Things I thought I’d never do

End of the Affair, Curbar
End of the Affair, Curbar
Photo: Oli Grounsell

On Sunday I climbed End of the Affair at Curbar.

I have repeated this over and over to myself since doing it – it is hard to believe.

I have climbed End of the Affair. 

I have climbed E8.

This is something I never, ever thought I would do.

In my early days of climbing I remember being introduced to Hard Grit as if it were a religious artefact. I put every climber and every route featured  on a pedestal – they were  unreachable. At the time, it represented things that might as well have been happening in another universe.

So what changed?

To a certain extent the universe did.

Whilst I am still not up to the standard of the protagonists featured in Hard Grit, the past 10 years of climbing has prepped me well for accomplishing things I never believed possible and amongst other factors, the people I have climbed with have had a large part to play in that.

John McCune on Velvet Silence, Black Rocks
John McCune on Velvet Silence, Black Rocks

When I think back to some of my greatest climbing achievements – in particular The Shield on El Cap and the 1938 Route on the North Face of the Eiger – it occurs to me that I would never have done these without the influence of Alex Haslehurst and Jack Geldard, my climbing partner on each respective route. I had always wanted to climb El Cap, but it was something I wanted to do and not something I thought I actually would do. Much like the routes on Hard Grit, it was well out of my league. It only occurred to me that we could do it when I removed the blinkers: big wall climbing is just like trad climbing, only bigger (and with a bit of hauling). Easy…well…easy-ish.

The same happened with the Eiger. I had been averaging 35+ routes in Scotland for two years prior to our ascent, yet I still didn’t believe that I actually could do it. Why? In short, it really hadn’t occurred to me. Once the blinkers were removed I realised that it was like Scottish Winter, only bigger…well…quite a lot bigger (but with better weather).

Without Alex and Jack I may never have done either of those routes, I was years away from the realisation myself. 

Back to present day.

Who have I got to thank this time? Two names stand out: my regular gritstone climbing partners Katy Whittaker and Nathan Lee. I could say more about them but I’d only cause them embarrassment (that and their achievements over the past two months have already been documented elsewhere). Being surrounded by people who inspire you makes so much of a difference and I guess I owe End of the Affair to them, without their influence it could have been a few more years in the making (if ever!).

I will finish with a trailer from Guy Van Gruening’s latest project – Gritual – and a selection of photographs from the past month.

So sit back and enjoy, then get up and go out climbing (with an open mind).

The bombproof rack used by Nathan during his ascent of The Zone at Curbar
The bombproof rack used by Nathan during his ascent of The Zone at Curbar
James Turnbull employing the traditional side runner protection on Cool Moon, Curbar
James Turnbull employing the traditional side runner protection on Cool Moon, Curbar
Silk, Stanage Here I am pointing towards the 'crucial' undercut that allows access to the pockets on the upper wall. I would point to the footholds but you wouldn't be able to make them out!
Silk, Stanage
Here I am pointing towards the ‘crucial’ undercut that allows access to the pockets on the upper wall. I would point to the footholds but you wouldn’t be able to make them out!
Mark-Bullock-Brad-Pit-Stanage
Mark Bullock attempting what could possibly become his lifetime project – Brad Pit, Stanage Plantation

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  1. Good effort Rob – very inspiring

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