Myself, Calum, Fran Brown, Shauna Coxsey, Fran Brown, Molly Thompson-Smith, Steve McClure and Hazel Fundlay have become Ambassadors for the BMC. The BMC have always done a lot of good work on behalf of climbers and walkers in Britain so I’m looking forward to helping them in any way possible.
I was a little disappointed not to do Parthion Shot as an end of year tick, partly because I’m nervous of someone pulling what is left of the flake off while I’m away in Patagonia. I tried it 3 times on the lead on 2 different days. The first time was with Ben Bransby. I’d mentioned to someone the day prior to trying it that Ben could easily do it but might be a bit too cautious. After a quick re-check of the moves and the gear Ben goes first and I realised he meant business, getting to the high lead crux I think he’s in when suddenly he’ mentions’ he is coming off, I take in some slack wondering what to tell Kath if Ben spoons himself. He slams in a bit but lands well. The belay had been more stressful than I expected and the cautiousness I mentioned before was most assuredly with me. On my turn I prevaricated on wether to set off, feeling nervous and not in the mood. I give it a go and with numb fingers get to the top shelf beneath the lead crux, there is no way I was continuing, fingers numb and not into it. Next go Ben goes for broke and spending an age on the footshare at the top with numb fingers he tops out and I took him off belay with relief. My second go I did intend to give it everything as it would have been nice to do it together as we did on Careless. Shaking out at my previous highpoint my fingers in my left hand felt stiff and I knew they were useless, I drop off broken and awaiting laser eye surgery the following day. It was the most powerful effort I’ve seen from Ben for some years and at the end of the day it was hard to say if it was the belay or my 2 attempts I was most tired from, either way I was impressed and the footage of Ben on it is well worth a watch.
A week later with a big team I gave it one more lead effort whilst back in the Peak. Body feeling tired from the day before but with considerably warmer conditions I get a few moves higher before dropping it and at least felt happy my head was in gear although I felt a bit of a pleb. There were 3 other people looking at Parthion and another 3 on Dynamics of Change with Pasquil nipping in for a quick OS of Balance it is, not that he was under any pressure. Compared with ten years previously I think the physical standards of everyone at the crag was at a great level and there just seems to be a lot of bloody good climbers around at the moment even without Pasquil to help boost the average. Half the people there had climbed 9a and the others could easily do so, half had climbed a few font 8bs and all had onsighted and/or flashed (thats a flash where you’ve never been near the climb on an abseil rope!) E7s and E8s.
Some days later I encountered the prophet of purism, John Redhead in the Heights at a great talk by Paul Pritchard. Chatting about some climbing experiences I could see where John was coming from with some of his views on modern climbing. I think this year more than ever ascents of ‘big number’ climbs E7-9 headpoints have probably been more regular than E6s getting onsighted. A meeting with Johnny Dawes some days later involved a similar conversation with him (not him) mentioning that they were 'only' climbing 8a and doing similar levels, I think Al Hughes video 1980s...the Birth of the Extreme was very well named. There are more E8s and 9s to go for nowadays and although physical standards have improved a lot we all still get as scared as they did in the 1980s. On sport climbs as you progress up the grades the risk of serious injury doesnt increase like it does with the UK grade system. I’m afraid I’ll be one of the first out with my top rope next year but will try and keep it for special occasions.