Thursday, 6 November 2014

The Year of Malham

It has been a vintage season for Malham Cove this year. I have enjoyed experiencing the different seasons at the crag from the cool temps of spring, the heat of summer (which can be avoided by climbing superlate at the crag), the send temps of autumn to where we are at the moment in the cold conditions of early winter.

I have been going to Malham ever since I was at university in Manchester and still have my Rockfax 1990 guide which has been a source of continuing psyche. Seeing Cry Freedom in the guide next to the other classics, I always wondered whether I would ever be able to climb this historic line. I actually tried it in 2011 with James Riley for a couple of sessions but was way off the level back then. This year I was excited to use some of the fitness gained from trips away and plenty of time spent at the Tor to try some of the legendary staminafests the crag has to offer.

After coming back from the Alps in August, it took a couple of weeks to get my sport fitness back but it returned pretty quickly. I was pleased to do Totally Free 2, which was totally awesome (linking The Groove 8a+ into Free and Easy 7c then into the final roof of Breach of the Peace). This must be one of the best challenges at the grade in the UK even though there are quite a few good rests at key stages. Having frustratingly fallen off the last few moves in the wet before going to the Alps heaving up over the final barrel once stood up over the roof, the key to doing this was taking the trouble to first tick 'An Uneasy Peace 7c+' which starts up Free and Easy to its last bolt. Instead of going up and left to the belay of Free and Easy, Uneasy goes straight up via a runout section to finish up Breach. I reckon the roof of Breach must be 7c in its own right as it is burly and a tough finish to Totally Free 2 after 25 bolts of climbing, despite the hands off rest below Breach. Definitely save yourself the trouble of climbing all this way without having the top ruthlessly wired...and try not to attempt it in the rain either like me! I couldn't believe it when the heavens opened on my successful redpoint. Luckily I managed to bear down enough on the final wet crimps to avoid getting spat off into the void below. Here are some pics.

 The lower crux of the The Groove

Bridging rest on The Groove

Strenuous moves leaving the rest

Starting the hard section of the second half of The Groove

Keep on trucking! Just past the crux on Free and Easy 7c

After this, I had a couple of sunday sessions on Cry Freedom second day on and sorted out all the moves but it was only when I started trying it fresh that I managed to make some breakthroughs. Linking from the undercut rest at the end of the initial 6 bolt 7c to the top was a massive buzz as it includes the first crux bulge which has some baffling V7 moves. The upper crux on its own must be about V6, depending on your reach. I know that climbers of shorter stature really struggle on this last section but I was lucky enough to be able to just reach the crux crimp with my right hand from the big undercut at the end of the final 'corner'. Getting fully crimped on this hold and having a little bend left in your arm while your right foot remains on a small spike foothold at the back of the bulge is crucial. You then place a tenuous heel/ toe cam in a big hole out left and take a grim little slot/ sidepull for your left hand. Releasing the heel/ toe is the real crux whilst remaining pasted to the wall as the next moves are a little easier and you are soon stood up over the bulge on small crimps eyeing up the belay. 

Here is a video of the send. I would encourage anybody to try this route who may be having second thoughts given the many stories of last move failure out there. This is a stonking route with a real sense of history. I even managed to get a decent kneebar rest below the last crux which with a 5.10 pad is not far hands off if you can tense up your core enough. Unlike Bat Route or Unjustified, the crux is right where it should be, at the top!

Cry Freedom 8c - FA Mark Leach 1988

A short word on the grade of Cry Freedom compared to Unjustied and Bat Route. I reckon it is harder than either of these two routes overall although of a different character. On Bat Route, while the moves individually are often desperate, particularly the roof section, the hard bits tend to be broken up by really good resting jugs and a bomber kneebar. Unjustified by contract is the opposite having virtually no rest but with moves which are perhaps not quite as hard with the exception of the crux bulge. I have gone with Mark Leach's original grade of 8c for Cry Freedom as this is apparently the grade he gave it initially after his 46 day siege, which has become part of climbing folklore. I hear it was only after the first few repeats that it got downgraded. Jibe Tribout apparently thought it was easier than Mecca but was going well at the time!

After Cry Freedom, I got my guide out and sussed out the remaining doable ticks I had left on the lower catwalk. Twisted and the Well Dunne Finish were obvious gaps and I was stoked to be able to tick both after a spot of spring cleaning of some very dusty holds. I would definitely recommend both of these routes. I would not say Twisted was much easier than Well Dunne but see what you think. Hopefully these two videos are useful for beta.

Twisted 8a - FA Mick Lovatt 1988

Well Dunne Finish 8b - FA John Dunne 1988

So the crucial question, which of GBH or Zoolook is it best to start up when trying Well Dunne? Zoolook of course! To me, its a fair bit easier than GBH with a bomber rest at the fifth bolt that GBH doesn't have. So, get it while you still can, the crag is still dry I hear, see you out there!

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