Monday, 30 June 2014

Bat Route and Overjustified

For the past 3 months since coming back from Smith Rock, a large number of my climbing days at the weekends have been spent up at Malham getting stuck into 2 routes in particular, Bat Route and Unjustified. Having ticked Bat Route in May and Unjustfied on Sunday, I thought I would share my experiences of both for those who are interested.

After finally ticking Idefix 8b last summer (the extension to Free and Even Easier and one of the catwalk's more desparate lines), I was finally free to try one of the famous routes breaching the bulges over the catwalk. It seems like some of the mystique surrounding these routes may have been dispelled in the last 5 years with the increase in the number of ascents made. I remember 2 or 3 years ago, an ascent of either Bat Route or Unjustified was front page news but now this is no longer the case. I am sure this is due to overall standards rising in the climbing community which is a great thing. With each successive ascent, more climbers become inspired to try them, which in turn leads to even more ticks. Just getting on and trying these things can be half the battle at times; if you don't have a go you'll never know!

So, off the back of my States trip I was keen to use the fitness that I had gained from trying To Bolt or not to Be and to see how Bat Route and Unjustified compared. They are of a similar length and style, and although not as sustained, they are a bit steeper with distinct cruxes. I was in two minds as to whether to try Cry Freedom as I had had 2 days on that in 2011 but heading out with Keefe Murphy who was trying Bat Route and with Cry Freedom being wet, I was persuaded to try the former. Cry Freedom is still a goal of mine, maybe when the midgies have finished taking chunks out of us...!

Bat Route is a magnificent 35m route with a unique combination of power moves, good rests and contrasting climbing styles involving wall climbing, steep roofs and powerful undercutting through bulges. The grade maths is a 7b (Seventh Aardvark) to probably a V8 or so to a big hole where you can get a hands off kneebar rest and then a sustained 8a+ to the top with 2 more good rests. The top crux on the final, gently overhanging wall is hard on some tiny crimps but I managed to find a really good way past this bit involving a wide bridge, which took the sting out of it.

                                                        Egyptian to get the 3rd undercut                                                                                       Eyeing up the 4th undercut

 Taking the 4th undercut

The real battle for me turned out to be getting through the roof above Seventh Aardvark from the ground. The moves through the roof  involve really powerful undercutting of 4 crimpy undercuts leading to a gnarly tooth/ crimp for the right hand just before the hole. In the end, keeping my left foot a little lower for the move to the tooth took some of the power out of it and after 7 or 8 sessions I finally made it to the hole in a oner.

 Leaving the second hole

 Tricky moves leading to the 3rd rest

Had the upper part of the route not been totally wet that day, I reckon I would have been in with a good shout of doing it as I had by that stage got the top part pretty wired and would do it cleanly at the end of every session. However, this is UK sport climbing we're talking about (!) and I had to wait a week for the route to dry for my chance to seal the deal. It went down on a much drier saturday the following weekend. A pint in the Buck inn followed (remember those, alcoholic drinks!?) which went down particularly nicely if I recall.

The upper crux on crimps

The last shakeout, don't blow it here!

The final 5b moves, beer time!

Hungry for the next route, I got on Unjustified within an hour of clipping the chains of Bat Route, why hang about! Now this route is a very different animal to the latter one, being more of a true stamina route rather than series of desparate boulder problems between jug rests masquerading as a fitness route. On Unjustified, although the moves through the bulge are easier (V6 max) you have to keep climbing to survive with virtually no rest anywhere on the headwall. Perpetual motion is your only hope! In fact there is barely anywhere to stop and clip other than at 2 decent holds out right halfway up. Something Stupid seems significantly harder than Seventh Aardvark to me for 7b and the fact that there is no shakeout on it at the chains makes it particularly pumpy leading into the crux moves over the bulge. It took several sessions before I felt like I had much to give on the crux after trying the whole route from the ground.

Linking through the crux to the top is about 8a but unfortunately, the bolt after the crux needs repositioning as you have a nightmarish long draw to reach up and clip which, because of the steep angle of the rock, hangs out over a foot into space, so it is almost behind your head when you try and clip it. If the bolt was repositioned lower at chest height then the clip would be easier, although still hard I bet, and the whole route would be a much safer and and more approachable proposition. However, bolting costs time which most time starved rock activists don't have much of (lame sounding I know) so this less than ideal setup will remain until somebody does something about it.

Anway, after speaking to the catwalk regulars about this nightmare clip, it appeared that they fell into 2 camps, those electing to clip it or skip it. Twice on the first session I made it through the crux to this clip only to barely get my rope in the draw and then slump onto it pumped stupid in a jibbering heap. When I thought about it, as you are pulling through armfulls of slack in a ridulously strenuous position, why not just climb past it then reach down and left to clip it from the rest out right? Only a the prospect of a 25 footer to focus the mind! I road tested the fall twice on my next visit to the crag and the results are in the following clip:


Its actually a pretty soft (although massive!) fall and you end up around the 3rd bolt of Something Stupid although when I got a move higher the next go, I fell a bit more awkwardly and ended up grazing my hip against the rock a bit, take care out there kids! As is usual with these things, the buildup in the mind is worse than actually taking the ride.

After considering that I may have been held back mentally from commiting to the redpoint crux leading to the rest being so runout, I decided to just go for it. After a 2 week break while the route was wet and a period spent on other projects at the Tor, I came back and it felt a different ballgame. Such a great feeling to come back to the scene of a previous failure and then cruise past it fully in control - this is what redpointing is all about, the moments we train for. Here is the footage of my successful attempt - (I elected to to do 'Overjustified' and finish up the 7a+ extension 'Dudley Do Good', which is really no harder than Unjustified but a fun workout nonetheless).


Footnote on grades - I guess no blog about Bat Route or Unjustified would be complete without an assessment of the grades of both. From having climbed both within 6 weeks of each other, I would say that Bat Route is a fair bit harder for me as a stamina climber as I found the roof section so hard. However, power climbers I know seem to really struggle on the top wall on the link, which I could get through every time. To me, this route was easier overall than Mecca Extension but just about 8c for the difficulty of the crux moves. Ondra seems to question on his scorecard whether an upgrade from 8b+ was really warranted since the first ascent. Although a good hold has come off where the tooth now is and the midsection is now climbed more direct due to the loss of an undercut out right, is this enough to bump it up by a full letter grade?...maybe. 

Regarding the grade of Unjustified, I reckon this must be 8b+ as although it is undoubtedly sustained, the moves are not hard enough in my opinion for the route to be graded the magic grade of 8c. Also, is it as hard as To Bolt or Not to Be, a confirmed (although tough) 5.14a (8b+) of a comparable (pure fitness) style? - the answer is no, it is fair bit easier I reckon.

So there we have it, the number crunching is done, don't let this put you off the sheer quality of both routes, Bat Route in particular is world class. All aspirant ascentionists, get to it!!

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