considered to be harder than VS, and after that Extreme was divided into E1, E2 etc.

Post edited at 12:21
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Doug 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Trangia:

When was Don Roscoe's guide book to Llanberis North published - mid 1960s? had both extremely & exceptionally severe & seemed quite old when I started climbing in the early/mid 70s

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Southvillain 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Colin Moody:

> It's around ten minutes in.

What a lovely, lovely film. Thanks for posting that link. Great to see the men behind names I'd only seen in magazines or guidebooks (Whillance and Botterill). Should be a UKC Friday Night Vid, if it hasn't already been.

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Philchris 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Phil Lyon:

I think perhaps that’s what’s coming through as the hub of the issue. There were climbs that were subsequently graded E2 onwards before the E1 grade was introduced. It doesn’t seem to have happened in a linear fashion. As Trangia suggests Extreme covered a variety of difficulties so when it was sub divided there were climbs already in place to be awarded a sub grade. The fantastic video posted seems to suggest Extreme was sub divided in to E 1 - 5 in the first instance with the understanding that it could be extended.

I wonder if Pete Botterill knows which one of Route 2 or Dovedale Groove he wrote down first? 

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Rog Wilko 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Philchris:

Interesting thread, but I think a more interesting (sorry, not meaning to offend) and slightly different question is which is the earliest route which gets E1 today. Things like CB which has changed significantly would be excluded. My very uninformed guess would be Javelin Blade. And who knows, to change the grade slightly, which is the earliest route to get VS today?

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Greenbanks 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Pete Botterill came up with the E grade system in about 1976. The first guidebook to embrace it was probably the 1979 Buttermere guide <

That'd be the first 'official' (FRCC) one for the Lakes, I expect. I've got a copy of Lake District North (Eds. Clegg/Read & Wilson) dated March 1978 (published by 'Lakeland Climbers Guide Books) which fully integrate E grades into descriptions.

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Gordon Stainforth 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Doug:

> When was Don Roscoe's guide book to Llanberis North published - mid 1960s? had both extremely & exceptionally severe & seemed quite old when I started climbing in the early/mid 70s

Don Roscoe's Llanberis North was published 1961, revised 1964 - my first guide when I started climbing in 67. There were only two routes that he gave Exceptionally Severe: the Cromlech Girdle and The Thing ... with that famous description about retreat beyond the crux being 'uninviting' and 'the ground below nasty to land on.'

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Gordon Stainforth 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Doug:

Of course, Exceptionally Severe had been used by Owen Glynn Jones in the 1890s (Rock Climbing in the English Lake District) and the Abraham's British Mountain Climbs, 1909.

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Stefan Jacobsen 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Martin Bennett:

> ... used combined tactics at that time.

What was/is “combined tactics”?

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webbo 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Stefan Jacobsen:

Standing on your partners shoulders.

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cb294 08 Aug 2019
In reply to webbo:

Or a bit more extreme:

http://www.mini-pixx.de/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/IMG_5556.jpg

Still done regularly in Elbe sandstone to keep the tradition alive.

CB

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Colin Moody 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Southvillain:

> What a lovely, lovely film.  

The dog enjoyed the filming. I thought it was Pete's dog but he said it wasn't.

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Martin Haworth 08 Aug 2019
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

> Basically the grading system came in well after routes of E1 std had been climbed. I was under the impression that the concept of the extreme grade was mooted quite a while before the numerical was added and, logically, we could have ended up with; extreme, hard extreme, very extreme and hard very extreme but I think by the stage when the first guidebooks were ready to use it we already had more than 4 grades in the extreme. Hard to see where we'd have gone if after extreme if the numbers hadn't come in. Extremely extreme?

After Extreme we could use the Abo grade like they do in French Alpine climbing.

D, AD, TD, ED, ABO

In fact I think bring Abominable as a new grade above E10 could be a cool addition to the grading system. In 50 years time they will be asking "what was the first ABO graded route...

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Philchris 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Rog Wilko:

No offence taken at all!  I think you might be right, that may be a better question and may yield better (more satisfactory/ easier? ) answers. 

If anyone can bear thinking about it any further then, 

What is the earliest route that receives an E1 grade today? Excluding the likes of CB or any that have changed beyond recognition? Or modern gear has rendered a softer touch? 

I suspect the closest we’ll get maybe the likes of Javelin Blade or one of the other necky (soloed?) routes mentioned already. 

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Lankyman 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Colin Moody:

That was a really interesting film - brought back a few memories of Armathwaite when I lived in Carlisle in the 80's. I very rarely saw anyone there (and never at Lazonby). I did see Pete Botteril once making the bouldering in the sandy bay look depressingly easy but it often felt to me that the 'locals' had abandoned the whole Eden Valley for the Lakes.

Cheers Karl.

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Stefan Jacobsen 09 Aug 2019
In reply to webbo:

> Standing on your partners shoulders.

Brilliant! We are all standing on the shoulders of giants...

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DubyaJamesDubya 09 Aug 2019
In reply to Martin Haworth:

People might not want to refer to there lovely new project as abominable!

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colinnave 09 Aug 2019
In reply to Philchris:

I have lost my copy of Peter Harding's "Bumper Fun Book" to the Llanberis Pass, published in 1950. I think this used Extremely Severe and Exceptionally Severe for some climbs. Perhaps someone with a copy could check which of these are now given E grades.

