Pete Whittaker frees Baron Greenback at Wimberry
On 4 May Pete Whittaker made the first ascent of Baron Greenback ta the gritstone outcrop Wimberry in England, while Tom Randall made the first repeat of Appointment with Death and Nathan Lee repeated Order of the Phoenix.
We thought that not a single bolt had ever been placed on England's famous gritstone outcrops, that all the routes on "God's own rock" as it is called (and venerated) by the British had to be protected with nuts and friends only but, we admit, we were wrong. In effect there are some bolts, here and there, but in truth (and therefore in our defense) they are nothing more than ancient memories of a period, many years ago, when routes were attempted with the use of aid. Which means that the few bolts that remain in-situ can in no way be compared to the modern bolts we know nowadays and which, according to strict local gritstone ethics, are not tolerated in the slightest.
Why this preamble you may ask? Because a few days ago young ace climber Pete Whittaker succeeded in freeing one of the most beautiful and yearned for gritstone prows, a steep and exposed line high up at Wimberry crag, dreamt of by many over the years. A line which is practically unprotectable, were it not for three old aid bolts placed who knows how many years ago and which happen to protect the crux at half-height.
The route is called Baron Greenback and Whittaker attempted the line on toprope five or six times during the last few months to decipher the moves and also cautiously test the holding power of the bolts (read: "I hung and bounced on each one individually, there was a very small amount of flex (but that is just the way some are placed, upside down in a roof, so it's not surprising. None of them fell out when I hung on them though.) After having toproped the route clean just once the moment came to switch to the live end of the rope: a first section led to a good hold where Whittaker clipped the three bolts (the third one with a bamboo cane!) before downclimbing and resting prior to climbing the line in a single go. But the first attempt went worse than Whittaker had hoped, as he fell off the crux. Luckily though the bolts held and, shortly afterwards, he set off again and blast his way to the top.
According to the Englishman, Baron Greenback can be considered a "a tough f8b to toprope" but his comments about the route are more interesting than the grade itself: "The quality of line, climbing, position, holds, danger and safety are all perfect, you couldn’t have asked it to be better in any other way... Overall it has to be one of the most satisfying grit ascents that I’ve done."
For the record, friction on Saturday 4 May must have been truly ideal: shortly before Whittaker's first ascent, Tom Randall made the first repeat of nearby Appointment with Death, the E9 6c freed in 2003 by Sam Whittaker, while Nathan Lee repeated another dangerous testpiece, Order of the Phoenix (E8 6c).