Hubble climbed by Buster Martin at Raven Tor
British climber Buster Martin has made the 10th ascent of Hubble, first ascended by Ben Moon at Raven Tor, England, in 1990.
Ten days ago we reported that Mathew Wright had repeated Hubble, the world’s first 8c+, or 9a depending on how you look at it, at Raven Tor in England. Martin’s ascent was remarkable not merely because it was only the 9th since it Ben Moon powered his way up precisely 30 years ago, but also because he used a new sequence that involved a kneebar. Armed with a kneepad 24,-year-old Buster Martin has now made quick work of the historic testpiece, claiming the 10th confirmed ascent. It’s highly unlikely that the kneebar will result in the floodgates opening, especially since both Wright and Martin - who has redpointed up to 9a+ in the past - believe it doesn’t change the overall grade. More likely than not, the recent repeats can be put down to an impressive rise in standards over the last decades.
Buster first off, what other hard routes have you done at Raven?
I’ve always had a bit of a hard time at Raven Tor. It’s a really savage style on small crimps and slick foot holds. This year, I’ve spent a bit more time there and started to get into it. This is often the case with British climbing, you really have to put the time in, and learn the tricks of the crag. This year, I climbed Keen Roof 8b and Make it Funky 8c and have done a few more of the classics over the year. Revelations is another great historical route down there.
So when did you first start trying Hubble?
I first tried it in May last year. I had two or three sessions but I’d just come back from trying a hard project in Spain so needed a break from hard routes. I got back on it around 10 days or two weeks ago and had four more sessions. After witnessing Mat use the knee I thought I’d give it a go, and it was good. Really technical, great beta.
Had you trained specifically for this route? If so, how?
Somewhat. During lockdown I built a board. I was planning to smash out a load of training and get back out to Raven Tor as soon as I could. To begin with I did some great training, a couple of Hubble replicas as part of my warm-up, and training some specific elbow joint angles that are used on Hubble: supinated isometrics on a bar, and some bicep curls. But I lost psyche after a month or six weeks and wasn’t that focused for most of the summer. I did a bit of climbing but not really training.
But you returned
I moved back up to Sheffield at the end of August and started climbing outside a lot. Getting back on Hubble I did feel the replica training was worthwhile. Maybe I wasn’t stronger. But I felt more confident, like I knew the moves. It became less intimidating.
Just like Mat Wright you used the kneebar. He felt this didn’t change the overall grade, which he believes is 9a. What are your thoughts on this?
The knee bar makes things easier, that’s for sure! But not easy. It’s still very technical and only gives you an extra split second on one of the moves. Not enough to make it a grade changer. I’m pretty useless with grades so I’d struggle to put one on it. It’s not really about grades with Hubble anyway. It’s Hubble! An iconic route and a huge part of sport climbing history - whatever the grade is, it was the hardest in the world at the time and has stood the test of time. I’m very pleased to have climbed it and had a great time trying.
How does it compare though to other hard routes you’ve done?
I guess the comparison is with other climbs of similar difficulty, like the 8c Make it Funky which I did a couple of weeks ago: it’s really on another level and felt two grades harder than that. I think it’s still 9a, but time will tell with more ascents and more evolving beta. Probably just adds to people’s confusion with the grade, but everyone seems to love the debate.
Hubble was first climbed three decades ago. Is a repeat still newsworthy?
It meant a lot to me personally. The difficulty is far from cutting edge but people are still psyched about the route and its history. I think I’m only the 10th ascent in 30 years so I guess it’s still cool to report and share pictures.
Buster Martin is sponsored by La Sportiva, Petzl, Moon Climbing
TOPO: climbing at the crag Raven Tor, England
Hubble, Raven Tor, Peak District, England, UK
First ascent: Ben Moon, 14/06/1990
Repeats: Malcolm Smith (1992), John Gaskins (1994), Steve Dunning, Richard Simpson (2005, disputed), Steve McClure (2009), Alexander Megos, William Bosi (2016), Pete Dawson (2019), Mathew Wright (2020), Buster Martin (2020)
Notes: Hailed as the world's first 8c+, it is increasingly considered more difficult than 8c+ and consequently quite possibly the world’s first 9a.