  Colin

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Rog Wilko 09 Aug 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Of course, Exceptionally Severe had been used by Owen Glynn Jones in the 1890s (Rock Climbing in the English Lake District) and the Abraham's British Mountain Climbs, 1909.

I think it's the case that Exceptionally Severe was used by Jones et al for any route harder than V Diff. Later the Exceptionally was dropped and this was how the Severe grade evolved.

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Tom V 10 Aug 2019
In reply to Trangia:

I have an idea that Brant Direct was graded Mild Extremely Severe in the 60's and early seventies and for this reason became a very popular route.

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Tom V 10 Aug 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

First time I ever came across the word "temerity".

Post edited at 00:46
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GridNorth 10 Aug 2019
In reply to Tom V:

> I have an idea that Brant Direct was graded Mild Extremely Severe in the 60's and early seventies and for this reason became a very popular route.

Yes it was and that fooled me into thinking I was an Extreme climber and could climb Cenotaph Corner.  I wasn't and it was a painful lesson.

Al

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rurp 10 Aug 2019
In reply to Rog Wilko:

> Interesting thread, but I think a more interesting (sorry, not meaning to offend) and slightly different question is which is the earliest route which gets E1 today. Things like CB which has changed significantly would be excluded. My very uninformed guess would be Javelin Blade. 

I was in chamonix last week and noted the ‘ mummery crack’ on the grepon was now French 6b. 

I think venetz rather than mummery climbed it free but if it got French 6b and was climbed in 1881 this was the first E1 and possibly E2!! I don’t think it has any bolts but I’ve not climbed it myself, whatever it’s an amazing grade for 1880

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big ed 11 Aug 2019
In reply to GridNorth:

Hi Al we were lucky Brant direct first route in wales in the 60's felt ok after peak vs's.Cenotaph in the afternoon made us work a bit harder,two neckfulls of whitworth slings.50 years later not much more effort required with modern gear.Still an enjoyable route.

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AlanLittle 15 Aug 2019
In reply to Phil Lyon:

> Much like the 1st World War has only been known as that since the 2nd one occurred.

Not actually so as I learned recently. A former war correspondent called Repington titled a book The First World War in the 1920s. It was obvious enough to plenty of people that Versailles was only a truce.

Anyway, back on topic: I stood underneath the correct answer, Cave Arete Indirect at Laddow, on Tuesday. It was covered in gopping slime as was the rest of the crag too.

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C Witter 15 Aug 2019
In reply to Philchris:

I remembered a crack up on Harrison Stickle that I thought might be a contender; unfortunately not (Waller's Crack, climbed 1930).

But, there's a very entertaining account of Stephen Reid climbing it, here: https://www.alpinejournal.org.uk/Contents/Contents_1990-91_files/AJ%201990%20184-187%20Reid%20Wallers%20Crack.pdf

Worth a read! And probably an early Lakes E1, all the same - only left at HVS so we don't have to go and climb it!

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Philchris 15 Aug 2019
In reply to C Witter:

What a wonderful description of surprisingly desperate climbing! I particularly enjoyed Stephen’s description of picking up his own foot to stuff it on a hold! (Surely, we’ve all done it!). Thanks again for all of the contributions, a fascinating insight into climbing’s convoluted evolution. 

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Philchris 18 Aug 2019
In reply to Philchris:

I’ve just stumbled across this in Jim Birkett’s obituary from the Independent newspaper:

Also on this cliff in 1949, he put up the hardest climb in the Lake District at that time - 'Harlot Face'. It is still a respectable 'E1' - at the time, E1 indicated the most difficult grade of climb, although the scale has now been expanded - and one wonders at the dangers he overcame with the pitifully poor protection available 45 years ago.

In addition, I was listening to Niall Grimes brilliant interview with Dave Birkett who comments his grandfather was the first to climb E1. I know the grade didn’t exist as such, we’ve certainly established that, but is one of Jim Birkett’s  Lake District routes the first E1 that still carries the grade? 

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Tom V 18 Aug 2019
In reply to big ed:

Whitworth slings. ;). I hope the rope was correspondingly non-metric.

Viking Number 4 for your rope, 1 and 2 for your slings, I seem to remember.

Post edited at 11:09
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GridNorth 18 Aug 2019
In reply to Tom V:

Spot on.  My first rope was a shared 60 foot No.4 Viking. I used to earn a pint or two by drilling out the threads of Whitworth nuts for most of my friends while working night shift at the steelworks.

Al

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webbo 18 Aug 2019
In reply to Philchris:

> I’ve just stumbled across this in Jim Birkett’s obituary from the Independent newspaper:

> Also on this cliff in 1949, he put up the hardest climb in the Lake District at that time - 'Harlot Face'. It is still a respectable 'E1' - at the time, E1 indicated the most difficult grade of climb, although the scale has now been expanded - and one wonders at the dangers he overcame with the pitifully poor protection available 45 years ago.

> In addition, I was listening to Niall Grimes brilliant interview with Dave Birkett who comments his grandfather was the first to climb E1. I know the grade didn’t exist as such, we’ve certainly established that, but is one of Jim Birkett’s  Lake District routes the first E1 that still carries the grade? 

In 1949 it would have been graded Extremely Severe or Exceptionally Severe or possibly Very Severe.

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