Neil Bentley climbs Equilibrium, Britain’s first gritstone E10, contender for hardest trad route in the world

Neil Bentley climbs Equilibrium, Britain’s hardest gritstone desperate and grades it E10 7a.

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Bently on Equilibrium
(Neil Bentley on Equilibrium
Photo Richard Heap @ Slackjaw Film

On 24th February 2000 Neil Bentley climbed what is probably Britain’s, if not the world’s, hardest trad route, naming it Equilibrium and grading it E10 7a.

The route in question is an exposed gritstone arête located at Burbage South, Derbyshire. It was first toproped by Ben Moon way back in 1993 but had never since been repeated, even though many of the UK’s top climbers had tried the line. Moon commented at the time that it was comparable to F8C.

In late 1999, after working the route occasionally for a year and a half, Bentley finally succeeded in making the second top-roped ascent. Cams placed low down provided psychological protection, while rucksacks dropped from the crux showed that, with a fast belayer/sprinter, a potentially lethal groundfall might be avoided. And so the inevitable became evident.

Bentley made his first attempt on Friday 11th February after having toproped it cleanly again. A ledge low down allowed him to rest and gather his thoughts, before he set up the hard climbing. Failing to stick a hold below the crux he flew 40ft, missing the ground by inches and badly bruising his leg. His belayer, Rob Scathe, had managed to sprint from the rock and pull in some slack just in time.

Bentley returned on 24th February when conditions were perfect. He went through the tried ritual of toproping the route first, before psyching himself up on the ledge. And then, in less then a minute of anguished climbing, he held the crux, placed a poor flared friend higher still and climbed to the top amongst screams of elation and relief.

Sheffield based Neil Bentley has an impressive history of desperate gritstone repeats. These include test-pieces such as John Dunne's The Parthian Shot E9 7a and The New Statesman E8 7a, and boulder-problems such as Jerry Moffatt's The Joker, Font 8a. With repeats such as Mecca 8b+ at Ravens Tor, he has shown that he is equally at home on hard limestone.

Information courtesy of Mark Turnbull

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All photos Richard Heap @ Slackjaw Film
Neil Bentley climbs Equilibrium, Britain’s hardest gritstone desperate and grades it E10 7a

Bently on Equilibrium
Neil Bentley on Equilibrium
Photo Richard Heap @ Slackjaw Film
Bently on Equilibrium
Neil Bentley running it out on
photo Richard Heap @ Slackjaw Film

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