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Mat Wright repeating Hubble, Ben Moon's 1990 masterpiece at Raven Tor, in September 2020. Originally hailed as the world’s first 8c+, Hubble is increasingly considered the world’s first 9a. 

Photo by Georgie Lane
Mat Wright repeating Hubble, the Ben Moon 1990 masterpiece at Raven Tor
Photo by Georgie Lane
Ben Moon making the first ascent of Hubble at Raven Tor, England, in 1990: the world's first 8c+, possibly even the world's first 9a
Photo by Ben Moon archive
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

Mathew Wright repeats Hubble, the Ben Moon masterpiece at Raven Tor

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22-year old British rock climber Mathew Wright has made a rare ascent of Hubble, the Ben Moon masterpiece at Raven Tor. First ascended in 1990 and hailed as the world’s first 8c+, this is increasingly considered the world’s first 9a.

Three decades have passed since Ben Moon powered his way into sport climbing history with the first ascent of Hubble at Raven Tor in England’s Peak District and the number of climbers who have repeated this absolute milestone can still be counted on two hands. Malcolm Smith (1992), John Gaskins (1994), Steve Dunning, Steve McClure (2009), Alexander Megos and William Bosi (2016), and Pete Dawson (2019) are the confirmed ascents.

On Wednesday afternoon 22-year old Mathew Wright extended this select list after a determined battle and specific training for the 8B+ boulder crux. The Sheffield-based climber has been climbing for a mere six years during which he has ticked almost all the hard routes at Raven Tor; interestingly, on Hubble he used a kneebar which has not been used previously. Originally hailed as the world’s first 8c+, Hubble is increasingly considered the world’s first 9a. 



Mathew tell us about your relationship with Hubble. How important is it to you, and what does this redpoint represent therefore?
Hubble is the most important route for me, it always stood out to me as the route to do, ever since I first started climbing. This is my dream route! Sending it was almost sad but at the same time it definitely taught me that anything is possible!

So when did you start trying it? How did it feel initally?
I first tried Hubble at the start of last year, I put four sessions into it but it didn’t go so well. I couldn’t do the crux move, even using a knee pad! I simply wasn’t strong enough. So I left it until I was stronger. Fast forward a year, I had already climbed all of the routes 8c+ and below at Raven Tor which I wanted to do. I found myself running out of routes to try and I only had Hubble and Mutation left. I wanted to try Hubble but I found it hugely intimidating. I was speaking to my girlfriend Georgie about it and she said to me “If you’re going to do it eventually, then why not just put the time in now?” This changed me… I was prepared to put the time in and self develop in the process.

Tell us about the kneebar. How much easier or more stable does it make the crux in your mind?
I used the knee pad because it’s obvious. When you do the move on it’s own your knee naturally pushes into the roof, so avoiding it is a little silly in my opinion. The knee bar is actually really bad for the right knee, it’s a knee scum as British people would call it! It didn’t take any weight off my arms, it just slows me down when I release the good left hand pinch to give me a little bit more time to stab my fingers into the blind two-finger pocket in the roof. This move is also very bunched for tall people.

Does it change the grade at all do you reckon?
No, for me Hubble is without a doubt still 9a, I found it incredibly hard and it has taken me longer to do the individual moves on this than it did to redpoint any of my previous 8c+ routes. Hubble has taken me almost three times the amount of effort than any hard route which I’d previously done and I had to train specifically with Hubble in mind for almost a year. Having said that, I do believe that the knee which Sean McColl used may reduce the grade to hard 8c+.

Sean tried by using a knee bar with his left knee, not his right like you

The knee bar which Sean used is a left knee yes. I’ve seen somebody else trying this and as far as I can tell, it makes the crux move no longer that hard. People with longer legs simply can’t use this kneebar though.

So what about your redpoint?
It was incredible! I had that awesome fight which everybody loves. I just about got through by the skin of my teeth and doing the easier upper section was super sketchy… I really didn’t want to fall off on the easy section as I knew that I’d been incredibly lucky to get through the boulder problem. There was tonnes of people at the crag which added to the psyche and I even had a round of applause!

You’ve joined a select list of climbers following in Ben’s footsteps!
Yeah, I really admire Ben, and to do his route really does mean a lot to me. I actually told Ben how much I admire him when I first met him, I must have looked like a right loser!

This result doesn’t come from nowhere obviously. You’ve quickly been ticking through all the hardest at Raven, including Evolution 8c+, Kaabah 8c+ and Make It Funky 8c
Yeah, Raven Tor is my favourite crag, it’s taken me from an 8b climber to a 9a climber and I’ve loved every single route which I’ve done. Each classic represented its own challenge, but nothing like Hubble. I guess the aim for me was to one day climb Hubble. The best way to do that is to climb a lot and get strong on similar routes! Even though Hubble climbs differently to other Raven Tor routes.

Where do you feel most at home?
Raven Tor feels like home. I really do love this place. It’s a shame that I’m running out of things to do!

What’s next now?
Georgie and I have been discussing moving to France where I aim to climb 9a+. Biographie at Ceuse is on the cards!

Best of luck Mat!

Mathew thanks his sponsors: EB Climbing, Blue Ice, Rock Technologies Chalk, Metolius, ABK Climbing, Depot Sheffield, Beyond Hope UK, Team Pro Balm

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