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British climber Mina Leslie-Wujastyk
Photo by Heiko Wilhelm
Raven Tor, England: this is a crag that was undoubtedly base camp for the sport stars in the eighties and early nineties, the UK’s forcing ground for the hardest routes.
Photo by Steve MCClure
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Mina Leslie-Wujastyk climbs Mecca Extension 8c at Raven Tor, England

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Sport climbing: Mina Leslie-Wujastyk has made the first female ascent of Mecca Extension 8c at Raven Tor, England.

Some routes are special. They set themselves apart because of their beauty. Or because of their history. Such as Mecca the Mid-Life Crisis, one of the England's most iconic sport climbs. Mecca is located at Raven Tor, the difficult crag hidden in the folds of the tranquil Miller's Dale close to Sheffield and even if it's no longer the feared testpiece it once was, overshadowed by other "holy grails" nearby such as Hubble by Ben Moon, Evolution by Jerry Moffatt and Mutation by Steve McClure, it hasn't lost any its appeal. On the contrary, it remains a stern, sought-after test that leads into the highest abode of climbing excellence.

The door to these difficulties was first opened by possibly one of England's least known (unjustly so) climbing legends, Martin Atkinson, who in 1988 and on the day before his departure to start a new job in Switzerland, managed to free this 8b+. For a while it remained the hardest route in the country: 12 desperate metres, intensely bouldery up elusive crimps and a soaring groove that led to a good hold and the chain half-way up the face.

The obvious challenge was to extend the line to the top, via a stamina test and a heart-breaking final crux, but for this to occur another 10 years were needed, as well as the arrival of the undisputed king of British sport climbing, Steve McClure. It was a Raven Tor that the 28-year-old was earning his "Strong Steve" nickname and in 1998 he managed to link all the moves to give birth to the 8c Mecca Extension. This, and Mutation 9a that same year, marked the start of his reign that continues even today, 16 years later.

Yes, 16 years have passed since Mecca Extension was first climbed and last week this great route finally received its first female ascent, at the hands of Mina Leslie-Wujastyk. In 2012 Leslie-Wujastyk laid the groundwork for this success by climbing the tough first 8b+ section, and she redpointed the extension on 14 October. In doing so she has become one of the few British women to master 8c, after Hazel Findlay paved the way earlier this year with her ascent of Fish Eye at Oliana in Spain.

In early 2013 Mina Leslie-Wujastyk made headline news with another ascent, completely different in style but nevertheless shrouded in British climbing history: the first female ascent the airy highball boulder problem Careless Torque at Stanage. At the time she described the ascent as her best achievement so far. The recent redpoint at Raven Tor has taken things to a whole new level.



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