Ben Bransby first to climb The Parthian Shot without flake
On 19/11/2013 Ben Bransby became the first person to climb The Parthian Shot at Burbage South, UK, since the crucial flake broke off in 2011.
When British climbers think about gritstone E9's, arguably the first route that springs to mind is The Parthian Shot at at Burbage South. They might now have to think again though, as thanks to Ben Bransby's recent repeat the route may well be E10. From E9 to possibly even E10? How come? Here's some background to one of Britain's most iconic gritstone lines.
Even before the first ascent in 1989 by Yorkshire strongman John Dunne, the exposed arête had already gained legendary status amongst British climbers; gritstone master Johnny Dawes had failed to climb it and that it itself was cause for concern. Furthermore, it had been immortalised in the cult 1986 climbing film Stone Monkey and Dawes' massive, seemingly endless toprope fall further added to the mystic.
In 1997 Seb Grieve made the route's second ascent after Britain's first even E9 fall - something as unthinkable as shocking since the protection had been deemed simply too poor to hold a fall. Since then this iconic gritstone line has always remained in the limelight. While things were taken a logical step forward in 2008 when America's Kevin Jorgeson made the first ground-up ascent (albeit with pre-placed and pre-clipped protection), in 2011the all-important flake ripped when Will Stanhope took a nasty ground-fall. Thankfully the Canadian climber survived - he broke his foot and vertebrae in the process- and without the flake many believed the route impossible.
Not so unassuming Ben Bransby who on 19th of October, after surprisingly little toprope practice, succeeded in climbing the route for the first time without the crucial flake. In doing it might now even be a touch harder - entering the astounding E10 barrier first breached at the start of the millennium by Neil Bentley with his nearby Equilibrium.
Talking to Ray Wood, Bransby explained: "A bit of the flake is still left. Some of the gear is the same as it used to be, but the top piece (along with the big juggy handhold) has gone. It is now much pumpier, both climbing and placing the gear, and where there used to be a good rest and then a relatively easy move, there is now a new crux section at least as hard as the top crux. This probably pushes the route from F8a+ to F8b, and with the gear also being a bit worse, could well make it E10. I’m not really in a position to say since I haven’t really done any scary grit headpointing in the last 10 years!"